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Topics - Tigerrr

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Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / HEALTH: Injured actor
« on: Apr 28, 2010, 02:57 am »
Unfortunately I'm going to have to deal with this before the insightful SMs have a chance to post their perspectives, but I could still really use some advice. Here's the deal....

On tour with a show. We had a week off after having performed in Vancouver (which was beautiful, by the way!). 4 of the actors decided to spend a few days skiing in Whistler during that week off. One other went mountain biking in Squamish, one went home, and I went to visit my family in Edmonton. We are NOT under Equity contracts, but rather UDA (Union des Artists) which does not have the same restrictions on traveling while under contract that Equity does (in fact, the one who went mountain biking is a long-time performer at Stratford). Their last day of skiing, one of the actors got into an accident and cracked a few vertebrae & a bit of his skull & got a severe concussion. This was 5 days ago. We are scheduled to do a relatively rigorous tour of Ontario right now.

The actor in question is in quite a bit of pain and, due to the concussion, is having short-term memory problems (which are getting better with each day). After some reflection & discussion, he has decided that he is well enough to continue with the tour, but many are questioning this decision. The largest question hanging over us is that we were told that the choice of continuing on with the tour rested entirely with him, but during the car ride, he let slip that the AD sent him a vibe that it would be very difficult to cancel shows at this late period, and so he felt pressured to say 'yes'.

According to the schedule, we're supposed to arrive in a small Northern Ontario town tomorrow afternoon & do the set up of the set (which is far more complicated than a touring set should be, but that's another post), take the evening off, set up the lights & sound the next morning, followed by a school matinee & and evening show with a strike afterwards. This is going to be the first time the actors have ever helped with the set-up & strike and I expect it to take quite a while. It has already been decided that the injured actor will not participate in the set-up or strike.

I have made a few decisions already. There are some things that I need to see him complete in the near future before I even begin to be comfortable with him performing. They are: a) do a line run in the car during the 3 hour drive tomorrow. I'm not looking to see whether or not he flubs his lines, but whether or not he becomes confused and frustrated. This will help to tell me how he is recovering from the concussion; b) have a conversation with the cast & the reps of the company who are going to be there - all of this needs to get out in the open; c) have a one-on-one conversation with him to see how he's really feeling.

A couple of things. I truly believe that the "pressure" he felt from the AD was more than likely an audible reaction to having to cancel a few shows and NOT a reaction to the actor feeling he needed to. I think that the actor may have taken that personally and suddenly changed his mind. It's like when you give someone bad news and they respond strongly to the news, sometimes it's simply their immediate physical response and not truly the way they respond to the situation (subtle, I know). I also feel very strongly that the actor more than likely needs to rest right now. Doing 2 shows less than a week after a severe concussion is too much (particularly since it's such a physical show), and I believe we should cancel them, for the sake of the actor's long term health. I just don't know if that's something I can argue as the SM.

I appreciate any advice anyone can offer. It's a complicated situation, and I'm not sure if I've left enough details for people. I will certainly answer any questions that may arise. Thanks again!

Edit added tag to subject line-Rebbe

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I'm currently working on a production of Peer Gynt. The lead actor is an accomplished, award-winning performer, as well as a Stratford veteran and Dora-award winning performer. (For all you Americans, it means he's "good"  ;)) The rest of the cast are students at a local conservatory, most in their early 20's.

Long story short: I started this with the expectation that we were working in a professional environment and that the students had been prepared to do so. I've been running rehearsals as though everyone were under an Equity contract (proper breaks, call times, etc.) In turn, I had been assured that the students had at least been given a run-down of what was expected of them (off-book, rehearsal hall behaviour, etc.). This obviously has not happened, and now we're heading into tech week in 2 weeks. I can deal with the rehearsal stuff, particularly by speaking with them one-on-one, as well as with their program coordinator. The problem is tech week. We have exactly one week from load-in/set-up to Preview. Not much time to "teach".

