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Messages - malewen

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The Green Room / Re: ARTICLE: How to say no
« on: Apr 28, 2011, 12:03 pm »
Interesting.  I like the fact that the article discusses how to evaluate what to say no to, as well as how to do it.  Clearly, most of us are problem solvers and in order to address problems we take on all kinds of things during rehearsals or performances that are beyond the normal boundry of stage management.  We do this because we want to make sure that the task is done right or at least that it is done the way we want it done.  But the price can be high to your personal, outside-the-theatre life if you take on too much.

The Hardline / Re: SM Subcommittee forming
« on: Apr 16, 2011, 10:15 pm »
I posted details about the upcoming Chicago AEA stage manager networking event on the regional advice Midwest/Chicago page.
    Regional Advice
    USA: Midwest/Chicago

Tools of the Trade / Re: Useful iPhone apps?
« on: Apr 16, 2011, 07:40 pm »
I would second what has already been said about flashlight and the Shakespeare apps.  I recently did a three act play and found an app called time:calc by Dr. Phil's Apps ( that let me total up the acts.  I think it costs $1.99 and is well worth it if you're like me and really have to think about adding up a series of run times...

The Hardline / Re: Prompt Script Etiquette
« on: Apr 08, 2011, 10:30 am »
I'm basically in agreement with Matthew.  I want my script to look reasonably clean and I do it for pride if for nothing else.  Now I don't mean that I spend countless hours meticulously going over it, but I do try to rewrite the incomprehensible notes I write during tech.  And I try to do that normal "cleaning up" right after we open so my ASM can read my book.  Almost all my ASMs write the cues into their own book but I want to have my copy be clear enough to make it easier for them.

The other reason I would cite for cleaning up the script is the possibility of my doing the show again (or rather my production being remounted).  This has happened to me at least five times and I'm not talking about a LORT Transfer where the two productions are closely linked.  A couple of times that I had no idea the show was going to be remounted (and the remounts were over a year after the initial production). I found myself alternately very happy with some parts of the script that were clear 16 months later and also cursing myself for not being more careful about cleaning up the blocking or whatever.

I did do one Broadway show where the producer passed along a request from the company that was going to publish the script to give them an annotated version of my script but I refused to do any work without the payment.  Needless to say they didn't pay - I think they used the stage manager's script from the original British production...

Anyway, I vote with the clean up the script group.

The Hardline / Re: Reports
« on: Apr 07, 2011, 11:03 pm »
On the rare occasions I file a report with Equity, I will keep a copy in the show file.  I do not keep (or even look at) any Deputy reports, that's their job.  Needless to say, I keep copies of all the rehearsal and performance reports.

The Hardline / Re: SM Subcommittee forming
« on: Mar 26, 2011, 09:01 pm »

Let me know how the Bay Area event turns out!  I hope it is a great success.

FYI, the next event in Chicago will be on Monday, April 25th.  Details to follow.

Malcolm Ewen

A fair number of years ago I moved from being a stage manager at the Steppenwolf Theatre to becoming the production manager there.  The theatre was in the middle of building a new theatre and for the first 8 or 9 months the job was basically about getting the new theatre finished and the company moved in.  I described the job to a lot of friends by saying that I was "stage managing Steppenwolf into their new building."  That's kind of true, it was just like planning a production - making lists of things to accomplish, checking to make sure that things were installed correctly backstage, etc.  In order to concentrate on the new building, the theatre even stopped producing new shows for a couple of months.  Trust me, this was a major building project.

When the building finally opened and the excitement lessened, we settled back into the regular production of plays. It was then that I discovered that I really missed being in the rehearsal room.  As stage managers, we are used to being there as the tiny pieces come together in the rehearsal hall, and we used to being there in tech when the big pieces come together.  When I became a production manager, I missed the sort of easy intimacy of rehearsal.  I missed feeling like I was facilitating the important work from close range.  I missed it enough that I went back to stage managing after about three years.  But that was only how I felt and shouldn't be interpreted as advice for everyone/everybody.  I certainly know that everyone who works outside the rehearsal hall does invaluable work in getting the production on - it was just that I needed to be in the room.

When you move out of stage managing into another area of management, realize what you'll miss and then balance it against the things that will improve (probably better hours and better money, more nights off, etc.).  Maybe the particular job you're up for will contain some of the things most important to you (or maybe the job description can be altered slightly).  Maybe having a life outside of stage managing is more important to you now than it was 5, 10 or 20 years ago . . .

Follow your instincts - you'll know for yourself if the gains outweigh the losses.

The Green Room / Re: On anti-success
« on: Oct 20, 2010, 07:06 pm »
Very interesting indeed.  When I taught stage management a few years ago I tried to tell my students that stage managers need to find their own rewards in the job, that they couldn't depend on getting rich or that others would even understand if they were doing a good job.  You have to love it, you can't measure success in dollars or even on how many big, fancy shows you've done...

I basically agree with Matthew. By all means tough it out if you're feeling a little off but if you are really, really sick, you should stay home.  We should plan in advance about how to cover the SM tracks if someone is out.  We are lucky at Steppenwolf in that we have the resources to have 2 Equity SMs on all the subscription productions and we always set it up so the SM and the ASM alternate calling the show after press opening.  Teaching your ASM to call the show should happen as soon as possible into the run - I often start during previews if the show is simple enough.  Stage Managers should have the right to be able to get sick like everyone else.

