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Messages - BayAreaSM

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One thing I've noticed that's different with a ballet company (or at least this one) is the SM does nothing if a dancer is injured.  I saw someone sprain their ankle during final dress (with an audience) and the maestro briefly paused to give two other dancers time to get her off stage and into the arms of the PT.  Then, without the SM saying a word to facilitate this, another dancer immediately stepped on stage and finished the solo instead.  This allowed everyone to move on with the show (and the cues remained unchanged), and the new dancer received a modest round of applause.  I was in awe of how normal all of this seemed to everyone!

Not entirely true...perhaps it is in that company. Because dance is different than theater and the artistic director/choreographer stays through the run of the production (which is 1 to 3 weeks), it is up to artistic to correct the casting. When a dancer gets injured, while I'm calling the show, I text artistic about the problem and what they want done. I have time stamps in my cue sheet to say when that role needs to re-enter, my staff notifies wardrobe and hair and we wait for artistic. If artistic doesn't respond, I make the decision. And I always fill out Workers' Comp paperwork for injuries.

My very first season, as an ASM, a dancer came offstage injured. I helped him get to the floor, got him a pillow and we paged for the doctor. I knew that he had to go out and hold a maypole for the finale and I told another dancer, who was in the wrong costume (he had been on earlier in the piece) what to do and he did it. It may have looked odd visually, but that's what happens.

And maybe my company is the odd one, but I always take care of my injured dancers. I had a dancer dislocate his hip during a very contortionistic piece, which ended in a black out. It was my job to tell the PSM when he was standing for bows, and when he didn't, I told the PSM to call in the main and I ran out and carried the dancer offstage.

But, yes, dance companies have multiple casts for each role, termed "responsibilities". If someone goes down, and you're responsible for that role, you go in. Unfortunately the smaller the company is, it creates what we lovingly call "the domino effect". As someone gets injured, you end up having to cut roles because you just don't have enough covers/responsible dancers.

The Green Room / Re: Maternity Leave
« on: Feb 25, 2016, 01:19 am »

When I had my baby I was also a resident SM, with a season-long contract and not covered by the union. I worked in ballet, and had my own office and wasn't in rehearsal all the time.

For myself, I planned my little one for the off season. My last day of work was May 11, he was born on June 8 and I returned to work on August 20. As far as "maternity leave" - I was unemployed, but collecting disability, per California state law. Not sure how that would have worked with my company, if I had him during the season. Our dancers are permitted 1 year of unpaid leave with a guarantee to return to the company after that year. There is no language about staff maternity leave in our staff handbook.

I was able to bring him with me 2-3 days a week (we only work 5 days a week). Two days he was with a nanny at our home and sometimes my husband would stay home on Fridays. Family stayed with us during performances, and eventually around the 9 month mark, it got too hard to keep my son at the office. Thankfully it was near the end of the season and we worked something out (I can't remember what).

So, as far as what made me decide how long to take - it was when my contract started up. I was extremely dedicated to that company and just made it work. In hindsight, I probably should've taken more time. You are going to be the only person to decide what is best for you, and you probably aren't going to know until you've had the baby. Trust your instincts and your body - and enjoy the little one while you can. I can't believe mine is almost 4!

Introductions / Re: The Ol' Camera Flash Trick
« on: Feb 24, 2016, 12:43 pm »
Welcome, Harry!

I've heard about the camera flash trick before, but had long forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Keeping Spike tape down...
« on: Feb 22, 2016, 01:49 pm »
Clear packing tape works wonders! No residue or anything and it has always stayed down for me. I usually put it down the first day of tech week just in case the director makes any changes.

I would be careful when working in outdoor theater. Clear packing tape will leave a residue and sometimes will melt into the deck.

Stage Management: Other / Re: Pregnant Actress
« on: Feb 08, 2016, 07:18 pm »
As others have said, she's the best judge of her own body. Most women, if they are physically active prior to pregnancy, can endure the same level of activity during pregnancy (speaking as a woman who has been pregnant).

Heck, I have a friend who is a fight instructor in broadsword and hand to hand combat and was teaching her classes, full out, at 38 weeks. If she can handle it now, she will be the best person to judge how she can handle it later. I've also had ballet dancers performing up to 5 months pregnant, which is a lot more physical than most acting gigs.

But the trash can tip is a good one, and just check in to see if she needs you to stash crackers or water backstage for her, in case she needs a little tummy help.

At this stage in pregnancy, she's not going to be running to the bathroom every 15 minutes nor will she really be showing until a little after 3 months. However, it would be best to avoid someone hitting her in the abdomen or making her lay on her back for extended periods of time. But she's going to know that based on discussions with her doctor and can have that private discussion with the director (if blocking needs to be altered).

Introductions / Re: Guten Tag Yall!
« on: Jan 17, 2016, 01:08 am »
Hey Tony! Glad to see you on here. I do have an opening for ALICE (in Wonderland) or the school's show, if you're interested in coming back to the ballet.

Lemme know.

