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Messages - TarytheA

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Stage Management: Other / Opera score: printing and binding
« on: Sep 14, 2018, 10:22 am »
I found and fell in love with stage managing dance shows about 5 years ago and have have almost exclusively worked on (usually modern) dance since then. Next spring, however, I am contracted to do an opera project at a nearby university. Part of a Kurt Weill festival, the proscenium theatre will have Street Scenes and the black box will have Mahagonny: Songspiel and Zaubernacht with an intermission between the two. I'm only working on the two shows in the black box. Zaubernacht will have a fair amount of modern dance, which I'm comfortable with. But Mahagonny is making me a little nervous. I'm also REALLY excited to attempt a crossover and try something new!

I have lots of questions. But specifically right now, I'm wondering about printing and binding my scores. The PM has offered to get them to me now, even though rehearsals don't start until early February, so that I can start studying them. She asked if I wanted single-sided or double-sided. My instinct is double-sided, so I can see more at a time without flipping the page, but is there any reason single-sided might be better? Might I need the blank space across from a score page that I'll regret not having later? Do you put blocking right in your score or use separate pages? I also have read on here that sometimes people like to have their scores spiral-bound instead of hole-punched. I like the idea of being able to carry it around easily. Does that cause any issues with the flags/tabs sticking out, if they're not protected by a 3-ring binder?

I'm also open to other tips and suggestions. I have been reading threads here about opera to collect the scattered wisdom, and looking at uploaded paperwork. But I would love to hear more advice and would LOVE to see more paperwork examples, especially calling scores - I didn't see any in the uploaded forms.

Thank you!

Oh I've done several things over the years! A couple that come to mind:

I took over the run of a show at a large theatre and wanted to do everything correctly and make a good impression, of course. I got the list of everyone who needed to be copied on the weekly schedule, and made a draft of the email ahead of time so I could send it out quickly when the time came. I put everyone's email addresses into the bcc line, just to be on the safe side of courteous. When the day came, I was sick with a sore throat and awake at 4am - thinking that was a great time to get some work done since I was awake anyway, I finished the email and got ready to send it. I copied and then pasted everyone's email addresses INTO THE SUBJECT LINE and hit send. Since I had ACTUALLY put them in the bcc line previously, which I forgot I had done, it actually sent. I was wholly mortified. Not only were all the email addresses NOT kept private (which I wasn't sure was necessary but doing to be safe), I looked completely idiotic. Luckily the few who did respond to my apology were gracious about it and if anyone truly thought I was dumb, they didn't say anything. :) Never, ever send emails at 4am. :o

Recently, I SM'd a dance showcase. One of the cues was supposed to anticipate when the dancers threw open some curtains, but since I couldn't see them, we settled on a cue word in the sound clip "that's a conversation that NObody wants to have." The cue was "have" because they were going to throw open the curtains immediately after. One performance they threw open the curtain a few words early. I asked the choreographer about it afterward, and he told me that they had changed their cue word. My new cue was "NObody." (Don't you love when choreography changes but nobody thinks to tell the SM?) And it was a cue that, in tech, the director of the showcase had made a big deal about. So the next night I listened very carefully for the word "NObody" but I was so tense and focused on my cue word that I said, "Lights 74..." and then awkwardly yelled, "NO!" instead of GO. The cue was perfect to the audience because the board op took it but she laughed and laughed at me.  ;D

I thought you all might have some suggestions for me. In a couple weeks I am presenting at my son's elementary school for Career Day. I just found out that I'm being assigned to a few classes in the younger grades (K-2). Any ideas for visuals or hands-on things, or ways to explain stage management to kids that age? How do you explain it to kids who barely know what it means to be onstage, let alone backstage? I feel like talking to the 6th graders would be easier...


Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Stage Manager Duties
« on: Oct 09, 2017, 07:10 pm »
It seems especially odd to have the PSM be an understudy, vs an ASM. Outside of a complicated system of winks and secret hand signals to the board ops, it would be rather difficult to call a show AND be onstage, I'd imagine...  ;D

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Is college necessary?
« on: Oct 09, 2017, 07:05 pm »
Yes yes yes to everything cdavisnyc said! Being an SM vs. being a great SM - that all rang true to me.

