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Messages - Tigerrr

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Here in Canada, there are two organizations you have to go through. SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) and CMRRA (Canadian Music Recording Rights Association). If you are playing music in the lobby, in the auditorium when the audience enters/exits, or during intermission, you need to pay SOCAN. It's a moderate fee, depending on ticket revenue. You're looking at either Tariff 11a or 11b. SOCAN DOES NOT APPLY IF YOU ARE USING RECORDED MUSIC DURING THE PERFORMANCE. (Source: SOCAN rep during the CITT conference this summer.) When using parts of songs during a performance, you're dealing with the CMRRA. In that case, it becomes a recording issue and not a playback issue. By this, I mean CMRRA fees apply to the number of copies of the songs you make beyond 2 copies.

More simply put: if you are using full songs as background, you need to pay SOCAN. If you are using parts of songs that are not background, but an element of the production, you deal with CMRRA.

When I did Noises Off several years ago, I asked the director to break the show down into beats or units for scheduling purposes, then my team and I made "beat presets" from our props tracking spreadsheet. That way, regardless of which beat we started on any given day, we knew exactly which prop needed to be where and where it was at the end of the beat. (Each beat was 3-5 pages - we ended up with over 70 presets.)

What this did was allowed the director to begin pretty much anywhere in the text he wanted so he could focus on specific acting work, and we never had to waste any time figuring out what was where. It was great while we were in the early stages of rehearsal and when we had to go back after doing some work, we'd go to the top of the beat and never wasted time trying to figure out what was where. Then, when we got later in the process, he could work on beats 5, 18, 22, 40 and 61 (for instance) and stage management could pre-prep the stuff needed for the next bit. Don't get me wrong, this show needs a TON of run throughs to get the timing right, but it was great for detail work.

Also, in your tracking sheet, number the doors, but also make sure you note if the door is open or closed.

Attached is my who-what-where. The colour coding is: purple for entrances & exits, yellow for when things got picked up or put down, blue for doors, and white for "other" (mostly if something simply got moved). Filtering is on, so you can track, say, just Door 3 or whatever.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Re: HEALTH: Injured actor
« on: May 08, 2010, 11:07 pm »
UPDATE: The actor is fine. He did have a severe concussion, but it wasn't as severe as I thought it was and his biggest concern was his short-term memory, which wasn't that bad and is coming back in spurts. We did only one show that first day (which the producers were totally fine with) and it helped the actor to gain confidence. After two shows, he decided that he no longer needed a prompter in the house. He's still not doing any heavy lifting, but is taking a lot of responsibility in setting up the dressing rooms. He feels like he's at least doing something to help, and I'm comfortable with the physical activity he's taking on.

I tend to feel that since actors are grown-ups, and we SMs are not doctors, it is appropriate for each person to decide for themselves whether they are healthy enough to perform or not.

I'm in total agreement and that's a large part of the reason why I wanted to have a one-on-one with the actor. He's the best person to really be able to tell me how he feels.

I know concussions of severe nature are not to be taken lightly or something that should be left up to the afflicted individual.

I agree with this too. Yes, it's a bit contradictory, but that's why I wanted to be able to talk to the actor; to be able to make my own assessment. Yeah, I'm not a doc, but I'm also an experienced manager. I have a decision to make myself.

He may not be the best judge, at this exact moment, of what is best for him. He is very likely to be very sensitive to his emotions and feelings right now and "taking things personally" and overreactions are par for the course.

I was worried about this too, but he's a very balanced individual and I realized after speaking with him that he's not going to push it too hard. He understands that kind of balance. Again, another important thing I learned from talking to him.

On the whole, things have worked out very well. I was worried that the actor would try to push himself, but that has not been the case. He's been very careful and prudent. He understands that his body and his brain are tools of his trade and he's treating them accordingly. The company has not even once asked him to work beyond his threshold, and is frankly letting him set his own boundaries. I could not have asked for a better outcome. Everyone's happy, everyone's healthy, and the company is not in the least concerned that we've lost a little bit of money out of the deal. They also feel that the actor's health is paramount.

Thank you all for your advice and opinions. Sorry for the stupid-long post!!

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Re: Injured actor
« on: Apr 28, 2010, 09:33 am »
Obviously the doctors told him to rest, but beyond that, since I haven't had a chance to talk to the actor, I'm not sure about the details. They did say it was okay for him to fly only a couple of days after the incident though, although he had to be wheeled in a wheelchair on and off the flight. He's still not allowed to read, talk on the phone or be on the computer.

I haven't had the chance to talk to either the AD or the actor. The actor is in pain, but I can't tell how much, but he's stopped taking his Tylenol-3s.