Couple more things. I wasn't contracted to do any teaching, nor do I have an ASM. It's a cast of 11 and a 91 page script. We have no 10-of-12s, so are limited to 9 hour tech days (for everything, including the hang and focus, levels, cue to cue and tech rehearsals).

I'm meeting with the lead actor and program coordinator on Monday morning to devise a mini-workshop for the students as an introduction to tech week. The lead actor also teaches at the school, so he's perfectly placed to discuss the actor's process during tech week - how to retain focus; dealing with the fact that for the first time in the process it's not about you; that kind of thing. I'm going to introduce them to the tech end of things.

My question is this: What do you think I should tell them? Frankly, I could put together a 20 page package for them, but that'd be counter-productive. I'm looking for the absolute most important things, preferably in point form, that an inexperienced actor needs to know about tech week. Only 2 of them have even experienced a cue to cue, and those were in community theatre. Now we're working in an IATSE house with an Equity actor. Any opinions people here can offer would be appreciated.

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I was reading the thread about SMing dance and I wanted to illustrate why it's NOT a good idea to use a stopwatch as the basis for calling a show.

I am currently working on a ballet with 60+ kids, ranging in age from 5 to 19, with 4 professional dancers. My crew consists of parent volunteers and trained volunteers who work for the theatre venue. Thus, I never end up with the same crew for more than one performance, and some are more experienced than others. Because the kids are still in school, we don't get full days with them, so none of my rehearsals can be longer than 4 hours. The company can only afford to rent the theatre for a week, which includes 3 performances. Basically we load in & build cues on day 1, do spacing on day 2 (the LD builds more cues in blind), tech act 1 on day 3, tech act 2 on day 4, dress rehearsal on day 5, then performances on days 6 & 7. I get to see 3 rehearsals before we move into the theatre.

In this situation, from what I've read, most people would have called from a stop watch. That's all well and good, EXCEPT on day 2, after spacing, when I was getting the lx cues in my book, I was informed that there would be pitch changes to a few of the tracks. Actually, it turns out that of 21 tracks, only 5 of them are at a normal pitch. If I had planned on calling from a stopwatch, I would have been royally screwed since all the pitch changes mess up the timings of the tracks. I guess I could have gone home and re-timed the show with the pitch changes (not that I have that capability at home) but the pitch changes keep CHANGING.

So, I have no score, can't base my cues on timings, and have to keep a close eye on my inexperienced crew to make sure they're safe. What's a poor SM to do?

I build my own score. It takes A LOT of work, but it's worth it. Basically, I sit down with the music and a bunch of blank music sheets and write in what I call "landmarks" in the music. I have a basic knowledge of music, and can read, but have never played an instrument, so I can't tell the difference between a C and an F sharp. But I can identify a cymbal, or a timpani. Or when horns come in. I mark out clearly identifiable notes and anything else that helps me identify where I am in the music. Then I write in my cues exactly like I would with a real score.

This is not to say that I DON'T use my stopwatch. In this instance, because of the pitch changes, I have to ask my sound op how far we are into the track every once and a while if I get lost, and I still put timings at 15 second intervals in my score. On the plus side, I can keep an eye on my crew. For instance, yesterday, I was about to call the scrim in, but noticed that a crew member was right under it, so I held off, got the crew member to move, then called the scrim. My volunteer fly op wasn't watching the deck, and my parent crew member wasn't totally aware of his surroundings. I was able to avoid potential injury because I was on the deck, listening to the music, and keeping an eye out on everything, and not with my nose in a book or blindly calling cues off my stopwatch.

This also helps when trying to call cues on visuals. Because of the limited amount of time I have in rehearsal, I really can't learn the dance all that well. So I sit down with the choreographer and find out when in the music the visual is supposed to happen. It drastically reduces the learning curve since, even though I'm still calling on a visual, I know when it's coming in the music and can time my stand-bys accordingly.

It's not a perfect system because I don't know how easily it would be for someone else to pick up my book & call the show. But considering I've only had 3 days since I found out about all these pitch changes and I'm ready for the performances today, I'm pretty confident that my "score" is working.  If anyone is interested in seeing a scan of a few score pages, I'd be happy to send one.

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