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Messages - Mac Calder

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SMNetwork Archives / Software that needs to exist!
« on: May 19, 2005, 05:41 am »
That software would be relatively useless I am afraid, unless you have a tablet PC, especially for blocking.

A person with a pen is always faster than with a mouse. add onto that multiple actors, you would have to click on the pallet which actor is about to move, click on the word, click on the end point, insert the path... estimated time, 30s - enough for the other 4 primaries (or whatever) to have moved 5 times each. It would be no quicker than a pen on a tablet pc.

I am currently developing a SM paperwork system which can be used for cue extractions and synopsis' (basically a running sheet of a single departments cues), contact lists, rehearsal reports and a number of other things, which I will (hopefully) have a partialy functioning demo up for trial in a few days. It is more intended for the theatre company to have on their web server, but it could easily run on the SM's PC or laptop. Everything is published in PDF format, and will (eventually) have a 'fronte end' site that actors can log into to get anything they need, contact lists, rehearsal reports etc or the SM can generate a file then email it to certain groups, or just print it from their pc.

I will post details on that in a separate thread at a later date though.

No, not fired the actor - fired the gun master.

and it was an idiot gunmaster who replaced him, who should have had his licence removed - and criminal charges filed IMO.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / new play!
« on: May 11, 2005, 09:44 pm »
The playwrites approval does not matter - once the playwrite has written it, their job is done.  They need to understand that - and as a stage manager, it is your job to lay out the law before hand.

The playwrite is a valuable resource. Sure. But they sit up the back and observe and should really only inject their 'wisdom' in the first few rehearsals - ie informing the cast of the motive behind each of their charactors etc.

The production I just finished had the playwrite working as tech director on the show, it went supurbly well because she knew her place was no longer in the creative area - although both her and I were disapointed that one scene was cut - a scene involving the combustion of a donkey piniata (they would not even let us do it off stage with lights and sounds :-( - but we made up for that in the after party... poor prop donkey burnt for an hour... Damn risk asessments.

Some places (I know australia does), has very tight legislation on anything which RESEMBLES a real gun (ie anything not plastic that fires 'caps').

In Au, you would be required to have a licence for the gun and it must be stored according to gun legislation - IIRC that means the blanks stored in a separate LOCKED container to the gun, which is in a LOCKED gun cabinet.

In cases like this, the whole keeping it at home thing would not work - unless you have a gun locker?

Notifying the constabulary is a must, as others have said.

Ammunition counts before and after the show, very important. Guns are to be loaded with the exact number of shots required, no more, no less, and are to be handed to the actor with safetys on, loaded whilst in their hand.

I make sure I have a guns master, or a dedicated ASM with basic training, give them a clipboard, and we have sign out forms for the guns. The guns master signs the form when he removes it from the locker, the form has a basic safety check list, as well as a listing of what it is loaded with, it also states his responsibility for the fire arm. Just before the actor enters, he signs the receipt of the gun.

When it returns, the GM signs to say it has been returned, with no bullets in the chamber, and that it has been returned to the locker.

Before the show, another form is filled out by myself and the GM, together. We initial beside each weapons details, enter the count of munition, and sign, along with carrying out a basic safety check on each weapon, and check to make sure that all munition is blanks. This procedure is also carried out after the show, on the same sheet, signed a second time, and placed in my prompt copy.

I worked with one GM who would always say "Gun is ready, with x shots, to be returned empty at the end of this scene. Acknowledge." When I have been in charge of distribution of weaponry, I use much the same phrase, and make sure the actor acknowledges.

Many GM will ask to have a list of when and where a weapon is to be used, and will only release it just prior to the entry of that actor.

Some will also insist on the actor carrying a non-working model during scenes where it is not needed - a good practice if your budget can afford it.

It is also essential that you make sure that EVERYONE follows the instructions of a GM - where weaponry is concerned, they are above EVERYONE. I had a director who wanted to have a suicide shot fired, gun to the temple. The GM said no. The director complained and got a new GM who was open to the idea (and I don't think trained). The director is no longer permitted to work in this theatre. The actor who did the scene lost 10% of his hearing. The new GM I have not seen again. The show stopped after the first night as the actor refused to work with the theatre again.

Just because it is a prop does not make it safe. As SM, it is your duty to ensure that things are as safe as possible. If you have to use a fake gun and a sound effect to make it safe, do it.

The Green Room / Food
« on: May 05, 2005, 12:42 am »
I am a uni student and a SM/Light Designer/Sound Op/Sound Designer/Light Op, so being full time and having one or two shows on the go at once means I will often leave at 7am and get home at 3 or 4am... god I am pleasent in those 8am tutes!!!

I have found the BEST thing in the world is home done air popped popcorn. There is no butter, so there is no fat. 1 cup makes a hell of a lot, it is uber cheap, has substance, and takes two minutes. For AU$30 (read: Jack all for anyone outside of AU) I purchased an air popper and about 10 100g bags of popping corn.
That will last months, and popping corn is like AU$0.6 for a hundred g.

