Author Topic: Drawing the line?  (Read 4441 times)

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sourc3

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Drawing the line?
« on: Feb 03, 2008, 03:12 am »
Ok, so I haven't been terribly active lately as this show has been consuming my life (see the 'dropping cards' thread for a peek into that), and that's partly why I'm posting a new thread:

As a college SM, where can I draw the line with a director who is also my professor, especially if the show I'm SMing is the class he teaches?

It's been one nightmare after another this entire process. He is a very talented man who has done a lot of non-traditional theatre, and this was my first time SMing out of HS, and his first time EVER having a stage manager. This meant a few things: a) I didn't start out terribly organized. b) I wasn't sure what fell into my realm of duties, and what fell outside it and c) I was a first time SM working with what ended up being essentially a 1st time director, as he'd never really done this type of show before - at least not to my understanding.

Throughout the entire process, he communicated VERY little to me, other than to reprimand me for things that he mentioned once in passing but never made a firm decision on, but didn't get done because I didn't put them at the top of my priority list. Part of this show was that all the actors were building props for the majority of the rehearsal period, and we really didn't get to start *running* scenes (we'd crammed 2-3 hour blocking sessions in for a largely movement based show throughout the month-long class) until 4-5 rehearsals before 1st tech. This meant LITERALLY 15 hour days at the theatre for about 2 weeks straight, and a director who was changing lines and blocking without me or my lone ASM there because we were too busy getting props ready for the show and running errands that he sent us on. On one of our first chunk runthroughs for our LD (also the interim director of the theatre program whilst the normal one is on sabbatical) turns to me and says "David, I don't have that chunk in my script. What's going on?" and I respond "I have no idea. I don't know a thing about it either." This was a COMMON occurrence.

We're now in the midst of the run (we've had 1 matinee and 3 'standard' performances thusfar, 2 more matinees, 3 evening shows, and 2 days of filming left) but he is still pulling crap like telling my ASM (without first consulting me or the costume crew head) to give some random people a tour of our green room/backstage area shortly after the show ends and there's a flurry of activity - including 'naked' (i.e. costume undergarmets, half-street dress, etc.) actors and crazy props getting put away. He flew in a producer friend of his from the BBC in London to film the show sometime this week, but has told me NOTHING about how he intends to do it yet, despite me repeatedly prodding him.

All this is to say, I'm worried that since I haven't handled this as gracefully as some of the more experienced SMs at my school might have been able to, that it will reflect poorly on me, but I don't know where I can draw the line with this prof and say "NO." Every time I've discussed the fact that he's pulling actors out of their other classes for the matinees, EVERYONE is sick from exhaustion (in addition to performances/rehearsals for large portions of the day, we've resumed normal classes and homework loads), and people are getting burnt out to the point of hating the show and wanting it to be over, I always get "Well, I reserve the right to..." or "They knew what they were getting into..." (they didn't) or once, though half-joking (I hope) "I'm leaving next year anyways, so they can't fire me." (he's an interim prof here).

He expected me to do EVERYTHING, but told me NOTHING, and got frustrated when I didn't get things done because I hadn't had time since I was *ALWAYS* at the theatre working on some aspect of the show.

I guess more than anything, this has all been to vent to other SM's who can hopefully say "You're not alone" or "There's not much you can do about it, just ride it out" or "I know the feeling - here's what I'd do."

I've requested a meeting with our director of theatre to talk about it, so we'll see how that goes - but I was planning on asking him for a letter of recommendation for some local theatre scholarships, and I'm hoping I've done a good enough job to warrant it all things considered.

Thanks for hearing (reading?) me out...
-David

zayit shachor

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Re: Drawing the line?
« Reply #1 on: Feb 03, 2008, 03:52 am »
Does your theater program have a stage management teacher, or someone who supervises the student SMs, or a PSM?  I would recommend meeting with someone who is your direct supervisor in that capacity, if there is such a person.  When I have trouble with faculty directors, it often helps me to discuss it with my advisor (the SM teacher), who can either help me figure out the best way to deal with it, or who can address the situation herself if boundaries are being crossed.

It sounds like you've already tried to talk to your director about the problems you're having, so bringing it to your supervisor is a good next step.  I don't know the specifics of how things work in your department, but it seems like some uncool things are happening here - using actors' rehearsal time to have them build props, having your ASM give tours, the poor communication, etc.

In the meantime, do your best to stand your ground, be an advocate for your actors, and keep us updated on how things go.  Hang in there!

sourc3

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Re: Drawing the line?
« Reply #2 on: Feb 03, 2008, 12:21 pm »
We have no SM prof in our program at all - the LD/Director of Theatre is the closest thing to that, and is what I'd call my advisor for this.

With the whole 'props thing' it's apparently a part of this style of theatre, but he didn't make that entirely clear to any of us (including myself) until we were knee deep in the process. I didn't mind so much building the props at first - it was just when it came down to spending 75% of the time doing it for the majority of the run that it became a problem.

I'll let you know how the meeting on goes.
-David

lauria

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Re: Drawing the line?
« Reply #3 on: Feb 03, 2008, 07:04 pm »
I've been there!!!!!

I'm going to send you a PM because I don't feel comfortable discussing this in an open forum where my name is clearly my name and could possibly be linked with me.

PSMAK

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Re: Drawing the line?
« Reply #4 on: Feb 04, 2008, 11:16 am »
I've been there as well!

I have had faculty members bring guests backstage for a little tour. This actually happens rarely. All you can really do, or in my experience, is to ask the faculty member to inform you that they are doing this. With some faculty members, they are so far of up the chain that you really have no authority over them. You just have to go with the flow sometimes and do the best that you can!

"I'm pullin' for ya! We're all in this together"  -Red Green

sourc3

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Re: Drawing the line?
« Reply #5 on: Feb 06, 2008, 10:57 pm »
Thank you very much for all the advice!

Fortunately, I ended up in a circumstance where the directors... incompetence? I guess that's not the right word... more like, lack of doing anything, directly inconvenienced his boss. He (the director of theatre, not the director of the show) hasn't said anything to me yet, but we're meeting rather soon to discuss it.

There's a LOT I could've and should've done better, and I don't want to make excuses, I just didn't know at times what my role was supposed to be, and wasn't getting any help from anyone in directing me - nor was I asking I suppose, I just wasn't prepared for the amount of work this show was going to be, even after being told exactly that by a member of the faculty.
-David

djemily

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Re: Drawing the line?
« Reply #6 on: Feb 07, 2008, 02:50 am »
I worked with a director my last semester at college that aside from taking morphine shots to calm his migraines on a regular basis (think 4 times a week) was veering towards insane. I met with the stage management mentor/head of the theatre department. Not a whole lot changed, but I felt a lot better and my mentor respected me for coming forward with the issues we were having. Another idea might be to suggest a postmortem. Because this show was a first for you both (and members of your class) it would give you an opportunity to meet outside of the classroom environment to discuss what worked, what didn't and what you would do differently if you could do the whole thing again. I would make sure that everyone that is invited knows that they are not required to be there like a production meeting, but that this is rather a discussion after the fact and if they don't want to input or hear others' input they don't have to. And even if the director doesn't want to do it, at least you have planted the idea in his head that maybe there are other ways of doing things than "his way or the highway".

Good luck!

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