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Topics - JJ Hersh

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Tools of the Trade / Sound Software
« on: Feb 20, 2019, 04:45 pm »
As a stage manager at a lot of smaller theaters, there have been several times I've been asked to run sound cues from my own laptop. While I don't necessarily have a problem with that, I don't own a Mac, so I can't run sound through QLab. I used Multiplay for a few years, but from what I've seen that software is no longer actively supported. My budget is pretty low at the moment so I'm not looking to make a big investment - does anyone have a favorite Windows compatible sound software that doesn't cost much?

Employment / Health insurance
« on: Nov 30, 2018, 10:27 am »
I've been getting insurance through my parents for my whole life but starting in December I lose eligibility and I'm in the process of applying for some sort of subsidized insurance in my state. As a freelancer I really have no clue what I'll make. My monthly income has ranged from 500 dollars to almost 3000. Has anyone had to deal with this? How do you estimate income with that much variability?

I just started on the first musical I've done as a stage manager. It's a really good show but I came in after tech and opening weekend so I didn't have time to iron everything out timing/calling wise and the promptbook was in pretty bad shape. One of the things this show has a number of is bump cues that hit at the end of songs, usually after held notes which don't seem to be consistent in terms of length. I've had very little luck getting the timing right on these, and right now it looks unacceptably sloppy. Because the show is already open I don't really have a chance to practice calling it with actors singing and no audience and I'm not sure how to make my timing better. Any advice?

Employment / Prospects of working toward equity at age 23
« on: Feb 26, 2018, 12:22 am »
I've been stage managing in community theaters for about 2 years, and am currently at a bit of a crossroads in my career. I may have the opportunity to be the resident stage manager at a small theater company near my home, but it's not equity, the pay isn't great, and the work isn't terribly challenging. I was discussing the possibility with a friend who works at an equity house and he told me that I shouldn't take it, because by now I should have started looking for PA work at equity houses and been working towards getting my card. The implication seemed to be that the longer I waited, the less likely it would be that I would be able to eventually go on to a professional house.  Is my friend's concern valid? And if so, how unlikely am I to find PA work at this point to work towards a professional career?

I recently worked on a show as a supertitle operator and noticed that the stage manager was reading a book between cues. There were sometimes very big gaps between cues and she never missed any, but personally, as a stage manager, I've always followed the rule that my eyes are always on the stage, even on shows that are technically very low maintenence. What is the norm?

I'm currently working on a production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and was wondering if anyone had suggestions about how to do the mug breaking scene towards the beginning. One of the characters is supposed to throw two mugs full of coffee across the room. The action takes place near the beginning of the play and the mess is cleaned up by an actor as a plot point in the show. I know that there are mugs designed to break for stage plays but the cheapest ones I can find are 15 dollars a piece, which ends up being more than we have in the budget when we buy enough for the entire run. I'm also a little nervous cause the play is being produced in the round in a pretty small theater and the action is not very far from the audience. Any suggestions on how to do this without the expensive breakaway mugs and how to do it as safely as possible?

Thanks in advance.

I just got an Assistant Stage Manager position for this summer, and I'm really excited about it. I've never worked on an opera before, I was wondering how different opera and straight play stage management are. Is there anything I should look out for? Is the stage manager's role pretty similar?

I'm currently working on a show with a small ensemble theater. As far as I can tell I am the first stage manager they've worked with, as usually the artistic director and the core members work together to fill various production roles, including props tracking and setup. One of the results of this is that there has been very poor communication and inconsistent duties for me.

This has become a problem, as I don't have an ASM, meaning I have no eyes backstage. Some examples: At some point, a black curtain was added as masking at the door and I was not told and did not immediately notice. A prop of a baby doll was added after opening and I was not told. The production manager(who is also playing one of the lead roles) decided that she would take responsibility for blood, which I was supposed to be in charge of, and I was not told. As a result, I've had a very difficult time tracking what I have to do, where props have to go, and how the backstage is organized. This all came to a head last night when I got an email from the artistic director/director telling me that she would be taking over all backstage tasks as I was making too many mistakes, and to please send her all of my pre and post show lists and my props list.

