Author Topic: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2: Thunderstruck  (Read 14235 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

elliebelle

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 6
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SMA
  • Experience: College/Graduate
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2
« Reply #15 on: Jan 15, 2008, 10:10 pm »
Something similar happened during an opera production I SM'd my junior year in college - lights went out and the generator began smoking. We evacuated everyone until the fire department could check everything out and the power came back on. It didn't take too long, and we were able to pick up and finish the show. The orchestra had been serenading everyone as they waited outside, it was great!

Are you gonna tell us what you decided at the time that almost got you fired, PSMKay? That's what I wanna hear!
« Last Edit: Jan 15, 2008, 11:08 pm by elliebelle »

LCSM

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 249
  • Gender: Female
  • @LuciaCorak
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2
« Reply #16 on: Feb 19, 2008, 12:01 am »
Yes, do tell!

AshtonWhithers

  • Tourist
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2
« Reply #17 on: Mar 03, 2008, 09:24 pm »
There are two or three things to do immediately.  First and foremost, find out for certain that nobody is injured, and that the building is not on fire.  Second, I would get the audience to a holding area where there is light, so they aren't freaking out, and have the director explain the situation, and beg of them fifteen minutes of patience.  Then I would be talking to the ME and the TD, whoever was in charge of house electrics to find out if there is A) a generator B) backup circuitry, and C) any lights that were not plugged in, and therefore available for use if they can be powered.  If there are lights and a way to power them, you hang them and point them, and go on with the show with a simplified lighting and sound design.  If none of these are very readily available (ie they would take more than fifteen minutes to get going), you start getting creative.  Open all the doors, get any natural light you can, get every flashlight you can find, if possible, park a car in front of the emergency exit, and turn on the high beams.  A person with electrical experience might be able to rig a car battery to some work lights, but I don't have that experience.  If the stage still can't be lit enough, get the set out into the lobby and perform scaled down.  If you realize you won't be able to do any of this and get the show going again in under half an hour, call the show, and send the people home.

SJRiedener

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2
« Reply #18 on: Mar 17, 2008, 07:39 pm »
The actors are non-equity, right?  Assuming that this is the case, I'd contact House Manager, have them activate their ushers, calmly explain the situation to the patrons via G*d mic or ASM on stage.  I'd call the production manager/ explain the situation to the managing director, let them know that it is not safe for the actors to perform without lights.  As the houses I'm most familiar with do not have direct out-door access, nor would I want to open doors if the weather were bad enough to warrant lightning strikes.  I would consult with the operators of the theatre and the actors to assess if there were a way to extend the run for one performance for the patrons of this particular performance, if the lobby was not a viable option, for strike/load-in logistics.  Otherwise, I would ask that the theatre provide comp tickets for another show later in the season.  Since the actors are non-equity, an additional show can be added once the lighting system is repaired. 

Huddy87

  • Tourist
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2
« Reply #19 on: Mar 25, 2008, 05:33 pm »
I would think that even a small non-equity regional house would still have a small number of emergency lighting in the house for the purpose of getting everyone out safely in this sort of situation. I would move the actors downstage into the dim but working emergency lighting and finish the show. There won't be any theatrical lighting, but I'm sure the audience will be impressed at the collaborative emergency attempt to continue the show and there would be enough light to see all the actors.

nmno

  • Guest
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2: Thunderstruck
« Reply #20 on: Apr 12, 2008, 10:00 am »
Here's your scenario, pulled from one of my own horror stories.  In 2002 I nearly got myself fired due to handling it poorly.  Can you do any better?


Alright Kay, since we've moved on to Challenge #3, are you going to tell us how you handled it?

PSMKay

  • Site Founder
  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1353
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • http://www.smnetwork.org
  • Affiliations: None.
  • Current Gig: SMNetwork *is* my production.
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2: Thunderstruck
« Reply #21 on: Apr 12, 2008, 01:26 pm »
Placeholder for now - yes I will, but it will take me some time to write it up.  Hopefully it will be posted tonight.

Julia_inho

  • Tourist
  • *
  • Posts: 1
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • Wayakka
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2
« Reply #22 on: Apr 17, 2008, 03:54 am »
If none of these are very readily available (ie they would take more than fifteen minutes to get going), you start getting creative.  Open all the doors, get any natural light you can, get every flashlight you can find, if possible, park a car in front of the emergency exit, and turn on the high beams.

That's exactly what a friend of mine had to do once. Not as much finesse in the lighting as the designer would have liked ;) But the show was able to make it to final curtain, and the audience was extremely good-natured about it and impressed by the company's dedication.

PSMKay

  • Site Founder
  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1353
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • http://www.smnetwork.org
  • Affiliations: None.
  • Current Gig: SMNetwork *is* my production.
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2: Thunderstruck
« Reply #23 on: Apr 18, 2008, 01:35 pm »
OK, here's what we did.  Bear in mind that this was several years ago.

The show was the world premiere of a script by William Finn and James Lapine, (Falsettos, A New Brain, etc.) a musical about bodybuilding.  It was originally conceived to be the 2nd half of a concept piece about beauty, two one-act musicals done back to back.  The other half was "Passion," by Lapine and Sondheim, which was finished and produced to some success on Broadway.

