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Topics - ljh007

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The Hardline / Dear Abby: AEA issues with show hand-off
« on: Dec 30, 2008, 08:52 am »
The following has been posted on behalf of a member who wishes to remain anonymous.

"I have a situation where I'm booked into two shows back-to-back at the same theater. It has always been clear that someone would need to take-over calling Show 1 for me when rehearsals for Show 2 began.  The thing is, I can't get a straight answer about who will take-over, and have reason to suspect the theater may not be planning to put the potential SM on contract, but were just expecting him to train for free or something (I believe this would be his first AEA show, or one of his first, and he's supposed to travel with the show later in the year).    I don't feel I can let him call shows without my supervision if he's not actually signed to a contract for this show; I've asked when his contract starts, so that we can firm up my last day with the show, but that's where I get the run around.  This potential take-over is also unavailable for some performances, and the PM, who is also in AEA, has said she could call those shows.  But again, it doesn't sound to me like she would be officially signed to an AEA contract to do this.  I think it's not enough to be an AEA SM to call a show, you need to have signed an SM  contract for that particular show, even if you are theater staff.  What do you think?"

Employment / Job/Gig searching in the new economy
« on: Dec 10, 2008, 11:27 am »
So has anyone been finding that your job search is slowing in the new (nose-diving) economy? Several theatres are struggling, a few are closing. Are gigs harder to secure?

Meanwhile, the rush for part-time and temp jobs is reported to have hit an all-time high. Are you having challenges getting those in-between-shows jobs to pay the bills?

I hope everyone is making it through the challenging times with as much prosperity as can be found these days!
I'd be interested to know what others' experiences have been on the front lines of job searching...

Employment / Who toots your horn?
« on: Nov 26, 2008, 03:28 pm »
For most career SM's, your gigs come through recommendations. Most positions - onstage, backstage, and everywhere in between - are hired through connections in this industry.

Who do you find are the people who pass along the good word for you?

For me it has always been the directors and producers/theatre management. My actors and crew and I love each other and I have gotten many a good recommendation through them. But directors have helped me get steady strings of shows, and producers have asked me back to their theatres often. Maybe it's because I like to think I'm pretty low-drama, efficient and business-minded when it comes to SMing a show.

So who sings your praises and lands you on your next show?
The cast? Director? The techs? Management? Designers? ...

Employment / Interview gaffes
« on: Nov 22, 2008, 03:20 pm »
I read a funny passage in a book recently about a guy interviewing for a chef's job (this will relate to general interviews for theatre in a minute... bear with me!).

The candidate was a great cook with lots of experience, especially in butchery and meats. He was interviewing with an intimidating exec chef and owner at a fabulous downtown NYC steakhouse. The owner was a particularly striking guy who spoke low and gravelly with an accent. After nailing the beginning of the interview, the candidate was feeling pretty good. Then the owner leaned in and asked "What do you know about me?" The candidate froze, trying to figure out if the owner was famous, or a notorious criminal, or otherwise known in the culinary world. Should he know about him? Would the owner be insulted if he didn't know? Would it be worse to make something up? The young, brash candidate chef decided to confidently respond: "Absolutely nothing!" At which point the owner looked a little confused, then burst out laughing. The interview was over shortly after that, brought quickly to an end with a few more chuckles. As the candidate walked down the next block he realized that he had misheard the question. The owner had asked "What do you know about meat?" An entirely relevant, and important, question for someone interviewing a would-be chef for a steakhouse.

I have definitely had that interview moment where I didn't understand what someone was saying. (You can only ask "What?" so many times...) But luckily it never cost me the job.  :)

Anyone else ever had a funny (or not so funny) misunderstanding or mis-hearing in an interview situation?

ps: the book is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2007).

Employment / Dear Abby: Negotiating contracts
« on: May 21, 2008, 07:32 pm »
The following has been posted on behalf of a member who wishes to remain anonymous:

Dear Abby:

I recently received a job offer from a company that is non union.  The offer is not even close to a realistic wage for the job offer, and doesn't come with travel or housing.  Does anyone have any advice for negotiating this?  I have a feeling if I just lay my cards on the table it's going to be too much for them, but I also feel like they need a bit of a wake up call . . . if they are advertising the job to out of town stage managers, they should probably provide travel, housing, and a decent wage.

I really want to work on this production and for this company.

