Author Topic: MORALE: Hospitality backstage  (Read 7936 times)

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ljh007

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MORALE: Hospitality backstage
« on: May 12, 2006, 01:26 pm »
At every opera company I've worked for, it was standard-issue to provide coffee & tea (with accoutrement) backstage. Sometimes this means hot water with instant coffee, lipton tea bags, and a tube each of sugar and non-dairy creamer. Sometimes it means one percolator of regular coffee, one of decaf, one of hot water; teas: black, herbal (non-caf), and green, sweeteners: sugar, sweet&low/equal, splenda, honey; non-dairy creamer; cups, napkins, stir sticks. Plus cold bottles of water labeled and set aside for principals.

For big act concerts, there's usually some provision for a plate of hot food and good drink backstage. I've even been asked to carry a bottle of champagne to a singer's dressing room (it was rejected when it wasn't real champagne). I worked a musical concert one-off that had a huge hospitality table with a variety of sodas, pizza, fresh nibbles and bagged snacks, hot coffee & tea, desserts, etc. etc. I have learned to always, always have coffee and filtered water available for a union crew and orchestra.

And it was a stage management duty to set it all out, keep it pretty, and clean it up. While this can be a pain, I actually kind of like fussing with the hospitality - it's a nice little chore and the way I prefer to begin my evening (after setting up the call board).

So here's my question - what else have people encountered backstage? Are there different usual offerings for dance/theatre/orchestras/opera? Does the SM team handle it, or the Company Manager, or someone else? Any stories to share?
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2009, 11:21 pm by PSMKay »

KC_SM_0807

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« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2006, 01:35 pm »
I work with Thalian Association in downtown Wilmington North Carolina, which is one of the oldest theatres in the country.  It's a pretty cool place.  The main stage is reserved for popular mainstage musicals. What SM's like myself usually do here is assign two cast members a night to clean up and make coffee/tea/etc. for whatever the actors want.  Granted if you work for a LORT/AEA company this is not practical, but for us it works really well.  Obviously the house manager and the people who work at Thalian Hall provide all of the refreshments for the audience, but here we get the cast to help out as well because when you're in situations like myself with no ASM and a huge cast to deal with, it's virtually impossible to spend my time before the show making hospitality drinks backstage.  It also depends on the company as well I think...considering that the majority of the casts here I've encountered just bring their own drinks/coffee/etc.
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dona2trina

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« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2006, 03:36 pm »
I am on the road with a tour and we travel a coffee/tea box to each theatre. It is always set up by the props department. Stage Management has no involvment. They have all the usual stuff along with fresh fruit and the fixings for PB&Js. Also there are always bagels and various cream cheese tubs.

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« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2006, 07:55 pm »
When I interned on the mainstage at a LORT theatre last year, it was my job to make the coffee/tea.  This meant a pot of regular, a pot of decaf, and depending on the space, a pot of hot water (one of our coffee pots had a convenient spigot for hot water as it was connected directly to the water supply.)  I had to make sure that cream, milk, sugar, splenda and honey were stocked(the actors contributed for this).   Occasionally, we'd put out snacks in the form of cookies and crackers.   We would also put out Ricola.

This year, working for the grad school attached to the LORT theatre, I don't directly make coffee/tea for my actors, but if we're rehearsing in the main building, I let them go get coffee from the mainstage green room, so long as they are respectful about contributing for supplies.   I really like to make my actors feel taken care of, so I almost always have a snack...I'm known for having a big vat of pretzels, and sometimes I bring in candy.  In the cold/flu season, I put out packets of Emergen-C.

Mac Calder

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Hospitality backstage
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2006, 10:47 pm »
I try and discourage cast from drinking and eating during a show - the exception being water and interval.

The truth of the matter is, I don't have the time to organise a pot of coffee, a pot of decaf etc and I don't want to be stuck back any later cleaning it up and washing 70 odd cups (which is what ends up happening). I let my cast and crew know this when we first enter the space. I provide instant coffee, an urn, sugar, tea bags, milk. You bring your own mug, and you wash it yourself. If I don't have the money in the budget, I  ask for a small donation, I am sorry, but coffee is a low priority on my list.

Water is a different matter. I have a rain water tank at home, so I fill up a whole bunch of water bottles and bring them in every day and chill them.

During rehearsals, I always make sure tea and coffee is available, as is water.

