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Messages - Jonas_A

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Tools of the Trade / Software: Diese
« on: Feb 17, 2021, 06:07 pm »
I've been chatting with some colleagues who are exploring a move from ArtsVision ( to Diese ( - does anyone have any experience with the latter? We're both large professional orchestras with complex planning and production processes, so keen to hear from anyone who has used them in a similar scenario.

We were discouraged from making evaluative statements (eg. "The audience enjoyed the birds joke.")

That statement brings up a point: do you put anything about the audience in your reports? I didn't originally, then served under some SMs who did and adopted the practice. I feel like it gives a good summary of how the show went, especially for directors who leave and are unable to attend shows. I'd be curious to know how many SMs do and don't report on the audience, and why.

I've been asked to do it for several shows, and frankly, it drives me nuts. There's a joke between some friends and I that any show we see/SM/anything was "warmly received by the audience," because we find ourselves writing it most nights on show reports. Some directors beg for the feedback, but it can be extraordinarily hard to find something useful to say when you're dong 6-8 shows a week and 90% of the time the audience reacts in precisely the same way.

I'm with leastlikely on noting on things that audience have unexpected reactions to, but also feel compelled to make a comment when it all goes as expected - hence the "warmly received" comment. If I don't say anything (or worse, "nothing to report,") I often get asked "Was there even an audience? Were they dead? Were you asleep?"

 (Case in point: An audience member recently broke down in hysterical giggles during tense moment in a show I was calling. Noted because nobody expected it. After it happened twice in a week, the AD and cast sat down and realised that if you weren't entirely focused on the plot, that particular blocking seemed a lot more hilarious than it actually was, and chose to change it to avoid ruining a finely tuned tense moment.)

Employment / Re: Worst Job Offers?
« on: Jun 15, 2016, 10:38 am »
A few years ago, I was approached by a newly-formed independent theatre company made up of young people who were keen to create some really cool stuff: They said they were really keen to have me onboard, had heard great stuff about my work and we had a few meetings after which both me and they said it looked like it could work well.

Oh, until they mentioned that not only were they "not allowed" to pay me (they were incorporated as a student theatre body at a local university,) but also instead of negotiating pay, told me that everyone who was working with the company would be asked to contribute several hundred dollars towards the budget - money we shouldn't expect to see again because of the costs and lack of audience potential of the show. They were a bit confused when I politely pointed out that they had contacted me regarding employment and not paying to work on their project.

Said company is now doing some very cool work and are still apologetic that they asked me to pay them and not the other way around.

"Nothing to report." is what I use and what I (and my peers) were taught when we studied stage management at uni.

For us, it was about brevity - there's no need for anything more. Your show report is (reportedly) meant to be concise, factual and to-the-point. We were discouraged from making evaluative statements (eg. "The audience enjoyed the birds joke.") or for being wordy ("More batteries are required for mics." would be preferenced over "Would it be possible for someone in the audio department to purchase some new batteries for the radio mics? We're running low. Thanks!") or from doing anything that was basically any more than just reporting the absolute facts of the show.

I think the repeated use of it could just be one of those copy/paste things. The orchestra I work with makes all their backstage calls "Ladies and Gentlemen of the XX Symphony Orchestra, this is your ___ call. Your ___ call, thankyou," but over comms it's just "___ minute call, everyone." We do it because it's polite, it's traditional and because the small courtesies make everyone comfortable. The entire company places a premium on having a culture which is warm and collegiate, and so I imagine if we stopped doing it, people would be perturbed. I imagine the "No notes, thank you." emerged from a similar practice. That, and once you get into a rut with show reports, you use familiar phrases. 

A national tour of the show in Australia last year used shaving foam (eight shows a week, over 120 performances total). Get the sensitive skin one if your actor either has sensitive skin or is just worried about how it will affect their skin.

Thanks everyone! I've just tried a water-based lubricant which is very similar to KY and found that it sizzled a little bit, but not as much as water. Add to that the ease of use, and I think we'll go with that. Thanks so much for the advice! :)

Does anyone have a way to silently extinguish burning cigarettes when they're placed in a glass/crystal ashtray? I'm currently SMing a play where several characters put down lit cigarettes into clear glass ashtrays, but we need the cigarettes to self-extinguish so they don't present a fire hazard (also because otherwise our tiny theatre will stink of herbal cigarettes).

