Archive for the ‘Green Room’ Category

Scouting Report

Posted: April 19, 2012 in Green Room
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When you start working on a new show at a new theatre, it is very important to learn the lay of the land BEFORE you start rehearsals. Get a tour of the building from the director, producer, another SM – anyone who knows the place very well.
These are the things you should look for and ask about on your tour:
Doors: Where are all the exits? Emergency doors? Will you get a key/alarm code?
Lights: Where are the light switches for the house, stage, work lights, backstage (including running lights), dressing rooms, lobby, booth, etc. How do you turn on the lighting board?
First Aid: Where are the first aid kits? Fire extinguishers? Where is the nearest hospital, police station, fire department? Where is the phone and where are the numbers for those emergency services? Is there someone who is part of the theatre that needs to be contacted about emergencies? Does anyone know first aid? (Hint: you should)
Bathrooms: Where are they? Are there separate ones for actors? Can they be used by actors during the show?
Climate Control: Where is the thermostat? How do you use it? Are there minimum/maximum temps that it needs to be reset to when rehearsal is over? Does it make a loud noise? (Personal experience. Had to turn it on early so the temp evened out and it shut off before the show started.)
Tools: Where are they kept?  Especially basic ones like a drill, hammer, staple gun. And ladders!
Supplies: Like glow tape. Is there a photocopier? Printer?

Ultimately, you will most likely be the person responsible for opening the theatre before rehearsal and locking up when it’s over. And making sure everyone is safe.

Robyn
The Awesome Stage Manager

Community theatres look for shows that will bring in money. Often, what they look for are shows that are well known and will be popular with the town/neighborhood. Another factor is cast size. While a show with only a few actors is great for scheduling  and staging (and budget if they’re paid) a larger cast will bring in more friends and family to come and watch them (read: $$$) But a large cast means a bigger budget for costumes, etc. So when do you use a small cast  show and when do you use a larger cast?

What you will often find is that a company will do a few small-cast straight (non-musical) shows and at least one very popular large-cast musical. This is where the bulk of the profit is often made. Popular and profitable musicals will often get repeated every few seasons, and not just at one theatre but usually throughout the area.

Other factors in choosing a show include:

Cast composition: mostly female cast, mostly male cast; specific ethnicity requirements; children; animals etc.

Technical elements: skills, time and budget

Appropriateness for the space: doing the musical The Lion King in a tiny basement black box might not work well.

As a stage manager, you should be aware of how shows get picked. And you should also be reading plays. Once you have some experience, you can read plays and make suggestions or recommendations on what shows might work for the space.

Take a look at the list of shows the theatre has done recently. Most likely people will be talking about them while working on the current show. Read the plays and ask questions.

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager

Social? Network!

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Green Room
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If you’re serious about stage managing, network, network, network!

You can schmooze with people after performances, go to the bar/ diner/ cast party or wherever with the cast and crew. Let them know you’re interested. Word spreads fast. Go see other people’s shows; you’ll meet more new people to hob knob with. Pretty soon you’ll be able to pick and choose which shows you want to do.

Yes, it is okay to ask if they pay or if there is a stipend, especially if the theatre is far away.

Yes, you can audition for a show, too. There are a lot of actor/techies out there in community theatre.

Yes, you can say “No”.

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager

 

 

SM Kit

Posted: March 3, 2012 in Green Room
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Your SM kit is your Batman utility belt. It has everything you need in a pinch, but doesn’t weigh several dozen pounds. There are a few categories that should be covered in your Kit.

Let’s start with the container. Whatever you are comfortable carrying: backpack, canvas tote, tool box, those wheelie suitcase things, whatever works for you. It needs to be large enough to fit everything, but not give you back problems. This is the bag I use.

Inside: What you pack will depends on the theatre you’re working at. And don’t feel like you have to be fully stocked from the get-go. Remember, you’re volunteering, so add you’re supplies slowly, when you can.

Office:

Scotch tape, mini stapler, staples, mechanical pencils, erasers, mini post-its, scissors, glue sticks, rubber cement, ruler, 3-hole punch (they make a ruler 3-hole punch combo that you can put in your binder)

Medical:

Pain reliever: aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.  (A variety is good in case there are allergies)

Band-aids: Plastic, cloth, non-latex. (Ditto)

Anti-bacterial ointment, cough drops

Sewing:

A mini pre-made kit will work. Make sure there’re a lot of safety pins. Also, you should know how to use a needle and thread for reattaching buttons and fixing hems in the dark.

