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Messages - megf

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Stage Management: Other / Performing Arts Workforce Study (US)
« on: Jul 06, 2020, 01:33 pm »
Together with the SM Survey's terrific principal investigator, David McGraw, I have developed and launched RETURN TO THE STAGE, a study of Performing Arts workers in the United States. Rather than an economic impact study, this effort is focused on documenting coping strategies, future aspirations and expectations for the field, and individual plans for the future in the performing arts workforce.

Given the outsize importance of SMNetwork in my own professional life, it seemed a no-brainer to share the survey here. David and I plan to provide a report public, free of charge, later this summer.

We have a strong response from folx in Theater; we are especially interested in bringing in more responses from people whose primary discipline is Opera, Dance, Music, Puppetry, etc. One approach that has been somewhat successful is for SMs to email the FAQ below to their most recent schedule/report distribution lists, together with a personal note. David and I are also happy to answer any questions, or see you join the mailing list through the study website (link below).


RETURN TO THE STAGE is a longitudinal study of performing arts workers in the United States, designed to understand COVID-19 related impacts and to begin documenting a broad future vision for the field. It is a collaborative, grassroots effort led by Meg Friedman (LinkedIn) and David McGraw (About).

Additional information and survey link:

Why are you doing this?

The workforce is the lifeblood of the performing arts sector.  Performing arts workers are also uniquely resilient and creative, accustomed to working for multiple employers on very short contracts, developing new team dynamics on tight deadlines, and creating performances in new and non-traditional spaces. This survey will help us understand how the performing arts workforce is experiencing the effects of COVID-19 related restrictions, what kinds of coping strategies the workforce is using, and what hopes the performing arts field has for its future in the months and years to come.

There exist several excellent studies of producing and presenting organizations but more research needs to be done of the workforce itself independent of the primary employer.

Who should take it?

Anyone who has worked or volunteered in the Performing Arts in the United States in the past 12 months is eligible to participate in this study.  All participants should be at least 18 years old.  The initial survey and each subsequent edition (January 2021 and July 2021) should take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Your input is anonymous, and individual data will never be shared.

When should/can I take the survey?

The survey will be open for two weeks starting Wednesday, July 1.  At the end of the survey you will be asked for your name and email on a separate survey (to protect the anonymity of your responses) to be contacted again in January 2021 and July 2021 for short follow-up surveys.  The report of the July 2020 survey will be made freely available by late summer.

Questions? returntothestage [at] gmail [dot] com.

Survey Link:

The Hardline / Re: Videos of stage managers mid-show
« on: Mar 25, 2018, 08:40 am »
When I've been part of shows where a behind-the-scenes video (or Instagram takeover or similar) was created and used for promotional purposes, we followed the terms of the AEA contract. In LORT, for example, there are rules governing the duration of footage, the timeframe for notifying involved parties, the way in which the footage is subsequently stored or re-used, and more. Each contract may have unique stipulations, so legality in this case is murky if you're seeking an industry-wide policy. I am sure that some producers have explored ways to add contract riders that would preempt disagreement from AEA company members regarding backstage footage, but there's no way to know if these riders made it out of discussions or what clauses were inserted, absent a ton of digging around in polls and phone calls to AEA.

It seems like your post touches on two questions: first, a moral (or perhaps ethical) question about revealing potentially intimate, personal moments offstage; and two, a question about adherence to the relevant labor contracts and state laws that may impact the words, images, etc. that are rightly intellectual property. Is this interpretation of your original post correct?

There is a precedent within several Actors Equity contracts for insurance coverage and rental fees paid for use of an actor's personal property in a show. The most detailed schedule for these payments that I have personally worked with is an appendix to the LORT contract, and covers mostly costume and wig-related items. That said, a local or nearby chapter of the American Federation of Musicians may be able to provide guidance that takes into account the unique risks, wear and tear, and maintenance needs of musical instruments. I would be surprised if AFM is unable to help your fellow students come up with a suitable agreement.

And the philosophical approach the school seems to have adopted just... bothers me. Would the school ask a carpenter to use personal tools, without any evidence of insurance? I think not. The instruments should be treated with the same care. If nothing else, the school should wish to minimize the risk of exposure to future legal action or complaints. Oy.