A very important point I forgot to mention in my previous post: the question is not whether we cancel the tour - everyone involved and the injured actor in particular are okay with that. The question is whether or not to cancel one of the two shows on the first day of the tour. He feels fine to do one show (with some modifications, such as eliminating some of the more strenuous movements) but is a little worried about doing 2 in one day. So am I.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / HEALTH: Injured actor
« on: Apr 28, 2010, 02:57 am »
Unfortunately I'm going to have to deal with this before the insightful SMs have a chance to post their perspectives, but I could still really use some advice. Here's the deal....

On tour with a show. We had a week off after having performed in Vancouver (which was beautiful, by the way!). 4 of the actors decided to spend a few days skiing in Whistler during that week off. One other went mountain biking in Squamish, one went home, and I went to visit my family in Edmonton. We are NOT under Equity contracts, but rather UDA (Union des Artists) which does not have the same restrictions on traveling while under contract that Equity does (in fact, the one who went mountain biking is a long-time performer at Stratford). Their last day of skiing, one of the actors got into an accident and cracked a few vertebrae & a bit of his skull & got a severe concussion. This was 5 days ago. We are scheduled to do a relatively rigorous tour of Ontario right now.

The actor in question is in quite a bit of pain and, due to the concussion, is having short-term memory problems (which are getting better with each day). After some reflection & discussion, he has decided that he is well enough to continue with the tour, but many are questioning this decision. The largest question hanging over us is that we were told that the choice of continuing on with the tour rested entirely with him, but during the car ride, he let slip that the AD sent him a vibe that it would be very difficult to cancel shows at this late period, and so he felt pressured to say 'yes'.

According to the schedule, we're supposed to arrive in a small Northern Ontario town tomorrow afternoon & do the set up of the set (which is far more complicated than a touring set should be, but that's another post), take the evening off, set up the lights & sound the next morning, followed by a school matinee & and evening show with a strike afterwards. This is going to be the first time the actors have ever helped with the set-up & strike and I expect it to take quite a while. It has already been decided that the injured actor will not participate in the set-up or strike.

I have made a few decisions already. There are some things that I need to see him complete in the near future before I even begin to be comfortable with him performing. They are: a) do a line run in the car during the 3 hour drive tomorrow. I'm not looking to see whether or not he flubs his lines, but whether or not he becomes confused and frustrated. This will help to tell me how he is recovering from the concussion; b) have a conversation with the cast & the reps of the company who are going to be there - all of this needs to get out in the open; c) have a one-on-one conversation with him to see how he's really feeling.

A couple of things. I truly believe that the "pressure" he felt from the AD was more than likely an audible reaction to having to cancel a few shows and NOT a reaction to the actor feeling he needed to. I think that the actor may have taken that personally and suddenly changed his mind. It's like when you give someone bad news and they respond strongly to the news, sometimes it's simply their immediate physical response and not truly the way they respond to the situation (subtle, I know). I also feel very strongly that the actor more than likely needs to rest right now. Doing 2 shows less than a week after a severe concussion is too much (particularly since it's such a physical show), and I believe we should cancel them, for the sake of the actor's long term health. I just don't know if that's something I can argue as the SM.

I appreciate any advice anyone can offer. It's a complicated situation, and I'm not sure if I've left enough details for people. I will certainly answer any questions that may arise. Thanks again!

Edit added tag to subject line-Rebbe

I just finished doing an outdoor show in an alley (see the thread about pictures) and we would periodically get homeless wanderers come in and start talking to the actor. The ushers were usually pretty good about guiding these people away gently, but on Friday, one got through and started talking to her. Since I could only hear the play through the actor's mic feed, I have no idea what the homeless woman said to her, but I could tell she was a little thrown. We laughed about it later though.

Not much to add, except a (now) humorous story.

Was on a school tour in Southern Ontario. Hit a massive rainstorm on our way to the school the night before. Okay - had a plan B for if the set got damaged (lots of gaffer tape, screws, drill, and enough time to let a thin layer of paint dry between set-up and showtime). The lead actress then just saw her new pants for the first time and hated them so much she couldn't stop crying. Plan B - already cleared it with the director that she could wear her jeans if she really hated the pants. Got the lighting trees set up and levels done. Let lights run at full for 20 min in case there was dirty power or circuits with not enough power. Plan B - find other circuits, had TONS of extra extension. Everything was fine. Lunch. Get ready, let the kids come in. 10 min before showtime, lights start flickering. My technician checks EVERYTHING including opening up the board to see if there was some weird wiring. No go. Plan B - do the show without lights, already cleared. We were in a cafetorium, so there was enough light. Plan B - call home, arrange to get another lighting board in our next town for the next show. Actors were a little thrown from being able to see the audience, but they got through it. Until 5 min before the end. Choreography got wonky and the actress got hit in the face with the gun, near her eye. I saw she had a bit of a reaction, but then she continued on, so I did too. Went behind the set after the show and there she was, on her knees sobbing uncontrollably. Mostly out of fear. A teacher, who was also a paramedic, came to check her out. She was fine. Decide she doesn't need to help with the tear down and we can do it ourselves (Plan B). 10 min later, she has a panic attack. I decide to take her to the hospital. Now I'm running out of Plan B's. Then she got really bad and didn't know where or who she was. Decided to call an ambulance.

