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Topics - bex

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Dear Fellow SMs:

I will be SMing a show this winter that is either going to be the most fun show to run ever, or it will literally kill me- either way I'm excited for it. I'm hoping maybe somebody out there has done something similar before and will let me pick your brain about it.

We are doing 2 shows with the same cast simultaneously. Not in rep. Literally at the same time. 2 related plays in connecting theaters with the same cast in each show, performing at the same time. So an actor would leave the stage in one show, go up (or down) a flight of stairs, and enter a scene in the other show.

When I have described the concept, several people have said "Oh, like House and Garden!" which I have never done/seen/read- if anybody has done House and Garden, any tips? Are there any other shows out there like this, that are meant to be performed simultaneously?

I am the PSM of one of the 2 shows, there is another PSM on the other, as well as 1 ASM apiece and 1 shared intern/PA. One of the plays (not the one I'm doing) is an already existing work- my show is a new play starring the minor characters of the other show- sort of like doing Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead at the same time. The playwright is writing in a bunch of conventions to assist in the concept (there's a TV on stage that is showing the other show, for example) and there has already been discussion of some sort of cuing system so that I can tell an actor "get offstage you're needed in the other play!"

Thoughts? Anybody done anything like this before?

Edited to add topic tag- Maribeth

Self-Promotion / On Headset: The Stage Management Podcast
« on: Feb 05, 2016, 06:59 pm »
I've been working on this for a while, and I am thrilled to announce the release of the first episode of On Headset: The Stage Management Podcast.
When I first started listening to podcasts a year or so ago, I really wanted some theater tech or stage managment-specific ones. I looked for a while and asked for recommendations from fellow theater folks, but never found the podcast I was looking for- focused on SMing (not just design or acting or the business of theater), and not focused solely on NYC (like the vast majority of theater-centric podcasts). I found some great podcasts that fit those categories, but not exactly what I wanted. So I made it myself! Hosted by me, each episode will feature a different Guest SM, talking about stage management in general or one specific topic like touring or site-specific theater. It's part educational and part "2 SMs shooting the breeze."

If you like what you hear, please give us a rating and review in the iTunes store and share with your friends and fellow SMs!

Listen on iTunes:
Listen on Soundcloud:

You can follow us on all the social media-

The Green Room / Theater Podcasts
« on: Oct 16, 2015, 07:32 pm »
I've recently gotten super into podcasts, and I'm wondering if anybody has any good theater, tech theater, theater business, etc podcast recommendations.

I've done some googling, but most of the ones I've seen recommended seem very NYC or Broadway-centric (and nothing against New York but... I don't live or work there and am not particularly interested in a podcast that just interviews Broadway actors or where the hosts review the most recent off-Broadway show they saw).

I am starting rehearsals this week for a site-specific audience-integrative piece and I'm wondering if anyone has some advice. I've done audience-integrative theater before but not like this. The show is basically a walking tour with 2 actors and 10 audience members. We'll be rehearsing in the venue, thank goodness, but I'm a bit at a loss for how to physically take blocking notes. I have a map of the venue that I've turned into a slip sheet, that's not the issue.

My problem is that I'm literally going to be following these actors/director around a public space during rehearsal, dodging random people, going up stairs, through doors, etc. as we set blocking. I'm imagining juggling a binder and a notepad and it's just not going to work. Laptop is out of the question, obviously. Has anyone else ever run a mobile rehearsal? How did you take notes? How did you stay on book while you were en route?

The script is only 13 pages long, so I may just bite the bullet, say forget about my slip sheets, and put the whole thing on a clipboard, but I'd really like to be able to mark on the map of the venue where we are when we pause for each section of dialogue, which direction they're facing, etc. The venue is also INCREDIBLY humid (we're performing in a botanical garden) so I'm also a little worried about my script just basically turning into mush, but I'm not sure there's anything I'll be able to do about that.


Has anybody else seen this article in the New Yorker? How hilarious!

So here's a hypothetical (ok, you caught me, this happened) situation- I want to hear how other SMs would have handled this. What solution can you come up with for this?

You're SMing a staged reading of poems as part of a charity fundraising event. The event begins at 7:30 with speakers and a musician, the reading begins at approximately 8:00 and will last for about 30 minutes.

One of the poems will be read by its author. This particular poem is the final poem to be read.

There is a rehearsal at 5:30- this is the only rehearsal before the event. The author is not there at 5:30, and when you finally get her on the phone at 6:00, she says she will be there in half an hour.