I take a large bowl and put it in the middle of the production desk - this takes me up a notch with the directors and cast. I love using spices, so I experiment with the popcorn's flavour, using a number of spices, and a light spray of "Pure and Simple" (that cooking spray that stops things sticking, or rather assists the spices to stick). Low fat, high taste, and just enough to get me through the rehearsals.

When it comes to meals - Snitzel ?sp? - cook it the night before, and refridgerate. Cut into strips, shove it in some pittabread with mayo and letuce, wrap and keep cold (although it is still edible after 8hrs in the car without refridgeration, it is not advisable)

Anything that can be reheated quickly - ie I used to take hotdogs (Aussie hotdogs (Frankfurts), not sausages) and place them in a bowl with boiling water for a few minutes then eat with bread.

Stews, anything.

During tech week, I live on cheese rolls, fruit and vegetables. Then I make sure I have meat for breakfast.

SMNetwork Archives / Emergency Forms
« on: May 05, 2005, 12:23 am »
Here is a rough text version of my medical sectionthat will give anyone an idea of what I ask for - the first day is actually 4 pages requesting a variety of things, including approximate sizes for costumes and a listing of grievences.
Code: [Select]

Surname: ________________  First name:_______________ Initials:____
Phone Number: (__)___________
Mobile Number: (__)___________
Email Address: ___________@______________
Home Address:___________________________
Date Of Birth: __/__/19__

Information provided below is strictly confidential, and will be destroyed on closing night. This information will not be shared, except in an emergancy, and then only with trained medical professionals.

Do you suffer from any of the following (Please circle)

Allergies      Eppilepsy     Asthma     Diabetes     Heart disease


Symptoms of an eppisode:_____________________________

Course of action to be taken: ___________________________

Please circle any of the following that apply to you:

Vegetarian    Lactose intolerant    Food alergies (please list)


Prefered Doctor: ______________________________________
Contact Number: ______________________________________

Emerganct contact (this information is required for consent to medical
treatment in cases where you are unable to give consent)

Name: ________________
Home Phone: (__)_________________
Work Phone: (__)_________________
Mobile: (__)___________________

If the above mentioned person is unreachable, if you wish for STAGE MANAGERS NAME to be allowed to give consent, please sign the statement below:

I _____________ give consent for STAGE MANAGERS NAME to give consent for any treatments of a medical nature to be carried out upon my personage whilst I am employed by the COMPANY NAME for the production of PRODUCTION NAME, should I not be able to give consent, and the above mentioned person be un-reachable. I understand that STAGE MANAGERS NAME will act according to any wishes I have expressed to him/her in relation to this course of action.


[i]This form is highly confidential and will be destroyed after the production has finished. All fields on this form in the medical section are optional. STAGE MANAGERS NAME will not show this form in any way or use it's contents in a negative fasion. We suggest that all members of the cast and crew fill this form out to the best of their knowledge.[/i]

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Leaving the booth (part 2)
« on: May 03, 2005, 01:05 am »
Re the first aid thing:

I have all cast and crew submit a CONFIDENTIAL Emergency Medical form which is destroyed on closing night (I have my first aid cert.) with a section "Course of action during such event" section. Then if I have people in the cast with such things as eppilepsy, diabetes etc, I talk to them individually and say something like "During the second rehearsal, I am going to do a basic 10 minute crash course on things that could go wrong medically and how the first on the scene should deal with it. You mentioned you had xxx, and I felt that it may be suitable to bring up what to do in case something does happen. I will not mention you by name, there are others who also suffer from it, is that okay with you?"

Upon getting the Okay from them, I then inform my cast of what to do in an emergancy - ie not to stuff something down their throat if they are fitting so that they don't swallow their tongue - how many times must people be told that they are more likely to choke on the  rag or whatever, than to choke on their tongue!

I also tell them where a quick sugar source can be found - this I find is essential even if there are no diabetics, where water is, where ice packs are, bandaids etc. then I tell them "If there is something whichyou cannot deal with, notify me imediatly, either over cans, or come to the booth. Do not call an ambulance"

The reason I do this is many places, ie where I am, have special access requirements - ie to get an ambulance right up to the door, security is rung using 333 on an internal phone instead of 000 (the national emergancy number) and they call the ambulance, remove the pylons blocking access and wave the ambulance through to the right place. I may also be able to page a doctor (as we ask anyone who may be needed to be contacted in emergancy get their staff to ring me in the bio box instead of having their mobiles on, and we can get them by paging them, or via the FOH staff)

I don't leave the booth in these cases -  the only phone that will reach security is in the booth. The only number I can be contacted on is in the booth. In cases where I may be needed to assist with stabalising, I will get my LX, Sound Op or other person in the booth to 'take the wheel' whilst I run back stage. Currently if I have to do that, it takes me 2 minutes without interupting the audience (leave through the external door of the bio box, run down a flight of stairs, run arround the theatre, and into the back stage workshop) , or 20 seconds if I do - down a spiral staircase, across the stage.