This is where it gets funny, albeit in retrospect. We were on a military base and the message that went out over the radio was that "a student hit a teacher in the face with a gun at the school". Of course, I didn't realize this until 6 firefighters, 4 paramedics and 3 military police officers showed up. I had to show the (fake) gun to each officer individually and show them how it DIDN'T work and wasn't real and didn't even really LOOK real close up. But we still had a trigger lock and lock box for the thing.

Ultimately, everything and everyone was fine. She was just a little freaked out a bit, but laughing again after a couple hours. I had done a ton of "what if" thinking, but there was no way I could have anticipated THAT!!!

Oh...paper props. Always have backups of paper props. And writing implements. They always get lost!

Employment / Re: Lowering your expectations
« on: Jul 19, 2009, 06:29 pm »
Maybe it's more about changing expectations than lowering them?

Good point.

Personally I come from a Fringe/Co-op/Independent production type background where I had to wear whatever hat wasn't being worn by someone else. I've built costumes and props, done the lighting and sound design while SMing shows, built and sourced set materials, and the like. Usually for no or very little pay. It was after 6 years of doing this that I decided to go to school for my BFA. Now, even though I still sometimes use my home as my office, I've also had the opportunity to work at larger theatres with up-to-date equipment and the infrastructure to support multiple seasons (English, French, Dance, Opera & Orchestra - all under one roof!).

My expectations, both for rate of pay and infrastructure/environment vary depending on the company I'm working for. I think that my background has made me extremely flexible. And, while my personal standards are extremely high (aren't they for all of us?) I've learned to accept my own limitations and, frankly, the standards also change depending on the company. Small company, no office, no ASM's? My scene plot will probably be done by hand on a photocopy of the ground plan. On a team with a PSM, SM and another ASM? You betcha those pictures are gonna be colour-coded and done in Acrobat!

All this to say that sometimes I take the gig because it'll fill in a hole in my season, sometimes I take tech calls, sometimes I waitress. I do what I have to do. But I also have a landlord who doesn't mind if the rent is a few days late, a boss at a pub who will give me months off on end, then ask for me when I get back, don't have any dependents (except my cat) and live a generally free and easy lifestyle. It's not for everyone, but I can get by for a couple months on very little.

College and Graduate Studies / Re: SM schools in Canada???
« on: Jul 15, 2009, 05:41 pm »
I graduated UofA in 2004. If you're concerned about not doing enough shows, don't be. They take a max of 8 students/year, so there's plenty of shows to go around. Yes, you have to do 1 year of basic requirements, like any university program (business, science, etc - you usually can't apply for a major until 2nd year anyway). I SMed 3 shows, ASMed 2, PSMed a one-act festival, worked (volunteered) in all departments (props, wardrobe, electrics, carpentry) in 3 years. I have a couple of things that I would definitely recommend about the UofA.

1 - It's a conservatory. That means that they tell you what courses to take and when. It's designed to make you a well-rounded theatre professional with a broad array of skills. This is different than other BFA or college programs in that you don't take only the courses that are of most interest to you and then some electives, but most of the courses are designed in a 3-year arc, rather than cramming everything you need to know in one semester. It doesn't make it easier but you go much more in-depth.

2 - All the department heads in the theatre are IATSE members and work under a special contract to the university. They understand that they're working with students and that teaching is part of their job, but they've been hired to be a department head. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

3 - Also, you start working under Equity rules from day 1. This means 8-hour days/6 days a week ON TOP of a full course load. Know what you're getting into. Having a job is impossible.

4 - It's a HUGE drama department, with the infrastructure that goes along with that. They offer BA, BA (Honors), BFA Design, MFA Design, BFA Acting, MFA Directing, and MA drama programs, as well as BFA Technical Theatre and BFA Stage Management. But because many of those programs are small, there's a TON of one-on-one. Aside from the academic courses (Theatre History and the like) I don't think I had a class with more than 15 people in it. Even then, I think my biggest class had only about 45 or so. (On a side note: my ex did his MA there, then went to Carleton for his PhD. His biggest complaint? For the first year and a half of the PhD he was re-hashing the same kind of work they did at UofA's MA program.)

