Author Topic: REHEARSALS: Volunteer crew who don't want to show up regularily!  (Read 4862 times)

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SM19

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It's funny how many problems I seem to have with this show being volunteer.

I have a huge crew this year. Bigger then I've ever had. These 10 people are all volunteer, but seem unwilling to do the work. I've held meetings and cant seem to get them all in the same room at once. Some wont even return my phone calls. We're 1 1/2 months to the show now and I dont have time to replace half of them. I can't sit there and tell them EXACTLY what I think because they are volunteers and they will walk away. I dont know how to motivate them so that they come in for rehearsals. We're starting to make the crew move sets now as if it was an actual set change on  a night of the run, but it's not working because half of them arent there. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm kind of desperate now.

Thanks
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Thespi620

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I haven't had time to read your other posts to figure out context for this show, so bear with me if some of this isn't relevant.

The first thing I can think of, especially if this is a community piece, is that it may be a scheduling conflict thing.  Have you made sure rehearsals aren't conflicting for certain people? I know a lot of people in my community theater think its OK to miss every Thursday and every other Wednesday, plus Mondays when they'd rather be at the beach--they don't understand that the show is an every day commitment and that the quality of the final performance does, actually, rely on the volunteers.

Maybe try explaining that to them, if you haven't already.  If you have, perhaps a reminder is in order. 

How many crew do you need, minimum, for this show? If its a time commitment thing, you may want to sit down with each of them (all at the same time, ideally, but it sounds like that may not happen) and show them a timeline of how long you have until opening, when rehearsals are, when they would be needed, etc. and do your best to figure out which people could take nights off when-have a sort of A crew and B crew, who rotate.  That way, you get to hear what their issues with being at rehearsals are, they get to see just how close the show is and hear from you how vital their role is, plus they understand that you're willing to do what you can to make it work out for everyone as well as possible. 

Beyond that, what's your backup plan? Figure out who your most reliable crew members are and give them the most responsibility, train them on as much as you can, and figure out your own backup plans for running the show in case certain people don't show of a night without notice.

Did any of that help? Keep us posted as to what you end up doing!
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planetmike

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1 1/2 "months" until the show? 1.5 months I don't see as big a deal. 1.5 weeks huge deal. It does depend on the show and its complexities. But yes, in community theater you do get to deal with a fair amount of scheduling problems with the volunteers. But so far, I've always had it come together pretty well in the last two weeks (last week of rehearsal, then the tech week). I think the community theater volunteers see the performance date as so far away that it doesn't matter as much. But then when the show opens "next Friday!" they get committed to it.

I also try to take pretty good notes on what I need help with backstage, since the backstage volunteers aren't always the same people. One show I needed a minimum of two backstage helpers, and during the run I had anywhere from two to six helpers, and never any one person for more than three performances. I had enough work for six helpers, but the work was much more spread out. So my suggestion is to try to make some lists of exactly what you need help with:
Act 1 scene 1 - open the curtain
Act 1 scene 1 - pull the lever to drop the snowflakes
Act 1 scene 2 - help the King into his costume.
Act 1 scene 3 - close the mid-traveler
Act 1 scene 5 - move the large trashcan to the stage right wings near the tombstone.
Act 1 scene 5 - help actress up onto tombstone

Which of these tasks can be done by the same person? If you have six volunteers, everyone gets one task? If you have two people, you'd be ok as well.

Also, early in tech week, introduce the tech crew to the cast during a pre-run or post-run notes session. It lets the techies get a little bit of recognition, and usually the cast will give them a nice round of applause.

