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Messages - catalie

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I actually have experience with this on both the stage management and music direction side of things. 90% of my theater experience is in stage management, but last spring I was the "Virtual Music Director" for a production of West Side Story that used tracks via Sinfonia, which is an orchestra replication software program. Running tracks off of Sinfonia is different from doing so off of QLab because Sinfonia designed to give the operator far more control over the music that is playing. While working with Sinfonia, I could easily change the tempo by tapping in a new BPM either ahead of time or during the performance itself; I could pause in the middle of a song; I could (and in fact often needed to) "cue us out of" vamps. I think the software is designed in this manner because ideally it would be run by a music director who was using it to supplement 2-3 real instruments and would need to ~follow~ those instruments with said software -- but even with the entire orchestra running off of Sinfonia, I did find the extra control to be helpful/reassuring.

The stage manager was one of my good friends, so luckily I was able to easily figure out what calling/cueing strategy would be best for both of us. We ended up in a middle ground of sorts: I was responsible for the more score-based and music-theory-knowledge-based cues, and although my SM would give warnings and would "call" the beginning of each song, ultimately I was responsible for cueing into and out of each song (except for a few very precise moments, my SM's "calls" were more like backup reminders than like a traditional called cue that an SM might direct towards a board op). This method worked for us quite well, as it helped us collaborate on timing and ensured that we knew what the other person was doing. But if my SM had ignored music cues altogether, I would've still been able to run the show's Sinfonia cues without any trouble (other than cueing out of one of the trickiest vamps, and even then I think know how I would've figured it out).

So! A mix of music-director-runs-their-own-cues and stage-manager-calls-all-audio-cues was a perfect solution for my situation, and I think it's a good example of the fact that a compromise that takes note of/advantage of the compromising individuals' skill sets is almost always a healthy and productive compromise. Regarding the actual breakdown of labor, YMMV, of course. Part of the reason I was chosen as Virtual Music Director was my background in stage management, because the SM and the director knew that I was capable of accurately and calmly cueing 2.5 hours worth of accompaniment -- we knew the role would be analogous to mixing mics in terms of autonomy, self-cueing in-the-moment-judgment/decision-making, etc, and it without a doubt helped that I am very confident in the booth. If I had been less confident in my calling/cueing ability, or if I had been the music director all along (and therefore possibly more predisposed to ~having opinions~), the strategy that we utilized might not have been the best strategy.

I think that if a production uses Sinfonia, they should have a music director running the software program (rather than having the stage manager beginning each track by themselves); otherwise it's nearly impossible to take advantage of Sinfonia's flexibility and its other benefits. I'm not so sure about a production that uses QLab, since I imagine you've worked out your music situation such that there aren't details/uncertainties left until the last minute (i.e. vamps during difficult scene changes, etc), and therefore having a single person dedicated to the music isn't quite as helpful.

But if you think a track will need to be stopped partway through, or if you think you'll need to keep repeating a certain section, I'd choose someone to fill that role and that role only. Tracks are fickle phenomena, as are musical theater performers, and anything can happen; if you're in the midst of LX and curtain cues you don't want to be looking in your score for a measure number. I think it's still important to call the beginning of each track out loud for the sake of security, as well as because you'll probably end up with light cues that occur on the "go" of the track beginning. Other than that, though, I'd definitely think about division of labor, strengths, and what's practical for your show's needs. I don't think there's anything wrong with entrusting the music to someone else -- after all, as you said, it's what you would do if there were a live band, and I'm not sure to what extent the existence of QLab changes that protocol, other than the fact that you'll be subconsciously thinking of each track as a cue of sorts.

I'm very, very tired post-tech and am not entirely sure this post makes sense but I wanted to respond before I forgot. Please please please message me if anything is deeply unclear/if you want to talk further about this situation! I think I can see it pretty accurately from both sides and would love to share my experience in a more coherent way, if that would be helpful.

I'm so glad you commented -- it's awesome (and encouraging!) to hear from someone who's spent a significant portion of their career in dance, since at this point that's honestly ~the dream~.

I know exactly what you mean in terms of noticing patterns of light/choreography and sensing where the next cue lands -- it's one of my favorite aspects of SMing! Part of my love for dance is honestly due to the fact that at heart, I'm a little bit of an LD as well as an SM, but I unfortunately lack the requisite artistic vision to actually design lights for a show; watching dance and learning to call dance is thrilling for me because I get to exercise my LD ~feelings/intuition~ re: cue placement/time slightly more than I would if I were calling a traditional theatre show. I think I'm developing a good sense re: the motivation for a given cue, and thank you for phrasing it so clearly (aka in terms of motivation) -- it gives me something concrete to watch for in videos, etc, and I'm excited to spend my Thanksgiving week holed up in my room watching ballet :)

I'll likely PM you within the next few days with a handful of more specific questions once I've had the chance to think about your advice more thoroughly/talk to a teacher who's coming back from maternity leave/figure out my life a bit more. Thank you so, so much for that offer -- I really appreciate it!

(Oh, and if all goes well, it seems pretty likely that I'll be SMing my first professional dance show in late February, since I apparently made a positive impression on the company when I shadowed! It's taking all my willpower to wait until I get the final job offer before I start counting down the days until tech...)