Introductions / Re: Yello!
« on: Jan 05, 2016, 10:22 pm »
Welcome, Betsy! Be sure to check out the Regional boards for tips for Boston and Toronto.

Best wishes!

Tools of the Trade / Re: Prop cards
« on: Dec 28, 2015, 05:49 pm »
Maribeth - I've also found using any soft, rollable table cover is good for this, with the added benefit that you can't lose a single card.

True- I actually haven't ever used them on a show that had to be completely packed up each night.

When performing in Rep with rolling prop boxes, we cut shelf liner and labeled the 2nd show's prop box layout on that, so that it could lay over our the 1st shows layout (and the 1st show had to pack up all it's props). Using the material for a table cover is helpful, granted that you always get roughly the same sized table. This isn't always the case, either due to what is available or the amount of physical space backstage. The cards sound like a great idea when going on tour when you don't know what you're going to get!

Having a CD version of music is ideal - always have a backup. We had a performance of a world premiere ballet that had a 2 piece band in the pit (guitar & various percussion) and a drum track on the guitarist's laptop. When the laptop crashed it was at a point where most of the music came from the drum track. The dancers and crew snapped their fingers to the beat and kept everyone going until the guitarist got the music cued up.

Our case was a rare one, where we actually had time code running on the backdrop as part of the design, so the guitarist could cue up his track to exactly where it needed to be, and I knew what was going on because I had a camera focused on him in the pit. Needless to say we made him give us a CD of his drum track after that performance and stopped the use of his laptop.

If you don't have CD back up, then I would do 1 of 2 things - if you think it's going to take more than 2 minutes to fix, bring in the Main, explain over the God Mic that you are having technical difficulties and that the show will resume in X minutes and bring up the house lights. If you can get it done in less than 2 minutes, bring in the Main, glow the house and explain that the program will resume shortly and thank them for their patience. Make sure your ASM or someone on the deck can relay to your dancers exactly where we are picking up from.

We had issues with pressurization during our recent production of The Nutcracker, causing a downstage scrim to get caught under a system pipe, forcing me to bring the Main in, explain over the God mic that we would resume shortly, and fix the problem. This happened twice during this run and in my 13 years, it's the only time I've ever had to restart a show due to technical issues. The audience will understand, as long as you tell them what is going on and don't make them wait in their seats too long. If you can get it resolved in 10-12 minutes at the most, it's better than giving refunds.

The Hardline / Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« on: Sep 24, 2015, 11:11 am »
AGMA is union protection, and they will want you to be paid at least the minimum of what you should be paid. AGMA would be your voice and will demand a raise during theater weeks, health insurance, benefits and put limits your work hours - or at least be the one to say when OT kicks in. It can also say that the ASM is required to be AGMA and must be there season long. (Granted, all of this has to be agreed to by both parties during contract negotiations.)

Because you are in the same situation as I am, not only working as a SM, but also as a Company Manager, having restrictions on your hours is difficult for the company. Also, the company may not want to have what they consider a regular company position to have fluctuating pay. I personally have not joined because I do more than SM and I feel that AGMA can't protect me (and it would hinder me from doing my job). However, if I was working for a company that only wanted me to do SM work, then I would totally join AGMA to be protected within the scope of my job duties.

The Hardline / Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« on: Sep 24, 2015, 01:13 am »
I work seasonally - from September 1 through June 6.

As I said before, I just got my ASM to be season-long this year. For the past 6 years my assistant has only been on a per-show basis.

As I said before, I've only had a company manager for 1 of my 13 seasons. We haven't had one in over 3 years, as I perform some CM duties.

Mostly clean up and paperwork turn over (schedules, sign in). We both work the same number of hours, I just cover the morning and she covers the evening. I have a son and like to leave as close to 5:30pm as possible, when it's possible.

I don't have an e-copy of my contract to send. Like I said before, it outlines dates of work, who I report to, my salary, insurance/benefits and termination language. There isn't anything else. If you want, I can type up a template of mine, and leave all of my personal info off, if that's what you're asking for.

The Hardline / Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« on: Sep 23, 2015, 03:03 am »
I've been with my company going on my 13th season, and I'll say the struggle is universal when trying to convince your management when you really need an ASM season-long. It's been a fight I've been fighting for 6 years and finally won. For some quick answers to your questions:

The SM Team at our company is not AGMA, but our dancers are. This is my personal choice, as my job, like yours, encompasses more than just SM work.

I didn't always have a contract - my first two season with the company were verbal agreements. My contracts now are very slim and list dates, compensation, who my boss is, insurance/benefits and termination (by either party) language.

The hours I work match the dancer's hours. Because they are AGMA, our specific company contract states that they rehearse Monday-Friday 11:10am-1:30pm and 2:30pm-5:30pm, with an optional class from 9:30am-11am. So I work Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:30pm. (My ASM works 10am-6pm.) Tech and performances are just that - you work 12 hours+ every day because that's what the schedule is. Every AGMA company has different hours, so it's hard to compare. Granted, the AGMA dancers get a 30% pay increase during theater weeks and I don't. But neither does anyone else at my company. (I also put in hours at home in the evenings and on weekends, if I feel I am behind - but I don't really factor that in.)