That said, I have heard from a few vocal coaches that tea/coffee/milk/juice/softdrink/alcohol is bad for your voice if you need to sing or project your voice (ie act) so I think it is good practice to discourage the drinking of anything but water before and during a show.

As for snacks, I also enforce a no-eating policy, with the exception of interval - however that is all to be self provided.

I don't like to provide food during a show for a very good reason - crew and stage management often don't get time to scratch themselves during interval, and whilst I could usually care less if I did not get any, I think it is wrong to provide food for the cast when the crew are working.

I suppose my main driving force behind my decisions is the fact that this is a place of employment. They are doing their job. I care greatly about the wellbeing of my cast and crew, but they are there for 3 to 4 hours at most (as a general rule), if they make sure they have dinner before the show, they will not need to eat. And afterwards, they can always go for coffee (hell wait an hour and I would join them).

ljh007

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« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2006, 11:28 am »
Ah, yes - even more...
At one opera company, we have lozenges and hard candy available backstage whenever we're in the theatre, and props takes care of keeping this stocked.

Also, I worked on an 'Aida' were we had about a dozen professional bodybuilders in the triumphant march scene (and scattered throughout the opera). These guys were on strict diets and had to take in protein, carbs, and various jugs of strange drinks constantly backstage. They all brought their own food/powdered drink stuff, but it was an eye-opener to realize that the "no food backstage or in rehearsal" would disrupt their fitness regime. They were very courteous and tidy, and it worked out fine in the end (not too many worries about getting food on their costumes, since they were hardly wearing anything!).

jspeaker

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« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2006, 03:52 pm »
Quote from: "mc"
That said, I have heard from a few vocal coaches that tea/coffee/milk/juice/softdrink/alcohol is bad for your voice if you need to sing or project your voice (ie act)


Water is always the first choice but most of the conductors I have worked with (musical theatre and Opera) have encouraged Tea and sometimes coffee for singers.
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2006, 02:20 am »
I always provide coffee (and all the trimmings), water, teabags and red vines. These I consider to be essentials for musicals and straight plays. Hell, I even have this for Dance Companies! My casts are told they are welcome to bring snacks and treats at every opportunity - and they always do!
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isha

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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2006, 03:08 am »
coffee dries out your vocal chords....

milk does nothing to your vocal chords but it increases mucus secretion which clogs your throat and can make a bad sound if you don't know to stop it correctly..(without clearing your throat, because clearing your throat is bad for your vocal chords)

juice tends to be the same thing as milk. depending on the kind it can clog your throat a little

lets not even talk about how bad soda is for you...and the ones with caffeine are even worse because it's the caffeine that does most of the drying out of your vocal chords

non-caffienated tea tends to be good, but some ingredients can be bad, so consult a pedigologist before becoming dependent on anything (I think black licorice is bad,) the lemon, and chamomile teas tend to be okay.

that tis what I know....water is really the only safe thing...
I usually do water with lemon juice in it, and suck on a ricola...

oh, and anything that really numbs your throat is bad, because when it's numb it can't hurt and then as a singer you can't tell if you are straining your voice or not, this can make you over-do it. (VERY BAD!!) unless they are really careful they can lose their voice. I've known some to be fine until they were 35, then they totally lost their voices. There's a lady here who only has one working vocal chord....she strained her voice until one of the chords just won't work anymore...sad, but could have been prevented.
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TechGal

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Hospitality backstage
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2006, 01:08 pm »
Quote
"milk does nothing to your vocal chords but it increases mucus secretion which clogs your throat and can make a bad sound if you don't know to stop it correctly..(without clearing your throat, because clearing your throat is bad for your vocal chords)"


As an SM who is also a trained singer I completely second that!!!  Phlegm (mucus secretions) is one of a singers worst nightmares because, as Isha said, it clogs your throat.  Anything with a lot dairy can cause phlegm but milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and some kinds of dips are the worst.

Quote
"that is what I know....water is really the only safe thing...
I usually do water with lemon juice in it, and suck on a ricola..."


Water is always your best bet.  Putting a slice of lemon (or lime) in your water is also a great idea because it helps your body absorb the moisture.  A good thing as the air in theaters tends to be very dry.  

Singers are the ones who have to be especially careful about what they eat/drink right before a show.  It's not just a diva thing. :)  What you consume can really effect your performance.  Though it is going to vary some from person to person.