The Green Room / Re: Dear Abby: Box Office Misbehavior
« on: Dec 16, 2017, 03:08 pm »
I have to respectfully disagree with KMC's take. Depending on your location (state, city) and the operating agreements in place at this particular venue, this is scalping and it may be wholly illegal. It could also be against the terms of the company's contract with discount ticket resellers, in which case you could tip off the reseller via their website. Scalping is a hot issue in some markets, so you may find yourself better off reporting this to a regulatory body than to your employer. For better or worse, "the rules" change often, and vary extensively according to where you are in the world, and what kind of companies are involved. Good luck.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Is college necessary?
« on: Oct 08, 2017, 11:12 am »
In addition to the thread Maribeth linked to (much of which is still relevant), I would vote for a BA, BFA, or BS -- any undergraduate program that will require you to do research and write. Three of the happiest and most successful people I know in the field earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry, biology, and history... that all had a writing requirement.

As a SM, or in any profession, you will be responsible for diplomatically sharing information with a large audience. Just search "stop a show" or "emergency" on this site and you'll find hundreds of comments on how SMs have dealt with crises and then expressed those crises in writing. Being able to write professionally is important, and taking a class here and there isn't the same as writing for a degree.

In addition, a lot of your work will come from a written first contact -- whether it's an elaborate cover letter and CV, or a three-sentence email with resume attached. Knowing how to write in both of these situations (as an applicant and as a respondent!) is important. While you may land an internship or apprenticeship where your supervisor can take time to teach you how they deal with writing and correspondence, you may also find that instead, you are resetting the rehearsal room, editing the prop list, or copying and distributing the next day's schedule. In a college setting, on the other hand, your learning is the top priority, and you (should) have the option to focus on this skill to the exclusion of other tasks.

Tools of the Trade / Re:
« on: Jul 14, 2017, 06:38 am »
I've used Basecamp (briefly) and Slack (for over a year) in an office setting. They both fail to replace more mainstream communication channels.

It seems like these tools might be more effective for a team under these circumstances and parameters:

a) groups of people working in several locations (multiple tours/venues, or widely varying schedules like a college SM program)
b) used for internal team communications only, not conventional reporting or file-sharing (e.g., in the context of a tour, a newer PSM could post "Having trouble with the Filemaker for in/outs. Anyone around for a tutorial Thursday AM, Central Time?" so they're not emailing the 14 other SMs involved in the show)
c) the channel is a casual sharing space, not a deadline-driven space (so, share restaurant tips, but not show reports; discuss file formats, but don't publish script changes)

The Green Room / Re: Moving to fight off burnout
« on: Jun 10, 2017, 08:44 am »
I second a lot of what loebtmc recommended, with a few personal additions:

Your recent experience (a super busy run-up to severe burnout) is very familiar. I spent 6 years going from gig to gig with no more than two weeks of down time, which were often devoted to drumming up work instead of resting. By the time I was done, I was DONE. A well-timed reminder about a post here on SMNetwork helped connect me to a great graduate program that allowed me to relocate twice in the first year (it's a low-residency program) without disrupting my school work. I kept SMing for the first semester, and then decided to pull back and focus on homework while taking day jobs and quick crew gigs. Between the first and second years of the program, I joined a consulting firm that a) works exclusively with arts organizations, and b) offers a greater degree of financial and calendar freedom than SM work ever did.

Based on your remarks about SMing being part of your identity, I'm going to make a guess that you're young-ish, or young within the SM profession. Please consider this: you are more than the sum of your jobs, your references, and your technical credentials. Any job scheduled opposite a conventional 9-5 invites workers (SMs included!) to blur the line between "this is who I am as a professional" and "this is who I am as a person" because you're spending "normal" social hours with coworkers, and often spending time off with the same folks because of your common schedule. This is a terrible thing. It's isolating and exhausting. Taking a break--especially one where you travel any number of miles, by car, train, plane, or other means--sounds like a brilliant thing to do.

Responding to two of the cities you mention (those I know a little about), consider these things:

Minneapolis is a great theater town. The SM Association folks were friendly and welcoming when I was there. Not sure what the competition is like for newcomers now, but a quick scan of the contracts and theaters in that metro area suggests there aren't a ton of well paid contracts to go around.

DC is also great, and quite a bit denser than Minneapolis. There's a thriving fringe scene which may provide opportunities to connect with more regular, full-time employment. Lotsa folks on this site live and/or work often in DC.

