Author Topic: Director Giving Notes  (Read 5685 times)

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MarcieA

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Director Giving Notes
« on: May 30, 2009, 02:11 am »
So, an awkward situation:

I recently took over a show (on an LOA) and tonight the director was there. At intermission she said to me that she had 1 or 2 actor notes that she'd email me, and that's fine.

Well. Apparently, before I was able to get backstage after the show she went back to say goodnight and decided to give these 3 notes to the actors. I was in the dressing room for the tail end of one of the notes and while it wasn't mean or harsh in it's delivery, the actress was VERY upset.

While I was shutting down for the night another actress came up to me and basically yelled at me saying "It's your show and she is not permitted to give notes under any circumstance, it's in the rulebook, and we don't ever want her in the dressing room again."

Now, I worked under a LORT D contract for 4 years (though not for the last 3, but we are using the LORT rulebook) and it was always my understanding that if an actor asked for it, or a director prefaced a conversation with something along the lines of "Can I give you a note about X?" and the actor consented that this was permitted, and the only thing that wasn't permitted regarding notes was the posting of individual actor notes on a public space (ie the callboard). I very calmly explained my understanding of just this to the actor that raised the issue (not the actor who was upset) and they disagree.

My personal take on the situation is that the note was not necessarily appropriate because the show has been running the same way for 3 weeks before me (though as someone who was not a part of the rehearsal process I agree with the observation, but this isn't my artistic vision, I wasn't a part of this character's development in rehearsal and as such I would never ever voice this opinion), and her giving it 5 minutes after a show wasn't the most considerate thing to do, but I also think that this particular actress took an observation very, very personally. I do also acknowledge that this actress is well within her rights as an actor and a person to feel however she wanted.

I've looked through the rulebook, but where does it say that a director is 100% not permitted to give notes after opening? If they don't want her to come backstage before (well before 1/2 hour...I've never had a cast that arrives this early) or after the show, I feel that they are well within their rights to make that request (though the director has done this before I was there with no problems) but I can't find a rule that says she can't offer notes.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2009, 02:15 am by MarcieA »
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MatthewShiner

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2009, 07:30 am »
There is no rule that a director can not give notes after a performance opens.

At my theatre, we have a resident assistant director who givens notes after any performance.

I have worked with a director who had notes waiting form the cast (and myself) at the dressing room station (or my calling script) for EVERY performance.

I have had directors come back after opening, and not only give notes after a performance BUT then call a brush-up rehearsal.

Unless a theatre has specific policy that is posted and the director agrees to follow it, they are allowed to give notes when ever they want to.

Now, in my humble opinion, having a director pop into one performance after a run of any length and start giving notes can be problematic - in that they may just be reacting to one performance and one audience, and not know the arc or growth of a show (it could have been just one bad performance - or just the way one audience took it), but there are directors who like to come mid-run and give maintenance notes.

Now without a rehearsal call, or a posted notes session, the actor could easily say, "I don't have time time to listen to notes now", and politely walk out of the theatre - but that can a sticky situation.  I find that a director who gives notes or changes things is sort of being passive aggressive - in that by just giving notes without the benefit of conversation and/or rehearsal is taking away the option of an actor responding as an artist and belittles the rehearsal process.
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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.

MarcieA

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2009, 11:00 am »
Thanks Matthew!

I had a feeling that this was really a matter of hurt feelings, and not a rule being broken. Many of these actors are quite young (and while no offense is meant on my part) I think that certain things were taken to heart in a way that should have been. I remember myself in that position 6 years ago, and so I sympathize with her hurt feelings.


Now without a rehearsal call, or a posted notes session, the actor could easily say, "I don't have time time to listen to notes now", and politely walk out of the theatre - but that can a sticky situation.  I find that a director who gives notes or changes things is sort of being passive aggressive - in that by just giving notes without the benefit of conversation and/or rehearsal is taking away the option of an actor responding as an artist and belittles the rehearsal process.

I agree completely, and this particular director is a full-time professor as well. Not to belittle academia, after all, where would we all be without our education, but I think that because this actor is only 2 years out of school that this director was using a little bit of her power as a teacher in this case.

