Author Topic: Advice for a newbie  (Read 3954 times)

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tess91

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Advice for a newbie
« on: Oct 13, 2009, 10:15 am »
I've stage managed a number of shows before but have never done it by what one might say the proper, technical manner. I've always been able to remember what happened during rehearsal, what blocking was, how stage was set, and when and where props are but in my class I must use forms I've never used before and am not sure the best way to do a full and legitimate prompt book. Does anyone have any advice for me? I don't really understand why I have to do the book technically correctly when it's only me who has to be able to see and understand it.

Thanks!

missliz

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #1 on: Oct 13, 2009, 10:31 am »
I don't really understand why I have to do the book technically correctly when it's only me who has to be able to see and understand it.

It's what I've called bus-proofing: if I got hit by a bus, my book would be understandable enough that anybody could run the show. If a director needs to know where prop X is by Act II, or a list of blackout cues, or which side of the stage an actor is on in Scene 3 (all things I've been asked), it's having all that information on hand instantly. Plus, written down, you have proof if someone says "oh no, we're doing it this way..."

I can keep a lot of information in my head as well, and it's definitely useful, but never assume you're the only one who will have to deal with the information.
I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least. -Ionesco

KMC

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #2 on: Oct 13, 2009, 11:12 am »
MissLiz' feedback below is spot on, and is certainly the most immediate need for your book to be clean and complete.

In addition, the Stage Manager's book is also the theater or production company's (whomever is paying the bills) historical record of the show.  It needs to be in a state where someone can pick it up in 10 years and understand everything long after the SM is gone and everyone has forgotten about the show.  It can also be subpoenaed as evidence in court proceedings dealing with injuries, accidents, negligence, etc... (this does happen).  It needs to be precise, accurate and able to be understood by anyone who picks up the book.
« Last Edit: Oct 13, 2009, 11:16 am by kmc307 »
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tess91

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #3 on: Oct 13, 2009, 10:13 pm »
I guess I haven't thought of it in a real world situation since in my mind it's just for school. If I were to do it professionally those points do all make perfect sense. "bus=proofing", I'll remember that.

In another question, what is it like stage managing for an actual company?

kiwitechgirl

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #4 on: Oct 13, 2009, 11:37 pm »
In another question, what is it like stage managing for an actual company?

That's a big question!  I'm one of three stage managers in a company which produces 8 mainbill and usually 5 second-space shows a year, plus four kids' shows and about 100 performances of a late-night improv comedy show, and it's certainly a lifestyle not a job!  At various times it's crazy, busy, frustrating, incredibly satisfying, seriously hard work, great fun, boring, insane, maddening and brilliant.  I work with a huge range of incredibly creative people which is wonderful; I love having my finger on the pulse of a show and having to know exactly what is going on all the time; no two days are ever the same and I do admit that there are times when I wonder why I am doing this, but I get out of bed and look forward to going to work, which has to be a good thing!

stephaleph

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #5 on: Oct 15, 2009, 03:34 pm »
(hi tess lol)

I have found that filling out forms each night after your done rehearsal makes life easy. If you just jot down all the notes you took it works pretty well (i'm the same way-never had a prompt book before!). That way you can just organize it all and figure out what you need and don't need on a form. If you don't take any notes, you should get in the habit. If you see someone missed a line or messed up the blocking, when you jot it down and put it in the form its helpful for the people you work with. If someone else has to run rehearsal for you they can with your prompt book.
You don't always have to be sick or like dead for someone else to need your book either, someone backstage or in the light booth might need you to leave the cast to help them at any moment. If you have some stage hand or an assistant to help you run rehearsal then they can take over at any point. So it also just helps maintain smooth rehearsal I'd say.


kiwitechgirl:
Since tess is asking... Your job sounds super hectic, is there time for family or anything? I feel like the Theatre engulfs my life during shows and I don't talk to anyone but the cast for days!

tess91

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #6 on: Oct 16, 2009, 01:33 pm »
Thanks Steph! I do take notes, I guess I should work on making them more legible and logical so others can see them if need be. I think the idea of forms seems superfluous to me; a sort of to each his/her own type of deal.

but kiwitechgirl:
wow, that's a huge job. how are the productions divided amongst the stage managers? and the space for rehearsals and everything?

maximillionx

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #7 on: Oct 16, 2009, 04:45 pm »
hey tess91!
I don't really understand why I have to do the book technically correctly when it's only me who has to be able to see and understand it.
Like everyone else has been saying, it's a matter of someone else being able to interpret what you have recorded. However, customization of prompts and paperwork is something that every SM goes through, so despite being told to organize a certain way, do so in a manner which you find most comfortable to you.  But never forget that someone else is reading your paperwork/prompt book so they will need to understand it too (bus-proofing...awesome btw missliz).

