Author Topic: I need some serious help!  (Read 3679 times)

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boolabella

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I need some serious help!
« on: Apr 04, 2007, 02:39 am »
so i need some serious help....tonight i had the rehearsal from hell.  just to set you up, here's the deal.  i'm a bfa sm student at the university of miami and i'm in producing class.  the class is taught by broadway producer, barry brown and the purpose of the one year long course is to produce a new musical and everyone in the class has a job.  so of course i'm the stage manager and a fellow stage manager (student) is the director.  so it's a brand new work and things change, i get that.  the book writer, composer, and lyricist wouldn't sit in  a room together to work things out so big serious things like entire scenes, songs, and even characters were being argued about and changed in rehearsal in front of the actors, we didn't have an ending till a week ago.  so i was out for a week because i was very ill and the director filled in for me bc she is an sm.  so i come back a week later to find the show in complete chaos.  the actors were getting new complete scripts every night and they were not happy.  did i mention they were volunteering all their free time for this show?  anyway, the equity deputy (we're not equity but we run by equity rules) came up to me the night i got back and said the cast was extremely unhappy and ready to walk away if something doesn't change, they wanted the script frozen.  at this point we tech in two weeks and they reblocked the show 3 times because of all the changes.  so we had many meetings with the book writer and composer and lyricist and finally finalized the script, it was completely frozen.  then tonight, the director got really frustrated and broke down hysterically crying in front of the cast.  She went on and on about how she was sorry she was doing such a bad job and how she didn't know what she was doing and she had no help and no choreographer, and she had to fill in for me, and on and on with excuses.  this put the actors in a really awkward position to say the least.  then a faculty member came in and took over the show and as of tomorrow is reblocking it again.  what happened to frozen you ask?  out the window the second the teacher came in...none of the actors are going to turn to the teacher and say no please don't reblock the whole show that we're teching in a week.  so i'm this close to walking away from the whole project b/c i don't believe in what the director has done and is doing.  I mean what do you think, the cast is about to walk away, we open in 2 weeks, the script and score are supposed to be frozen, and now the teacher is "helping" (completely redoing himself) the entire show.  I think it's just not right.  what do you think, am i being ridiculous for thinking this is wrong and unprofessional to keep changing after the freeze date when we open in 2 weeks and the actors are unhappy?
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Balletdork

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #1 on: Apr 04, 2007, 10:09 am »
Wow-

It seems to me that the actor's need to feel that they're being heard. Possibly a Company Meeting is in order. In that meeting it should be discussed whether or not to pull the production.

I don't think it's a great idea for you to walk away. At the very least you'll have a heck of a story for your upcoming interview question: "What was your most challenging production and why?"

Good luck!!!!!

ReyYaySM

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #2 on: Apr 04, 2007, 10:28 am »
I agree with Balletdork that you should not walk away.  This production sounds like it needs a calm, organized stage manager at the moment to cool down some angry heads.  And it also sounds like a company meeting is definitely in order. 

That being said, I have never heard the idea of "freezing" a new script two weeks out from tech.  All of the new works I have worked on have changed (new scenes, new dialogue, new blocking, etc) up until the final rehearsal and were not "frozen" until opening night.  Even on productions that aren't new, I've had directors re-block entire scenes during preview week because they fell flat when in front of an audience.  I know that it can be frustrating to actors, so the SM has to be on their toes keeping up with blocking changes so that they can answer questions from the cast/director as to "what am I doing here now?" 

Best of luck to you; definitely keep us posted!!

loebtmc

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #3 on: Apr 04, 2007, 02:01 pm »
just corroborating dramachic5191) (I seem to be doing that a lot lately) - I do a lot of new works and the script isn't frozen until opening nite. But that can be true with traditional works as well. In fact, one well-known director with major Broadway credits is notorious for his SM saying "stop! you can't fix any longer. we have to let in our opening nite audience, the house was supposed to be open 15 minutes ago, we have to freeze the show NOW"

and (depending on the contract and if it IS an original) even then, small tweaks are allowed afterward. So, in addition to a much-needed company meeting-cum-vent session, it may make them feel better to know that, indeed, this IS how real, professional theater works.

Mac Calder

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #4 on: Apr 04, 2007, 03:43 pm »
I'll add another vote for the "Don't walk away" party. The air seems to be thick with emmotion, and it needs to be cleared. The company meeting is probably the best way to go about it. Another would be to approach the Equity Deputy - who seems to be spokesperson-elect of the cast, the writers, the director and directorial team, and set up a nice little meeting.