When I first started there was myself (the ASM) and a PSM. There was a "TD" but he lived across the US and we only saw him for tech/load-in. In recent years I've taken on aspects of CM work, I am the PSM now, I have a season-long ASM, a PA that comes on 1-2 weeks before a show and a year-round Director of Production (who works on my floor). This company I work for has been large (in they heyday of the arts in the 80's they had a full time 4 person SM team), shrunken down, and is only now on a very slow upswing. It really depends on the financial stability of your company. (And since I joined, there was a Company Manager for 1 season of my 13 season career.)

As far as pay, I think you need to look at the hours you work and how much you value your time, and compare against others in your area in similar work. Using AEA is a good reference. Right now I'm arguing for my ASM to have a higher salary, and I use our own dancer's salaries as comparison.

For 12 years I was paid weekly with the dancers, but management decided to change that recently, so I am bi-monthly - and salary. It still makes it odd, as they have to figure out my salary to a daily rate when I work less than a regular pay period at the end of my season. One would think it would've been easier to keep me weekly, but I don't do payroll.

Overtime can be tricky - if you're hourly, then it's easy. I am salary and always have been. However, I've gotten into discussions lately and management has agreed - if I have to do something that has nothing to do with my regular SM job, it creates the need for me to come to work when it is not my regular working schedule (aka, when dancers are not present), and I can't swap out time with my regular work, then an hourly OT rate is created (based on my salary).

By swapping out time, I mean treating it like "Flex Time." When we hold an audition on the weekend, I come in early to prep the building, run registration but once the audition gets started, I have to wait 2 hours until it's over to close down the building. During those 2 hours I can work on my SM paperwork, etc. So I treat that time as flex time and take it off during the work week (making sure my ASM can fly solo without any issues). On the weekend, if I have to run a supernumerary rehearsal or come speak to parents at our ballet school, that means I can't work on my own work during that time, so I get paid OT. Of course, this is an agreement I have with my management. Figuring out OT needs to be discussed when a contract/agreement is made between you and management - because an OT causing event should be something not normally part of your job duties, or outside your regular work schedule. (So be careful what you agree is "your job.")

If you want me to elaborate more, just send me a PM.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Clock for Backstage Tracks
« on: Sep 01, 2015, 11:12 pm »
My former Props Master used to set up a digital clock backstage right on his prop table (since he always worked on right), and he would set it himself with the downbeat. After he left, no one else did this. As Maribeth said, most of my current crew either set a stopwatch or use the stopwatch setting on their phones or wrist watches.

I think the problem with a fixed clock is that it's only in one place - so only one side of the stage sees it, and depending on where it is located on that side, even fewer people may be able to see it. Just easier for crew members to take care of themselves, or ask a member of Stage Management how long until the next cue.

The Green Room / Re: Patrons behaving badly
« on: Aug 24, 2015, 01:42 pm »
Working for a Bach Festival over the summer, patrons at times just walk backstage (via our glass hallway) from the parking lot. We post a large sign right in front of the doors that says "Participants Only" and there is a sign on the door itself that says "Authorized Personnel Only." My office is linked to this glass hallway and I tend to catch those that start to walk towards the doors so that I can redirect them. This generally works, but...

I was very focused on my work and a couple walked down the glass hallway towards my office, I hopped out to ask if I could help them. They said, "Oh, we know where we're going" and proceeded to walk towards the doors to Stage Right. I kept trying to stop them, "You're backstage, you need to leave" -  but they just kept going. Finally I had to raise my voice at the husband when he walked into the wings to make him to come back and exit the theater. He said, "I know where I'm going - I'm going to the lecture, I just wanted to take a different route." For some reason, that route was on stage, which is no where remotely close to the basement where the lectures are held.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Is it a norm?
« on: Aug 24, 2015, 01:04 pm »
As Kay said, there is no "norm" for what you are asking about. It can be dependent on the company, the venue and the SM. Depending on who I'm working with, and whether I'm in the booth or backstage, will determine whether or not I need to or even if I can physically get to my ASM to check in with them.

If you feel like you would want the SM to check in with you, or you feel as though you're not being supported, you could try to grab the SM for a few minutes after the show to talk about it. There are some SMs out there that may not be of the mind to check in on crew for one of several reasons

1) they think the ASM is experienced enough and/or they don't want someone looking over their shoulder
2) they need to stay in the booth to keep themselves focused
3) they simply haven't thought about checking in with the ASM

When I was a PA, due to the venue and my intermission track, my SMs almost never came backstage. It was an outdoor amphitheater and the SM's goal was to beat the audience to the restroom, grab something to drink then get back to the booth. We had headsets, but while I was onstage doing an intermission shift in costume, it was requested (at times) that I didn't wear it. Once my shift was complete, I always checked back in over comm.

I will say, as a SM in that same venue, I did check in with my PA to see if they ever needed help with preset or intermission shifts, and if so, I found a way to work it into my day. But not everyone thinks that way, sometimes that kind of attention is intuitive and sometimes it has to be learned.

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