Author Topic: Professionalism: Skills needed for career SM  (Read 3599 times)

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JenniferEver

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Professionalism: Skills needed for career SM
« on: Jul 28, 2006, 02:56 pm »
I was talking to a friend who has done some work producing in NYC and he told me that it's a good thing I don't plan to be a career SM because  don't have the necessary technical skills. He said the SM should be able to do every technical job there is and that even if the show I just finished does go OB, I'll never be hired because I don't have the skills. Admittedly, I am not extremely technical, but I'm learning. I can run lights and sound..but I don't really know that much. I had to so minor rigging and set up and breakdown, but I found help for that. In general, I don't really want a job where I have to hang lights or put together a set because I have a bad back and I just can't do that kind of stuff. I'm just wondering what kind of skills you really need, and how to make up for what I lack. I'm working on festivals right now, and in both I have to run boards, but that's about it. I don't really know how to do rigging or focus lights, and I'm frankly not comfortable on a high ladder and I'm not a whiz with power tools.

but I have very good organizational skills, I have a can-do attitude, whatever the problem is, I find I way to fix it. Whatever I don't know how to do, I ask for help and/or I figure it out. I am very level headed and I love calling a show and dealing with day to day issues.

But am I in the wrong profession? How important is tech skill?
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2008, 12:46 pm by PSMKay »

Mac Calder

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Re: Skills needed for career SM
« Reply #1 on: Jul 28, 2006, 08:05 pm »
There are plety of SM's who don't know too much about the technical side of theatre. However it does help. You do not need to know how to focus lights, patch and program desks, tune radio mics etc to be an SM. However it does help if you can talk the lingo, run the boards if an op is ill, and give general instructions to the workers etc.

Just a quick note about the last line of your first paragraph - you should not be working on a high ladder anyway (I don't know about the US, but in the rest of the world, a ladder is considered the last resort and is not considered to be an acceptable platform to work upon). It is pieces of knowledge like that (correct safety procedures for undertaking certain tasks) which are far more useful than knowing how to focus lights.

Set building - often you may be required to help with it, but if you are not comfortable with the tools, chances are you will have someone there who is.

Heavy lifting is occasionally a part of the job, however with correct lifting practices etc and through delegation, you should be fine.

All in all, I would say not being willing to work in the techncical areas of theatre will not stop you from being an SM, however it would certainly be a good idea to learn the basics of every aspect.




MatthewShiner

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Re: Skills needed for career SM
« Reply #2 on: Jul 29, 2006, 12:12 am »
Stage Management does require some technical skill, but it is basically a management position dealing with people skills.  You learn the tech skills as you go along - that's why you have a staff of technical positions below you.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

loebtmc

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Re: Skills needed for career SM
« Reply #3 on: Jul 29, 2006, 01:06 am »
Before the days of SM degrees, folks became stage managers from two sources - 1) the tech side - knew all abt how to run things but no clue how to deal w the actors so made sure your asm knew how to deal w the creative side, or 2) the performing side - knew how to make the show run and get things done, how to keep the actors protected and made sure you were surrounded by an asm and folks who knew the tech side. A PSM once told me the best SM/ASM combos are the ones where you complement - as in fill in - each others holes.

Each half has its strengths and weaknesses - performers who went on into SM started learning the tech stuff and the best technical SMs learned the interpersonal/psychology basics (see notes in other threads abt the importance of taking a wide variety of liberal arts classes including Psych 101 in college). Long ago, Hal Prince told me that the best way to learn worked from sweeping the stage up - life lessons, observing others who knew their jobs, seeing what worked for you and what you neded to supplement the skills you were missing or weren't as well versed in - and doing EVERYTHING there is to do on a show. 

The best SMs know how to keep an even keel and surround themselves w people they trust to whom they can delegate those things they don't know - whether it's tech or creative. If you are good at what you know and make sure you fill in the gaps, you will be fine.

JenniferEver

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Re: Skills needed for career SM
« Reply #4 on: Jul 30, 2006, 12:44 am »
Thanks so much! I  feel much better!

My friend made it sound like I had to know how to do every tech thing there is and even though I have a very can do mentality, I feel like it's not my job. I did help with the set, I had the set designer show me exactly what needed to be done, but the actual doing of it was dcelegated, and I have been called on to run boards. easy! I feel a lot better now. :-)


As you can tell I'm an SM that came from the performance side, but I do have experience working light tech

Edited for spelling - KC_SM_0807
« Last Edit: Jul 30, 2006, 09:36 am by KC_SM_0807 »

hotcocoa

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Re: Skills needed for career SM
« Reply #5 on: Aug 02, 2006, 01:05 pm »
Techinical skills are a good thing to have because then you can provide options for the other departments in reports and just in general conversations and understanding what is going on. I wouldn't worry about it too much. The more work you do in theatre, the more you will inevitably learn - its just one of the things about working in theatre, much less Stage managing. In the end, it will be more important that you are unafraid to ask questions about how something works which most people are completely willing to explain. Just ask the right questions and be willing to learn everything around you. You probably know more than you think you do. As for rigging and lights, the SM should never have to do that. If you want to learn it, do that - it won't hurt. Plus, if you are afraid of heights, hanging lights probably isn't going to be your forte. It would help if you learned the names of the instruments and the parts. But anyway, don't believe that no one would hire you. Even if you don't have much experience, if the employer likes you and he feels you will get the job done, you could still be hired. And every job you have, you will just become better at what you do. Stage management overall, has a lot less to do with things and more with people.

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