Author Topic: Technology: Stage management before headsets? (was: dramaturg)  (Read 3763 times)

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hotcocoa

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Hi,

soooo. I usually stage manage, but currently am on an internship. I have been dubbed the dramaturg so to speak, for an upcoming production. I have a need to find out how stage managers communicated in the 60's, before our wonderful headsets. Does anyone have any leads as to where to look specifically? OR even better, would be if anyone knew what people did then. Anyway, any info or thoughts on the subject would be great!

Thanks!
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2008, 12:51 pm by PSMKay »

Mac Calder

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Re: dramaturg
« Reply #1 on: Sep 08, 2006, 01:14 am »
cue lights and other visual signals I belive.

Something not overly relevant, but interesting none the less - the orrigin of "Whistling is bad luck whilst in a theatre" is because the riggers used in theatres were often sailors who were currently in port (or otherwise not working) and they communicated using a series of whistles whilst rigging - hence, whistling in the theatre could result in you telling a flyman to drop a bar (and injure someone)

megf

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Re: dramaturg
« Reply #2 on: Sep 08, 2006, 02:29 am »
You might want to play with some of the theater history links at www.artslynx.org. I don't know what kind of digging you'll have to do, but it's my favorite first stop for theater-related historical research.

Best of luck,
Meg

ChaCha

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Re: dramaturg
« Reply #3 on: Sep 08, 2006, 06:19 am »
well, it may or may not be true, but I have actually used this technique to get through an opera in a regional venue with no show relay or paging mics to the dressing rooms...

to call places and give cast members' calls to the stage, the stage manager used a call boy. At relevant places in the prompt copy there were slips of card/paper with the names/calls written on. The stage manager handed them to the call boy standing next to them and they ran off and gave the calls. Then the stage manager could just replace the slips for the next performance.

I had to make a few compromises as we only had one 'call girl' in our case(!?!)available the night I did this, but it worked incredibly well!

Happy researching
ChaCha
« Last Edit: Sep 08, 2006, 06:38 am by ChaCha »
ChaCha

ljh007

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Re: dramaturg
« Reply #4 on: Sep 08, 2006, 08:10 am »
You might want to read older memoirs of performers from the 60's and earlier. While these details are not central to the stories, there is a lot of environmental insights about vintage stagecraft. But you'd have to do a lot of reading to dig up this info.

Besides pages ("Callboys"), SMs and stagehands in opera historically stood on really tall ladders backstage and waved flags around for entrances/exits, blocking (ex: flags cross, parade stop CS). I believe that this method was used particularly at the Met, and perhaps even originated there. Opera is unique, too, because star singers were usually flown in at the last minute to sing a role in their standard repertoire. They certainly knew the music, but because they'd never worked on this particular set or with this particular director before, there was a very special backstage employee called the Prompter who stood DSC under the stage, poking up just enough so their eyes and mouth were visible. There was a little roof built over them so the audience couldn't even see them. The prompter mouthed the words, pointed singers towards their blocking, was ready musical cues and emotive reminders if necessary, and generally kept the stage action running smoothly. It is an amazingly complex position that actually only recently because obsolete (mid-70's?). At older houses, you can still see the prompter's box. I don't think this method was used in theatre at all, though. Anyway, the prompter was concerned exclusively with onstage action, while the SMs were waving flags to keep the backstage running.

TechGal

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Re: dramaturg
« Reply #5 on: Sep 09, 2006, 09:54 am »
 I may be wrong about this because I'm not currently working in opera, but I was under the impression that prompters are still used by some larger houses.  Granted, they may not be a common as they once were, but I thought they could still be found here and there.  You make it sound as if they are now obsolete.
Just a question that piqued my curiosity .   

fuzzy_7

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Re: dramaturg
« Reply #6 on: Sep 10, 2006, 06:45 pm »
Yes, Prompters are still in use at several places throughout the country. I know at the Memphis Opera they have a full-time prompter position.
Derek A. Fuzzell

ljh007

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Re: dramaturg
« Reply #7 on: Sep 12, 2006, 08:02 am »
True - there are a few prompters out there. But they are extremely few and far between.
Definitely a dying breed.

(It is sort of a personal dream to be a prompter one day. I think it's just the strangest, most challenging job. Might be fun!)

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