Tools of the Trade / Triangulation taping technique
« on: Jul 20, 2007, 08:59 am »
IF you can't find a solution that will make the dancers happy and end up having to re-tape every night, I've got a suggestion that should make it faster.
I SM'd a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that ended up in something like four different rehearsal spaces, including a dance rehearsal room.  To make taping the floor easier, I made a gadget!
  • Grab some chunks of 3/4" ply that are about 1'x1'.
  • Sink a screw into the middle of each, but not all the way through.
  • Put one chunk on each corner of your floorplan.
  • Draw straight lines from the screw to the edge of the plywood along the line of your wall on each of your squares.
  • When re-taping, use an appropriate length string tied to the screw, or a measuring tape to find the lenght of your wall, line it up with your next chunk, and viola.
Instead of plotting all your points, you can now plot just one or two and get the rest of the shape from there.  Initial set up for this can be a little arduous (STRAIGHT lines ar your friend!), but it probably saved me five or six hours over the course of the rehearsal process.

This is actually a variation of the triangulation taping technique. There used to be a great step-by-step explanation of triangulation on this site, but I can't find it anymore. I had acutually copied it out into one of my SM reference binders, but can't find that either. Does anyone have a clear explanation of triangulation, for those who have not yet enjoyed this delightful taping method?

Employment / Resume paper
« on: May 22, 2007, 09:19 pm »
I have been on the sending and receiving end of resumes for many many years, and still each time I go to send out a resume I pause at the printer trying to figure out what kind of paper to use.
I have lovely dusty moss-green paper that I adore and find entirely professional... but will the person who opens the envelope agree with my taste?
I also have an ivory parchment style paper that is nice, but it is just another resume paper.
Then there's always standard white paper, because who really cares anyway?
Depending on the position/company, I might select any of these papers any given day.

When I hire, I really don't care much what the paper is like as long as it has a nice weight. I enjoy a quality linen texture - it impresses me, but I know this is just a detail. As long as there are not pictures of Loony Tunes dancing around the border (seen it) - actually, preferably no graphics at all, please - I have never really cared much about resume paper from others' applications. But when it's my own application, this stops me dead in my tracks.

So, dear SMNet friends, what kind of paper do you use? Can I use the green paper I love so much or are you going to tell me to stick with the standard linen resume stuff?

Stage Management: Other / LA Opera PSM speaks at local library
« on: Mar 08, 2007, 05:44 pm »
Check out this link

The PSM from the LA Opera, Lyla Forlani, is speaking at the La Canada Flintridge Library on Monday March 12, at 6:30pm. All you LA SMs, come represent!

This sounds like a cool program - maybe we can get more SMs going out and about demonstrating how we do what we do.

SMNetwork Archives / Astrology for Stage Managers
« on: Feb 11, 2007, 01:10 pm »
I've been working on this for a while, and hope you all will enjoy it. Remember, it's astrology - it's not perfect, but it's fun!
So... what's your sign, baby? (I'm a Gemini)

You have a natural leadership that makes the role of SM come easily to you. Your dynamic personality and strong ego (come on, admit it!) can keep a complex tech running along smoothly. However, you can step on a few toes with your super-confident attitude – and it usually surprises you when people take things the wrong way. You hate being told what to do, though occasionally you should slow down and listen to the carp with decades of experience under his tool belt. You are quick to come up with solutions to problems, and directors usually appreciate that you maintain shows consistently and with excellent quality.
Most likely to lead the parade to the bar after rehearsal.

You are the epitome of patience, and never sweat the small stuff. You are content to rule over the theatre from behind your SM station, watching everyone hustle and flow as you calmly impose order over this chaos. People enjoy working with you because you always have your eye on the big picture. Sometimes your slow walk and quiet watchfulness are mistaken to mean that you are less than enthusiastic about your show. But those who know you best know the truth: you are a fierce defender of your production’s best interests, and you’ll win any shouting match if it finally comes to that. In fact, you’d really excel as a producer. When people need someone to put a foot down, they come straight to you.
Most likely to keep the company from giving out comps like candy.

Your SM motto is “Communicate!” No one can top your skills at moderating discussion, passing along information, and keeping all members of the cast and crew in touch. Your paperwork is informative and lively. You are a true master at running production meetings. However, you might tend to debate issues longer than necessary because you can see all sides of an argument naturally – which sometimes leaves you caught in the middle. You tend to move quickly, and can jot down complex blocking on the first go.
Most likely to be the best cue caller on Earth.

