Author Topic: Teamwork: What to do...  (Read 3939 times)

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Teamwork: What to do...
« on: Feb 07, 2006, 12:13 pm »
I'm having a little problem with my current production, and I was just curious as to what all of your opinions are on the subject.

I'm currently working on my college's production as the ASM and Prop Master/Designer. Last semester I SMed the production, and it was my first experience in the job. The entire run went smoothly, mainly because I had a lot of direction/insight from the more experienced members of the crew, and because I worked hard to understand the job and what was expected of me. This semester, there is a new SM who is pretty much in the same situation I was last semester. He has never SMed before, and doesn't exactly know what is expected of him. However, he doesn't seem to be trying to understand, and when I offered him a little piece of advice (trying to be helpful, as others were to me), he seemed to take it as me calling him incompetent. He seems a little immature to me, goofing off during design meetings and not being totally prepared. Because of this, I have ended up doing most of his work so far (contacting cast members about schedual changes, making sure designers and crew are where they're supposed to be etc.(we're still in the design weeks)). He usually can't be contacted, so everyone calls me when they need something. The director has faith in him, and thinks he can pull it together, and while I do trust the director, I'm not convinced. I'm just not sure what to do in this situation. I feel like I'm stepping on toes when I'm doing SM duties, but they need to get done. I also don't want to be too quick to judge, because he is new to this and I know how it feels to not know what's expected of you at the beginning, but at the same time, I don't want the show to go down the drain because he never quite figured it out.

Should I say something to the director, or should I wait and see if he straightens out? I don't want to take his job (even though it would probably go to me anyway), I just want to have a good show. What are your opinions? Has anyone had a situation similar to this?
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2008, 12:26 pm by PSMKay »


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« Reply #1 on: Feb 07, 2006, 02:35 pm »
What resources does your school (college, I assume) offer SMs?
Is the director a member of the faculty?
How does production management figure into this?

I've done a few years of university theatre, and while in my experience it is rare for a SM to be replaced, there are times when ASMs do step up to take the bulk of the workload. If nothing else, make sure that you touch base with an advisor/supervisor type - not to lodge complaints, necessarily, but to make sure that the authority figures know what is happening and that you are picking up the slack. That way, you can avoid stepping on toes, while acknowledging openly that you are taking on more than is your share of the work.

Best of luck

Mac Calder

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What to do...
« Reply #2 on: Feb 07, 2006, 02:44 pm »
School based theatres are a strange dynamic to work within, namely because the theatre is not the sole social aspect of the place, but also because the power structure is completely (excuse the language) fu#ked up the wall.

My opinon is rather strong about one thing - and that is the DIRECTOR should never EVER be in charge of crew and stage management. The role of director is STRICTLY creative.

However, my opinion on small theatre creative structures asside - do you have anyone above the director. I am certain you will. Either a 'Production Manager', or even the 'companies' (in the loose sense of the word) Artistic Director. Basically, who 'employs' the director. Because whoever that is, also employs the SM.

If the SM is a problem it does need to be rectified. HOWEVER approaching the head honcho can have drastic side effects, especially within the dynamic of a school. Personally, I think you first need to pull the SM asside and say "Look, pull your head in mate. I know your new at this, but you dont even seem to be trying". One of two things will happen. Your relationship with the SM will improve, or deteriorate. If it improves, the work should improve. If it deteriorates and the work does not improve, THEN you need to go and see someone. BE CAREFUL about it though. I suggest you have some evidence before you accuse, because the onus of proof, just like in the legal system, is on you. Written logs, disgruntled crew, whatever.

You have to appear concerned about the show, and not appear to be a whining brat who wants to be SM. I did a 3 month stint as an "Artistic Director"/head honcho person in a college theatre (actually, university). I had 2 shows during that time and I did have complaints about an SM. I found the SM was incompetent and did replace him, but I also did not like the ASM's manner in approaching it (I felt the basis for complaint was that the ASM wanted the SM position), and in the end I got someone else to fill the SM spot who I know is a great SM, and I still got complaints from this ASM, which in a way prooved my decision of not just promoting the ASM to SM, and I learnt that some ASM's dont LIKE being ASM's and will bitch for no reason. And that was in a 3 month stint. If I had been doing it for a whole year, I think I would almost loose all faith in any reports ASM's give me. Now the level of bad blood that was involved in my decision would be catastrophic within many 'school' dynamics, however in a uni of 50,000 it made little difference.