You don't want to point fingers when you have this meeting, that will only make things worse. What you need to do is clear the air. Ask the actors rep to tell their concerns to everyone, then ask those concerned if it is possible to ease the actors fears in any way, or to provide their reasoning for why it is happening.

I am not ashamed to admit that I like to have everything RELATIVELY static a week or so out of tech - in fact, I badger my directors about it ("Are there any sections you are worried about? Shall we set asside some time to nutt it all out?" sort of things), however the director is an artist - and artists are notorious for not making up their minds.

RuthNY

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #5 on: Apr 04, 2007, 05:19 pm »
I am working on a new musical right now.  We opened a week ago and the writers and director are still making small changes.  Some of the actors are frustrated by it, but, so far, the changes have been given as notes and there has been no need to call rehearsal to put them in. I wouldn't even dare suggest the writers freeze THEIR show!

(This IS the way this world works!)


just corroborating dramachic5191) snip
and (depending on the contract and if it IS an original) even then, small tweaks are allowed afterward. So, in addition to a much-needed company meeting-cum-vent session, it may make them feel better to know that, indeed, this IS how real, professional theater works.
"Be fair with others, but then keep after them until they're fair with you."
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PSMAK

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #6 on: Apr 05, 2007, 09:03 am »
I definately agree with everyone about not walking away. Remember (and I'm sure you know this) you are one of the pieces of glue that holds this production together. With you walking away, this production will really fall apart.

The company meeting sounds like your best option. I would have everyone from each area have an agenda to present to you of problems that they see. However, I would have each area explains some the good things that are coming out of the production as well. It doesn't help everyone to throw out all negative things, which could lead to accusations and more chaos. The positive things (in my opinion) help balance everything out.

Best of wishes! And say hi to my uncle for me!

boolabella

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #7 on: Apr 06, 2007, 12:02 pm »
just wanted to update you all.....so i didn't walk away(although i really wanted to, i never actually would).....i had a meeting with the teacher of the class and the directors and book writer.  it was decided that they would have one day to see a run and of the show as it now stands and then one day to rewrite whatever needed to be done.  the faculty member who was coming in to "help" saw the run and then decided to the show needed to be completely rewritten and therefore reblocked.  they gave the cast a night off to do all the work so it's ready for rehearsal on saturday.  i know a lot of you commented on how in the real world things change all the time, and i totally know and understand that, but that's not how it was established it was going to happen for this class project.  We had set a freeze date so the volunteer actor/students could learn their new characters.  It was more the idea of saying that the script was frozen and then unfreezing it and making a brand new show as opposed to just making changes that i feel was really wrong...not sure if that makes sense to anyone but me.  I just feel like it's a really unprofessional thing to do, to just change your mind b/c you feel like it at this point...the cast is literally learning an entirely different show 1 week before tech and 2 weeks before opening.  my goal at this point is to just go in and do my job being as positive as i can, all the actors are my friends and i know they would walk away if something else happens.  we just all want to get through it at this point.
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hbelden

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Re: I need some serious help!
« Reply #8 on: Apr 10, 2007, 10:22 am »
boolabella, I hear what you're saying about it being a class project.  You and the actors were told there would be limits on how hard you would have to work on this thing, and the producer (the school) ought to have lived by their agreements.  I wouldn't say it's unprofessional, since that wasn't spelled out iin a contract, but the school could have been more understanding. It's not that the actors are going to walk away necessarily, but they may not have agreed to do the show in the first place if they knew it was this hard, right? 

It sounds like you're trying to protect your actors more than you're complaining about the situation.  Keep your positive energy, never join into a bitch session with the actors. 

I would say that change is always about how much time you have left to make the change.  Are you running out of rehearsal time so that the actors have no chance to review new blocking?  If not, then the director absolutely can change stuff (and should, since you got a new director in the middle of the process). 

As far as new pages, maybe the new stuff could be filtered down to sides so that actors only got the changes to their own cues and lines?  Reducing the stack of paper they got handed could make a difference in how they percieve their workload, even if the actual workload is the same.  I would never do this on my own shows, but in your particular case it might make sense.

I would also say that if director/playwright/lyricist whomever are arguing about script changes in rehearsal, just give the actors a ten minute break while they work it out.  Actors really shouldn't be in on those discussions.
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