Rebbe

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Does this theater company typically ask volunteer crew to join rehearsals 1.5 months before the show?  That seems very early to me.  How many nights per week are you rehearsing, and for how many hours?  Maybe you can check with whoever recruited the volunteers and confirm what kind of time commitment they were told to expect; if it was less than what you are asking, that could be the root of the problem.  I usually work in AEA settings where the paid crew only come aboard for Tech, a week or two before the production opens.  Before they join us, my ASM(s) and I, sometimes also the actors and AD, occasionally even the director, will jump up and scurry around to approximate the set change, knowing we will have more hands to accomplish it during the run.  Is it possible for this to happen in your situation?  You could plot out the set change planning for a full crew, but not have them in rehearsals until much closer to the opening?  Maybe there are ways to incorporate actors into the set changes so you aren’t totally reliant on so many crew members.  If actors could at least cover some prop movements, it might mean you need fewer hands. Perhaps you could consolidate the number of hours for which you need the crew on each rehearsal night, or only work with the crew one or two days each rehearsal week, if that would improve attendance.

If you really must have all the crew at all the rehearsals at this point in the process, I’d try emphasizing the “team sport” aspect of theater to motivate them.  Talk about how everyone on the crew depends on each other to execute the changes efficiently, and the cast relies on the crew to make the shift happen so they can focus on their performance.  Remind them that, just like with a sport, the crew needs to practice together repeatedly to learn their moves. 
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SM19

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Hey guys. Thanks for the replies. They are all really good ideas, but I've tried them all. Here's what the show entails.

It is a community show. I didn't have very much variety of crew to pick from this year because the crew is so big, so yes, I picked them. Or they picked me because it was pretty much everyone who wanted to lol. I have 9 people on my crew this year, because I need 9. There's no way around that at all. In the comment about the time restraints, we're actually late right now. The show started late because there was issues with the writers/directors of the show. It all changed at the last minute, so we started in December (rehearsals are starting on sunday) rather than September like we usually do. We only have one day a week to rehearse because our theatre is the movie theatre and the owner is very tough on us (if we as much as put a toe out of line...she becomes the devil...but she's a nice person I guess). We get the theatre from 230pm till whatever time we leave at (which is usually around 10pm). Actors and singers are gone by 7pm. I ask my crew to stay for the whole time because, when the actors are rehearsing, we will be doing set changes so that we can also learn and find the bugs before we open the show, and then after the actors leave, it'll all be timed so that we can get it under 10 seconds per set change. Technicaly I'm not the one saying my crew has to be there starting next week, it's the board (a bunch of people who run the place lol). They want our crew there NOW so that we can start working on stuff NOW so that we're ready (apparently they have no faith in me....). So this is not my doing.


I have tried the team work aspect of it. I explained everything to them last night but they still dont clue in. Some of them are, and I know who's going to be getting hte bigger things, that's for sure, but some of the kids in my crew are under the at of 16 and yes, they do want to be doing something else rather than this. Have a mentioned that most of htem need their 40 hours of community service to graduate? That's what I"m handing out this year for awards pretty much...but the ones who need it, are the ones who aren't there. I even pulled the line of "I've already done over 200 hours this year..." but they still aren't really clueing in to what I'm saying. The set changes this year are massive...and they dont seem to understand that. Honestly, this happens every year and I never know what to do. I explained to them that a few years back I actually took a trip to the local complex and "fired" 5 people off my crew because they wanted to go swimming on our first night of performance rather than be there helping with the show! We had 3 of us doing everything that year, and it worked...but this year it wont. So I dont know what to do. Sometimes I wish I worked in a professional theatre because then we'd be getting paid for it and it would be a JOB rather than just something to do.

Any more suggestions??
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hbelden

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My advice may not be of much use, as I've only done community theatre once.  However, I think this problem is not one you can solve.  You need to alert your producer - the Board? - that a volunteer crew is not going to be sufficient for this show.  It's never a professional SM's job to cajole an actor or a crew member into showing up to rehearsal, so I don't think it should be your job either.  Kick the problem upstairs.

You do only one rehearsal a week - do you do more right before opening the show?  Does your production have, in effect, a Tech Week?  That seems to be the right time to bring the crew in and teach them their jobs.  Keep them busy when they're there, rather than just sitting around while a scene is blocked for the first time.