This is true and I totally agree about not climbing into a career silo -- it's more about not being sure if I want to spend a full year without stage management, although I am definitely doing everything I can to expand my technical knowledge for shorter stretches of time! But yeah, that's definitely a good point overall, and I'll certainly apply and give it full consideration :)

Thanks for the advice :)

Pilobolus looks awesome! I'll probably apply for their production internship, although I'm honestly not sure that at this point I want to do a year-round internship that doesn't concentrate on stage management; I know I would learn useful skills and develop connections and many other wonderful things, but it's hard for me to imagine removing myself from SM-related duties for that long. But of course, the future is uncertain, and this looks like a good option!

I looked through the list of dance internships/fellowships as well as the list of jobs and only found one or two companies that offered a production internship (and none that offered an SM internship, as such). Do you know of any companies that might be particularly receptive if I email my resume and ask about SM internship/apprenticeship opportunities -- or if you don't have any specific ones in mind, are there any types of companies (ballet vs modern vs large vs small) that would be more likely to respond positively to an inquiry even if there's no official internship available?

(Sorry for all the questions! This is just a major change from the last few years of contemplating my career path in theater, since I used to have 8-10 dream SM apprenticeships in mind for after graduation and plenty more that I could apply to if the most prestigious ones didn't work out...this new love for dance is thrilling but disorienting and a little bit scary!)

Thanks again!

Stage Management: Other / Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« on: Nov 12, 2016, 12:46 am »
Hi all!

I'm in my last year of (non-conservatory) college, and just a month ago I discovered that dance stage management is my calling (pun somewhat intended). I thrive in tech, I'm a natural/instinctive caller who can call a good show with minimal prep, I love cue-dense shows, I have quite a bit of musical training and can read music (including complex orchestral scores) easily, etc. All in all I think I stand out more among my peers as a dance stage manager than as a traditional theatre stage manager, and from what I've heard the career/lifestyle is an amazing fit for me -- my love for teching/calling shows is why I can't bring myself to even consider a career other than stage management, and dance seems to make great use of that love/passion.

I'm ridiculously excited about this realization and am feeling much more optimistic about my future upon graduation! Except...I don't know how to pursue a career in dance stage management. There's not much of a dance scene at my college, so I likely won't get much dance on my resume before graduation (although I do currently have a handful of movement-heavy projects on my resume). I don't know where to look for dance SM jobs -- offstagejobs, leagueofchicagotheatres, and playbill don't seem to have much. I'd be interested in applying to season-long/year-long apprenticeships in order to stock up on dance experience and get the dance education I haven't even thought about getting throughout college, but I honestly just don't know what's out there. I've spent the past few years preparing to go out into the world of traditional theatre, and although I'm excited and confident about switching my focus to the world of dance, I'm also feeling a little bit out of my depth since this is such a new plan for me. I do have one connection in the Chicago dance community (a friend who's a successful LD just a few years out of college), and I'll be shadowing a dance festival's tech this weekend and presumably learning more then, but that's really the only resource I have, and graduation is fast approaching...


Where do I look for jobs? Where do I look for apprenticeships? When I apply for things, how do I make up for the fact that I'm relatively new to this career path and don't have straightforward dance on my resume? Is it a major problem that I don't actually know very much about dance (don't tend to go to dance performances (although I'm trying to change that), don't really know technical dance terms), and if so what can I do to fix that? Any advice pertaining to entering the world of dance stage management would be very, very welcome -- especially if said advice comes in the form of apprenticeships that I should look into!

(In case it's relevant/helpful information -- I'm currently attending school in Chicago, but am originally from NYC and have spent the last few summers working there, so most of my traditional theatre connections are actually in NYC.)

Thanks so much!

Employment / Re: How far are you willing to travel?
« on: Jun 24, 2016, 06:28 pm »
Unfortunately at this point I have to be willing to travel a good 90 minutes -- but it's all on public transportation, which definitely makes that better. I go to school on the South Side of Chicago and most theaters are on the other side of the city at least an hour away, which is rough with a student's schedule but the way things are right now. When I'm in NYC during the summer, I'm lucky enough to live within 30 minutes of a lot of theaters/rehearsal studios (and can often walk), but if I come back after graduation I'll live at least 45 minutes away. I think most people have a higher tolerance for traveling via subway/bus than via a car they're driving, though; I'm not sure how far I'd be willing to travel if I had to drive.

I definitely agree that it's hard for SMs, of all people, to have long commutes though -- I don't mind mine very much, but I do find myself spending $2.75 to take the subway home at the end of a long day instead of walking 25 minutes.

Introductions / officially saying hello!
« on: Jun 22, 2016, 06:57 pm »
Hi everyone! I'm Natalie; I've been looking at this website since late high school and have finally decided to de-lurk and post an introduction!

I'm about to start my last year of college -- I'm (unfortunately?) not in a conservatory program, nor am I majoring in theater, but I've managed to make stage management my top priority in college nonetheless. I'm in Chicago during the school year, mostly working in my university's theater program with occasional outside work in the city. The past three summers, I've been in NYC doing various summer festivals; I just started rehearsal as the 2nd ASM for my 2nd NYMF show.

In terms of SM stories...I SM'd Noises Off in May, which sort of speaks for itself! Some ridiculous/hellish moments include drawing our first blood of Q2Q within 26 minutes, the actor whose character isn't supposed to lose a contact losing a contact during the run, an actor accidentally falling into the audience, and so much more. But no one was seriously injured and the show was hilarious, so I'm counting it as a successful (and stressful and enjoyable) experience!

I've got a bit more of a PSM mindset than an ASM mindset -- I love the birds-eye view of every aspect of the production, and I love facilitating the work of directors and designers. I also love Q2Q and calling. But any position on an SM team is my happy place, and I'm looking forward to spending more time backstage as I graduate college and go into the world of ASMing!

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