Having said that, there may be times that it is impossible for an SM to be adequately covered (no ASM, tons of cues, dangerous scenery like traps or elevators, etc.).  In these cases you need to make it plain to the producers in advance that if you are out sick the performance will have to be canceled.  Think outside the box about ways to get coverage - in a community theatre maybe ask one of your ASMs to train a sub for their track and then teach them to call the show or have the board ops run it with a clean script as loebtmc suggests.  In an Equity production maybe the producer will realize the risk and take advantage of the 'Short Term Stage Manager' rule that is finding its' way into more rule books.  The big thing is that we need to think ahead.

Don't undervalue your real life just because of the 'show must go on' mentality.  When my father died a couple of years ago, I missed nearly the whole first week of rehearsal but my ASM did a brilliant job of covering for me.  I had to go - it was important to me and my family, for me to be with my dad in his last days.  Don't spend the rest of your life regretting a decision like this - if you need to go, you should go.  If you are to sick to stand up, go to your doctor or to the hospital, not to the theatre.

Let's see, some of these may not truly count as they are remounts/revisions/transfers of productions that occurred later.  I'm listing only the remounted productions that had a full rehearsal period (2 full weeks or more in rehearsal) and that were planned after the original production had closed.




THE SONG OF JACOB ZULU (x2 - original production and about a year later a revised remount that went to Australia and then Broadway)

after the quake (x2 - original production that played at 2 regional theatres and a remount about 16 months later that played at 2 different regional theatres)

THE GRAPES OF WRATH (x3 - original Steppenwolf production; then a remount with major revisions 4 months later at the La Jolla Playhouse and the Royal National Theatre; then about 10 months later a slightly revised remount for Broadway)

The Hardline / Re: SM Subcommittee forming
« on: Aug 28, 2010, 10:03 pm »
I was one of the organizers of the Chicago networking event and I want to say a couple of things about the background of it and give a couple bits of advice.

We did base it on the Off-Broadway Networking event that has been going on for a number of years as Scott notes.  And I do know of two people who got work form these events but the main idea is just to meet people from the theatres. We plan to hold the event once in the spring every year from now on (thinking that most theatre seasons start in the fall so they are starting to look in the spring).

Try to find a local production manager to work with on this.  In Chicago the PM at Steppenwolf (where I work) did all the organizing of getting theatres to send people to the event, and gave us a space to hold it in.

We opted for a speed dating format where each SM got five minutes with each theatre rather than a job fair.

Make sure that someone is willing to take the appointment reservations (we did this through the Equity office).

Have a contact list of the people attending from the theatres to give to the SMs so that there can be follow ups or thank you e-mails.  Make sure that this information is approved/given to you by the theatres.

Feel free to message me if you have other questions.

malcolm ewen

The Hardline / Re: AEA Teachers
« on: Sep 13, 2007, 01:23 am »
Generally, Equity won't care about your teaching job - it isn't within the union's jurisdiction (they don't cover teaching jobs).  You should call your Equity rep about actually stage managing shows for the university.  There are certainly Equity members out there doing this but I don't know the arrangement.  It gets a little complicated so it would be worth checking on.  Good luck, it sounds like an interesting job.

The Hardline / Re: violation
« on: Sep 12, 2007, 01:06 am »
I have to reply to a couple of items in sievep's post.  The reason that the Equity staff is represented by another union is simple - in the USA Equity represents actors and stage managers engaged to work on live theatrical presentations.  We do not represent office workers, which is the kind of work that most of the staff does.  There are several unions that specifically represent office workers (at the Chicago office the staff is part of SEIU but I'm not sure about the other offices).  Through organizations like the AFL-CIO unions try to work cooperatively with each other and not encroach on each others jurisdictions.  In fact Equity might get in trouble at the AFL-CIO if we got into the business of moving into covering office staff.  You might be interested to know that there is an upper level of Equity staff who are not members of the staff union - they are considered management.  Further, the Equity staff mission to to carry out the policy of the union and the rules its' contracts as approved by the Council (the voting members of Council are all Equity members).  Admittedly, the staff isn't always able to 'watch out' for everybody all across the country all the time.  sievep is correct that every individual needs to watch out for their own interests.  I am sorry that the business rep's actions cost sievep his job - that shouldn't happen.  It is easy to see why he mistrusts the union but I would say that the staff (and Council) does care and they work hard to serve the interests of the membership. 

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Bows
« on: Sep 12, 2007, 12:18 am »
With the exception of one show I did at Steppenwolf in the mid-nineties, I have rarely (if ever) seen the stage manager or crew acknowledged in the bows.  The exception was a production called THE LIBERTINE and the director's concept involved all crew and stage management to be in view during the show.  I called the show from a backstage desk that was visable to almost half the audience, for example.  The crew did all their cues in full view.  In the bows, the director staged the entire onstage crew to come out and take a group bow after the cast (including me or the ASM - whoever was calling the show).  As the cast and crew departed, I was "blocked" to walk downstage and gesture to the light booth for the house lights.  Needless to say, this was a strange evening at the theatre although the show was quite well received.

I was once asked by a producer to document, by using the performance reports, the habitual lateness by a crew member so the producer could begin dismissal proceedings with the person's union rep.  It is important to document what happens at the show on any given performance.  Matthew and Scoot are right in what they say.  These reports are often the only written record of that specific performance (other than financial and box office records).  If you write everything down fairly and consistently there will be no complaints or issues if someone has to go back and look something up (no playing favorites in recording lateness or mistakes - and by all means include yourself when you are late or screw up...).  That is not to say that you shouldn't be discreet about what you put into the report (not everyone needs to know the specifics of somebody's non-work related illnesses or specifics of their legal problems except as it relates to the person's ability to do their job).

EDIT - This whole thread was split off from The Hardline, originally in response to whether or not Performance reports were required.  We got a bit off track, but the discussion about the utility of the reports shouldn't be missed just because it's off topic.  --PSMK

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