You adore the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t illusion of theatre magic. You are definitely most comfortable backstage, under the blue glow of work lights. While you can guide a show competently through rehearsals, it is backstage where you really shine. You can call those visual or “feel” cues perfectly every time because you are always in the moment when it comes to performances. While you’re not one for the spotlight yourself, you love the warm-and-fuzzy feeling when a cast bonds and the audience gives a standing-O. You can tend to get sick easily, especially during a stressful tech.
Most likely to have the Mary Poppins Bag of kits – and to be called “Mom” by the cast.

You have the natural qualities of a mentor, and can guide a production from start to finish using sheer will alone. People naturally look up to you, and you take this and run with it (even when you secretly know you’re not quite sure what you’re talking about sometimes). Your showbiz motto could be “High Class, Baby!” You want everything done with no expense or effort spared – you’ll settle for nothing less than the best in all things. You’re extremely independent, but might do well to delegate more tasks to your ASMs. You secretly love the backstage gossip and can be quite susceptible to flattery.
Most likely to give speeches – about tardiness, show concept, backstage protocol, anything really.

You are tops when it comes to organization. Even your prop tables are taped with perfect right angles. Your pencils are perfectly sharp and your paperwork is pristine (even if it takes you a while to file reports because you’re fussing with line spacing). Sometimes you can get impatient when the “creatives” are taking too long to debate character motivation or the exact shade of green that expresses the emotion of this scene. But you have saved the day more than once because while everyone else was looking the other way, you quietly put everything in order.
Most likely to guard your kit like a lion.

You are level-headed and patient – even when everyone around you is beyond stressed. Your calm demeanor makes you extremely valuable during crazy techs, and cast and crew alike a drawn to your easy-going friendliness. You are able to prioritize tasks and to defuse various crises as soon as they arise. You aren’t the perfect caller, or paperwork maven, or the master fixer. In a way, you are very good at all areas of SMing, while you don’t necessarily excel at any – except providing an enthusiastic but realistic outlook at all times.
Most likely to be the Go-To person for all things show related.

You just belong in the theatre. The drama, the craziness, the long hours, the nighttime schedule – it fits you perfectly. You become extremely attached to productions you’re working on, and are most likely to suffer from Post-Dramatic Stress Disorder after closing. But for each show you work, you give it your all. You work especially well with directors and actors because you appreciate the emotional demands of theatre. Measuring ground plans and making run sheets are definitely not your favorite activities – you’ll delegate these to your ASMs whenever possible.
Most likely to get involved in a show romance.

You want the biggest, craziest, sparkliest shows you can find. Musicals are your favorite – with the glitzy costumes, the big sets, the intense cue sequences, and the glitter drops (love the glitter drops!). You enjoy theatre not for the emotional catharsis but for the pure entertainment factor. You are always the cheerleader for whatever production you are on, and can make people smile through even the most painful tech. Typical SM neuroses -– pristine paperwork, overstocked kits, impeccable call boards – are not for you. Sometimes people might accuse you of being a little slap-dash in your execution. But gosh darn it, you just love the theatre, and you’re guaranteed to give ‘em a great show every time.
Most likely to secretly want to be an actor.

You are the perfectionist SM personified. Not because you’re neurotic or naturally orderly, but for the pure challenge of it. You enjoy SMing because it allows you to use all your skills, constantly learning how to do things better. Though you’re patient in your way, you can be quite demanding when others don’t live up to your expectations. You have a certain detachment from your shows because for you they are exercises and learning opportunities. But this constant personal challenge means that you are inevitably very good at what you do. Your ASMs think you are god.
Most likely to have run sheets drafted before rehearsals even start.

You are an SM because you love being a central part of the creative process. You are imaginative, energetic, and friendly. However, you might not be the most practical SM – paperwork and call boards with hospital corners are not where you excel. With your inventive mind, you can come up with amazing creative solutions to most dilemmas – especially in regards to props and costumes. You are likely to have a few silly toys in your kit alongside your pencils.
Most likely to be SM + costumes + props + carpenter + house manager + program designer + ...

Your independent, non-competitive nature makes SMing a good position for you. You’re rather optimistic and can always see the best in people and situations, though you can get emotionally attached in rehearsals. While running through the tragic scene, you’ll be the first one with tears in your eyes – but be careful that you don’t go home in a foul mood, too. You might find it hard to sit through long rehearsals or to park yourself at the SM desk through a show (wireless headsets were made for SMs like you!).
Most likely to give counseling sessions to sobbing actors backstage.

