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Messages - Scaenicus

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SMNetwork Archives / Re: I could have kissed them!
« on: Nov 28, 2008, 07:53 pm »
I could have kissed my cast when:

...two days ago, during our first rehearsal of Candide, they gave me a round of applause when I introduced myself and again at the end of rehearsal.

...I got a standing ovation upon entering the cast party for The Beggar's Opera. Macbeth cast complimented me on my calmness daily during a troubled tech week.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Re: Hell Week...?
« on: Nov 15, 2008, 07:31 pm »
I am in high school, so the term "Hell Week" is official enough to be written into our handbook.  This is not very professional in "real theatre," of course, but in our setting it is a useful name.

Keep in mind that for 2/3 of kids who are under 17 (driving age in NY state), their parents have to pick them up at 11 pm, give them twice the amount of money to pay for lunch and dinner, and do twice as much laundry between costumes, tech clothes, and actual clothing.  So for all persons involved, yes, tech week is a week from hell.

I really like tech/hell week, though.  Things start to come together, the set actually looks passable, and the show seems fresher than ever with costumes and makeup added.

As my final project for high school drama class, my stage managing partner and I are attempting to write a SMing handbook.  This will cover the entire process, from distributing scripts to strike.  This is quite a daunting task, and while we have the basics covered, we are looking for suggestions.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?  Have you learned any habits, strategies, or tricks that make a certain task easier?  What should you always carry on you (keep in mind, this is high school, so no knives)?  Has someone told you a phrase/anecdote that has stuck with you?

Thanks very much!

Please note that I am a high school SM, so my answers might not prove valid in the professional world.

Have you encountered sexist or gendered behavior in the workplace?

Yes, though at my age grade level is as much an issue as gender.

What characteristics are most important to a successful SM? Are these primarily female or male characteristics? Why or why not?

I am wary of generalizations, but I think that SMs need to be organized, efficient, dedicated, forward-thinking, patient, and unafraid of criticism.  I don't think they are traits reminiscent of any gender.

What are the most common failings of SMs?

In my experience, not being dedicated enough to their job or simply being poorly-suited for it (unorganized, inefficient, etc.).

What are your thoughts on the idea of a SM as a Mother figure? Any pertinent stories?

As a stage manager I think that some motherly characteristics can be applied to the job, but overall emotional attachment to the cast and show is something I try to keep to myself.  My friends on the cast know that when we get to rehearsals I am a SM, not their friend; it's hard to be both.  Also, as an actor, I resent mothering SMs because I feel patronized by those sorts of personalities.

Do you feel that there are less SM opportunities for one gender? Is there any instance where one gender makes a better SM? Why or why not?

In high school theatre, gender isn't very important when picking a SM.  Females stage manage more than males in my school, but the may be because we have more females in the theatre program.

If you are a female SM, do you feel you have to work harder for the same respect/pay/jobs as your male counterparts? Why or why not?

I think I do.  With managerial tasks there are no gender expectations, but with things like focusing lights, unloading trucks, building the set, and stereotypically "male" jobs, I definitely do have to work for recognition.  The director asks for five guys to unload the truck, not five people; tech crew is entirely male even though I'm just as skilled (if not more so) than some of the crew members.

Do people of a specific sexuality or gender identity make better SMs? Why or why not?

I don't think so.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Re: Onstage Hangings
« on: Nov 20, 2007, 10:37 pm »
I don't know if we can afford that.  We want to avoid a dummy if possible, but if our budget does not allow for the actual hanging of the actor, we might have to modify the script and 'hang' him behind some scrim or offstage.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / SCENERY: Onstage Hangings
« on: Nov 20, 2007, 10:32 pm »
In a high school production of The Beggar's Opera, I will have to figure out how to safely hang one of our actors by a noose.  The idea proposed in the book is that an actor puts a noose around his neck and drops through a trapdoor, only to be safely caught by a net or mattress, and a dummy is promptly hanged instead.  Another switch is made in this manner when the actor comes back to life.

However, our trapdoor may or may not allow for this sort of stunt.  Someone had the idea of hooking up the actor to a rock climbing harness and attaching the rope to that with a loose one around the neck for the audience's benefit.  When the rope is yanked up, it looks as if the actor is being hanged, but he is actually supported by the harness instead of his neck.

Any other suggestions?

As to calling attention, God mics are helpful if you can set one up.

I usually use a God mic, and I think that will be of great help.  The problem is that most talking occurs in the dressing rooms and wings, because we don't have a policy of keeping actors in one place during rehearsals.  I think I will put a speaker in the dressing room hallway, so that everyone can hear.

Ooh, me!

I was SMing a straight show last year when our lead fell ill the night of the performance.  We think it was food poisoning, and it was just not good.  Everyone was freaking out, convinced we would have to cancel opening night -- the part was so well-suited for him that nobody bothered to assign him an understudy.  Nobody knew his lines, either, so we were terrified.  Then I, in a moment of clarity, realized that /I/ knew all of his lines and blocking.