At 6:45 she is still not there and the rehearsal has to end by 7:00 for the house to open, so the director makes the executive decision to reassign this poem to one of the other readers (it cannot be cut from the program entirely, as that would involve rearranging the order of several other poems in order to end on a more positive note). The procedure for bows is walked through with this substitute reader, as the final reader has to signal the others to stand and then lead the bows.

The reading begins at 8:05.

At 8:15, the author arrives. She DEMANDS to be allowed in to the theater and onto the stage with the rest of the readers. She says it is a matter of her reputation, and a grave insult that she is not being allowed to perform. She says that "someone" (clearly not you) told her she didn't have to go to the rehearsal at all and could just show up, so she's here now and why can't she read her poem?!?!  It is in this conversation that you learn for the first time that she is in fact one of the members of the board of this large, international charity organization. She is becoming increasingly more angry and does not seem to understand that the program has started already so it can't be changed now, and here's the kicker- she is flat out refusing to allow anyone else to read the poem that she wrote.

The only way to communicate with the rest of the readers now that the show has started is to actually walk up on to the stage in full view of the audience.  There is no intermission or breaks between poems and none of the readers leave the stage once the reading has begun.
None of the readers know each other, so you cannot make the assumption that surreptitiously sending some woman none of them have ever seen before out on stage will be some kind of signal to the other 6 readers that "hey, she's here, let's go back to the original plan that we never actually rehearsed!"

There are only about 15 minutes before the end of the reading.


Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / PROGRAMS: ASMs left out
« on: Sep 22, 2013, 10:28 am »
I read the program for my current show for the first time yesterday, after 2 weeks of performances, and realized that I am not in it. This is the 2nd show in a row (two different theaters) that I have ASMed and not been listed in the program at all. The first time it happened, I noticed it during the invited dress and the company was very apologetic & had put up a placard in the lobby by the next day. On the current show, since I JUST looked at the program, I have emailed the powers that be and am curious to see what their response is since we're 2 weeks through a 3 week run... (I'm not AEA, so no contract violation.)

This would be easily preventable by sending a copy of the entire program to stage management to proof instead of just the bio pages, but I can't recall that ever actually happening. All we get is the bios and I just have to assume that whoever in the marketing department is in charge of the programs a- knows that an ASM exists at all and b- knows my name, which apparently is a bad assumption to make.

I talked to another ASM in the area who said she has been left out of the program for the last 3 shows she's worked on. Is this a growing trend? How am I supposed to prevent this from happening again if the theaters don't send the whole program to the SM for proofing? I feel like as a non-AEA independent contractor ASM, I am low enough on the totem pole that a request to proof the staff page of the program wouldn't go over very well, but I don't know any other way to make sure that I don't get left out again.

Hey folks-

Currently working on a production of Boeing Boeing (yay farce!), and in the first scene one of the characters eats pancakes covered with ketchup. Yeahhhh. So we're trying to find a ketchup alternative so that she can scarf these pancakes without wanting to hurl.

Right now we're thinking either strawberry jelly (tasty, but not as ketchup-like) or red frosting (not as tasy, more ketchup-like, but either more complicated to make or more expensive to buy pre-made).  We don't need her to squeeze it out of a bottle onstage.

I know Boeing Boeing has been making the rounds recently- anybody remember what you used?

Self-Promotion / David Mamet's Race at Theater J
« on: Feb 15, 2013, 03:24 pm »
Hey folks-

I'm currently ASMing David Mamet's Race at Theater J! It's a powerful production, directed by John Vreeke, with some really great (and highly unexpected, for Mamet) design elements by a host of fantastic DC designers.  The cast is fabulous to watch and work with, as well.

For more info, go here:

And I have to say, after the last few shows I've run, I'm pretty glad to have a breather on this one. Normally I love those shows where I don't sit down unless it's written on my run sheet, but every now and then, an 80-minute, no intermission, no scene shifts, no costume changes, 5 props go on/off stage kind of show is what you need...

Self-Promotion / Apples from the Desert
« on: Dec 20, 2012, 12:57 pm »
Apples from the Desert opened at Theater J this week, and runs through January 6!

Written by Savyon Liebrecht, one of Israel's most popular authors, and a part of Theater J's Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival, this is the first full production of this play in America.

I have really enjoyed working on this show (despite sand onstage and lots of food props), and it was an amazing experience working with a director who took notes in Hebrew and consulted the original Hebrew script whenever an actor had a question about a line.  Plus the set is pretty cool- as the DC Broadway World review said, we got applause for the big scene change on opening, so that's always nice!

I highly recommend it, especially if you need a change of pace from your Christmas Carol/Nutcracker/Santaland blues!