Clear nail polish: it stop runs in nylons.

Other:

Prompt book. Laptop. Tea, instant coffee.

This is just a basic list. Your kit will evolve over time as you add and pare things away.

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager

Some expectations that you might not be aware of:

DIRECTOR:

What they expect: Someone professional, organized, responsible. Open communication. A gal/guy Friday- you catch the things that they miss. Opening night, it is no longer their show. If anything goes wrong, you are responsible. If everything goes right, you are responsible.

What you should expect: Respect, open communication, camaraderie, trust. Timeliness, professionalism, flexibility. The general public will probably not know you exist, especially if you’ve done your job right, so expect the director (and producer) to get the credit for a show. It’s not their fault, just the way it is.

ACTORS:

What they expect: Professional, organized, responsible, the keeper of all knowledge, scheduler, confidant, friend, girl/boy scout (always prepared), patient, understanding, taskmaster. What their line is and where they are on stage at any given moment.

What you should expect: Professionalism, respect. You are not a second class citizen. They should learn their lines in a timely manner. They should be ready to rehearse when called. If they are running late they should call you. They should inform you of all scheduling conflicts ASAP. Call time is not a suggestion.

ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER:

What they expect: You know all the answers. If new, train them how to be as awesome as you are! You will delegate appropriate tasks. Don’t forget to always say ‘Thank you’ everyday!

What you should expect: Someone ready, willing and able. Reliable, trustworthy. Remembers things when you forget. Able to do what is asked.

PRODUCER:

What they expect: You are the liaison between production team, tech crew and actors. Professionalism and reliability. You keep everyone on track and on time.

What you should expect: Professional and reliable. This is where the buck stops. If you are having problems that cannot be resolved by you and/or the director, take it to your producer. Ultimately in charge of budget, making sure things get done!

General TECH CREW:

What they expect: You should be telling them when things that are not working, props and sound effects that are still needed. Open communication!

What you should expect: Tasks are completed on schedule. Open communication!

HOUSE:

What they expect: You are the first one there to open the building/doors, etc. and the last one to leave, turning off the lights, checking thermostat, locking doors, etc. (Varies by theatre)

What you should expect: A clean lobby and house. To be able to signal/communicate with house manager when lobby is empty and audience is ready to start. A timely intermission.

While this is certainly not a complete list, there are some common themes that you should take notice of:

Communication: This means updating people regularly, not gossiping, or withholding information, expressing your ideas/opinions in an intelligent and professional way. No matter where you work or what you do, communication is always the most important aspect, but it is always the first thing to break down.

Professionalism: I define this as keeping a calm level head, not lowering yourself to gossip and rumors, getting your work done in a timely fashion. No he-said-she-said, but taking responsibility for your actions. Being respectful and sticking to the rules, however few there may be. I try to keep the ‘drama’ out of theatre.

Hope that is helpful! Please comment if you have more suggestions and/or expectations!

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager

When creating a rehearsal schedule, you will need:

  • All of the cast members’ conflicts
  • Scene breakdown
  • Production calendar

The production calendar includes not just the audition and performance dates, but when people are building the sets, when publicity photos will be taken, and any dark days the theatre has.

With your copy of the production calendar, add in everyone’s conflicts. It’s a time consuming task but will save you much frustration in the long run.

Now let’s work backwards. For most productions, the big tech day is the Sunday before the show opens. If your show opens on Friday then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday should be Full Dress Rehearsals, with costumes, props, lights and sound, as if it were the real thing. On tech Sunday, I suggest that the tech crew meet in the morning for a Dry Tech or Paper Tech, where they just go through the cues without the actors to make sure everything is functioning properly. Then call the actors for the afternoon and go through the whole show marrying actors with the tech.

This is when things start to get frustrating. There’s often a lot of “hurry up and wait”. People tend to get cranky when things aren’t going well. So it’s important for you to stay balanced and positive. Not just for your sanity, but for theirs. It also helps to feed them. Talk to your Producer about food and what your budget is. Pizza is almost always a great idea.

But I digress. Back to the schedule!

