Author Topic: how to deal with the a biology major turn into a SM  (Read 2788 times)

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michaw

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how to deal with the a biology major turn into a SM
« on: Jan 13, 2010, 08:10 pm »
I'm a freelance stage manager, and now I'm working into a company where they have a resident SM that is a biology major. So, when I get to the company, I am the/her assistant stage manager.
When she gave me the script, it's in a folder and not bind at all. I guess by that time she is so busy that's why she hand me that script. But when I ask questions, she give my answers like, "Maybe," "I don't know," "I don't take note of blocking notations because it's not final yet," "We don't spike floors, because the set is keep on moving"....blah blah blah...

I don't know what to do with her. She doesnt create a comfort zone for us and she always think that she is correct. She's calling cues like, "Standby lights.........and lights," "Open blue," and the main curtain will open.

I tell her that she should take a short course in stage management. But, it turned out that I am insulting her ego and she seldom talks to me anymore. What should I do? Any advice?

<cleaned up a little grammar for easier reading ~T_G>
« Last Edit: Jan 14, 2010, 06:21 pm by tempest_gypsy »

missliz

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Re: how to deal with the a biology major turn into a SM
« Reply #1 on: Jan 13, 2010, 10:24 pm »
Firstly, don't fault her for not being a "theater kid." I have many friends in theater who started off as bio majors, French majors, lawyers and ad execs. It's the individual experiences that bring new ideas to the job.


That said-

It sounds like this person does have more experience with the company than you do. Even if you don't agree with her techniques, she DOES know how the company operates. I would work with her to find out how the company works, THEN make suggestions. Don't assume the way you know how to do it is the only way. If you make a suggestion, explain WHY you think it will work. For ex: "I made a prop tracking chart this way, so we always know where everything is." Ultimately, she is your superior, and stating that you think you're better than she is, especially directly to her, isn't going to be taken well. It's a team effort, and you both have important information to share with each other.

As for insulting her ego, I suggest pulling her aside before rehearsal and apologizing and explaining how you want to work together to make this the best show it can be.
I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least. -Ionesco

loebtmc

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Re: how to deal with the a biology major turn into a SM
« Reply #2 on: Jan 14, 2010, 02:33 am »
I was a bio major (she said defensively) - something you reference with not a little cynicism, and frankly, you need to know it stood me well when I became a stage manager - it's really important to understand that experience in other fields actually is a good thing for us, esp from the sciences. Part of my bio training was looking at the same problem from many different angles, meaning I walked in the theater doors ready to try/suggest stuff outside the envelope. Protocol is teachable, while vision isn't always.

FYI, when I hand my assistant (or anyone) a script, it's just the script. Only once have I rec'd or handed in a binder, and that was a company that provided those items. If I don't know something, I would rather say "I don't know" or "maybe" than guess. Those are valid answers.

BUT - and this is more important - if she is your SM, you need to adapt to her. I agree w Missliz, if you have things to discuss ask her to step aside with you, but do it from the perspective of how to work well together, what you bring to the table that can support her, rather than what you can teach her. The attitude is "We learn from each other; We are a team; Here's what I can do to make your life easier, if that's ok with you." You have no idea what she's dealing with from producers/designers. Your complaint that she doesn't use GO for cues or take blocking notes or tape the floor are all things she can learn, but if you are her ASM it is NOT your place to be her teacher. And your sitting in judgment and complaining allows no room for change to happen. Go ahead and do what you know needs to be done, but do it with a gracious spirit and without expecting anything - incluiding being used - because it will help your own sanity. You never know where that can lead. A friend got her big break that way, because as ASM she did the paperwork for her own sanity and when things happened that needed a paper trail, she was able to produce it with no judgment or nose-thumbing - and got hired to replace the SM the next show.

Is this a college or high school situation? There may be a teacher who can help. If this is community theater, just make sure you are the consummate pro when you are there, whether you are SM or ASM, always smiling, always saying "yes" and helping solve problems. Folks will learn to trust you and how things are traditionally done will spread.

GOOD LUCK (break a pencil) -

KMC

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Re: how to deal with the a biology major turn into a SM
« Reply #3 on: Jan 14, 2010, 08:42 am »
To be frank I think you'd benefit from an attitude adjustment.  If you're going into rehearsals/performances with even a hint of the underlying tone of this post it's not surprising there's tension.  As others have said, she is the SM.  It's a tough situation when you don't like your boss but unfortunately you've just got to deal with it, work out your differences, or quit.  Missliz's suggestion of having a discussion in private may be a good way to find some common ground.  I bet you'll be surprised by the amount of similarities you have.

Good luck, let us know how things turn out.
« Last Edit: Jan 14, 2010, 01:29 pm by kmc307 »
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

Rebbe

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Re: how to deal with the a biology major turn into a SM
« Reply #4 on: Jan 14, 2010, 05:10 pm »
Many of us reach a point in our educational experience or career where we are paired with someone who does things in a way we would never consider doing them.   As others have said, I wouldn’t worry so much about what her major was, or how you can, from your perspective, improve her skill set. Instead, I would choose my battles and be very specific about why something is problematic, and how and why you would suggest solving it. 

For calling cues, you could say something like “I want to make sure we’re on the same page about when I should take my cues.  Can you talk to me about how you are going to call them, so I can make sure I am ready?”  Then see if you can discuss a consistent phrasing of some sort, even if it doesn’t involve the word GO.  Sometimes being a little self-depreciating will help the other person be less defensive and more willing make an adjustment.

It may be that she really is a lousy stage manager, but dwelling on that fact isn’t going to help the production.  Perhaps if you make an honest effort to find things you like about her personally (she makes great coffee or has amazing taste in shoes), that will help you get through the frustration of not agreeing with how she stage manages, and make the process more pleasant for both of you.
"...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)

michaw

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Re: how to deal with the a biology major turn into a SM
« Reply #5 on: Jan 15, 2010, 07:38 am »
thanks for all the advise  ;)

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