Author Topic: TECH: First time SMing tech  (Read 1871 times)

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TECH: First time SMing tech
« on: Oct 09, 2018, 09:21 pm »
I've been ASM before but this is my first SM gig so I have a bunch of questions about tech.

1. Can someone walk me through what my role is during a spacing rehearsal?
2. I know I need to do a safety walk of the theater what all should I make sure to point out?
3. Can someone walk me through running a cue to cue/wet tech

Any other advice would be greatly appriciated

Edited to add topic tag- Maribeth
« Last Edit: Oct 16, 2019, 08:12 pm by Maribeth »


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Re: First time SMing tech
« Reply #1 on: Oct 11, 2018, 11:47 am »
Mizi, those are a lot of really big questions, with very long and involved answers, as well as answers that will vary greatly from person to person.
My best suggestion for you is this: find an SM that you know personally and think does good work, and offer to take them out for coffee or a drink to pick their brain. A back and forth conversation is going to serve you FAR better than a couple of quickly jotted off notes on these forums.

That being said, I'll take a stab at question 2. Walk all the backstage paths and look out for anything that could endanger or injure someone moving at speed, in the dark, encumbered, partially blind, backwards, etc. Imagine you are going to let your (or your best friend's) three year old loose to play on the set.
There should be white or glow tape on the edges of all stairs and platforms. Lighting instruments should be well above head height and if that's impossible, the area around them needs to be blocked off, if possible, filled with warnings if not. Are there banisters on stairs, and railing on platforms wherever possible? Any pits need to have their edges blatantly taped, and preferable railed. Trip hazards (cables, scenery jacks, drop pipes) should be clearly marked, again in white or glow tape. All cables should be dressed well out of actor paths. Sharp edges should be padded. Railings anyone might stumble into at speed should be padded. Headstrike dangers should be padded and marked. Make sure there are enough backstage blues that everyone can see everywhere they need to be.  If you have performers whose vision will be impeded (mask, giant wig, etc) you may need to mark out travel paths on the floor.
Then, make sure the first aid kit is easy to access, that there are towels and rags stashed somewhere to clean up unexpected spills (or flooding! my mainstage floods AWFULLY in heavy rain!), and ditto for a broom and dustpan.
Basically, if you see ANYTHING behind or onstage that makes you think for a moment that it could cause danger or injury, and then think, "Nah, it will be fine," you're thinking wrong, and the issue needs to be addressed.
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Re: First time SMing tech
« Reply #2 on: Nov 07, 2018, 03:14 am »
These are things you need to discuss with the director. Most likely they have strong opinions and some of them will be unique.

Make sure you and the director are both on exactly the same page as to how a rehearsal (and show) should be run.

In general though, try to enter any rehearsal with as many notes as possible about everything you can think of. Those notes will start sparse and get more detailed with each rehearsal.

And make sure your sound/light operators have their own copy of the script with just their cues noted down. Ask if they have a pencil/eraser/highlighter/eraser tape. If they don't, be ready to hand those out.

Wherever you can try have everything fully planned out before the rehearsal, and be prepared to make a lot of changes.

I don't think it really matters what type of rehearsal is being run, the basic process doesn't change. All that changes is wether a problem should cause the rehearsal to stop and run it again with an immediate change, or wether the rehearsal should continue on with just a quick note made to think about it later. Again, discuss with your director before the rehearsals start.

For safety, don't trust anyone to remember hazards under the pressure of running a show. If you're aware of any hazard, try to make changes so there is no hazard.

Where you have to highlight something I prefer flouro yellow spike tape in areas lit by blue lights. If possible paint the area behind the spike tape black (or use black gaff tape) to make the yellow really pop. If there are no lights then use glow tape, but it's expensive and may fade towards the end of a show.

But again, it's better to remove a hazard than highlight it.

The only time I've needed to explicitly given a safety talk was for a show involving naked flames and a Flammable costume. Otherwise I just try to tell people, individually about specific safety issues they might haven't picked up on their own. By not giving many instructions, the ones you do give are taken more seriously.

Padding and carpets aren't just for safety, they also reduce noise. Use both liberally.  :)


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Re: First time SMing tech
« Reply #3 on: Nov 08, 2018, 08:33 pm »
And make sure your sound/light operators have their own copy of the script with just their cues noted down. Ask if they have a pencil/eraser/highlighter/eraser tape. If they don't, be ready to hand those out.

Just to throw an alternate viewpoint out there, it's not standard at all theaters to give the board ops scripts with cues. In many professional theatres, it's not usually done as it's the SM's responsibility to call the cues, and the board ops wait for their "go" over headset.

It can be helpful in some situations to have a script marked up for a board op, like for an audio engineer live-mixing a musical, so that they can keep an eye on when the next entrance is coming up. But I think in some theatres, it would send a mixed message- that they should take their own cues, since they are marked in a script for them.

However, along similar lines, I think that having copies of running paperwork for the backstage crew is very necessary, and making sure you have a system for updating paperwork as things change during tech is helpful. (Does an ASM collect everyone's paperwork every night and do an update? Do you wait until you've teched through the whole show? When is fresh paperwork issued?)

Mizi, as Tempest mentioned, those are broad questions, but one piece of advice that I have is to take some time before tech planning things out. Figure out if you need some extra time to practice costume or scene changes, figure out approximately how quickly you need to move so that you get everything finished before the end of tech. That will help you be the one to "steer the ship"- you can nudge things along if you're moving too slowly, or allow some extra cueing if you're doing okay on time. You'll have a sense of what scene you'll hit before the next break, and be able to tell the stage crew what to get ready for backstage. I usually make a little cheat sheet for myself- I divide the pages in the script by the number of hours in tech, and from there I have an approximation of how many pages we need to hit per hour. (I usually add a little padding to account for breaks and to get through the first sequence of cues, which always takes longer than expected.)
« Last Edit: Nov 10, 2018, 09:38 am by Maribeth »