Tech Sunday is not the day the cast should be running the show from beginning to end for the first time. Ideally you’ll want to be running the show a few days before that. Which means that everyone should have their lines learned about a week before tech Sunday at the LATEST. If you have a three act play, I like to have Act 3 off-book (meaning the actors are no longer calling for lines) by the Monday before Tech Sunday. Act 2 the Monday before that, and Act 1 the Monday before that.

In the Beginning…

At your very first rehearsal, everyone should be there. Almost all directors like to have a table reading, which means that everyone sits around the table and reads the script. This is a good opportunity to get a rough estimate of how long the show will run as this will probably be the fastest the show goes until your full run-throughs. Some actors like to record the read-through so that they can use it to help them learn their lines. You should also be confirming everyone’s contact information and conflicts that they provided on their audition forms!!

Here’s where the scene breakdown sheet comes in handy.

The Schedule: Assuming 8 weeks for a 3 Act play

Week 1: Run all the scenes for Act 1 that you can, in as close to a chronological order that you can. But try not to have people sitting around waiting for their scenes.

Week 2: Any scenes you couldn’t do last week. Run all the scenes for Act 2 that you can.

Week 3: Any scenes you couldn’t do last week. Run all the scenes for Act 3 that you can.

Week 4: By this time, you and the director should have an understanding about which scenes need more work. Or if you have actor conflicts, this is a good time to review!

(This is a basic guideline and will have to be adjusted for every show. Some scenes may need more work than others, etc.)

Week 5: Monday: Off Book Act 1: Run through act 1 as many times as you can. Start running through acts 2 and 3 Thursday and Friday

Week 6: Monday: Off Book Act 2: Run through act 2 as many times as you can. Run acts 1 and 2, then 2 and 3

Week 7: Monday: Off Book act 3: Run through act 3 as many times as you can. Start running 1 through 3

Week 8: Tech Sunday; Full dress run-throughs Monday-Thursday; Open Friday!!!

Depending on the length of your run, you should have a pick-up rehearsal every week, to make sure the actors haven’t gotten rusty. You don’t need to do any tech, just a bare bones rehearsal.

Strike: This is when the set gets taken down. Some theatres ask the actors to help, some have their own tech crew to do it.

But Wait, There’s More….

You are also responsible for making sure everyone on the tech side is keeping to their schedule. You should try to have a production meeting before the first rehearsal and then at least 2 or 3 more, schedule permitting. These are your progress updates, where you can ask questions, and provide answers.

Some things you may have to schedule:

  • Publicity photo shoot(s)
  • due date for Program Bios from cast
  • costume fittings
  • Props due date
  • Costumes due date
  • Set due date
  • Lights & Sound due date

Here is a copy of the last few weeks of one of my schedules: SampleProductionCalendar

Hope that’s been helpful and not too difficult to follow. Please ask questions! I will answer!

Robyn

The Awesome stage Manager

All The World’s Stages

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Green Room

Theatres, especially community theatres, come in all shapes and sizes. If you’ve ever put on a show at a high school or a church basement or the basketball court at the rec center, you’ve probably worked on a stage with a Proscenium Arch.

To the audience, the stage looks two-dimensional with a big picture frame (or curtain) bordering it. These kinds of stages are good for productions with static sets, or when there are a lot of exits and entrances and you need to give the illusion of rooms or locations beyond the current setting. Writing blocking for this kind of stage is pretty straight-forward. (Stay tuned for an article about writing blocking, i.e. the actors’ movements across the stage.)

 

The Globe Theatre in London is a great example of a Thrust Stage. There is often, but not always, an upstage playing area, but it is characterized by the main part of the stage being thrust into the house so that the audience is on three sides of the stage, giving the play a more three dimensional feel to it. This is sometimes referred to as a three-quarter round stage and can be a little trickier to notate the blocking.

 

Another type of stage is what is called theatre in the round, or an arena stage because this is typically used for concerts or sporting events. The perfect example is the Coliseum in Rome. The audience sits on all four sides and often the actors enter from the aisles.

Many theatres are a combination of the above. You will often find some black box theatres where the staging and seating are interchangeable allowing for a variety of productions.

Black box theatres are defined as being small performances spaces where all the walls are painted black. They can often be found in converted warehouses, office buildings, town halls, anyplace where you can squeeze in a stage and a good amount of people to watch it.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave comments and/or questions and/or suggestions for more topics.

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager