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Student Stage Manager Challenge #20: The wrong show

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Student challenges are for our novice stage managers. Pros, please give the new guys a chance to answer before you jump in.

It's a common stage management nightmare to show up to work and realize that your cast is doing a different show than the one you have in your book. While this has a very slim chance of happening, something similar did recently occur during a classical music performance.

Much to the surprise of the star pianist, the orchestra started playing a different concerto from the one she had prepared. A video shows how she responded.

While the chances of your cast performing an entirely different show are slim, it's certainly possible for an actor to get off track in the middle of a show. Perhaps they switch from a Hamlet monologue to a Tempest monologue midway through. Perhaps they start performing sections of a song that had been cut in your version of the show. Regardless of the cause, how would you respond if your cast jumped the track during a performance?

EDIT: While the article is recent, the video/incident apparently occurred in the 90's.

Not an answer to the challenge, but a response to the link.  Holy f...ing sh.t  Never had that nightmare before.  Now, I probably will.

Caroline Naveen:
Hmm...that's a really really hard one. Let's see. As the stage manager you are in charge of the technical elements and maintaining the directors vision. Obviously if an actor totally jumps tracks in the middle of a show it's not maintaining the directors vision. I believe that the way I would handle it depends on the circumstance because there is only so much you can do. Once the actors hit the stage what they do and say up there is totally up to their own devices for the most part.

In the instance mentioned with jumping to different Shakespearian monologues it is rather difficult for the audience members to tell if an actor were to make a jump like that as the average person is not very proficient in the language of Shakespeare.  Also more often then not they catch themselves, or another actor comes onstage and can formulate the scene dialogue to help jog their memory. This should just be a rehearsal report note and a line note later.

In the instance of the pianist I would have had a stage hand or someone step out there with the sheet music. The pianist is a professional, and probably would have seen the music before. She could have sight read it a little bit to prevent disaster. It feels as though this may not have been great judgment on the behalf of the deck crew there if there was additional music available.

Also in the final instance actors deliberately messing up... Unfortunately yes some people have big heads and don't take the shows seriously. I did work in a smaller capacity in a show where this happened and the leads decided that they were going to see how many notes they could slide on and get away with during the period of the show. I kid you not.

The way the PSM of this show handled it was not necessarily perfect, but something to be admired. She was angry, as was everyone in the show. The deck crew on headset claimed that what made them the most nervous was the fact that she wasn't saying anything but they could tell that she was angry by the way she was flipping pages in the prompt book and calling the cues with a tight professionalism. The director was notified, the incident was listed in a report and the director came and talked to the cast the next day. All the actors were notified immediately following the offense that this was not okay by the deck crew, and one of the ASM's was empowered to have a verbal disciplinary session backstage halfway through ACT 1 this unfortunately didn't resolve the issue and the PSM came backstage during intermission sought the actors out and spoke with them during that time. The whole crew was pretty livid and even though we all knew that the PSM was furious she kept it together went back to the dressing rooms with a purpose addressed the issue and came back out keep her cool the entire time.

So...I think that's how I would strive to correct something like that in those instances what are you're thoughts on these approaches?

I know I am not supposed to weigh in yet, but thought folks reading this shd note that this can happen more often than you think - with an actor (especially senior actors) going up. Several very, very famous folks have script pages lining set pieces and props to keep them on track.

I agree, loebtmc - it happens a lot. New scripts with last minute cuts/additions, summer stock casts who are rehearsing one show and performing another, shows in rotating rep, remounts with changes to choreography or blocking. It's definitely a contingency worth planning for.


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