It's a sensitive situation, and I thought that I handled it well under the circumstance, and I appreciate the confirmation and clarification!
Companions whom I loved and still love, tell them my song.

AshleyR

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2014, 03:44 pm »
Can I add a question under this thread? 

Our show has been open for 3+ weeks and I have a director who gives me notes to forward to the cast, since her understanding is that only the SM can give actors notes after opening.  This requires me to reformat, edit (to remove possibly problematic or offensive comments), and then send her notes on to the actors, which can be extensive. 

I have no problem with her giving notes, of course, but I can't find a hard rule prohibiting directors from giving notes after opening so I'm not sure why I have to repackage them. This just adds unnecessary work for me but when I pointed this out to her and requested that she just "cc" me on her emails and send them directly to the actors, she balked. 

In addition, her notes are often actually changes (she is very resistant to the idea of a show being "locked") that I think are inappropriate and she takes offense when the language in my emails reflects which notes are hers and which are mine, citing the importance of "a unified front" and my duty to ensure the integrity of her artistic vision and all that good stuff.  She has been problematic to work with in terms of rules and boundaries [re hours, allowing union members to vote without making hostile comments, locking any aspect of the show including changing lighting cues in the second week of PERFORMANCE, changing blocking after tech and again after opening, suggesting we change a line of text so it doesn't "sound like a mistake"] so it is important to me that my conduct is distinct from hers.

I don't want to have to fight her on each note that I think is inappropriate, so on this latest round I just verbally gave the notes I agreed with (re timing with by having the actors run those lines together, and which I had previously given) and ignored the others.

How can I handle this diplomatically but also efficiently?  Thx

MatthewShiner

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2014, 05:51 pm »
Unless there is a huge reason to remove yourself from the director, I agree it should be a unified front.

You should count yourself lucky the notes are going through you, and not being sent directly to them and leaving you out.  (And you being cc'ed on a note, can be dangerous - what if a note has a disastrous tech implication - you want to be able to figure out the way t execute the note . . . )

Yes, noting a show is time consuming process, but if you take that show maintenance and improvement as part of your job, it then becomes part of your job.

I think there could be a very easy way to delineate a note as from the director or you, by putting the note in quotes from the director, and putting any comments next to it.

Jack:
"On your entrance, please stop and put down your backpack by the door." - Jack, see me about this, I think we have a way to make it work within the sound cue you.

Remember, unless a producer puts their foot down that a show is frozen, there is only theatrical tradition to mandate you freeze a show at opening.  Some shows continue to have rehearsal,  evolve and change over the life of the show.  If you are working with a director who doesn't want to lock a show down, then you sort of have to go with that mandate - unless the producer says no, we are done changing a show.  (This desire to not lock down a show happens all the way up the career ladder - I have a friend who worked on a Broadway play where the director didn't want to set ANY blocking and let the actors feel it nightly.)

If the actors are pushing back on changes through the run, then pass on your concerns to the producers.

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loebtmc

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2014, 06:24 pm »
The director is welcome to give notes *through the stage manager* until time immemorial. On the other hand, changes in the show and major alterations (specifically those that affect cues and blocking) require additional rehearsal, and subsequent payment for time to rehearse and re-tech those moments. That is a discussion you need to have with the producer. No question that many shows could benefit from improvements after opening, but it isn't something done on the fly. So you should let the producer know that the director is making the kinds of changes that require additional time, and let them tell her that the show needs to be locked.

The other problem, however, is you choosing which notes to give. That part is not ok. When you say "offensive" what do you mean? Can you offer a specific? And - the key here is to figure out the intent of the note so you understand what she's trying to get at. That is the note to give. You can soften the blow and joke about it, you can show them how it's being solved, but refusing to deliver them is a whole other deal. Again, you can take the offensive notes to the producer and explain your concerns. (As I was typing this, Matthew showed a perfect example of how to deal with it.)

