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Messages - Thespi620

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I've used a form before as an ASM, but that just confused me.

I tend to use a combination of shorthand in my script and post-it notes. I'll jot down the page # and line on an actor-specific post-it when the line is flubbed. If it's a line that is consistently forgotten/flubbed, I'll mark it in my script using my shorthand, and put that day's date--in addition to noting it on the post-it with a star next to it.

In really dialogue-heavy scenes where transcription isn't possible onto the post it notes, I'll mark it in my book during the run, and place a blank post-it on the side of my script page as a reminder to go back and transcribe onto individual notes before distribution. Then, typically the note reads something like: "p 76 MAN: How dare you.... THRU WOMAN:....again! pls run with [scenemate's name]"

I also make sure to give every actor in the company at least one post-it at the end of every rehearsal. For those with no line notes, I'll put a smiley face or another encouraging doodle. For those with especially tricky passages or just trouble learning lines in general, this takes away from the embarrassment. However, the whole room notices when one actor gets a stack of notes. That warrants a bit of shame, typically.

I think this is an incredibly important discussion to have, especially considering the economy and the rate at which SMs are coming out of colleges looking to break in. I have done two internships that were billed as such in the theatre, neither of which were SM positions, but both of which served me quite well.

First was a (very) small stipend with housing at a summer theatre where I worked box office/administrative offices. They COULD have done their work without the intern staff, but (besides the fact that the box office manager was, how shall we say...not qualified?) my presence certainly made it easier and more efficient for the time I was there. I learned a lot about running a non-profit and felt I got my foot in the door that summer in a good way. I believe there was the option for credit, which I did not request. This was during college.

After college, I moved to NYC and took a part-time unpaid Education internship with a theatre company in midtown, alongside a part time service job. At the start of this position, I was doing largely things they could do without (and had done without for a while). Midway through, the opportunity arose to stage manage within the Education department. The SM position was one they budgeted for every year, and offered me a stipend to be the SM while continuing my normal duties as the unpaid intern whenever rehearsals didn't conflict. This was a best-case scenario because they allowed my rehearsal duties to take priority over the other office work I had been doing. If there was ever a day when I didn't have much to do for the show, though, I could get some clerical work out of the way and still feel like I was getting paid for it. I certainly learned some things while I was in the office, but learned more about the company and the programming and myself during the SM project.

I have never taken an SM internship that was billed as such and did not pay. I have done shows for no pay before, but those were all favor-to-a-friend/filling a weekend with a reading sort of occasions. I turned down an unpaid SM internship due to long hours and inflexibility once. I'm glad I did, in hindsight.

When I did community theater growing up, we had casts of (no exaggeration) 200+ ages 8 through adult. Tech got a bunch of "QUIET" signs from the PGA Tour and deputized one or two people on each side of stage & in each hallway to hold the signs and literally walk up to conversations and hold the sign in their faces until they were quiet. It sounds extreme, but it works really well, especially with large groups.

The Hardline / Showcase Code--6 Consecutive Days
« on: Jun 09, 2013, 04:58 pm »
Hi all,
I'm working a showcase code this summer and I've run into a question regarding the work week.

We open July 12 and run two F S Su weekends. Currently, July 8-11 are our tech dates, with July 7 off. This gives us 7 days in a row of rehearsal & performance. Section 12(G) of the Code states:
"There shall be one full day off after every six days of rehearsal and/or performance."
Director says we're allowed 7 days of consecutive work, provided there is a full day off on either end, but I cannot find any clause permitting this. It'd certainly be helpful, and it makes sense for tech week, but I want to find the rule before I schedule that week.

Any insight?

Everything that others have said about only taking a day job if you really feel it's necessary is all valid. I'm currently not SMing anything, just helping out with a few projects as an extra set of hands, because it's what my life requires at the moment--and I'm really loving it, though I'm missing so much about theater that it may be time for another lifestyle shift. 

I've also found that most jobs can be applicable to Stage Management. Think of the parts of the job you love, or those where you maybe lag, and look for opportunities to apply those skills in a day job. Love working with kids, but have a hard time managing them? Pick up some hours at an afterschool program or a weekend sports league/YMCA program. Is your paperwork impeccable? Any temp agency or other office job-placement agency will adore you.

On that note--find a good temp agency. If you're in a larger city, chances are a fair number of your actor contacts have spent at least a few months as a temp. It can be tough to start out, but if you find an agency that is used to working with actors/directors/so-called "creative types", they're bound to be great with your scheduling needs--and you're probably already a stellar candidate for a placement, with paperwork creation and management skills in your back pocket.

This is so cool. A few years ago, I got thinking about ways to engage younger kids in the arts, in general, through electronics/media, and this is an interesting & promising answer. I have faith that Stratford will do its damndest to make sure this game is as true to the field as possible, while also being engaging to the youngest set.

I wonder if there's any way that the social media aspect could translate into real-life perks/rewards (voting determines someone who gets 2-for-1 tickets, get the most points for the lighting in Scene 5 and meet the LD of our first show, that sort of thing) I guess we'll have to see how the app functions. Exciting!

I think in a situation like this, it might be more helpful for you, the crew, and the producer to not have a list of every possible specific issue (because you'll never finish that list...and the things that do go wrong will never be on it) so much as a basic protocol for how issues are handled, generally speaking, to illustrate chain of command. Frequently in these situations, I've found that producers really just want to make sure everyone can be held accountable for knowing proper protocol, in the event that it may not be followed to the letter. 