5 - Not to be crass, but it IS Alberta. They've got money. Budgets for the mainstage shows can be pretty sweet! A show in my second year, we had a 16' tall statue of a naked woman fly in near the end....then shoot confetti out of her nipples!!

6 - The main facilities (Timms Centre) are only 12 years old. It's quite luxurious. It's got a full fly tower, lowering apron (with 3 levels), 4'x4' traps over the entire stage, dressing rooms that fit 20 easily, a HUGE rehearsal hall (WITH windows!!!), a black box. The wardrobe inventory is second in the province to only the Banff Centre for the Arts. The props department has a 2nd warehouse space, in addition to the two giant storage rooms in the Timms. The Arts building also has a black box with a fly system, another (smaller) thrust theatre, a dance studio, 2 huge rehearsal rooms, etc, etc. I could go on and on!

7 - As for course work, I did set design, lighting design, history of dress and decor, drafting, a couple acting classes, directing, I learned how to read music, stage combat from the guy who teaches at Banff Centre, I got my PAL, First Aid & CPR, Theatre History, Canadian theatre, Modern Drama, learned how to SM dance of all types, including Sutton dance notation, not to stage management LOL!

Sorry for the Tolstoy. I started and more thoughts came out! Anyway, I'm really happy that I did the BFA there. I learned a lot, and I often refer back to my notes for a refresher on a subject or several. Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions about UofA.

Whoo boy!! I've had to do some silly things!

- follow an actor around after her exit to open doors for her (she was wearing 1' long fingernails)
- army crawl between some cyc strip lights and the cyc to open and close a crash mat
- give an actor a bottle of water with a straw while her head was off stage but her body was still on
- call a show from behind a dumpster in an alley (I couldn't see or hear anything, and used the feed from her wireless mic to take my cues)
- do a talkback BEFORE the show about stage managing in my second language to a bunch of French Immersion students because the 2nd school was 30 minutes late
- dress up as a rodeo clown and manually run a bucking bull (unfortunately there are pictures.)

Tools of the Trade / Re: Virtual Stage Manager
« on: Jun 02, 2009, 02:04 am »
As part of my thesis doing my BFA I wrote a program somewhat similar to this. It's simply a database program that one could create in Access (although I used FileMaker). My biggest problem was that I'm not a computer programmer and I had to learn the programming language on my own. My thesis was essentially a beta program with A LOT of bugs. That being said, if you're truly interested in creating a "virtual stage manager" you could do it yourself and customize it to fit each and every show.

After having done the programming, I realized that the types of shows where this would come in handy would be large pieces, with multiple rehearsal locations and various potential scheduling conflicts. I also hit a wall when it came to privacy concerns.

Upon a cursory inspection of the website (I'm not about to buy the program just to research it) it really is merely a scheduling database. That being said, I do feel there is a definite need for something like this and could potentially be an extremely useful tool. Please let us know how it works for you! Did you have to input your show information manually, or were you able to use one of their templates (i.e., a show already in their database)? How did the actors respond? Did they actually use the tools available, or did you still have to make the bajillion phone calls? Were you able to modify how much time to devote to certain scenes, or did it pick the times for you? How customizable was it? I've dropped my own database (haven't looked at it in 4+ years), but I'm still extremely interested in the technology.

Thanks for all the advice in this thread! As each show is different, my approach needs to be different. This one is particularly unique and I value the insight everyone has made.

Here's an update tho: I've gotten my little package together, and the school wants to take it and use it as the basis for a mini "intro to tech" workshop that they'll integrate into the curriculum next year. Ultimately, it'll be necessary for the students to get a little bit of knowledge of how tech week works for when they do their productions. It's going to change because there are several SMs & designers & technicians who will consult on the project, but me and my lighting designer will probably run the workshop. I'm terribly excited by this.

I'm attaching the package I created. It's VERY show specific, but I wanted to share what you all helped me to create. Again, thank you all for your insight. Every comment helped me to build this package.

Matthew - thanks for your input.