SMing for an actual company varies a lot.  You might be in a position at a company where you get to have creative input or help in the directing process.  Or, you might have to organize information, run rehearsals and the show because everything else is taken care of (this is more like summer-stock, but still an example).

kiwitechgirl: what a job!

My question for you: How do you like SMing? What was it that drew you into management?

ScooterSM

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #8 on: Oct 16, 2009, 08:01 pm »
Another thing to think about is when you are working with a bigger company, you may be working on multiple shows at the same time, and having a system of forms or documentation will help keep you organized, make your life easier because you do each thing the same way each time, and helps you remember which info is for which show.  As the PSM for a company, I frequently have one show in performances, 2-3 in rehearsals, and another 2-3 in preproduction.  Having everything written down and easy to understand means that we don't accidentally end up asking for tap shoes for an opera, or space helmets for Shakespeare.  You might also find that the more shows you do (or the older you get... :)) the harder it is to just remember everything.

Everything everyone else has said is also very true.  Life happens, and there are times when someone will have to take over for you, fill in, or just find something when you are not around, and having the show documented means that person will be able to have what they need.

I've never been paid a lot, but the theatre has kept me, and for that I shall be eternally grateful. Tony Church

kiwitechgirl

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Re: Advice for a newbie
« Reply #9 on: Oct 16, 2009, 10:22 pm »
kiwitechgirl:
Since tess is asking... Your job sounds super hectic, is there time for family or anything? I feel like the Theatre engulfs my life during shows and I don't talk to anyone but the cast for days!

Quote from: tess91
but kiwitechgirl:
wow, that's a huge job. how are the productions divided amongst the stage managers? and the space for rehearsals and everything?

It has hectic and not-so-hectic times!  Essentially we almost always have one mainbill show in performance and one in rehearsal at any given time, although there are exceptions when we do a run which is longer than four weeks (like over the summer when we have a 12-week run of a musical), so effectively we can alternate stage managers - at the moment I'm about to go into rehearsal while one of the others is on show call.  The second space has bigger gaps between shows, plus also it has an operator/stage manager once the show is up and running, so the stage manager does rehearsals and production week then hands it off to the operator, meaning there's time to prepare for the next rehearsal period. 

Kids' shows, which happen during the day in school holidays, are usually dealt with by a casual stage manager, except for the summer one because there's not a lot else going on for the SMs who are not on the musical!  They play on the mainbill stage, usually with some small easily-moved set pieces to make the mainbill set fit their show! 

The late night improv doesn't actually require us to do anything except start the show when the house is in and be there in case of emergency, then fill in the show report at the end of the gig, so it's not particularly hard work.  Usually it's whoever is on the mainbill show at the time (the improv plays on whatever set happens to be in the theatre) that stage manages it.

We have two rehearsal spaces, but one is unusable during kids' shows because it is directly above the theatre and so footsteps and noise are very audible.  Because the second theatre isn't constantly in rehearsal, though, we can usually make it work; occasionally we have to go offsite but there is a school down the road that is more than happy to make their hall (which is big enough to get a full mark-out on the floor) available to us during school holidays (which of course is the only time we need it) at the cost of fifty tickets to the show - works for us!

I do manage to find time for family etc; we always have Sundays off, plus once the show is up and running I have my days free and so you can fit stuff in.  I particularly love it over the summer (I almost always do the musicals, because I'm the only one of the three of us who reads music) when I can go to the beach during the day and then go to work!  Production weeks tend to be pretty ridiculous, because we only have a week's turnaround between mainbill shows, but you just learn to cope with it.

 

riotous