For example:

"If there is a mic issue SL, the SL ASM will go into x drawer and find the batteries for mic pac, replace batteries, and report same to SM over headset. If there is a mic issue SR, so-and-so stagehand will run batteries from SL to SR and report same to SM"

Or even more general, like:

"If backstage issue is solveable by ASM/deck hands & cast involved, those people will solve in due time and ASM involved will report decision to SM over headset at appropriate break in Qs, prior to scene in question"


"If life-threatening/dangerous situation arises backstage, ASM will alert SM as soon as possible and will then call Front of House/Producer/Emergency services as necessary"

Let us know how you solve this!

The Green Room / Re: The things we give up for theatre
« on: Feb 06, 2013, 06:49 pm »

Late hours, no sleep, living off caffeine and energy drinks, midnight $1 a slice pizza, frozen dinners, thousands and thousands of cigarettes, alcohol to numb a bad tech, alcohol to celebrate an opening, unhealthy relationships....I've lost my pinky toe nail, done nerve damage to my left elbow, hyper extended my right one multiple times, worn down my knees, nearly crushed all the fingers on both hands, electrical shocks, burned, cut, splinters etc...

I'm on this side of it now too. I was finding that I wasn't happy with the insanity of the SM schedule during my last two shows, and was coming home complaining about rehearsals and not being able to perk myself up with why it was worthwhile. And sure, the consistent hours of my current job are great, I love having weekends free, and I like the people I work with quite a bit, but I really miss the people I met while I was SMing consistently, and I miss the stories they tell and the insane things I learned how to do while I was a part of that world. Hopefully this Spring will bring me an opportunity to be a part of both worlds, on a piece with a marvelous creative team I've worked with before who understand my schedule & commitments and just want to work with me--that's the best.

I honestly think the best part of the theater world, and what makes it worthwhile for me, is those days/processes where you walk in the door and everyone is genuinely happy to see you--not just any SM, not just a fellow castmate--arrive. My closest, lifelong friends are theater people, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

December Madness I: 2012 / Re: December Madness!
« on: Jan 06, 2013, 10:13 am »
Laptop                160
Paper                137
Headset                118
Pencil                109
Binder                102
Gaff Tape            100

I think the top 6 vote-getters say a lot about the ways in which the job of the SM is standard across artistic disciplines. Even though many of the tools are used differently in dance vs drama vs opera, and some are more crucial in one than the other, we all value those 6 basic tools over everything else.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Re: Stair unit transitions
« on: Dec 30, 2012, 08:16 pm »
I did something similar with 6 14' tall wall panels on wheels--with a complex braking system that would lock 3 panels together in the back, etc--and this was the simplest solution we could find.

Director & I made diagrams of each setup and turned them into a powerpoint presentation. Then we essentially took Powerpoint's "notes" view and added Q lines & operators as the notes. We color-coded spikes, as well, and I believe we ended up putting a thin strip of each spike color on the physical cheat sheet, once printed.

I definitely still have the document somewhere, if you want to look it over send me a PM. It worked pretty well.

Paperless processes are tough, and I have yet to successfully finish a production without a hard copy of a blocking script......but snail-mailing rehearsal schedules is simply not an option. Laptop, you're mine.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: The Executive Decision
« on: Dec 20, 2012, 07:07 pm »
I think Heath brings up a good point in that this varies so drastically from theater to theater, and from SM to SM. I think, too, that when you're starting with a new company, especially as a new SM, there's no harm in asking your director/producer/production manager during pre-production which decisions they're okay with you making. Many people may even expect & appreciate this conversation.

For example-For a while, I was working on productions where the budget was really tight and any bookings had to go through the director and the producer so that the producer could deal 1-on-1 with the venue to finalize pricing. In that situation, I'd draft a schedule with the director & cast availability, and pass it on to them to finalize a space. Recently, I worked on a show where bookings were never directly discussed in pre-prod talks, so I had to clarify with them that they didn't care what space I booked, or how much it cost, so long as we could get our work done for the evening. In that case, I was given complete control over where we were each night and in what space, and I was authorized to charge the producer's card on file at each venue. So really the agency and the ability to have "final say" truly varies from situation to situation.

As with so much in this job, though, never feel stupid asking to be sure. Triple-checking that the $50 prop or the bright orange-walled rehearsal studio is actually okay with the director is always a good thing. Just make sure that when you ask a general procedure question the first time, you remember the answer and don't ask that same question over & over--prove to your team that you trust them by believing their first answer and proving your competence at completing the task immediately after.

Good luck!

The Green Room / Re: SANDY!
« on: Oct 29, 2012, 11:12 pm »
Astoria has seen lots of high winds but not much else yet. I'm hoping my show that opened on Friday didn't close by default on Saturday--we've had to cancel 3 performances already, and we're meant to close on Wednesday. Here's hoping, right?

Stay safe, stay dry, stay caffeinated/boozed up, all!

On a similar note--I have had many a director/producer tell me prior to auditions that they want to know if an actor is being rude in the hallway outside the room. Just goes to show, theater really is just another job--and an audition just another interview--in many ways.

The Green Room / Re: Home Brewing
« on: Sep 17, 2012, 01:16 pm »
I've done a few kits before--they're easy, generally speaking, and tend to produce a decent brew. Where's your kit from?
Make sure you set aside a good chunk of time for it, of course--can easily take a full afternoon with the sterilizing & boiling, etc. And try to plan ahead so you don't have to bottle things during tech. Beer will always win over Q to Q.

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