MarcieA

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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2006, 11:35 pm »
From my experience in Equity theatre, stage managers are not technically permitted to have anything to deal with hospitality. That's not to say it doesn't happen. I've made my fair share of coffee time and again.

Company management (if there is such a department---my theatre doesn't have a company manager, but rather 3 people who have specific responsibilities in regards to what a company manager will do) should provide such things, or they have when I've worked with one. Though, if I'm correct, according to the AEA handbook, nothing is required for an actor except fresh water.

At most theatres I've worked when I was a non-union ASM, it was my responsibility to maintain hospitality when there was no company manager. Petty cash or a hospitality budget was made available to maintain things.

At the theatre was at for the last 3-odd years (my last day was Monday, I'm quite sad...) the kitchen/green room was communal in each space. Anyone who drank coffee contributed to providing it and the needed supplies, the theatre provided the coffee makers and the hot pot for water. There was a list of what we used and if people took turns bringing things in. If no one who drank coffee bothered to mention that we were out of half-and-half, we were out of it. Typically the ASMs would clean up at the end of the day, but it wasn't out of the ordinary to find an actor at the sink scrubbing mugs in their robe when they had some down time.

And while it is my job as a stage manager to maintain a show and the well being of my actors, I don't believe it's my job to tell them when or what they should eat and drink. They are adults. Many of the actors in our resident acting company are professors at university or have other rehearsals during the day, not to mention families with young children. If that means that they need to come into the kitchen at 6 pm and have a salad and a coffee, after taking the kids to school, working 8 hours and rushing to the theatre for an 8PM curtain, then I'd rather them eat then pass out on stage. They are adults and as such, I need to trust them to make the decisions that are right for their situations. In the same regard, I don't agree with singers smoking, but again, it's not my business what their personal choices are, and while they are two very different ways of self-destructing,  they are still that.
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Mac Calder

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Hospitality backstage
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2006, 03:58 am »
I think the above post says everything really.

It is not our responsibility, and actors are (usually) adults. They are perfectly capable of looking after themselves.

Then again, I find I do things differently to women SM's when it comes to cast relations - different standards etc. If I was female, maybe I would be more inclined (and it would be more expected of me) to do the whole hospitality thing. Being male, well they don't expect me to be good in the kitchen or know how to make a decent cup of tea (being an avid tea drinker and a bit of a tea snob (no bags for me) I like to think I make a damn good cuppa) or be willing to do dishes.

prizm

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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2006, 06:34 pm »
the theatre I work for provides coffee/decaf/ hot water w/ 5 tea varities and filtered water in rehearsal halls green room and in the pit. It is the PA's job to make the coffee ect before each rehearsal and performance in the affected areas (ie for a musical in green room and pit). But if you finish a pot you make the next one whoever you are.
Food is provided on opening and closing and whenever there is an event in the looby leftovers are brought down to the green room. (our Wardrobe dept has robes hanging in the green room and by the smokers porch beacuse of this)
I think it's fine the theatre foots the bill and it makes the performers happy. the singers in our musicals usually stick to tea while the ones working through the second performance of a 3hour Shakespeare have that coffee cup attached to their lips.
One great thing we do is mug adoption. On an actors first day they pick a mug and write their name on a piece of white duck tape on the bottom. the tape is water proof and if a mug is left dirty we know who to blame. During Techs I live at the coffee maker on breaks.

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« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2006, 05:34 pm »
As for labeling coffee mugs, a labeler works great.  Take a tiny bit of time during prep week to label the mugs with each person's name.  One regional theatre I worked with had the Guild provide a theatre coffee cup (with logo) to every actor/designer per production, and then it was theirs to take home with them at the end as a momento.  But also lets you know immediately who's got the mold growing in theirs.  And I make it a policy for everyone to clean their own mug.  If I or my staff is feeling nice one day, perhaps, but generally speaking since their name is on it, it's pretty obvious whose it is.

And the labels are even dishwasher proof.  I have them go through my dishwasher at home all the time, including my water bottle.  Now there is the debate of where to put the label on the mug (visible while drinking? storing? near the handle? etc), but at least it's labelled!

Erin

prizm

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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2006, 05:47 pm »
well we put thte lables on the bottom since they store upside down on our mug rack.
And if a mug is left dirty it is put in the sink, but not cleaned. If they ever want coffee again they know where to go to find and clean their mug, in 2 years here I have never had or seen any person on the SM staff clean any mug but their own.