There needs to be no sizzle or noise, and sand is not appropriate because of the glass ashtrays. I've heard that water-based lubricant works - does anyone else have suggestions that won't make a noise?

We're definitely using herbal cigarettes: director is hellbent on them, company is quite ok with it and in the 80-seat theatre, any other substitute will be noticeable apart from e-cigarettes, which they don't want to use, particularly because the cast smokes almost a dozen between them in a single show and cigarettes get begged, stolen and procured from every pocket and location possible. The more I think about it, the more I want to advise using e-cigarettes.

Thanks in advance! - Jonas

As someone's who's had to do internships (although as a uni student), Maribeth's idea of a check-in is one which I know a lot of us would appreciate. Making the expectations clear is also appreciated: We often don't know whether companies expect us to be completely observational ("Please don't even touch that prop") or an unpaid crew member ("We can't do this run without you!") and oftentimes the answer lies in a very opaque grey space. Clarify and you'll get what you need from them.

Sadly can't provide any kind of handbook, but message me if this is still something you're working on and you'd like to hear how a uni/college which has students doing 100+ internships a year handles it.

Uploaded Forms / Re: !! - Request Forms Here - !!
« on: Jan 12, 2015, 05:15 am »
Does anyone have an example of a daily changes sheet or similar as used on commercial musicals in Australia (and perhaps abroad)? They typically include things like cast changes, "Today's performance will be conducted by XX", show number, notes, call times for that day (particularly for days with two shows/media calls/etc. and any extra notes (eg. "Tonight Ms Smith will make a brief announcement after the show that we are collecting donations for Equity.").

They're used for a lot of large-scale commercial musicals here, where they are made each day in the morning and then distributed extensively to every department and anybody who asks for one,  but I haven't been able to get a phot or sample of any of the ones I've seen when I've visited such shows. Can anyone help?

Tools of the Trade / Re: Books Books Books
« on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:56 am »
I cannot recommend getting a copy of Technical Theatre for Non-Technical People highly enough. I nearly bought a second copy because I keep lending mine to people, or photocopying passages. It's great for people who know nothing ("What? Tech? But we're a dance school...") and for people who have departmental tunnel-vision ("I'm a sound engineer. What the hell is DMX and why won't these cables work for me?!") It's also a great cheat-sheet for yourself. When I was younger I used to grab it and skim the necessary chapter before I met with someone from that department. Having some basic knowledge not only saved my ass on a frequent basis, it also made communication so much easier and respect gained faster because I could speak at least the basics of everyone's language. Think of it as a phrase book for theatre.

As for other books? Pallin's guide to stage management is great, Thomas A. Kelly's guide is also good and Peter Maccoy's Essentials of Stage Management should not be overlooked. Combining those with Lawrence Stern's gives a really well-rounded introduction to things. My only concern with the Stern book is that it's a bit biblical; he writes as if it's his way or certain doom. That said, it's very thorough and very useful.

Don't overlook the content available for Kindle; a few of the good textbooks are readily and cheaply available in a digital format, and nothing beats being able to carry most of the books I named above around with you on your phone.

I recently read Ed Catmull's biography; "Creativity Inc., Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration" and it gave me a lot of food for thought as a manager of creative people. It's written about his experiences at Pixar, but the problems will resonate with any SM or PM.

Ashleigh; why didn't you apply for NIDA or VCA? As a current VCA student, I can tell you that most of us come straight out of school with a background just like yours. :)

As for the gap year; shadowing can be a great way to see some really exciting stuff. E-mail SMs - they are often very generous about letting you join them in the shadows for a night. I did this for a certain commerical musical earlier this year; I went out on a limb and e-mailed the SM, a guy who I had heard lots about but never met. He was lovely and his team were delighted to show me around their show for a night.