Does she email them, call them in, hand you hard copy? You can forward emails with the hedder "from the director", cut up the hard copy and place on their tables, etc - so you don't merge her notes with yours at all. But I also remember hearing how Charles Nelson Reilly papered his dressing room walls with notes he promptly ignored.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2014, 06:26 pm by loebtmc »

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babens

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2014, 02:57 pm »
In addition, her notes are often actually changes (she is very resistant to the idea of a show being "locked") that I think are inappropriate and she takes offense when the language in my emails reflects which notes are hers and which are mine, citing the importance of "a unified front" and my duty to ensure the integrity of her artistic vision and all that good stuff.  She has been problematic to work with in terms of rules and boundaries [re hours, allowing union members to vote without making hostile comments, locking any aspect of the show including changing lighting cues in the second week of PERFORMANCE, changing blocking after tech and again after opening, suggesting we change a line of text so it doesn't "sound like a mistake"] so it is important to me that my conduct is distinct from hers.

I don't want to have to fight her on each note that I think is inappropriate, so on this latest round I just verbally gave the notes I agreed with (re timing with by having the actors run those lines together, and which I had previously given) and ignored the others.

How can I handle this diplomatically but also efficiently?  Thx

Noting and maintaining a show can be very tricky when you don't always agree with the director's choices, but ultimately it is still their show and their choices that must be maintained (provided of course that those choices are not putting any of the actors or other show personnel in danger; safety trumps everything in my book).

AshleyR

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2014, 09:18 pm »
So, as you can all tell, I'm horribly inexperienced.  I'm sorry if my whining was offensive.

We are operating under the LA 99-seat agreement in a very small and informal ensemble company, so I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is a rule, what is a tradition, and what is just a good idea or nice thing to do.  I thought "locking" the show was a pretty hard line, but I see that I am totally mistaken.  One of the notes I didn't want to give was one that changed blocking because I thought this was disallowed under the 99-seat agreement, but now I see that the agreement actually states that no new rehearsals may be called for changes after opening.  My error.  Incidentally, I did end up giving the "ignored" note before the next performance.  The other note I objected to was her request to change a line without the permission of the playwright, and I held the line on that one as I am 100% sure that is not allowed under our licensing agreement.

My director did not want me to forward her notes, which were via email, without rewriting them into my own language as if they were coming from me.  This was often necessary because of a snarky tone ("yikes! What is it going to take for her to remember her lines? She must pick up her cues!"), so she didn't like the "from the Director" heading, but has since given up on that objection. I have always made a sincere effort to preserve and present the show in accordance with her vision, even in the face of pushback by the cast.

The producer did actually say in a group email at one point that "after X, the show should be locked," but the director continued to change/rewrite lighting cues and make minor blocking changes. I gave up and now just try to keep the interests of all sides in mind.

So I was greatly mistaken and thought I was protecting something that wasn't protected.  Thanks for the helpful responses.




MatthewShiner

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2014, 10:21 pm »
And that rule about no rehearsals for new material IS NOT in every AEA Contract / Agreement / Code - in fact, I am unsure what other contracts that might be in.

But, wait, you should be locking the show.  You yourself said ...

Quote
he producer did actually say in a group email at one point that "after X, the show should be locked,"

Have you reported back to the producer the changes are being requested?  Are you noting them?  It seems like you have been given specific marching orders by the producer, and since you work for the producer, you should feel comfortable telling the director (Although I would talk to the producer first), that any request for a change so go directly to the producer.

(And to be honest, I have never made but the slightest of changes past opening without the producers' approval . . . )

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loebtmc

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2014, 02:35 am »
what Matthew said. If the producer says it's locked, it is locked, and if the director has an issue, she needs to go to the producer, not you.

And - she needs to understand that notes from her are notes from her. The kind of examples you cite - well, yes, I would rewrite as "director requested you double check your lines on p. x."

The 99-deat plan is a unique little monster, and my best advice is to call Michael Van Duzer in the LA AEA office as he knows best what's kosher and what's not.

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hbelden

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Re: Director Giving Notes
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2014, 01:13 pm »
To respond to the original post, with something I learned recently:  I don't have to have the entire rulebook memorized. 

And when an actor comes to me saying "Where are the backstage Ricolas? The theatre has to give them to us, it's a rule!" I don't have to tell them "No, it's not."  I can instead say "I haven't read that rule. Would you show me where that rule is?" and put the responsibility back on them to actually read the rulebook and learn something.  Maybe they'll become a deputy on their next show, who knows?
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