In addition, you can learn a lot from others learning alongside you. I'm a big proponent of learning while doing, rather than ONLY in a classroom setting. However, I have seen how a great college SM program can be run to effectively use both. Many moons ago, my mentor at UMD (Cary Gillett) started holding weekly stage management meetings that all SMs and ASMs for that season were strongly encouraged to come to. We talked about how our shows were going, what challenges we were facing, and either shared how we were handling them, and/or asked others for ideas and advice. Cary ran the meetings and often gave great advice that all could learn from, even if it didn't pertain to our specific show that semester. Seeing other students work on THEIR shows was as valuable to me as working on one myself. Especially seeing the variety of shows done - a large musical with a turntable in a proscenium, a 5-person mostly-improvised comedy in the black box, an audience-interactive dance piece that starts in the lobby and travels through the building with the audience following etc. Watching others' experiences with such things and talking about them throughout the process was supremely valuable.
As the SM program has expanded, I know that Cary now brings in professionals occasionally to add to the discussion (as well as to her regular and advanced SM classes), and the students can ask them questions/hear their experiences (she usually asks them to focus mostly on a specific topic, like SMing for dance/touring/etc). It is great networking, and good to learn different styles!

One more thing about networking - some of the jobs I have gotten in recent years have come from other SMs that I went to school with - either they couldn't take something and recommended me, or they told the PM they wanted to work with me, etc. You meet a lot of people working in the industry, and you meet A LOT of people in school! All of those relationships are valuable.

Thanks for the update on the headset, I've been considering a purchase (or a well-placed hint to relatives seeking to get me something) and I like the point you made about the comfort. I've never switched back and forth but often in a show I lift one side off my head to take the pressure off. Do you mind a followup question? How adjustable is the headset? I have a very small head and find I need to adjust headsets I work with as small as possible, and even then I often find them slipping off if I don't set them just right.

Great question, Michelle. Sorry for taking so long to realize that you had asked it! I measured the inside of the headset, and it came out to be 12.5 inches at the smallest setting. That's from the bottom of the non-ear side (would likely sit right at the top of your earlobe, around the inside of the headset to the middle of the ear muff. At the largest setting that same distance was 14 inches. Does that help at all?

The Green Room / Re: Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?
« on: Jan 07, 2017, 09:25 pm »
This has taken me a little while to post, the holidays came and time slipped away from me. But I wanted to relate an experience I had on my last show, related to these self-realizations I've been having. Maybe it will ring true to someone else!

My lighting designer was SUPER stressed out - between too much on her plate, equipment failure, and learning some big lessons in time management, she was having a hard time getting all of her cues in the board, let alone getting them to look exactly as she wanted. As I mentioned in my original post, I am a little fanatical about getting the timing right on my cues, and ask frequent questions to make sure I'm really getting it just right. But after a couple days of tech, I realized that my questions weren't doing anything to help my designer. I was trying to do detailed work and she was still painting in broad strokes. I had to step back and meet her where she was, in order to best support her. My goal is to take care of my designers by being attentive and taking care of their designs. But in order to accomplish that, I needed to adjust my approach and realize that taking care of her in that particular situation meant letting her be and not adding to her stress with too many detailed questions that she wasn't ready to answer. Had I not realized the WHY behind my questions and my desire to be so accurate with my timing, I probably wouldn't have realized the change I needed to make. I noticed a difference in her when I slowed down and truly gave her what she needed, not what I thought she needed. :)

Understanding myself and the way I work has already helped me be more effective! I don't know how all of these posts sound to other people, but they have been huge revelations to me and really fascinating. I never thought of myself as being naturally organized or detail-oriented or a take-charge kind of person, so when I fell into stage management and became good at it I was a little surprised. I thought I must have been different than I thought, or else changed who I had been when I was younger. But I am now realizing that I actually AM the same person I always was - and these skills I never saw myself as having actually developed BECAUSE of who I am, not in spite of it. So while they didn't come naturally to me, the skills I've developed in the last several years make more sense than I originally thought.

An SM friend of mine, Matt Balfour, told me tonight that he was reading through old posts and stumbled across this one. It reminded me that I owe a follow-up report of my headset! As a reminder, I bought a Pro Intercom 310 about a year ago.

  • It is pretty light and comfortable. I have worn it through several techs and shows in the last year and while I used to chronically switch sides of my head (literally every 5 or 10 minutes), this one is comfortable enough that I honestly didn't feel the need to do that. I took it off every few hours for about 5 minutes and that was enough. I wear glasses and am prone to headaches, so this was HUGE for me. I've never known a headset to not put horrible pressure on my head after about 30 minutes of use.
  • The cord length feels just right to me - plenty long to reach everywhere I've needed it to so far, and thin enough to tuck behind my beltpack if I'm on the go.
  • So far none of the parts have broken or look particularly worn. I keep it in the box it came in while it travels to and from work, but I put it to pretty good use while there and it has stood up to it so far.

