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Messages - MeganTrigg

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Tools of the Trade / Re: SM Software
« on: Feb 22, 2008, 02:25 pm »
I've used a program called LINE NOTES (from ThankYou5) for taking line notes, and while I find it very useful in some occassions, I've also found that it does take me longer to note a line mistake.

I've used LineNotes as well, and I think it's a program that would work really well if you have an ideal sort of set up. With an external mouse connected to my laptop, I found that I could scroll along and be on book on the laptop, with only an occasional click-type-enter sort of combo to take a line note (click to highlight, type in a one or two word phrase that's just enough to let the actor know what happened, and then enter to submit and keep going). Now, admittedly, I type fast (90wpm when last clocked), so that helps a lot. But still, as long as you're following along (and I could do this while tracking blocking in my hard copy script as well - just press pg down whenever I turned the page), you're never racing to keep up. Admittedly, I'm not using it now, which says that there was a problem between how the program worked and how I work.  I think that program is a good start, but it's not quite ready yet.
The main things that made me stop using it were the lack of typed scripts (typing them myself was getting tiring), and the dependence on MS Word -- I had 2003 on the first laptop I used it on, then had to transfer to a second laptop that only had 2000. I found I missed a lot of the features I was regularly using, which got frustrated. And then when I just switched laptops again in December, it went all wonky with the registration code thingies and it's just not worth the hassle to get it re-approved on the new laptop.

What happens when the power goes out in the middle of a rehearsal and you haven't saved in the past 30 minutes because you've been too busy taking note after note?

You don't let that happen. If you have time to take a note, you have time to save that note. You learn that after every single note, before you lift your fingers off those keys, you press Ctrl+S. Every time you press enter, you follow it with ctrl+s. If you haven't touched your computer in a moment or two and you've got a spare second, you reach over and press ctrl+s. And if you do it every single time, it becomes habit. That's not just for stage management -- it's something that ought to be basic computer skills. Sure, sometimes you'll lose power when you haven't saved. But sometimes, someone will knock over a bottle of soda all over your book. But you take preventative measures -- you don't leave open containers of liquid next to your book, and you don't leave your work unsaved. Same principle.

What happens when the computer locks up or fails? They ALL do at some point or another!  How will you get through the rest of your rehearsal without the information you needed?

You use the backup paper copy that was printed out yesterday (or maybe printed the day before and has pencil markings to note slight changes). Or, you make do without. Sure, that part sucks, but sometimes we really don't need *all* the information we've got at our fingertips. As long as you've got the essentials in hard-copy backups, you're fine. The technology doesn't eliminate the paper -- it augments it. So instead of having a thousand pages of paper hanging around, you can pare it down to the essential most-needed things -- script, run sheets, scene breakdowns, etc. And everything else is just a few clicks away, and not crowding out the more important stuff.

As stage managers, it's our job to be efficient, productive, smart, and to always be thinking ahead, solving problems that haven't yet unfolded.  Paper and pencil in the rehearsal room, with a supplemental use of computers is great. I think, however, that using computers as the only method of documentation and note taking does not show our efficiency, but our lack of ability to think ahead and think wisely.

I agree. But, I don't think we should be as wary of relying on computers as I think you're suggesting. I think it's a bad idea to only have one copy of anything -- at this point in time, it's just as foolish, in my opinion, to only have hard copies as it is to only have electronic copies. If I've got electronic copies of all my paperwork, then if something, heaven forbid, happens to my book, I can just print off a new one. That's what back-ups are all about. I also have little flash drives (thumb drives, usb keys, whatever you like to call them). At the beginning of the day & end of the day, I back up all my paperwork onto one of those. And when I get home, that information gets copied onto the desktop computer. So if something does (heaven forbid) happen to my laptop, I've still got my documents. And I've still got a hard copy.

