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Messages - TechBoothPhantom

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Self-Promotion / Kentucky Shakespeare Festival 2016
« on: Apr 03, 2016, 12:26 pm »
The oldest free Shakespeare festival in the country is coming up soon!  We open our first show of the summer (The Two Gentlemen of Verona) June 1st; second show (The Winter's Tale) June 16th; third show (Romeo and Juliet) June 30th.  Every Saturday night in June will also include an improv show by The Louisville Improvisers.  Our Shakespeare performances run through July, culminating in the Bard-a-Thon--a marathon day of all three shows back to back with preshow entertainment between each one.  That's a crazy day, our crew likens it to going into battle.

After the Bard-a-Thon, we open our Globe Players' As You Like It, which runs for a week, and later share the stage with our community partners.  In August, we'll team up with Center Stage to run West Side Story for a week, and then our partnership with the Louisville Ballet will feature Shakespeare in Dance, choreographed by Roger Creel and featuring two of our summer actors and eight ballet dancers.  Can't wait to see this happen on our outdoor raked deck....

Preshow performances from local talent every night, bar and food trucks on-site, and there are no tickets because every show is free!  Come see us at Central Park in Louisville, KY!

[Thanks for letting me shamelessly plug.  We're a proud bunch.]

Tools of the Trade / Re: Stopwatch recommendations?
« on: Mar 24, 2016, 10:59 pm »
Similar to Maribeth mine doesn't beep, and it also has a tally counter (to make quick work of double checking large opera chorus scenes)

I've been shopping around on Amazon for a new stopwatch, and I was trying to decide between this one and another.  I stumbled upon this one at Walmart, so I went ahead and grabbed it.  It's pretty great!  I love the tally feature, very helpful for counting attendance/places quickly.

I thought I would touch on this because I'm a big proponent on keeping the attitude professional, even in a university setting.  On the first day, I include in the welcome packet the Actor Etiquette sheet.  It includes reminders about the following:

Receiving (and never giving) Notes
Costume Fittings (ie, how to relay your concerns about movement without telling the costumer how to do their job)
Quiet in the Wings!
Tech Rehearsals
Half-Hour (aka, the SM sets the call for performances and you should welcome your time in the theatre, not bargain for less)
Ad Libs and Changes to the Script
Maintaining a Performance (ie, how to receive notes from the SM)
Respect (for each other, the team, and the space)

After briefly elaborating on each topic, I include a quote from the show that fits the topic (for Props in Hamlet, for example, it was "Neither a borrower nor a lender be") to lighten the message.  It seems to have gone over well every time I use it.  The key is to be concise and clear - it shouldn't take more than a page to get the message across, or nobody will read it!  (People might not read it anyway, which is why it's important to actually talk about the big things like safety and health, etc.)

Tools of the Trade / Re: Stage Management Software
« on: Mar 14, 2016, 01:39 pm »
I think cloud-based programs are a little heavy for everyone in a production team and cast to keep up with.  I have only ever heard "VirtualCallboard" mentioned by people who were complaining about being forced to use VirtualCallboard.  Sometimes simplicity works best, and a well-organized inbox and file system can make all the difference.

That being said, I wouldn't discourage anyone from using email-based services like Mixmax (and extensions like it) to enhance their communication and smooth out the scheduling process.  If you need to schedule a lot of fittings or meetings, Mixmax is a program that will let you send out an email with "Appointment/Availability Slots" built right in.  Your recipients select the time(s) that work best for them, and you can schedule a meeting in just one email exchange.  Your cast can select a fitting time and even request to reschedule if it doesn't work out for them later on.  Automatic emails can follow up with people later to remind them of a fitting/meeting.

Mixmax has some great email- and calendar-based features that I recommend implementing if you want to augment (not revamp) what you're already doing.  The pricing ranges from free to $50/month (I use the free services).

Stage Management: Plays & Musicals / Re: CALLING: calling cues
« on: Feb 29, 2016, 03:56 pm »
I've recently taken over running the sound cues for my resident SM position; it started as a situation in which we couldn't 100% trust the sound op to run mics and run QLab at the same time, so I took over QLab through necessity.  Now it's a regular thing.  I gotta say, I prefer running lights rather than sound (I can feel the timing of a light cue better but sound tends to be pretty steady in its timing).  But with the number of FX deployed through the light board, it's more realistic if we use a separate light op for the Ion board and myself for QLab.