Tools of the Trade / HELP: Static Electricity?
« on: Nov 15, 2012, 01:08 am »
I have a weird/ridiculous situation right now, hoping you guys have a solution...

I am basically a static electricity magnet- I have long hair and I am CONSTANTLY cold, which results in layering for backstage: I have black leg warmers, fingerless gloves, hats, neck wraps, fleece pullovers, the list goes on and on. All of those things cause me to constantly have an excess of static electricity, and coming in to the winter dry season, it's only going to get worse.

This is a concern because I have twice (TWICE! on two separate shows) shorted out a headset with a visible static charge from my finger to the talk button, and I really would like to not ever do that again. My current headset sounds fuzzy when I touch it sometimes, and I think that might be due to the static electricity, too.

So, first of all, does anyone else have this problem, or am I an electricity-conducting freak of nature? 

And secondly, how do I fix this?! I'm going to try stuffing dryer sheets in my pockets tomorrow, so I'll see if that helps. I always keep my hair braided or up in a ponytail when I'm backstage, which helps minimize that static source. Short of shelling out big bucks for some of that UnderArmor fancy cold weather gear, does anyone have any suggestions? I know my layers of knitwear are causing the problem, but I'm just so dang cold backstage!

Oh wise SM's of the internet- hear my plea!

I ran into a situation tonight that I would welcome some advice on how to deal with.

I have an actor who is an older man who has only done one other play before (at a community theatre in town, vs the non-AEA professional company where I currently work) and he is fairly unschooled in standard theatre etiquette and behavior. He doesn't have a very clear understanding of my role as the SM in the production. He is also the type of actor you have notes for after every performance- drastic (intentional) paraphrasing, adding extra bits of blocking, things like that. He also argues with me about them- he won't just take the note.

My problem stems from the fact that he views every note I give him in the sense of me treating him "like a child" and making a big deal out of things that "aren't my business." I don't give his notes in any manner that is different from the way I give notes to anyone else in the company, and he is the only one who has a problem with it (the rest of the cast are all fairly seasoned veteran actors). 

I know that the reason he is upset by my notes is because he doesn't understand that it's my job to give them. However, I feel like trying to explain to him why it's my job to give him notes (and call him if he's late to call and make sure he's wearing the right costume socks and and and) only feeds his perception of me treating him like a child. It's a bit of a catch-22.

Anyway, I leave you with this question- how do I continue to give notes for the second half of the run to an actor who not only refuses to take them, but also is grievously offended by me giving them?


Did anyone else see this article? 

I have never worked at a level where any of my castmembers have managers or agents, and I am curious to hear from anyone who has- while, obviously, Mr. Birch's behavior is atypical (peering through a window on the set during tech rehearsal? really?), has anyone ever heard of an actor's manager being at every rehearsal? Or even at any rehearsals?  If an actor said to you, "I want my manager to be in rehearsal with me," would you allow it?  I would be concerned about the rest of the castmembers' response to that, as well as the director's, to have an outside party sitting in on all of the rehearsals.  Would you make an exception to your standard "Guests Backstage" policy for an actor's manager? 

The fact that he is her parent (and also her bodyguard? the article kind of skims over that bit) as well really just ups the weird factor for me.  If an adult actor asked you if their parent could be in rehearsals, what would your response be?

The Green Room / Convolution Creep
« on: Oct 10, 2010, 01:26 pm »
Inspired by On_Headset's brilliant definition in the Funny Definitions thread-

Convolution Creep: The gradual stacking-up of idiosyncrasies in your rehearsal or performance space. ("...and the lightswitch only works if you press it from the top left, and the booth doesn't have a floor, so we'll need you to wear a harness and be flown into position, and the alarm only works on alternating Tuesdays, and the coms will suddenly drop out if you end a sentence with a preposition...")

Please, share your convolution creep with the class- every theatre has at least one little idiosyncrasy.

For the theatre I'm at right now- it's the Phone of Doom (among other things. Mainly just this stupid phone...) The line of communication from the booth to the green room & dressing rooms is via an old phone- dial a specific number in the booth and it goes to an intercom system backstage.  Now when I started working here, it was explained to me that this phone doesn't dial out, isn't connected to any other line, etc. so when it started ringing during a performance, and then continued to ring even after I took it off the hook, I started asking around.  Despite my obvious proof of the phone ringing (which can be heard in the house, onstage, in the lobby, etc) no one believed me... I had to unplug the phone from the wall (a feat in and of itself, in the tangle of unlabeled cords that is The Booth) and plug it in when I needed to give calls.

Let's hear your convolution creep stories!

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