Employment / Welcome to the Employment Forum!
« on: Jun 22, 2006, 12:27 pm »
Welcome to the Employment Forum!

What this forum is
This is the place to discuss all aspects of theatrical employment. Want tips on your resume, cover letters, or contract negotiations? Looking for advice about dealing with your boss or coworkers? Need help finding gigs or general advice on your SM career path? You’ll find it all here. This is also the place to announce job postings on the Employment Forum Child Board - "Job Postings." (I also recommend posting your job announcement with the SMA as well!) Please take a look around the forum before posting to be sure you’re posting in the right place. Please join existing forums when appropriate before starting your own thread.

What this forum isn’t
While this forum is the place to find advice on dealing with sticky workplace situations, please do try to keep general griping to a minimum. Let’s maintain a pro-active attitude towards our workplace conflicts! Inappropriate and identifying comments about theatres and individuals will be edited out from posts. As usual, no bad language and no cheap gossip.

And anyone who checks out this forum should definitely visit the resume browser on the SMNetwork homepage.  The browser is accessible to all registered members.  Username, password and a link can be found in the File Cabinet section of the call board.

A little bit about me
I am a freelance stage manager and arts administrator (read: theatre office worker of many varieties) currently based in Washington, DC. I have SM’d plays, musicals, concerts, events, and work mostly in opera these days. Though I am a non-union SM, I’m familiar with AEA, AGMA, IATSE, LORT, and AFofM employment contracts. I’ve worked a variety of shows – large and small, community and professional, big-budget and no-budget. Every gig I’ve had has been different, and I think I’ve learned a lot about dealing with a wild variety of people, venues, and circumstances. I have also spent several years as a PM and hirer, so I’ve seen hundreds of resumes and cover letters, and I’ve been the interviewer on the other side of the desk. If you have questions or concerns about this forum, feel free to PM me anytime.

Looking forward to seeing you around the site!

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / FORMS: the WHO-WHAT-WHERE
« on: May 13, 2006, 11:53 am »
I am currently engaged in a lively debate with another SM about the value of a Who-What-Where (WWW) production document. If you're not familiar, the WWW is a master document that tracks absolutely everything in a show - every entrance/xt, every prop, set piece, rail/sound/fx cue, costumes (actually, I don't think I've ever seen lights absorbed into a WWW). Usually it's a huge chart set up this way:
Time In // Who // What // Where // Notes
15:34  //Marie//Wine btl//ntr sr, x to c table//bottle has water inside

I think these documents are marvelous and I start building one before rehearsals even begin. All my running sheets are then zapped off by pulling info from this master document - it's a snap, and I can't imagine doing it any other way anymore. And I think it's an amazing tool for the archive; In theory, with a groundplan and the WWW, you could remount any production blind. Other SMs I've spoken with think they're ridiculously detailed and ultimately useless because there's just too much information. Does anyone else want to chime in on your love/hate of the WWW?

At every opera company I've worked for, it was standard-issue to provide coffee & tea (with accoutrement) backstage. Sometimes this means hot water with instant coffee, lipton tea bags, and a tube each of sugar and non-dairy creamer. Sometimes it means one percolator of regular coffee, one of decaf, one of hot water; teas: black, herbal (non-caf), and green, sweeteners: sugar, sweet&low/equal, splenda, honey; non-dairy creamer; cups, napkins, stir sticks. Plus cold bottles of water labeled and set aside for principals.

For big act concerts, there's usually some provision for a plate of hot food and good drink backstage. I've even been asked to carry a bottle of champagne to a singer's dressing room (it was rejected when it wasn't real champagne). I worked a musical concert one-off that had a huge hospitality table with a variety of sodas, pizza, fresh nibbles and bagged snacks, hot coffee & tea, desserts, etc. etc. I have learned to always, always have coffee and filtered water available for a union crew and orchestra.

And it was a stage management duty to set it all out, keep it pretty, and clean it up. While this can be a pain, I actually kind of like fussing with the hospitality - it's a nice little chore and the way I prefer to begin my evening (after setting up the call board).

So here's my question - what else have people encountered backstage? Are there different usual offerings for dance/theatre/orchestras/opera? Does the SM team handle it, or the Company Manager, or someone else? Any stories to share?

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