Author Topic: help with "real" stage management  (Read 8215 times)

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ashadeofbrown

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help with "real" stage management
« on: Jan 17, 2007, 09:52 pm »
Hello,

I've currently overbooked myself on a few shows, and the problem is that I've never actually stage managed a show before. I've done high school musicals and plays where the director takes over, and I've ASM'ed on one professional show, but I don't know what to do. How do I start out?

I asked my set design teacher, and he told me that what I'm asking is what I'll learn in college, but I need to start learning now because of the commitments I've made. Any resources, comments, tips?

Thanks!
Curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction brought it back.

mkm13

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #1 on: Jan 18, 2007, 12:45 pm »
Sounds like you're learning the "feet to fire" method. I did/do too. I was thrust into SM'ng and had ABSOLUTELY no idea what to do (I had auditioned for a part in the show and got ASM, which became SM/props).
I'm still learning how to be efficient and what SM really entails-between professional and community theatre the details that you take care of can vary. But here is a little list to get you started.

-mark your calender with the different shows you'll be working (highlight each show a different color so you'll have an idea of down time between shows or how long a you'll be dedicating your time to a specific show)
-Have a box of pencils/erasers or mechanical pencils w/lots of lead
-notebook-handy for all those "notes" (from director to the various departments)
-clear post-it notes to mark pages for q's (I find the fatter ones are nice - you have room to jot dn an abbrev. note about what the post-it means)
-rehearsal reports (search this site)
-line notes reports (search this site)
-binder to hold your scripts (you'll end up with more than one script by the time the show closes)
-print out copies of the script or type it up in Word - many have opinions of this on the site
-organize the binder with contacts, directions (if rehearsal is different from performance location), scripts, notes, etc (another search at this site will give a more expanded idea but this will get you started)
-compile a list of the cast/crew/production team and create a contact list (verify with everyone their information)
-keep everyone updated via email/notices at rehearsal of what's going on
-read the script and find props- make a list - this will help you as the rehearsals progress and keep you on top of the props person (if you have a dedicated person in that position)
-read the script and find out which actors are needed for each scene - this will help in setting up the schedule
-as the rehearsal progresses you'll want to make a checklist of the props that are to be pre-set/striked (struck)/added to each scene (this is where reading the script and taking notes comes in handy)
-keep track of your mileage as well, always good to know even if you can't take if off on taxes (some can)

You'll find your own "method" as you SM nore shows.

well, that's all I have time for (on lunch break). But that's a start. Right now I'm ASM'ng a show and one of the things I had to keep track of was updating the script and making sure everyone had the most up to date copy. The author made revisions but the revisions were never put into print (just a copy to the director), creating a checklist of the props going on/off the stage during the scenes, taking line notes (passing them to the actors), and just being "book" during the rehearsal.

Every show I learn something new to streamline/make me more efficient in my duties. I've also learned A LOT from searching this site. Some say a laptop is a great tool to have, but I have yet to get one for myself-I'm still doing things by hand/paper. 

You should also look up SM books to read, great info there as well, although geared more towards professional SM'ng, the practices can be used just about anywhere (i.e. community/school theatre). The book I'm currently going through is Stage Management by Lawrence Stern.

Ok. Anyone going to add to my list? Would love to read how others get started.
Good luck and let us know how it turns out for you.

ORTaurean

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #2 on: Jan 18, 2007, 02:48 pm »
Get the Thomas Kelley book
Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
-Rosiland Russell

ljh007

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #3 on: Jan 19, 2007, 02:07 pm »
Quote
what I'm asking is what I'll learn in college
Maybe. But truly, you'll learn it by doing exactly what you're about to do - diving in head-first.

You took the jobs because you thought you could do it, and it sounded like fun, right?
Well you CAN do it, and it WILL be fun. It sounds to me like you're having a "what-have-I-gotten-myself-into" moment. And that's totally understandable. But I would wager that over half the SMs on this site began the same way you are, and without anyone to hold our hand either. Just keep your confidence up! Aside from all the overstocked SM kits and fancy paperwork, you really just need to be ready to solve any problem as it arises and do whatever it takes to get a successful show onstage. Hopefully, you can keep the cast and crew happy and enthusiastic in the meantime. Read around this site for plenty of tips and instructions - and definitely get the Kelly book! Then walk confidently into the first rehearsal and know that you can handle this.

