Author Topic: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager  (Read 15252 times)

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Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« on: Jul 15, 2012, 01:53 am »
Attending school at: University of California, Irvine
Instructor: Don Hill
Training level: Graduate
Project due date: June 2013

Background: My thesis intends to compile resources, such as an analysis of safe and sanitary guidelines in AEA and other entertainment unions, which would be useful to a young professional venturing into non-union stage management jobs. My thesis is intended to act as a guide to this audience. It will discuss the role of the stage manager in relation to safety in a theatrical environment and what tools a non-union stage manager has when attempting to maintain a safe workplace.

My initial question is what topics related to "safe and sanitary" would be most beneficial to a young professional working in non-union theatre?

I am looking for both the 20/20 long-term professional view of what would have been useful "way back when" as well as the fresh perspective from those stage managers just starting out regarding what you want to know more about.

Thank you.
« Last Edit: Jul 15, 2012, 01:55 am by BLee »
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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #1 on: Jul 15, 2012, 09:47 am »
Stage combat certainly comes to mind, including the use of firearms and other weapons. Fire safety, including fire exits and extinguishers. A safe stage surface- which could include topics like raked stages, adequate lighting and railings on raised platforms or other hazards.

A big one that comes to mind is an evacuation plan in case of fire or other emergency, and making that plan known to the actors and crew in advance.

Gotta run but hope this helps.


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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #2 on: Jul 15, 2012, 09:58 am »
I would suggest a section on "Backstage Cleanliness".

Lately, I've encountered community stage managers who begin a tech week with no regard for the conditions backstage: loose cables, construction materials laying about, no clip lights backstage for visability and so on. 

I can elaborate more, but wanted to make sure this was in line with your thesis on "safe and sanitary" conditions for a young professional in non-pro theatre.


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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #3 on: Jul 15, 2012, 11:36 am »
Look into OSHA rules regarding Manual Handling/ Repetitive Stress Injury, Electric Safety, Working at Height, Noise Levels, etc.

Pyro safety?

Flying inductions and validations?

E-stops and automation processes?

Weather concerns for outdoor shows?  Sun, heat, rain, humidity, condensation.- I think this is a really important section to include for dance especially.  I have had dancers burn their feet (through shoes) on hot marley.  In humid environments, puddles of condensation appear on marley after the sun goes down.


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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #4 on: Jul 15, 2012, 12:11 pm »
On a non-technical level, bathrooms and dressing rooms.

There are classic examples all over Los Angeles. I would say it's a before/after example except there are still small spaces where audience and performers share a single bathroom that is inaccessible to the cast from house open to house clear, where there is neither space nor privacy to change backstage, and drinking water is what you bring for yourself. And this doesn't include things like trash (and who takes it out), detritus laying about and general filth.


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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #5 on: Jul 16, 2012, 01:53 am »
Preparedness- Evacuation plan, knowing where fire extinguishers are, etc., as was previously mentioned, but also does your theater have an accident report form? Where are they? Who does it go to once it's been filled out? If there isn't one already, what information should you include to make your own? (Why should you make your own in the first place?) Who is responsible for escorting injured performers or crew to the doctor or ER? Does your theater even have worker's comp?
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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #6 on: Jul 16, 2012, 02:39 am »
Sleep deprivation is a major factor in non-union houses, and even in AEA houses when dealing with the interns and/or non-IA crew. I did numerous shifts of over 19 hours as an intern, and a few over 24 hours in length where I was required to drive, use power tools and chill on top of an A-Frame for hours and then expected to be chipper for first tech rehearsal as deck crew 6 hours later.

I spent six weeks at one particular theatre on this lovely schedule:

6am: Walk to work (too poor to afford the train except in bad weather.)
7am: call for rehearsal setup
9am-5pm: rehearsal (no lunch for interns most days)
6pm: performance at night
8pm: curtain
11pm: curtain down, 1 hr cleanup & laundry
Midnight: Walk home or if I'm lucky, get a ride from a crew member.
1am: Get home. Sleep until 5am. Repeat.

Repeat 6 days a week for six weeks, with some variety on Sat & Sun due to a 2 show day. Try to not get sick. Try to not kill anyone. Try to not fall asleep in the wings.

I knew of one high end AEA house without an IA contract that would run its load-in crew on 24 hour cycles with everyone taking overlapping 16 hour shifts.

SMs need to know if their crew will be subject to these conditions immediately before a rehearsal or performance. It is not safe, especially if the deck track involves any sort of pyro, rail, firearms or handling of fragile objects/people in the dark.


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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #7 on: Jul 18, 2012, 04:51 pm »
First aid, first aid, first aid!

I am just starting out but one of my most helpful things in terms of safety has been my first aid kit. I always carry my personal kit because as a freelance you never know what you are walking into. My college first aid kit was notorious for being poorly supplied (when I first started it was empty!). Larger houses should supply first aid kits, but I worked with a new theatre company (showcase equity) and my first aid kit was our primary one. I always make sure to have it stocked and have used it many times. Even if an actor needs a band-aid for something as simple as a bad paper cut, being prepared and calm with small things establishes trust and helps when bigger issues occur.

Also, I think stage management success is directly correlated with personality. I do very well in emergencies. A stage manager tries to be pro-active (safety checks), but they need to be prepared to deal with crisis and deal with it in a level headed manner.

For example : I once had a stage hand cut herself backstage during house open. I had to take care of her, call an ambulance, comfort her, reassign her tasks etc. before we could start but really the harder job is to keep actors and other technicians calm.

You may have the situation completely under control but remember not everyone you work with might be as calm. Patience, reassurance, and good leadership is key to dealing with a safety situation and also preventing a snowball affect.

Hope this helps!
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Re: Deadline June 2013: Safety and the Stage Manager
« Reply #8 on: Nov 04, 2012, 12:22 am »
If you have the time during college, take an EMT class--more advanced than first-aid.  You don't have to take the corresponding state test, but it has helped me a lot more than just the basic first aid class.  Also, you get CPR & AED for the Professional Rescuer--helpful for when you have kids in the show, etc.
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