Wherever you land, good luck and safe travels! Keep the SMN posted as you go :)

Stage Management: Other / Re: Handling Assault in the Company
« on: Mar 22, 2017, 12:57 pm »
Sexual assault and harassment are more common than anyone wants to believe. Given that Stage Management is generally not empowered to hire or fire employees, and in many cases is simply an instrument of upper management in imposing any discipline, I would respond that the best course of action for Stage Management is to proceed with a super-abundance of caution. Do not, under any circumstances, give legal or pseudo-legal advice to any of the involved parties. Do not speculate publicly or in print on the possible outcomes of the assault, the legal or HR discipline that is pursued, or the emotional status of anyone. Do not be alone in a room with company members when the topic comes up--even if that means walking out of the room. Finally, because daily show/rehearsal reports are often how creative personnel learn about the happenings of a company (especially on tour), do not use this forum to announce any past, current, or potential future legal happenings related to the case. Indicate only show-related matters: "XYZ was released from contract," not "XYZ released from contract for sexual assault/arrest/unable to make bail." It's funny (kinda) when someone is late because they were caught speeding in their ancient car, and it's sad when a person leaves a show due to illness, but neither of these things belong in the report any more than an assault or an arrest.

After all of that "not doing," if I were the SM, I would sit down with the HR team, company management, and housing folks, and do a thorough review of the housing contracts and company policies governing safety, security, roommate behavior and assignments, and keys/duplicate keys.

The Hardline / Re: Dear Abby: When/If to leave a show
« on: Mar 14, 2017, 06:00 pm »
If none of this information has come from your (anticipated) employer, then you probably do not have your contract yet. Given the weirdness that has already happened, this sounds like the right time to email the person who handles contracts. Ask them if they have generated one for you to sign, and if you should drop by the office/theater to pick it up. If they respond in a way that makes you uncomfortable (like saying "we don't provide contracts until after the first rehearsal" or something equally bizarre)... that's your cue to bail.

Also--without meaning to be a total downer--if the PSM walked, and you were hired at the PSM's request, then you may have lost the gig already. In any event, there is nothing wrong with an ASM directly writing the employer to address contractual and scheduling matters.

The Hardline / Re: ARTICLE: 99-seat plan in LA
« on: Feb 23, 2017, 08:47 am »
bex and Ergocue, I share your skepticism about the "lost opportunities" argument. That notion just doesn't hold water for me, and I lived in LA for 5 years. 

Another factor influencing this situation is the reciprocity agreement between SAG-AFTRA and AEA. Presumably, this drives membership in AEA, but may not actually bring people into AEA who see theater work as a viable, primary source of income.

Piggybacking on the great recommendations from smejs, here are a few things that either were or would have been helpful, when I was an intern and subsequently when I worked on a team with/supervising interns:

-Regular intern group meetings. Sometimes they're best when it's a formal practice (e.g., everyone meets for thirty minutes on Wednesdays, and discusses 3-5 items on a pre-determined agenda).

-Clearly identify the people who handle the following, on the first day of the internship: money items (compensation/reimbursement, contracts, parking vouchers); workplace safety (practices and protective gear, if relevant); HR/conflict resolution. If at all possible, the person who handles conflict resolution should not be the person that the intern reports to daily--they should be a relatively impartial third party.

A lot of good can come of an apprenticeship in another discipline--be careful of climbing into a career "silo" too early! As you have probably found already, we don't often get to be true specialists who stick to a single form (or a single company, city, or salary, for that matter). My vote would be to apply to some of the dream apprenticeships, and add a few others that will put you in a dance context. Whatever happens next will provide you with the skills and connections to advance.

Introductions / Re: Just Getting Started
« on: Nov 12, 2016, 12:45 pm »
Welcome, Elizabeth! Congrats on the upcoming gig :)

Are you at Valley College, by any chance? If so, send me a private message... I spent a lot of hours learning and working on that campus, and would love an update!

Have you checked out Pilobolus? :) While I never worked for the organization, one of my projects years ago included several veteran Pilobolus dancers and some of the artistic directors. The product onstage is amazing, and the people I worked are all remarkably talented and kind.

Their production internship might tempt you:

The Green Room / Re: Kay
« on: Nov 09, 2016, 08:28 am »
YAAAASSSS, Kay! Thank you for pouring your time, care, and considerable skill into this community.

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