Now, is the real problem that you're trying to do too many shows at once? There are posts on this network for that, too.

j-la

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #4 on: Jan 19, 2007, 02:20 pm »
I second that :
Get the Thomas Kelley book .
I started out as an SM in much the same way- being thrown into a production of The Secret Garden.
The Thomas Kelley book was the perfect resource. Run- do not walk- and pick up this book.

Break a leg on ALL your shows.

ashadeofbrown

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #5 on: Jan 21, 2007, 07:44 pm »
Thank you! I will certainly get the books you all suggested. And it's great knowing that others have been where I am now. Again, thanks very much.
Curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction brought it back.

ReyYaySM

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #6 on: Jan 22, 2007, 08:58 am »
I second that :
Get the Thomas Kelley book .

Just for the record, the book being referenced is The Backstage Guide to Stage Management by Thomas Kelly.  And I'll third the motion; it is an excellent resource for stage managers.  Also, it is far less expensive than Lawrence Stern's Stage Management and just as informative, in my opinion. 

mca

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #7 on: Jan 22, 2007, 10:51 pm »
I'll fourth it! I just read it for a research paper that I Am working on, and it presents the information in a wonderful and easy to utilize way. Definitely worth the read. Even if you just borrow it from the library. I think I am going to go out and buy it for future reference, and return my library copy.

philimbesi

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #8 on: Jan 26, 2007, 02:30 pm »
I'm all over the 5th of that.  Thomas Kelly's book is an excellent place to start.

MileHighSM

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #9 on: Feb 02, 2007, 03:56 pm »
Another vote for the Kelly book.  There's also a very helpful book called "Backstage Forms" (some versions of which you can find here) that has forms for every possible thing you can think of.  Another helpful thing is this website-use and abuse all of us!   ;D

katykat29

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #10 on: Feb 04, 2007, 01:34 pm »
Definitly - BUY the Kelly Book.  Check Stern out of the library first.  I love the Kelly section on props
Quote
and the Director said, 'Let there be concept'.  He looked at the Stage Manager and asked 'Can we get a stuffed alligator to hang from the ceiling?
  ;D

PSMAK

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #11 on: Feb 06, 2007, 09:43 am »
Both Stern's and Kelly's books are good.  But, Stern has this obsession with writing in pen, especially in a blocking and cueing script, which I consider a no-no.

musicalssm

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #12 on: Feb 06, 2007, 10:01 am »
I actually enjoy Stage Management: the Professional Experience, by Larry Fazio. I've used Thomas Kelley's book and started reading Stern's.  They all have very distinct feels to them and unique perspectives on what aspects are most important in stage management. 

I would not reccomend Daniel A. Ionazzi's Stage Management Handbook.  It is very affordable, but emphasizes things that are not relevent in most college level, community, or regional theaters unless you are bringing in a traveling show (at least based on my experiences).


I had read Fazio's book and worked on my forms before begging to ASM a show.  I was able to get a spot with the musical theatre department's spring production and was thrilled.  Then the Friday before music rehearsals started the SM had to leave the production.  I became the SM and spent the next two months learning what it took to control three casts and get them to rehearsals ontime and ready to work.  It all turned out very well.  Even if you don't have a chance to work through STAGE MANAGER: THE PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE completely, it is fun to read sections and stories from and can be very helpful (especially when you feel like nothing is going right).  Just my two cents worth.

~musicalssm

swood09

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #13 on: Feb 07, 2007, 12:34 am »
What I would suggest is finding someone in the theatre who knows what they are doing, who have been in a professional setting before. Take them out to lunch and ask them what has been expected of their SM before.

I learned by throwing myself into it. The first time I ever SMed was for the season opener at my university theatre. I talked a lot to the scene design advisor as well as a few people who had SMed for our dept. before. They have a lot of insight to what goes on, as I'm sure will be the case for you.

ljh007

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Re: help with "real" stage management
« Reply #14 on: Feb 07, 2007, 09:40 am »
I totally agree with SWood's post; find a line of support.

If you're feeling unsure or just tired, having an ally (whether they're involved in the production or not) can save your sanity.

Having colleagues, friends, and family who can provide support and encouragement is essential in any line of work. For we theatre folk, sometimes we need someone who understands what we're really talking about when we scream that the line set hang was completely botched. Really they should be there for you to remind you that you're doing a great job. (A really good friend is the one who isn't afraid to tell you when you're seriously messing something up, either.) Just be sure you don't use the ally as a therapist or venting machine. You can rant about today's crisis, but then let your friend help you get over it and remember how fabulous you are. In fact, you can find many such allies here on this network! Cheers!

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