I was heading over to costume and makeup when, literally fifteen minutes before curtain, he stopped throwing up and deemed himself ready to perform.

I got to bow, nonetheless.

We often have an actor in costume make the announcement, like I believe they do in certain Broadway shows such as Spamalot.  For some reason, audiences listen more to actors.

During our production of Evita, we had a Spanish teacher say the announcement first in Spanish, then in English; it seemed to catch the audience's attention.  Show-specific twists like that are always appropriate.

We usually say that cell phones interfere with the wireless mics, so it is imperative that they are turned off.  We offer, like someone else pointed out, to collect the cell phones of anybody who must be contactable during the show and notify them of any calls.  Audiences often listen to that.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Controlling an Unruly Cast
« on: Nov 15, 2007, 07:30 pm »
I am a high school sophomore stage manager, and I often find it difficult to control large casts of students.  Our shows have casts anywhere from 15-50 people; the upcoming musicals have 35 apiece, and it is hard to control a large bunch of rowdy kids who are, for the most part, older than me.  Does anybody have suggestions for asserting my authority, when I am younger than most of my cast?  Also, any techniques for quieting down the cast besides yelling?

Thank you in advance.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: ASM??
« on: Nov 15, 2007, 07:00 pm »
ASMs have a large role in my school!  Here's what my ASMs will do in our upcoming production:

During Rehearsal Time:

-Block at every rehearsal, and review blocking notes at the end of each week to make sure everybody is on track; discrepancies are to be reported to me, the SM

-I have three ASMs, so I have one take notes for props, one for costumes, and one for tech and paint.  Our director likes to shout out random orders during rehearsals and expect them to get done, so I can't do it all myself; ASMs then give their notes to me, which I compile with my own, which I then bring to the director and crews to discuss.

-Stand in or read lines for absent actors without understudies

-Answer blocking and lines questions for actors if I am otherwise occupied

-Arrive fifteen minutes early to every rehearsal to unlock the theater, sweep, preset, check rehearsal props, and other miscellaneous tasks

-Assist with crew work (tech, lighting, sound, paint, etc.) when necessary

During the run of the show, I have one ASM in the lighting/sound booth with myself, the AD, and the director; one SL; and one SR.  The ASMs in the wings are in charge of prop table maintenance, or if there is a prop runner or the prop mistress present, simply be on book.  The ASM in the booth is to be on book, and if worse comes to worse, can walk around backstage to solve any problems that may arise

In summation, my ASMs are very much SMs in training in that they do what I do, only with the work split between the three of them.  I try to teach them whatever and whenever I can, and usually they learn a lot (=

Number one SM-ASM relationship pitfall: having your ASMs buy you, your actors, or your director food.  AVOID at all costs, for it breeds resentment.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Re: SMing a Shakespeare
« on: Jun 12, 2007, 10:19 pm »
Yeah, I bought a pretty sweet two-volume Shakespeare dictionary at a garage sale a few weeks ago.  I'm sure I'll add that to my kit.

Good luck on Midsummer -- it's a good play, we did a modern version a few years back.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Vista and Microsoft 2007
« on: Jun 12, 2007, 10:16 pm »
I "made the switch" from my family PC to a godly MacBook Pro.  It is everything I could hope for and more in a computer, especially with the added bonus of Office Mac -- if only because the majority of this country's inhabitants are PC users.  Best thing is, it was free, because my drama group bought a few multiple-download packages.  The drama classroom is completely Apple, from our Macs to AirPort to the wireless printers.  It's heaven in high school.

Anyway, I am supremely disappointed with Vista.  Most of the highlights of the system are either copied from or found in Mac OS (gadgets = widgets), and with the ease of Office Mac, I see no reason to use Vista (or PCs, for that matter) at all.  No viruses, either, which is a huge bonus.

As for the new version of Office, drama's still on the 2003 version and everyone is happy with it.  I'd say, take the plunge into Apple the next time you re-evaluate your computer situation.

Ask your choreographer!  All of the choreographers I have worked with have stage management backgrounds and can probably give you advice.

Our production of Evita just closed at the end of March.  Good luck with yours!

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / SHOWS: SMing a Shakespeare
« on: Jun 12, 2007, 07:40 pm »
I will be SMing a high school production of Romeo & Juliet this fall, and I wonder if anyone has advice!  There are a few threads mentioning Shakespeares, so forgive me if this is redundant; however, more specifically, I want to be as prepared as possible when rehearsals begin in August.

So:  What should I be doing in the upcoming two months to prepare for R&J?  Should my kit have anything special in it?  Any tales about your Shakespeare or R&J experiences?  Words of wisdom?


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