Author Topic: HELP: Unruly Actors + Stressful day + Director's ignorance = this post  (Read 2083 times)

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So I am working on Chicago for a community theatre. I love stage managing and I love my job, but I'm at a breaking point. Last night, there was a ton of talking backstage. I mean, entrances were missed, director/dance/music had to keep repeating themselves, etc. So, I sat them at the end of the stage to have a little talk. I told them that there should be no talking when backstage and why. I was very calm and polite. I also put it in the rehearsal report for the people that couldn't attend last night's rehearsal.

Fast forward to today. Within a 15 minute time span, the ASM, director, and myself had to tell everyone backstage to be quiet. I have had a stressful day and so I did snap at them that we needed to talk and it wasn't good. I do this and then act calm during the talk because I want people to understand that this behavior is not okay. Like with children, because this is exactly how they're acting. The director looks shocked so I go over to enlighten him (even though he told them to be quiet). But, once I said what my intentions were, he tried to downplay everything and tell me that the talking wasn't important. Here's the thing: We open in 6 days. Most of the people still don't have their lines, entrances, songs, etc down. I had to remind him that we open in 6 days and that this is unacceptable.

It doesn't help that my ASM is telling me to calm down when I'm fine because I snapped. Now, he keeps saying he'll make announcements and argues with me if I say I can do it. I was very calm and relaxed the rest of the time that I talked to them, but I'm still being treated like a loose cannon by my ASM.

MY ASM and director have this belief that we should ask nicely a million times because it might actually stick this time. We are in a place where that's obviously not working. When I asked, some trusted actors that I am friends with and are willing to be honest with me told me that I was in the right because nobody was listening and it needed to be done. But, my ASM and director are making me feel like I overreacted and that I'm not allowed to have a bad day. I don't know what to do. I want to forget about it, but it's keeping me up.

Please let me know what I could have done, what other ways I could have handled it, if, in your opinion, I was in the right, and if you have had similar issues and what you did. I don't want to be treated differently for a one time thing (I never raise my voice. Ever. I hate yelling and being the bad guy, so I only do it when absolutely needed), but I don't know how to handle it when the actors have had over 10 warnings and they still aren't listening.


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I have been in exactly the same situation you are in - you are not alone.
It is "frustrating" at best. Fear shows it's ugly head in many ways, perhaps the chatter is a way for the actors to relieve the stress of not knowing their lines, of the upcoming first audience, even of the many different levels of experience...? Ultimately, there is only so much you can do. You can't actually change their behavior BUT you can change your reaction to it. Know that you are doing your best - know that the show will go on - know that there is a lesson for you to learn here, although it may not be apparent right away. Be thankful for the job, for the opportunity to learn something about yourself... Hang in there - it's only a play - it's supposed to be fun, that's why we call it a play!
Ordo ab chao


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Vernon is, as always, wise. I just had this with some college kids at a student/professional production. My success had two parts: 1) I acknowledged their need to do something while waiting, needing a way to express nerves etc. I suggested that they bring in something quiet like a book and offered them an option — if they are backstage they are quiet, if they must talk, there was a space they could move to; 2) I talked w them about respect, and treating the actors on stage w the respect they'd expect themselves if they were in the lights. I only had to speak with one person after that, and he just spaced.

Give it a try!


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Another Thirding for what VSM said and seconding of loebtmc :)

I am also a fan of a quiet time activity.  If there are large stretches of time when people are gathered backstage I have a basket of puzzles, crosswords, sudoku and trivia cards that are available to help fill the time but are quiet so folks can still be listening to where we are in the show. 
wee but mighty