  • Nothing that I didn't know when I bought it - it doesn't switch off the mic when lifted, and you can only use it on the left ear (again, it's comfortable enough that I'm not particularly bothered by that). Interesting things to note, but not problems.
  • It doesn't auto-tune my voice to be soothing and melodic when I'm calling cues. I was really hoping for that but alas, my crews will have to continue listening to my voice as God made it...

At $120, the price was right and I've been very happy with it in the first year! Here's to many more shows with Rogelio as my companion! (A good name choice, no?)

The Green Room / Re: Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?
« on: Dec 11, 2016, 12:00 am »
As I have thought more about this, I made another realization. I really appreciate when people acknowledge/thank me for things that I have done for them, and I have always felt a little guilty about it. I have heard (and agree) that if you need to be praised or admired, stage management is NOT the field for you. (insert standard jokes about "if anyone notices the stage manager, something went wrong..." here) So I have at times felt like a bad SM because of how much it means to me when someone notices that I did something to help them.
BUT I realized that when someone thanks me for giving them a couple snacks because I know they are going to be at the theatre late cueing, for instance, then not only are they taken care of but I know that they FEEL taken care of. Now we're getting philosophical here...I think that whatever I physically do to help someone is pretty important, but probably equally so is that they FEEL noticed and cared for. So if they thank me, I know they recognized my efforts to reach out and help them and it made them feel worth that effort. And that is very satisfying. Does that make sense?

It has been interesting looking at this with a new perspective, and I'm feeling a bit less guilty for appreciating recognition of my efforts so much. I think an important distinction to be made is in the kind of recognition that I like - I don't need/want public recognition, for someone to call me out in front of other people for being so great, but it's when a person comes to me individually and says "thank you so much" for whatever I did to help them, it means a lot to me and my heart secretly swells with happiness.

The Green Room / Self-reflection, on WHY do I do what I do?
« on: Dec 05, 2016, 11:44 am »
I am working on a dance concert with another SM right now - we each have our own 50-minute piece with separate casts and choreographers, but they are part of a full evening work with intermission between the two. We manage our own casts but share an ASM and crew and are working together on the flow of the concert. She and I were talking recently about our different personalities, and the strengths that we have brought to our parts of the project - specifically how well-matched we were to the choreographers (who are VERY different from each other) and what a difference that made through rehearsals and tech.

Anyway, that got me self-reflecting a little bit and I stumbled on a bit of a revelation about myself. I finally understand why I work the way that I do and why I love stage managing so much. I thought I would share in case it got anyone else thinking too! I am a nurturer (people say it's because I'm a mom, but I was ALWAYS like this), and it turns out that everything that I do as a stage manager comes back to that. I enjoy (and like to think that I'm very good at) many different parts of the job, and I realized that all of them stem from my desire to take care of people. For instance:

  • I keep a well-stocked SM kit, because I want people to know that I'm there for them if they need anything. (And I always have extra snacks, that part probably IS because I'm a mom!)
  • I watch the clock, ensure breaks, and keep us on schedule (as best as possible) because I want the actors and director/choreographer to know that they can fully commit to the art, because I'm paying attention and will make sure we both get the breaks that we need AND accomplish what we set out to do that day.
  • I am attentive to detail, organized, and take careful notes because I want people to know that I care about their work and have things under control. I want the director/choreographer to feel that their vision is safe in my hands, that I am doing my best to bring it to reality.
  • I keep good communication going so that people feel noticed and cared about, because they are important enough for me to keep in the loop.
  • I am a little fanatical about timing my cues correctly, and during tech and dress runs ask obsessively (perhaps annoyingly) how the designers are feeling about my calling ("How did that look, Brandi? Anticipate that a little next time? Or wait a beat longer?"). I want them to feel like their design is safe in my hands, that I will execute it as perfectly as I can. Related to that, i want the performers to know that the cues will happen consistently and correctly, so they don't have to worry about the tech elements and can fully commit onstage.
  • I check in with my performers frequently and try to respond to their needs, both as a group and individually. I try to anticipate what they will need to feel comfortable.
  • I have detailed and organized paperwork so that the crew knows that I care enough about their contribution to the show that I am willing to give them the right tools to be successful. (I once did deck crew for a prop-heavy musical that I'd never seen and was given NO paperwork when I came in the day of tech, it was awful! I figured it out but didn't feel set up for success.)
  • I'm a stickler on safety because I want others to feel safe and know that I'm looking out for their physical well-being.
  • Etc etc...