The message your board is sending to the crew is that their time is not valuable.  Since they're all volunteer, that's a horrible message to send.  It's really de-motivating.  Is there any way to make their time in rehearsal more productive for them?  Maybe bring in the crew for the second half of each rehearsal, and reviewing what was done during the first half?  Now I'm just brainstorming...  Good luck!
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Celeste_SM

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I do theater with a volunteer crew on a regular basis. Although my crew is paid a nominal stipend (or they get community service hours), so I guess that may be all the difference. Do you do contracts with your crew? Perhaps something in writing that spells out the exact commitment that is required and must be signed would help? I have to agree with Heath's comments about the use of the volunteer crew time. It seems excessive to me and not a good use of their time. But I understand you may be restricted by the time constraints of your space. I can't fathom doing a show without a concentrated technical rehearsal period.

I've had problems with flaky crew before, but part of our company culture is that the crew tends to pride itself on doing a good job. As a result, the peer pressure turns on the flakey person pretty heavily when they flake. The crew has helped to find subs for the flakes, and the flakes don't get invited back. I also try to make it fun to work crew for me, because I do know that they're not compensated fairly in the monetary sense... so I want to make the experience enjoyable so they want to come back for other reasons - a sense of accomplishment, friendships, to share theater "war" stories, etc. If they are good, I look good, so it's a bit self-serving on my part. But I find a bag of mini-candybars goes a long way towards a happy volunteer crew!

On_Headset

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I would suggest you check your math.

If you have a crew of 10, but only 4 people are showing up, you actually have a crew of 4. If you need 10, you need to find at least 6 new people.

Having determined that you have a crew of 4, if the other 6 start showing up, that's great! But that should be treated as icing on the cake: in community theatre, when someone stops showing up, you need to stop wasting effort on involving them and direct that effort to finding new people.

By far the best way to keep a volunteer crew working is to literally keep them working. Always have a job on the hop. The worst thing for volunteers to be doing is sitting in the audience looking bored. If a crew shift is four hours, then you should have enough work to keep everyone actively doing something for the entire four hours. If, at any point, someone is just standing around without anything to do, and you can't find anything for them to do, send them home rather than making them wait around. Even if it's menial, non-tech work ("the publicist has some envelopes she needs stuffed", "the house manager could use an extra pair of hands cleaning the bar", "could you fetch Joan from the green room? we'd like to do her scene now.") keep their hands busy.

If they get used to showing up and doing nothing for two hours, then holding a ladder for 10 minutes, then doing nothing for two hours, then going home, eventually they'll just stop coming, y'know?

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i usually don't see a point in bringing in the crew until tech week, ESPECIALLY volunteer.  Even so when they have no incentive to be there like community service hours, internship, or a stipend.

The fact that you're having trouble getting ahold of them is a problem you're making for yourself.  You've called, and emailed, and texted and they're just not responding.  It's been two weeks?  Start finding new crew people. 

Speak with your producer, or artistic director; whoever happens to have a say in your decisions, or happened to have picked any of these people.

Help them understand the position you're in, WHICH AFFECTS EVERYONE, and work out a way to spread the word quickly that you need dependable crew.  Interview them yourself if you'r producer will allow it, or sit in on the interview, and make it clear to them that in the likelihood that you select them for the crew you will expect absolute professionalism from them.

I don't understand why community theaters don't always offer incentives for volunteer positions.  An internship at best would be a great incentive.  If community theaters want to be taken seriously in the industry, and eventually evolve into professional theaters, they need to start resembling professional theaters.

ALSO.  16 year olds?  I hope that's the youngest age on your crew.  Adolescents and children do not have the attention span, and teenagers in general are not model citizens.  Choose wisely.  Choose people who want to be there.  If you have to pick teenagers, make sure that's the youngest you're choosing.  It's crew.  You need muscle.  Not tears.

 

riotous