I think once the technology gets good enough, it will replace the paper & pencil method. But we're not there yet. Where we are now is that fun middle ground, where we get to play with the cool new toys and see how they make things better. But if you go leaping off into that realm of what's-next too soon, yeah, you run a lot of risks. No, we're not there yet. But don't be afraid of the new technology and the new methods. Just think of it as another set of tools to help us work better -- faster, cleaner, and with more security.

Tools of the Trade / Re: What goes inside a SM Kit?
« on: Nov 03, 2006, 02:58 pm »
I see so many comments about people spending a ton of money on their kit, and I have to say that always baffles me slightly. I mean, I know what the paychecks I take home look like, and I can't afford to go dropping a ton of money on my kit. However, I don't like the idea of not being well supplied either. My solution? Free stuff.

Seriously, how many times do you get free samples of things? Every free sample I get goes into my kit. If I need something, I go out to product manufacturer's websites and order free samples. Last time I was at my dentist, he gave me a whole bagful with every sample they've got of toothbrushes, travel sized toothpastes, dental floss in handy travel containers, a couple things of mouthwash, etc etc. When I tell people what it is I want the free stuff for, people get really excited and want to help out. I don't think I could tell you when the last time I actually bought something for my kit was.

Honestly, though, think about it from a manufacturer's perspective. When they give free samples, the idea is so that you can try the product, fall in love, and switch. How much better does it get than if you tell them, "I can put your product in the hands of ten, fifteen actors in the next month, and all it will cost you is a trial-sized version of your product. Don't want to give me free things? That's fine. How about coupons or other discounted offers? After all, in a sense, I'm doing advertising for you..."

Speaking of, I need to go cruise toiletry websites again. I'm low on sample-sized deodorants...

Edit: I did think of a couple things where I will go buy supplies. Obviously, the hand tools I've got and the first aid supplies I can't get for free are ones I've purchased, but anything consumable I try to get for free. I'm working on ways to get the first aid supplies at no cost, though. If I could do that, I would probably not have to buy new stuff ever, unless it goes missing.

SMNetwork Archives / Re: Software that needs to exist!
« on: Jul 02, 2006, 12:54 am »
Before I graduated, I was beta testing LineNotes ( It's built on top of Word (you have to either type in the script or have a copy already typed up, but I type fast and I liked the time to really get to know the script in depth before rehearsals started). With large casts prone to paraphrasing, it was a godsend. Enough so that I encouraged my advisor to purchase a copy for the department (I kept my beta license for the next show I work on ;) ), and it was used on a one-act directed by the playwright with an actor who has serious paraphrasing issues (so you KNOW the line notes got thorough exercise).

So yeah, highly recommended. Saved me tons of time, and then the line notes arrived in their inboxes rather than wasting paper. The actors seemed to prefer it to my scrawled line notes, too.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Saving an actor's neck
« on: Apr 03, 2006, 12:53 pm »
Is it really all that rare? If so, I've been amazingly lucky. 90% of the actors I work with have manners and are courteous and a joy to work with. I mean, I know I'm prone to bitching about the other 10% a lot more than I praise the good ones, but I definitely get the sense that there's more good ones out there than bad.

Am I just naive or lucky, or is it more common than these posters are suggesting? I know I love my actors. I'd do almost anything for them, and they'd do the same for me. Give and take.

The Green Room / SMs in media?
« on: Mar 27, 2006, 01:13 am »
Just went to see Game 6 this weekend with a couple of my friends (fellow theater majors). We went because it's being distributed by one of my friend's father's company and he was really pushing to get as many people as possible there for the first weekend, but it actually turned out to be a really good movie on top of that.

Anyways, it's got more of a theater setting than the baseball setting the ads show, and there's a couple scenes where the stage manager shows up. I'd call it a fairly positive portrayal -- massive actor crisis, and she manages to keep mostly calm despite hints of obvious panic.

Anyways: good movie, stage manager appears in it and looks good doing so. Yay!

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Portfolio?
« on: Mar 16, 2006, 11:59 pm »
Actually, I do web design myself, so that part isn't an issue (although my art portfolio is horribly out of date - I ought to fix that eventually). The concern is more along the lines of what to put in it.