Developing an emergancy plan is essential. Usually if there is a dimmer fire or something like that the LX op can run and do that, and I can press the go button. If someone leaves something back stage and it is needed, I have full confidence in my ASM who is back there.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Backstage or Booth?
« on: May 03, 2005, 12:39 am »
Where I currently do AM Theatre, the Bio Box (aka 'booth') is actually a balcony above where the audience sit - approx. 2 feet at most. The threatre is black box.

The balcony is in blacks to a height of 4 feet, and our current show has the set rotated 90 degrees, so the set goes right to where the balcony ends - we also have no use of the far half of the bio box due to a bunch of crash mats being placed there for an actor to jump over the balcony from the scaf tower - That is a frustrating show to take visuals from.

I am sound op for the show, and cannot see the MOST important visual cue - a radio being switched on - and apparently the blues in the bio box illuminate me too much if I stand to take the cue, so our SM slipps off of his chair, as does the lighting op (due to the daisy chaining of our cans, I am closest in the chain to the base station, then comes the SM with a huge lead between the two of us, then the LX OP), crawls over the crash mats to the far corner, and gives the visual from there, then crawls back quickly as there are 3 lighting  and sound cues comming up. We have an ASM back stage, but the set obscewers her view of the stage, so she cannot call it, and she is rarely on cans anyway - our method of calling her is to repeatedly press the flash button. In cases like that, getting the tech director who comes to each performance on cans would be ideal - but we don't have enough cans to go arround.

Then of course due to the lack of separation between us and the audience, all calling over cans is given in a really low whisper - so volume up high. We are even loath to turn pages as the crackel can be heard. Add to that the ammount of hiss due to cabling and of course the fact that no one in the audience seems to listen to our FOH managers pre-show of "Please ensure your mobiles are turned off, not just on silent as the signals from your phone interfear with some of our more sensitive equiptment", each night kills the ears of everyone on cans.

Some times there is no way to make good of a bad situation, all you can do is evaluate your situation as the show progresses, and change as necesarry.

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Intro's and Question's :)
« on: May 02, 2005, 11:23 pm »
Re Role Blurring: I try to minimise it - If I have a set designer/construction team, the buck stops with them - if they asked my ASM to help put up a pannel or something in the set, and that pannel falls down - it is the set designers/construction teams fault, not the ASM - The whole purpose of having people in charge of things is so that the buck stops - As a general rule, it stops with the stage manager.

I am in the middle of working on a show (as sound op, they already had an SM, the brother of the play write with no experiance or training ARGH).

The Production manager had been SM'ing for a while - the lack of clearly defined roles has lead to the SM being utterly incompetent, to such an extent that pre-show, the playwrite (who has been at every show so far) has had to say "Have you made sure the stage is set for act 1" etc etc.  Had the PM and SM had their roles defined at the onset, our SM would have known his roles, would have gone through every stage of the production and had an idea how to do his job. Actually, if they had given the SM some guidence it would have also lead to him calling the show correctly as well, instead of me saying over the cans "Do you want Sound x to go with that LX cue?" or him calling over the cans "Sound 1 Standby" GRRR - InMyNotSoHumbleOpinion if a cue is not prefixed by a 'code word' it is a warning of imenent go, and the fact that he calls his goes straight away, usually late, means that everyone has to pre-empt his calls.

That's another interesting topic that could be discussed - SM's in other roles - how often do you want to stand up and shout "NO YOU INCOMPETENT FOOL!!!! " at the other SM.

The Hardline / Pros and Cons of Equity/unions
« on: May 01, 2005, 08:56 pm »
Having worked non union for a while, as well as ameature - I can tell you now - non union can be the pits for SM's -

ie that lighting plot starting at 4pm, after focus, which is scheduled to finish at 7pm, often ends up going till 4am in the morning - now as SM, I ensure I am there from start to finish of that day - and the fact that I have a sound plot the next morning at 7am, means that I drive home from  the theatre, and basically get to bed by 5. Then I have to wake up a 6 to get to the theatre by seven, and what is in my pay cheque - standard 9-5 pay. Sure it evens out a little bit - I may get 9-5 pay for some days where I ONLY do 4 hours in the afternoon - it depends how dedicated you are - I love stage managing, and tech week in general, so I am happy to sleep on the crash mats in the theatre to get the extra 2 hours sleep.  I would break the union rules with the hours I do - currently I do quite a bit of ameature work, which is usually a bit better - they are usually booted out by venue techs at midnight.

One piece of stationary which I love (I bought 500 of them when I found them) and have never found again, which REALLY helps, they are a regular plastic sheet with another stuck to the end, so you end up with one that folds in again (Basicaly A3 in size).

Each of my books has one with the stage (and all abbreviations) on it in the outer pocket at the back.  As I write my stage directions on paper, I also draw the paths etc on an overhead transparancy, which I put in the right pocket as well, giving me an overlay. As it changes I just erase the overhead, and if need be, at a later date I photocopy the transparancys with the stage layout behind it.

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