This may sound like I'm just making a list of all the ways I'm such a great SM. But that's not the point, I'm illustrating how that underlying motivation really drives every single thing that I do at work. This is of course a list of what I strive for, not what I'm perfect at every time. :)

"I'm a nurturer" doesn't mean that in my shows everyone just hugs and kisses all the time and tells each other how wonderful everyone is. Obviously the logistics are critical to a successful show! Stuff GETS DONE and all the logistics are taken care of, it was just fascinating to see that taking care of people was what DRIVES me to do everything so thoughtfully and carefully.

Thoughts from others? (Not about me, about yourselves.) What motivates you? Is there a single through-line or not? Why do you love what you do and what keeps you coming back for more?

Employment / Re: Worst Job Offers?
« on: Jan 16, 2016, 08:16 am »
Thanks C!
That's what it sounded like from context clues, but I thought I would check to see if there was more to it that I was missing! :)

Okay guys, I'm back with my report!

I ended up buying a Pro Intercom 310 ( They don't sell directly, so I bought it from a local dealer (Kinetic Artistry, for anyone who is the DC area). When I went to pick it up, I brought my 3-year-old with me and he REALLY wanted me to buy him a safety cable. I actually did, and now he shows it to anyone who comes over and does a demonstration on how it works, using one of his large toy trains (lighting fixture) and a baseball bat (batten). He tells them it is "a precautionary measure, because does anyone want a light to fall on their heads?"

Anyway, I love it. I got it a couple weeks ago and haven't called a show with it yet, BUT was able to use it on Tuesday night backstage of Les Miserables on Broadway! I went with some other people to take a workshop with the SM team of Wicked, and then that evening we each got a chance to shadow a different show. (Arranged through connections, and independent of the workshop.) Pretty cool that I got to break it in on Broadway. :)
So, the report on the headset itself: It was definitely lighter than what I'm used to wearing, so I kept feeling like it might be falling off, but I was just imagining it - and I think I should get used to the weight quickly. The cable was plenty long enough but not insanely long and thin enough to easily tuck away between the beltpack and my waistband. I'm still figuring out how to bend the gooseneck in just the right way to get the microphone to sit where it is really comfortable, but I think that will come with a little more trial and error. A caveat, you can't switch it from one side of your head to the other, but it was light and comfortable enough that I didn't feel the need to. I've always been a chronic side-switcher, but I  went ahead with this purchase, banking on it not killing my head and therefore being fine on the same side for a long time. We'll see how it is as I continue to use it (and sit with it through my next tech in a couple months), but it is promising! It cost me about $120, which included what Kinetic Artistry charged me for their shipping costs to get it to their store (I could have then had them ship it to me for extra, but I just went and picked it up). I'll post a follow-up on its performance after I use it for some months.
Thanks to all for the suggestions and the help!

Employment / Re: Worst Job Offers?
« on: Jan 14, 2016, 08:42 pm »
Oh these are so crazy to read! My worst experience was working on a show while I was in college where I was asked to be the video technician, but ended up being more of the assistant projections designer (this became apparent slowly over the course of rehearsals). I know NOTHING about creating projections content. Programming is great - give me some completed videos and Isadora and I'll make magic happen! But designing - finding/sourcing/creating content - STRESSES ME OUT. I really loved some of the people that I worked with on that show, but when I left the theatre for the last time I sat in the car and cried because I was so happy to be done (and releasing stress, I guess. I had kept it together while in the theatre of course!). I just wish the responsibilities had been clear from the beginning so I could have prepared myself, or else said no! It might not sound like the worst thing to someone else but for me it was.

Also, forgive my ignorance, but what is a "fit up?" C has me curious!

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Where to Start...?
« on: Dec 20, 2015, 08:49 pm »
I agree with what has already been said. Check, and find ways to connect with people outside your school but in the theatre business. Take run crew positions, become familiar with how professional theatres run - how they are different, and how they are similar, to what you experienced in school - and get to know people. Show them you are competent and - most of all - willing to work hard. Lots of opportunities come from just working where you can backstage and getting to know people!
Best of luck!

The Green Room / Re: Pet Peeve - Mobile Email Signatures
« on: Dec 06, 2015, 10:40 pm »
When I had my son, I put a signature that said something about how I was a nursing mother and had probably typed the email with one hand. Then I asked people to excuse my typos and brevity. My point being that while I could usually type a normal few-sentence response to someone's email, while I was nursing I was lucky to get out a few words in the same amount of time. I didn't want people to think I was brushing them off - instead of saying something like, "Okay, thanks for the clarification, that really helps! I appreciate it." I might say, "OK, thanks." I just didn't want to seem rude or dismissive by not bothering to send back more than a 2-word response.
It was also meant to be kind of funny.
But maybe I was just being too worried, I do have a tendency to be more wordy than is perhaps necessary, so maybe my "brevity" is others' standard length... :)

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