Author Topic: ASMing: How to ASM  (Read 9805 times)

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Maggie K

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Re: ASMing: How to ASM
« Reply #15 on: Jan 01, 2013, 03:32 am »
I've spent the last few years working primarily as an ASM and there are very drastic differences between it and being the PSM.  Many stage managers are able to do both jobs very well, but I have noticed that there are those who are really great at one but may struggle with the other.  There is a very different mentality you have to have to be the ASM.  There are a few main things that I adhere to.

1. Communicate.  Communicate.  Communicate.  Talk to the PSM about how they want to run things.  Many other people have mentioned this and it is, perhaps, the most important thing.  Every PSM is different, every SM team is different, every production is different, every company is different.  Ask questions and observe how your PSM works.  Keep the communication channels open even in the rehearsal hall.  Never be where they can't text, IM, call, whisper in your ear, or gesture to you.

2.  Be adaptable.  Most stage managers are fairly adaptable because of the career we are in but ASMs have to be even more so.  Every stage manager has certain ways they like to do things and it is your job as the ASM to adjust to the PSM's working style, even if it's completely different from your own.  The pro side of this is that it's a great way to pick up new techniques and ideas, the con being that you may have to do something in a way you don't like.  Sometimes, you can offer an idea or suggest a different way of doing something but ultimately it is the PSM's decision.

3.  Anticipate.  Most of the PSM's I've worked with really hate having to take time away from writing blocking, talking to the director/actors, or any of the hundred other things they are doing to tell me what to do all the time.  Checking that actors are there, cleaning the room, printing and making copes, pre-setting props/costumes/set pieces, etc.  If you notice a potential problem, bring it to their awareness.  Get things done without having to be told or asked.  If they ask you to do something once, add that to the list of things you always do.

4.  Be confident and "in the know".  While you don't need to know every detail about every discussion or problem that has occurred, you should do your best to know what the final decision on matters are.  It's helpful to know what's going on and how it may affect what you are doing.  There have been times in my career when the PSM has been stuck elsewhere or not feeling well and it has fallen on me to run rehearsal.  Musicals and other large shows may even have split rehearsals and you may running one room while the PSM is in the other.  Showing confidence lets the director and performers know that they are still in good hands.  (I also should note here that if the PSM is not present it is best not to give definite answers to certain questions.  When in doubt, "I'll find out" is usually the best response.  Communication between you and the PSM is essential when you are not in the same room.)

5.  Take care of your PSM.  I know this may sound silly but I consider it an important part of my job as the ASM.  If the PSM is being mobbed by actors with questions after rehearsal, I try to see if I can help answer some of them.  If a certain part of the show is pretty complicated, I'll help take down blocking.  I'll take over tasks if they have something else they need to be doing.  Offer to get rehearsal started after a 10 while they run to the bathroom.  Make sure they got a chance to eat during the meal break (offer to pick up food, order food, even heat up what they brought if they haven't had time.)  Check in to see what kind of day they are having.  Anything you can do that will help them.

6.  This is the one that I hate the most but should be mentioned because it is important.  If you are ever in a situation where the PSM is routinely ignoring safety, abusing crew/performers, or anything else completely wrong it is your job to help correct it.  The solution may be as simple as discussing it with the PSM or as complicated as you reporting it to a higher up.  At all times use your best judgement.  If there is something you are concerned about, talk to someone about it before it becomes a problem (this forum is one place to go if you're not sure and you can post anonymously.)  One thing to keep in mind if you are having trouble with your PSM, whether minor or major, is to be careful who you talk to about it.  Venting your frustrations to a crew or cast member is not very professional and it WILL get back to the PSM.  Take care of any conflicts in an appropriate and professional manner.
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone. -Maggie Smith