I think I'm just a little wiggy over this one because it's been a while since I've worked with students. Also in this particular case:
- the cast is comprised of 11 people which includes 1 Equity member, 1 professional actor, and 9 student actors
- only 2 of the student actors even knows what a cue to cue is, let alone understands what is required of them (this was the intent of my original question - what do actors need to know about tech)
- the play is 2 1/2 hours (before intermission) with 25 scenes, all with transitions in between (meaning cue sequences of varying lengths) as well as several major scene changes
- we're going to be rehearsing the scene changes in the proper lighting before we do the cue sequence, which will eat up time during cue to cue, but is necessary for safety's sake
- most of the show has a sound scape, so we'll need to run through the entire thing for levels, meaning it won't be as much of a start-and-stop as a regular Q2Q.
- we have 2 tech runs, 1 dress rehearsal and 1 preview, all of which have to occur within 4-hour calls (3 1/2 of which will be used by the half-hour/prep, show and break). I simply cannot let cue to cue last beyond the 8-hour call that is scheduled.

This means that we get 3 runs before we see an audience, and that's IF I get cue to cue finished in time. I'm not trying to deny the actors/director any acting-work time. What I'm trying to ensure is that they get the proper runs allowed them in the schedule.

I believe this approach speaks to your comment about being flexible and prepared. And ultimately, I need to be a "time nazi" precisely so that the actors and director can get the work in that they need. If I don't get the kinks ironed out during Q2Q, then precious run time is going to be wasted because we'd have to re-do a cue during a tech run. I think I already mentioned this, but I will be at all the level sessions with the designers, as well as having a paper tech the night before Q2Q so I know as much about the intent of the designs as possible, as well as what the director's looking for.

(And ultimately, the show restís on the directorís soliders)

Yes it does, but the company is going to be looking at me if we have to incur overtime, not the director. At the very least, I'm going to be the first one the GM goes to if there are extra labour costs. I'm the one who has to tell the company that the Q2Q ran long - the GM isn't going to care if it's because there was a really important discussion that had to happen, or if it was because a projector broke. The point is that it ran long and now we have to pay. (Besides, in my experience, the GM would be a lot more forgiving of having to pay OT due to a broken projector as opposed to a lengthy discussion.)

Perhaps I'm not being clear in what I'm saying.

I never said "no" to acting questions. Nor did I say that I would put a stop to that sort of discussion if it cropped up. Nor did I ever say that it was a "rule" I imposed on cue to cue. I was talking about stopping in the middle of a cue sequence to ask an acting question, for instance. Or insisting on a lengthy discussion unrelated to the task at hand. Questions like "I really don't know what I'm doing in this scene" or "Why does my character do x" are the kinds of things I'm looking to discourage. Long, open-ended questions about motivation and intent that have very little to do with the work going on.

As much as it is our job to support and encourage, we also have a responsibility to the theatre company to stick to the production schedule so as not to incur overtime costs. Letting too much time be spent working out non-technical related questions while technicians are being paid to be there for other reasons is irresponsible.

As long as you establish with director at the start of the cue to cue or tech that he is welcome to talk to the actors when everything is stopped (ie fixing a light cue or resetting for a big shift) but as soon as you are ready to move on you can say so and the director will stop and return his attention back to tech.

I absolutely agree, and that's pretty standard.

Because I'm working with almost a dozen actors who have NEVER been through a cue to cue before, I need to be very clear with them. Not to mention we've got an Equity actor and are working in an IA house. I wouldn't even consider having this discussion with an actor who's experienced even one tech week. But all of this is going to be brand new to them and I want to give them a heads up.

While I don't disagree that these acting questions should have been discussed in the rehearsal hall, I would never take the prerogative away from the Director to decide whether or not the time is right to field a question of that nature.

There is always work that the crew, designers, and I can be doing while this kind of dialogue takes place.

Interesting. I agree with you, to a degree. I guess in my mind the type of question that can lead to a long discussion that probably would not lead to changes to cues would be inappropriate. Something like "Why does my character say x" would likely be inappropriate. But a question like "Why does my character go there, when the transition would be easier if he went here." would be entirely appropriate.

Cue to cue is still a compartmentalized rehearsal - like a blocking rehearsal. I mean that we're focusing on ONE particular aspect of a whole - marrying the technical elements with the artistic. It's like the difference between blocking vs. scene work and cue to cue vs. tech run. The blocking can change while we do the scene work, and the cues can change while we're doing the tech run, but you don't want to skip the step of either the blocking or the cue to cue because they are an integral part of layering the information. There is only so much that the human brain can process at one time, and I believe we separate the cue to cue for that very reason.

Also, the director's focus is elsewhere. He/she may not be in the mind frame to be able to adequately answer that type of acting question precisely because they're thinking less about the acting and more about the technical elements. Just as I wouldn't want to remove the director's prerogative, nor would I want to put the director in a position to have to deny the actor an answer.

Sorry for the threadjack (of my own thread LOL!).

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