The script had languished for nearly a decade and was finally picked up by a non-equity house in Chicago.  It was my second production with the company, following a one-man show.  I was 24 at the time, I believe.  We did the show as our final production of the season, running in April and May.  It was, for a non-equity theatre, an amazing coup with a huge amount of pressure to succeed.  It flopped.  Badly.  Turkey feathers everywhere.  But that's theatre for ya. 

For the final show, family and friends of most of the company, artistic team and production staff were in the house.

During the production, one of our more difficult actresses had gotten involved indiscreetly with the Managing Director.  Her "in" with the source of the money in the company allowed her to override most requests from the production and artistic staff.  She would take no notes, even straight from the director.

On the final matin√©e, the thunderstorm took out the power at the climax of the 2nd act - the big "pose-down."  We had about 20 minutes left.  I told my spot ops to stay put in the booth until I could check out the stairwell for myself, and went downstairs.  It was about 5pm on a May afternoon, and as I mentioned, the windows in the lobby stretched from floor to ceiling, three stories tall.  The storm passed quickly but the electricity did not come back on.  Emergency lighting had come on in the house and no fire alarms were sounding in the complex.  Sunlight was streaming through the lobby.

Following the hurried conversation with the Managing Director, we decided to move the show out to the lobby with only the bare minimum of furniture pieces.  We would do the staging to the best of our ability, as family of the director and choreographer were present to see their work, and the paying audience deserved to see as much as we could give them without the stage.  What we had left to go was the 2nd half of the pose-down, the poignant solo from the main character following the climax, and the company closing number.  Our set was modular, made up of weight benches that were used for a variety of purposes, from tables to chairs to standing flats, so with about three of those pieces we could conceivably finish.  The MD instructed our ushers to escort the house out into the lobby and set up folding chairs.

I poked my head into the house and signaled with hand gestures to the spot ops to come downstairs and bring my prompt book.  Any other accessories were completely unnecessary, but the cast was likely to need prompting for the first time in six weeks.

I scurried down to the dressing rooms and rounded up the crew and cast, thinking up staging as I went.  I assigned the 2 crew members to bring three benches and the cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger upstairs to the lobby along with any additional costume pieces needed for quick changes in the last 20 minutes.  I took my script from the spot ops and put them to pushing out the upstairs upright piano and getting the Musical Director set up properly.  (The piano needed baffling in the 3 story lobby otherwise the echo was dreadful.) 

I then started giving instructions to the cast.  We rounded up in the hallway by the dressing room under the emergency lights and I ran down the call sheet to make sure all were present.  We used the time that the ushers required upstairs to talk our way quickly through the last 20 minutes of the show.  We flashlit our way under the house and came up into the designated lobby performance area.  We set off down the hall in one big clump.  (And since half the cast was full of bodybuilder types, I do mean a BIG clump.)

By the time we got to the other end of the hall and were ready to come up the stairs, a whisper brigade started by our problem actress had managed to confuse things.  She thought we should do a standing sing-through of the rest of the show instead of trying to work in the remaining choreography, and had managed to convince many of the actors that I'd given those instructions.  I was in the process of re-explaining the original plan when the Managing Director came over to see what the delay was about.  Following an extremely impressive diva-fit on the part of the actress in question, it looked like the standing sing-through was going to win out, the MD thought that he'd given those instructions to begin with, and I was, for 30 seconds, terminated from the staff of the show for insubordination.

At this point, three of the larger members of the cast who remembered the initial conversation by the dressing rooms did stand up for me.  They collectively intimidated the Managing Director and his lady friend into "realizing" that a standing sing through would be disrespectful to the choreographer, the director, and pretty much the entire artistic team.  With no more cues to call and no more board to run my official running duties had ended with the lightning strike, but I was reinstated and did call places for the show to resume and complete.  Our total time taken from power outage to resume was about 10 minutes.

We got very lucky.  If the storm had lingered, or the set had been less modular, or the cast less supportive, or if we'd had an entire orchestra to move, the whole thing could have gone far worse than it did.  In the long run pretty much everyone except me walked away from the ordeal feeling good about themselves with a strong sense of team spirit.  (I was, of course, mortified that the cast conflicts got so horribly out of control.)

It took another few shows in the city for word to get out about our actress and her ongoing attitude problems.  I did one more show with her, believe it or not.  After driving one SM to quit a production outright and pulling in some absolutely wretched reviews after inserting her own material into a show after opening, she relocated to LA to "work on her film career."  The Managing Director had a bit of a nervous breakdown and left both the company and the city with no notice.  I was rehired as resident SM for the company's following season, and wound up doing six more productions with them through 2004.

CathSM

  • Tourist
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: Student Stage Manager's Challenge #2: Thunderstruck
« Reply #24 on: Apr 18, 2008, 08:24 pm »
I enjoyed reading your story PSMKay, you had me wondering!  I think you did a great job that matinee - Murphy's Law of course dictates that all emergencies and thinking on foot happens when friends, family and creative team are in the house, never on a "normal" day.   I'm getting the feeling difficult actress had no luck with her film career, but you needn't tell!

 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
4 Replies
6036 Views
Last post Jan 29, 2012, 12:07 am
by clcampbe
26 Replies
16138 Views
Last post Dec 24, 2008, 10:33 pm
by Thespi620
13 Replies
7530 Views
Last post Jan 04, 2009, 04:38 pm
by Shari88