After I get it all sorted out, I plan to set up a section of my site with my resume & contact info. Website is currently in flux, though. I'm willing to do basic coding work for others if they're interested, too.  Which would probably be a lot more appealing of an idea if my design portfolio were up to date.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Portfolio?
« on: Mar 14, 2006, 05:14 pm »
Thank you. It helps a lot to know that my perceptions aren't crazy. I'll add phone calls to my list of things to do this week. Thanks!

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Paperwork: Portfolio?
« on: Mar 14, 2006, 01:52 pm »
I'm applying to a few internships and apprenticeships in anticipation of graduating this May. Since most of them have a general application for all areas, some request a portfolio or writing sample as appropriate for the internship you're applying for. Which would be appropriate for a stage manager? If it would be a portfolio, what would I include? I've put together art portfolios before (almost went to art school instead), but I'm completely lost as to what would go into a stage management portfolio. Or am I completely off base and those are things I don't have to worry about because they're meant for the administrative and design apprenticeships/internships?

I'm very confused and feeling rather lost. Advice?

College and Graduate Studies / Undergrad schools for SM
« on: Mar 02, 2006, 02:17 am »
I'll be graduating this semester from a small liberal arts college. When I started here, they'd never had anyone actually stage manage their shows - the stage manager was the person who was on book and eventually ran the lights. That's it. In my four years here, I've been a major part of helping the department grow, which I have to say has been an amazing experience. There's really not been time for anyone to sit down and formally teach me how to stage manage, so I'm forced to learn trial-and-error. I make a lot of mistakes, but I pride myself in the fact that I rarely make the same mistake twice.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend a small theater department. I know everyone in our department, and everyone knows me. And I get individualized advice - rather than general classes on how to stage manage well, I have professionals who say "instead of doing this, why don't you try that?" and are actually watching what I'm doing. I've also been able to stage manage our larger show every semester. And as of last year, I was involved in all shows during the semester. My next show will be my 9th at a college that does 2 shows a semester. Talk about practical experience.

Just because I don't get stage management classes doesn't mean I don't still learn things that help me stage manage, either. I love sitting in classes that are totally unrelated to theater and figuring out how what I'm learning directly relates to the shows I'm working on.

Plus, I'm a pretty lazy person by nature. Not having a whole department to support a formalized way of learning means I *have* to do it on my own. Good lord, if I ever had to sit back and take notes on what a stage manager does, I don't think I'd ever learn anything!

(Apologies for any incoherence. I really shouldn't be writing things when I'm up late after opening night.)

I'm still in college, and have been lucky enough to have two very supportive parents. My grandparents, on the other hand, have tried very hard (and not succeeded very well) to hide their disappointment that I'm not going to law school next year. This year, my school opened a brand new performing arts building, and that gave me an opportunity to take them around on a tour of the building.

There were some unintended consequences of this. Since we were making a full circuit around the building (after closing night, no less), I used the time to do my final clean-up rounds of the theater. My mom said later that it was the first time that my grandparents finally understood what it is that I do backstage. After all, if the average audience member can tell what the stage manager is doing, it's probably because the SM is screwing up. Once they realized it's not some frilly artsy-fartsy job and actually involves responsibility and skill, they've been nothing but supportive. In fact, some of my latest contacts have been through people they've introduced me to.

I don't know if it'll help for you, but I know that actually showing them what I do helped a lot with my grandparents. What we do isn't exactly obvious to those who don't work theater, after all.

Just so you know (going way way back to that erasable colored pencil thing), Crayola Erasables Colored Pencils are crap. Trust me - I spent two years working in the Crayola retail store, and we became very familiar with all the products. They don't write very well, and they erase very poorly. You're better off with standard colored pencils and an art gum eraser, which still doesn't erase well. For some reason, they haven't managed to solve the erasable colored pencil problem with name brands, as far as I know. (Of course, if I ever was seen with any non-Crayola products, I would've been lynched.)

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