Author Topic: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers  (Read 2279 times)

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Tempest

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"Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« on: Nov 10, 2010, 11:48 am »
I've noticed this trend the last few shows I've worked on, and I'm wondering if anyone else has noticed it in their work, as well.  I have a lot of actors and designers (and the occasionl producer) "multi-tasking" multiple shows at once, AND it's affecting the show I'm working.  I realize that to make a living actors and deisngers need to work on more than one contract at once, (heck, I even have a day job) sometimes, but up until the last year or so, I've never had experience with it seriously affecting the show I was working on, with them.

However, in the last year, I've worked a couple of times with an otherwise brilliant sound guy who has never been to a tech, ran half a tech without either sound or lighting designers in the space, canceled or seriously abbreviated three rehearsals because a vital actor suddenly had a "shooting day," had to string along a young hopeful understudy without actually going to the expense of hiring her (in a theatre that typicaly doesn't do understudies) because one of the cast members "might have a film gig one week in the run, and can't guarentee filming will wrap up every night in time for me to get to the theatre," (that one made me ill, it was so unfair to the prospective understudy) and had to re-shuffle an understudy's tech put-in two days before it was to happen because the producer rented out the mainstage space to a conference the afternoon we were scheduled to rehearse.

Has anyone else noticed an upswing in this sort of behavior in the past few years?  And how on earth do you deal with it when the Producer says, "That's ok, we'll work around it," but doesn't give you any lee-way to actually work around it?  I'm getting so frustrated with being the only person working on a show acutally focused on the show!
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"

loebtmc

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #1 on: Nov 10, 2010, 12:20 pm »
(Welcome to theater in LA!)

- the u/s should have been hired even on contingency, that's just not fair to the actor. And here in LA, we always have to be prepared to lose actors to film/TV work for a day or a week or an hour, whether it's for MRE or because they are doing 99-seat work which offers a tiny stipend - I always remember a sign language Streetcar where our (deaf) Stanley was stuck on a set and we used his voice actor onstage for Act 1, replacing him in Act 2 with the deaf actor who arrived shortly before intermission at the end of the scene where Stella runs upstairs to her neighbor's apt (this being during Dallas' "it was all a dream" storyline, we cracked up thinking about the hearing actor going into the offstage shower and having the deaf actor come out)

To your other point, however, I have done too many shows where the multitasking designers were in other cities/states/countries, making notes and their responses impossible to handle in a timely fashion, or the designer became confused as to which show needed what or just plain forgot key elements - and two shows recently where the designer chose to focus on whomever had the next tech but that meant everyone else piled up to the point where each show along the way got screwed all the way thru previews, in one case until the afternoon of opening. I do understand that they need to make a living, as we all do, and that design fees have not risen commensurate with cost of living, and that some directors are needier and fussier than others in terms of tweaks and so forth, but the costs in time and angst are becoming really untenable.
« Last Edit: Nov 10, 2010, 12:23 pm by loebtmc »

On_Headset

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #2 on: Nov 10, 2010, 01:26 pm »
I'm always hopeful that reputations will sort it out.

An actor who gets to be known for never fully committing to a project, flaking out on rehearsals, etc. will probably not be in demand for much longer.

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Rebbe

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #3 on: Nov 10, 2010, 02:11 pm »
I can’t say that I’ve personally noticed an uptick in this, but it would make sense given the overall economy that perhaps more people are taking second jobs when they can, to compensate for a lack of work at other times.  I feel like actors are usually the most easily replaceable folks in the equation, since at least they can have understudies, although as tempest_gypsy points out they aren’t always dealt with fairly by producers.

I do wish producers would check out conflicts more when they’re hiring designers.  It would be nice to see theater companies giving new talent a shot sometimes rather than having their usual person fit the show in between other commitments, and not really have the availability to support all of their productions.  If a designer knows they have a schedule conflict, and is working with a competent assistant, that’s another viable solution to waiting for answers or going without an element during tech.
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

NomieRae

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #4 on: Nov 10, 2010, 04:00 pm »
I've always had this happen on shows in NYC, even on (what I considered) well paying Off-Broadway shows.

Designers and actors are in high demand, especially good ones. In some instances I'm almost glad when I don't have a lot of well known actors or designers on a show cause they generally have less conflicts. I had one show where we had to cancel and reschedule 5 performances because of MRE for an actor who got a film shoot, and we got through it but it wasn't an ideal situation at all.

At the end of the day it is a job and a business and it's up to the producers evaluating the final product on whether or not the scheduling conflicts were worth it. Oh the joys of being middle management.
--Naomi
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick

Balletdork

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #5 on: Nov 10, 2010, 10:27 pm »
YES! The last show I did EVERY SINGLE DESIGNER was working on another show which directly conflicted with our show! It was unbelievable and resulted in OUR production not having many of the sound cues, props and costumes until OPENING (we do 3 previews) -- AND we ended up cutting 30 to 50 sound cues and having the actors cover simply because the cues NEVER showed up!

I've NEVER has such a terrible experience~ in 34 productions I've done here this is the only one I've ever had to chat with the producer about unacceptable situations~ UGH!

I think it comes down to experience- some people can multi-task and work multiple shows; some people can't. I know most of us regional SM's are always prepping or rehearsing the next show while teching or in performance of the current one~



MatthewShiner

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #6 on: Nov 10, 2010, 11:46 pm »
In top tier regional shows, most designers are working on multiple shows.  For the six years I worked at STC, the norm was getting designers for first rehearsal, scenic designers for 2 or 3 visits, other then tech.  Costume designers 3 or 4 visits plus tech.  Lighting designers for a run, focus and tech.  Often then were working on multiple shows.  I have designers teching two shows at the same time.  I often lost designers before the last day of tech or after the first day of previews.  Sometimes I would have a design assistant for half of tech, and then the designer for the other half.  The reality is designers have to work on multiple shows to make a living, and sometimes calendar adjusts and put them in hard situations or they book knowing of the overlap - but hopefully notify production managers.
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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.

Balletdork

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #7 on: Nov 11, 2010, 08:40 pm »
Absolutely! And I do know and understand and support everyone making a living (I'm married to a Lighting/Sound Designer) but, at the end of the day- I expect everyone who signs a contract to do any job; to actually DO that job~  ;)

SMLois

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Re: "Multi-tasking" actors and designers
« Reply #8 on: Nov 12, 2010, 09:11 am »
I have designers teching two shows at the same time.  I often lost designers before the last day of tech or after the first day of previews.  Sometimes I would have a design assistant for half of tech, and then the designer for the other half.  The reality is designers have to work on multiple shows to make a living, and sometimes calendar adjusts and put them in hard situations or they book knowing of the overlap - but hopefully notify production managers.

And I think the important thing there is the notification.  Certainly most shows I work on are in this situation.  My current show is a remount and I've been told I may never see the lighting designer, that's its likely I'll just be dealing with his assistant.  And I'm fine with that.

There have been other situations where production overlaps have directly impacted the quality of the work that was being done and people noticed.  I know some brilliant designers who have lost out on multiple jobs because the director of that show had acted in a show that was negatively impacted by the designer's overcommitment. And that's just the reality of the business.  If they are unable to manage their time for the multiple projects, word gets around and they won't continue to be hired, no matter how brilliant they are, but if they are effectively managing their time and able to give all of their shows the necessary pieces there is no reason why designers shouldn't be multi-tasking.

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