That being said, with my attention on QLab, I've found that writing my cues in my book in a way that suggests how it's pronounced really frees up my mind during the show.  I now use LTS instead of LX or LQ, because I say "Lights # GO" and that's what it looks like on the page.

STBY  ("Standby ___")
LTS 4  ("Lights 4, GO!")
SQ J  (I don't have to call this so I write it as clearly/efficiently as possible)
FX [Name/#] ("FX Flash, GO!" or "Fog 1, GO!")
RL [Name/#] ("Rail 1, GO!" or "Main, GO!" depending on what my flymen prefer)
DK 3 ("Deck Shift 3, GO!" or "Shift 3, GO!" depending on what's preferred)

The last three (FX, RL, DK) are always preceded by a STBY with more detail, so everyone is on the same page.  The GO cue should be clear and simple, as clutter-free as possible.  The only way I deviate is in writing my cues as they're pronounced, so I don't have to translate as I'm calling.

I'm interested in going into dance stage management, as my mentor (I used to call her my college mentor but I've followed her around in the years after graduation too so I guess now she's my life mentor) is a predominantly ballet SM and she makes it look incredibly fun.  She's calm and relaxed about the whole process; she takes everything in stride and moves along like a pro.  She makes it look easy!  (When of course I know it isn't.)  She also recommends using the "make up your own blocking notes" method; she types up an easy-to-read script based on the blocking, with time stamps, and writes cues into it.  I'm used to huge binders full of notes, script changes, company information, etc., but she just uses a little half-inch binder with a fabricated script, some important information about the show, and contact information.

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!

Stage Management: Other / Re: Opera tips
« on: Feb 25, 2016, 09:18 pm »
Whew, I just finished my first full season with an opera company and I would have loved this thread last summer, when I was preparing for my new contract.  Not that I don't love it's solidifying everything I learned this year, and I have a lead on cheap lozenges for next year!

I came into this ASM contract with very very very little knowledge of reading music.  I can follow it, but I'm certainly not proficient at finding where we are if I miss where we're picking up from.  When I'm in production, I practice every day at home with my score and a recording; I practice the entrance cues I have and make sure I can call a potential cue on any measure at all.  Sometimes I write notes to myself in my score ("listen for the bass" or "faster than you think!" or just circling a pattern in a measure that is easier to identify than anything else going on).  I've also found that learning about the composer helps me pick up on musical themes, but that's a longer, on-going process.

7 months later, I'm finishing up my contract with a bit more confidence in what it takes to be a part of an opera, and a whole lot of respect for those who have successfully made the transition from theatre to opera.

Introductions / Aren't you the one who did the thing...?
« on: Feb 23, 2016, 01:36 am »
I'm Mo, a stage manager from Louisville, and I'm incredibly lucky to be able to work professionally in both theatre and opera.  I'm relatively new to opera and looking forward to branching out into other arts that aren't straight theatre.

A tale, a tale, let's see...  Last summer I SMed a park production of The Tempest, in which our Ariel flew.  Prospero uses Ariel to seek vengeance on the clowns by sending her island spirits to chase them down in the form of wild hounds.  We choreographed a fast-paced, wide-reaching chase scene that was meant to help us transition into the next scene.  Well, shortly after Ariel's latest flight, a fly op accidentally let go of one of the flight cables.  As was explained to us, if you let go of both cables, they zip up into the system and have to be manually reset.  But nobody said anything about what happens if you let go of just one cable.  Turns out, the single cable zips up into the air, the hook on the end prevents it from escaping the pulley, and the slack remains draped dramatically across the entire width of the stage.  Not enough slack to step over it, too much to be able to use the stage.

This happened just 60 seconds before Prospero sent the hounds out.  I told my ASM and deck supervisor to stand by to go on stage and gather up the slack.  I waited for the hounds to chase the clowns off stage right, waited for Prospero to finish his monologue on the above, then delayed the sound cue just slightly to give them enough time to get on stage and gather up the cable.  In that time, the actors decided to enter on the other side anyway (as they're blocked to do--but with a sound effect of barking dogs to cue them on), and they suddenly ran into two technicians on stage even as the fairy-hounds began to catch up behind them.  There was a huge moment when the technicians looked at the actors, unsure of what to do, and the actors reacted to the technicians, not knowing what was going on but staying in character anyway.  Then the hounds caught up and our black-garbed heroes lifted the cable above everyone's heads so they could carry on the chase safely.  They hid in the inner-below and held the cable up through the rest of the show (about 5 minutes).

A legendary performance by our actors (and techs!), I'm almost sad it never happened again.

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