So are you really, truely ready to place your reputation both within the school and theatre on a complaint, because even if it goes well, your reputation can get shot. Sometimes it is easier to grin and bear it, and let the SM be a 'puppet' SM - ie everyone KNOWS your really the SM, everyone GOES to you with your problems, but he/she/it has their name in the program as "SM".

That said, I have never been an ASM. I never WANT to be an ASM and hopefully I will never be an ASM. I hold many ASM's in the highest regards, and dont mind teaching them the ropes of being a good SM/ASM whatever and I believe they are an essential part of theatre... but I do not like the idea of after SM'ing for so long, being placed directly under an SM and having to watch them do things a different way to me, so my advice is all hypothetical or from an upper managerial POV.


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« Reply #3 on: Feb 07, 2006, 10:33 pm »
While in college, I was put into a similar situation as the one your are describing.  Our SM program was setup with the following structure: ASM under a upperclassmen; SM a small show; SM a large show (ie musical); ASM for an underclassmen to mentor them.  Usually it worked out pretty well, but there were occasions when the system failed.  

I ASMed Winter's Tale to mentor a new SM in the program.  He was a mess and could not get his stuff together.  On top of this, he thought it wouldn't be a problem for me to run the first two weeks of rehearsal (it was a 6 week rehearsal process) while he was the Master Electrician on another show.  I immediately setup a meeting with the stage management advisor and the director of the tech/design program (essentially our "Production Manager").  I told them what I had observed in our pre-production interaction as well as his request to have me SM the first two weeks of rehearsal.  

My advisor and the director of tech/design took my concerns to a meeting with the director and department chair.  Ultimately, the decision was made to bump me up to SM and they brought in an underclassman new to the program to be my ASM.  The show was smooth sailing once I took over.  And he ended up as the Asst. Master Electrician on the show, and I think he was happier doing that.

In your situation, does the SM know that he is being mentored?  If it is setup that way to begin with, he will be more receptive to constructive criticism as well as any help you provide.

Do you have an SM advisor? If not, talk with the faculty member who makes the SM assignments. Make sure you make your concerns clear and as objective as possible.  

Hope all turns out well for you!


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« Reply #4 on: Mar 02, 2006, 12:13 pm »
I will say, that by taking care of his job for him, its probably making it look like he's on top of things.  If the actors all show up to call on time, then no one higher up is going to know that you're the one giving the times out.  And, while things are basically running smoothly, there is no incentive for any change to happen.  It often takes a rehearsal where no one shows up 'cause no one got the call to draw attention to the fact that there's a problem that needs to be solved.

Does he have any voice mail or answering machine?  If he does, give out that number when folks call you.  Don't give them the call.  Its an easy habit to get into, but once you get out into the professional world, you should not be in the habit of picking up the slack of those around you.



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« Reply #5 on: Mar 10, 2006, 04:07 pm »
this is one of those areas where i feel the notion of "teamwork" is very important.  my negative experiences (of being in your situation and being in the reverse, where i did all of my ASM's work as well as mine) have taught me the importance of valuing the differences and the strengths of both the SM and ASM positions.  the very first conversation i have with my ASM's now is that we work together as a team.  this is crucial to me - as i know that every SM has different values and strengths, and ignoring those is not beneficial to making the show run smoothly.  this makes it clear to them that i value what they have to say, and as i don't know their level of skill, i will not presume that my knowledge is better than theirs, and also that they are accountable and responsible for just as much as i am, even if they're not doing the same job.  i make it clear that the show is counting on both of us to do our jobs and do them well, and to do those jobs as a team.  now, most of the time i am more experienced than my assistants, so i try and acknowledge that too - i ask them to make me accountable as well, and check in with me if there is an area that they would like more experience or more responsibility (props, scheduling, etc.), or if something i am doing isn't helping the "teamwork" atmosphere i am trying to set.

your situation isn't the same, but the "teamwork" idea may be something you can use to improve the situation.  from what you've said, you already have, in a sense, by doing the work that needs to happen.  try approaching your SM in that way, by explaining that as part of the stage management team, you're available to help where needed, and since you were in his position before, you hope that the two of you can work together to make the show the best it can be.  mention to him that you have tried to help the team already, by being available when he was not, but that you're looking for his help as well.  You know what you expect, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting him know that you have expectations of him as your superior.  If he can't handle the criticism, he's not cut out for the job, but the way you handle is what's going to make the difference.  Telling him what you expect makes it clear that you're noticing his slacking, and if that's not enough to make him come around, then he's just not going to come around.  But hold your own - if the director's convinced he's going to come around, you have to let him do it, not do it for him.

Good luck!


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