I'd look at doing some casual crewing. The Entertainment Store are always looking for people like you to do bump-ins and outs and the kind of people they attract means you can end up meeting a lot of cool SMs/LDs/tech/PMs. Message me if you want their details. It's not Wicked, but they pay and you'll meet people. You'll also have a few companies like Lock & Load, Show Support, Staging Connections, etc. - all of these places are often looking for crew and again, it can give you a chance to make some money in the industry whilst also getting to see some very cool shows from a very different perspective. You learn a lot about a show when you bump it out!

I'm not sure if it's the same for the NSW State Schools Spectacular, but the Victorian one takes on interns like nothing else. Look into it; it's a great chance to work with top-notch professionals on a huuuuge project (especially if you like working with kids), and will carry some serious weight on a NIDA/WAAPA/VCA application. Sadly no pay, but if the NSW one is like the Vic one, you get enough joy out of it to last a year.

I'll message you :)

I follow the British format (8pm show) which is:
7.25pm - half hour call
7.40 - 15 minutes
7.50 - 10 minutes
7.55 - Beginners
it is also used in Australia but I cannot comment if it is still the case
This is still the case for most Australian musicals and straight drama. We generally call it as "half-hour until beginners on stage," although exact wording varies between SMs and companies.

Opera, ballet and orchestral usually work off what a lot of other people are posting, with the half hour call literally 30 minutes prior to the advertised starting time (eg. 1930 call for a 2000 advertised start) and so forth. (This is due to the way musicians are hired down here.) 

Matthew is right; sometimes people aren't in the house, but in my experience most of them will be.

I'd recommend seeking out some good books on the subjects you're interested in (or feel the need to be educated about); Drew Cambell's "Technical Theatre for Non-Technical People" is actually great for SMs because it will give you enough terminology and understanding to be able to respond when your LD says "Oh, so it turns out we can't keep the DMX cables for the movers on the 3rd electric because the arbor can't hold any more weights and the extra power runs have made it bar-heavy." Similarly, his book Digital Theatre for Non-Technical People is also good when you start working with more complicated technology (or people who can't find better words to describe what they're doing.)

Definitely ask questions. Ask them over a beer, ask them during down-time, ask any time someone looks really happy with the solution they're just engineered. People love working with an SM who speaks their language and understands their issues and will work hard to get on the same page if you show you're willing.

(My secret? I call a friend. It's not uncommon for me to leave a production meeting, or a tech, and then quietly call a mate to ask "So, the Head Flyman said the tormentors were catching on something. What on earth is he talking about?!")

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Rehearsals: Be quiet!
« on: Jul 17, 2014, 09:11 am »
I manage rehearsals with a cast that often exceeds 200 children aged between 7 and 18. When the usual methods stop working, invest in a sports whistle. I only use it when things get really out of control, but when they hear it they know they're in trouble. You'll certainly get their attention.

I did the same with my Scouts (age 10-15): the rule is that when an adult puts their hand up, they put theirs up and shut up, but when that fails I crack out the whistle. Fox 40 whistles are amazing (, but they're painfully (and I mean honest discomfort for all involved) loud in rehearsal rooms of any size - I mean, they give these things to college students as rape whistles... That said, if you're working a show like Jake is, it can be necessary.

Tools of the Trade / Re: MTI's Stage Manager Scripts
« on: Mar 17, 2014, 09:08 am »
Gone are the days of not being able to highlight lighting and set cues in the script! Forget writing in the tiny margins of a normal libretto/vocal book! With MTI's Stage Manager Script, you can write in pen, ink or highlighter and NOT have to worry about erasing the books before returning them to MTI! Just think: an authorized production-friendly legal copy of the libretto that you can personalize for your production...
*snort* Please. We all just copy them. (And yes, I am aware of the copyright implications. But raise your hand if you honestly have never photocopied a script for your prompt copy.)

Having spent a whole day copying, cutting, rearranging and repaginating, copying again and hole-punching scripts for my last SM, I can see the benefits, but if you can't copy them, why bother? At least when you make them yourself from scratch you can have it just how you want; right number of holes punched, you can enlarge the text or just have white space, etc... to me, the flexibility outweighs the convenience of what they're offering.

Regarding retyping a script: People seem leery of this option, but if you have a competent touch-typist on your team, it can usually be done in a day and then you can mess with page breaks, cuts, changed lines as much as you like, and you never get photocopy streaks!

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