Basically, what I'm wondering is, could I have done anything differently to avoid this? I understand that I was making mistakes but I was really working hard to get this information from people(albeit without success). How do I keep track of things without communication?

Tools of the Trade / Improvised com system?
« on: Mar 03, 2017, 07:40 pm »
So recently I've worked on a few shows that took place in improvised venues(ex: abandoned churches, public parks, old dance studios) and none of them have had comm systems. I've tried using a phone call with my ASM using a pair of headphones with a mic, and I've also tried walkie talkies connected to headphones, but in both cases, the reception isn't nearly good enough to pick up me whispering into my mic(in most of these cases, there also wasn't a booth, instead I sat right behind the audience). In each case the issue has become severe enough as to affect my ability to do my job properly.

Anyone have experience with situations like this? What solutions did you come up with?

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Finding work
« on: Dec 27, 2016, 03:02 am »
I recently was let go of from a stage management position where I'd been working for three months, and now for the first time since I graduated 6 months ago, I'm finding myself out of work. I've never had to actively look for work, I've always been suggested to people who contacted me. Now, I'm realizing that I'm not really sure how to find stage management positions outside of a university setting. Are there specific websites that I should look at? Any suggestions for networking in such a way that people think of me when looking for a stage manager? Any advice on how to talk to hiring managers? Generally, any advice you all are able to give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

The Green Room / Balancing Theater Work and Having a Life
« on: May 01, 2016, 01:44 am »
I've been stage managing for 6 years, and I can honestly say that I can't imagine doing anything else. But lately I've been feeling isolated. Many of my dear friends are not in theater. My off hours are their working hours and vice versa. Before I did stage management I went to several dance venues. Obviously, dance happens at night, which means that unless I'm between shows I can't do that anymore. It feels like I can only spend time with other theater people because of scheduling. Has anyone else had this experience? How do you keep in touch with friends and family with uncomplimentary hours?

Employment / How to ask about pay for a gig
« on: Feb 19, 2016, 10:13 pm »
I'm returning to a theater company who I worked with last season and haven't been informed what\if I will be paid. Is there a good way to bring this up without ruffling feathers? Last year I was paid 100 a week, which was fine, but I've been given no indication that that will be the case this year. Additionally, last year I never got a contract, which made me uncomfortable. Is there a good way to breach this subject without seeming untrusting?

Stage Management: Other / What to do if the music won't play?
« on: Dec 21, 2015, 02:48 pm »
I was just looking through my laptop and reorganizing some of my early paperwork and I found a performance report from the first dance show I ever worked with. I didn't have a soundboard operator for that show, so we had jerry rigged a system where the sound cues were run through the light board. Something got messed up in QLab and long story short, just before the fourth piece in the showcase, three songs started playing at once(If you were curious, none of them were the song that was supposed to be playing). I hit the stop all button in QLab and had my light board op go back to a blackout while I tried to fix the issue. It took about 10 minutes of finagling with the Cue order, unsuccessful attempts to manually trigger the cues, and completely shutting down and restarting the system for the right song to play, but the moment the next piece was supposed to start the same issue happened. At the time I didn't communicate with the audience at all, and I didn't really communicate with the dancers as much as I needed to.

Looking back it's clear that I didn't handle it right; If you were in that position what would you do? Would you call hold? Give people refunds on their tickets and send them home?

If I had been on a straight play where the sound cues weren't vital to plot I would have probably gone without cues and apologized profusely to the sound designer later, but obviously on a dance show that's not an option.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Pickup rehearsals
« on: Nov 18, 2015, 10:13 pm »
The show I'm working on right now opened last weekend and I decided to schedule a pickup rehearsal for the night before our next performance. My impression was after the show opens the stage manager runs shows and pickup rehearsals, but the director showed up, made the decision to tell the actors to mark their blocking, not do fight choreo and basically ran the rehearsal. Is that appropriate for his role or is my annoyance fair?

I'm currently doing a show in a Blackbox Theater, with seating banks on two sides at a right angle to each other. I'm not sure how to notate where everything is because there are multiple parts of the stage that could be Upstage, Downstage, Stageleft, or Stageright. Does anyone know of alternative notations for Blocking in situations like this?

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