Author Topic: Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?  (Read 1676 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

TarytheA

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 39
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?
« on: Dec 05, 2016, 11:44 am »
I am working on a dance concert with another SM right now - we each have our own 50-minute piece with separate casts and choreographers, but they are part of a full evening work with intermission between the two. We manage our own casts but share an ASM and crew and are working together on the flow of the concert. She and I were talking recently about our different personalities, and the strengths that we have brought to our parts of the project - specifically how well-matched we were to the choreographers (who are VERY different from each other) and what a difference that made through rehearsals and tech.

Anyway, that got me self-reflecting a little bit and I stumbled on a bit of a revelation about myself. I finally understand why I work the way that I do and why I love stage managing so much. I thought I would share in case it got anyone else thinking too! I am a nurturer (people say it's because I'm a mom, but I was ALWAYS like this), and it turns out that everything that I do as a stage manager comes back to that. I enjoy (and like to think that I'm very good at) many different parts of the job, and I realized that all of them stem from my desire to take care of people. For instance:

  • I keep a well-stocked SM kit, because I want people to know that I'm there for them if they need anything. (And I always have extra snacks, that part probably IS because I'm a mom!)
  • I watch the clock, ensure breaks, and keep us on schedule (as best as possible) because I want the actors and director/choreographer to know that they can fully commit to the art, because I'm paying attention and will make sure we both get the breaks that we need AND accomplish what we set out to do that day.
  • I am attentive to detail, organized, and take careful notes because I want people to know that I care about their work and have things under control. I want the director/choreographer to feel that their vision is safe in my hands, that I am doing my best to bring it to reality.
  • I keep good communication going so that people feel noticed and cared about, because they are important enough for me to keep in the loop.
  • I am a little fanatical about timing my cues correctly, and during tech and dress runs ask obsessively (perhaps annoyingly) how the designers are feeling about my calling ("How did that look, Brandi? Anticipate that a little next time? Or wait a beat longer?"). I want them to feel like their design is safe in my hands, that I will execute it as perfectly as I can. Related to that, i want the performers to know that the cues will happen consistently and correctly, so they don't have to worry about the tech elements and can fully commit onstage.
  • I check in with my performers frequently and try to respond to their needs, both as a group and individually. I try to anticipate what they will need to feel comfortable.
  • I have detailed and organized paperwork so that the crew knows that I care enough about their contribution to the show that I am willing to give them the right tools to be successful. (I once did deck crew for a prop-heavy musical that I'd never seen and was given NO paperwork when I came in the day of tech, it was awful! I figured it out but didn't feel set up for success.)
  • I'm a stickler on safety because I want others to feel safe and know that I'm looking out for their physical well-being.
  • Etc etc...

This may sound like I'm just making a list of all the ways I'm such a great SM. But that's not the point, I'm illustrating how that underlying motivation really drives every single thing that I do at work. This is of course a list of what I strive for, not what I'm perfect at every time. :)

"I'm a nurturer" doesn't mean that in my shows everyone just hugs and kisses all the time and tells each other how wonderful everyone is. Obviously the logistics are critical to a successful show! Stuff GETS DONE and all the logistics are taken care of, it was just fascinating to see that taking care of people was what DRIVES me to do everything so thoughtfully and carefully.

Thoughts from others? (Not about me, about yourselves.) What motivates you? Is there a single through-line or not? Why do you love what you do and what keeps you coming back for more?
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

Likes:


Michelle R. Wood

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 160
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • website
  • Affiliations: EMC, East Carolina University
  • Current Gig: Resident Stage Manager at Temple Theatre
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?
« Reply #1 on: Dec 06, 2016, 09:28 am »
Thanks for sharing Tarythe: that list is a great way of explaining the whys of the trade for newbies. For me, it all comes down to servant leadership: how can I make things better for the director/designers/cast/crew, so they can do their jobs better? Often I remember early theatre experiences that got me down (similar to yours on deck crew) and ask myself: how can I make sure that doesn't happen? What can I do differently to ensure we not only survive but thrive in this production?
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

TarytheA

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 39
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?
« Reply #2 on: Dec 11, 2016, 12:00 am »
As I have thought more about this, I made another realization. I really appreciate when people acknowledge/thank me for things that I have done for them, and I have always felt a little guilty about it. I have heard (and agree) that if you need to be praised or admired, stage management is NOT the field for you. (insert standard jokes about "if anyone notices the stage manager, something went wrong..." here) So I have at times felt like a bad SM because of how much it means to me when someone notices that I did something to help them.
BUT I realized that when someone thanks me for giving them a couple snacks because I know they are going to be at the theatre late cueing, for instance, then not only are they taken care of but I know that they FEEL taken care of. Now we're getting philosophical here...I think that whatever I physically do to help someone is pretty important, but probably equally so is that they FEEL noticed and cared for. So if they thank me, I know they recognized my efforts to reach out and help them and it made them feel worth that effort. And that is very satisfying. Does that make sense?

It has been interesting looking at this with a new perspective, and I'm feeling a bit less guilty for appreciating recognition of my efforts so much. I think an important distinction to be made is in the kind of recognition that I like - I don't need/want public recognition, for someone to call me out in front of other people for being so great, but it's when a person comes to me individually and says "thank you so much" for whatever I did to help them, it means a lot to me and my heart secretly swells with happiness.
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

TarytheA

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 39
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 07, 2017, 09:25 pm »
This has taken me a little while to post, the holidays came and time slipped away from me. But I wanted to relate an experience I had on my last show, related to these self-realizations I've been having. Maybe it will ring true to someone else!

My lighting designer was SUPER stressed out - between too much on her plate, equipment failure, and learning some big lessons in time management, she was having a hard time getting all of her cues in the board, let alone getting them to look exactly as she wanted. As I mentioned in my original post, I am a little fanatical about getting the timing right on my cues, and ask frequent questions to make sure I'm really getting it just right. But after a couple days of tech, I realized that my questions weren't doing anything to help my designer. I was trying to do detailed work and she was still painting in broad strokes. I had to step back and meet her where she was, in order to best support her. My goal is to take care of my designers by being attentive and taking care of their designs. But in order to accomplish that, I needed to adjust my approach and realize that taking care of her in that particular situation meant letting her be and not adding to her stress with too many detailed questions that she wasn't ready to answer. Had I not realized the WHY behind my questions and my desire to be so accurate with my timing, I probably wouldn't have realized the change I needed to make. I noticed a difference in her when I slowed down and truly gave her what she needed, not what I thought she needed. :)

Understanding myself and the way I work has already helped me be more effective! I don't know how all of these posts sound to other people, but they have been huge revelations to me and really fascinating. I never thought of myself as being naturally organized or detail-oriented or a take-charge kind of person, so when I fell into stage management and became good at it I was a little surprised. I thought I must have been different than I thought, or else changed who I had been when I was younger. But I am now realizing that I actually AM the same person I always was - and these skills I never saw myself as having actually developed BECAUSE of who I am, not in spite of it. So while they didn't come naturally to me, the skills I've developed in the last several years make more sense than I originally thought.
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

Tags: