Archive for the ‘Prompt Book’ Category

Blocking

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Prompt Book
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Blocking is keeping track of the actors’ movements across the stage. Now, this may look a bit intimidating, but I will show you how I write down blocking. It may not be the best method for you. You will have to scour the internets for samples and templates and examples until you find or amalgamate a system that works for you. The first thing you must know is left and right, down and up.

These directions are universal. Everyone at any theatre in the U.S. should understand UR is Up Stage Right, C is Center, DL is Down Stage Left, etc. Those are the easy ones.

You also need a short hand for the Characters. I usually take the first two letters (or consonants) and circle them. It distinguishes them from the other letter symbols. For Example, CH is a circle is Charles, VN in a circle is Vinnie, and so on.

Actors also do more than cross from one side of the stage to the other. They pick up props, sit in chairs, lean on desks, drink excessive amounts of alcohol (the fake kind! See my post “Whiskey and Other Liquor”). You will need a way to notate all those actions as well.

Here is my Blocking Key for Mrs. Warren’s Profession (George Bernard Shaw).  This shorthand works great for me because it’s quick (only a couple of strokes per character) and it looks like what it is. (I studied Japanese for a couple of years, so that may count as cheating.

So using what you’ve learned so far, let’s put it into practice. Write the following in blocking short hand:

Mrs. Warren crosses down stage left and sits at the chair.

Great, now scroll down and see if you’re correct!

Good job! Now do a few more.

One of the best websites I’ve found so far for SM paperwork has been: http://rmusitt.org/resources/stagemanagers/6-smpaperwork

They have a few other samples of how to do blocking notation, as well as some other great resources.

Here’s a sample of my blocking notes for “Life with Father”.

Notice how I have the text of the script on the left and the form I use to write blocking on the right. This is because I am right handed and it’s easiest for me. There is also a place to put the blueprint of the set in the top right corner, a place to write down descriptions of lighting or sound cues, and a place for notes and/or props that are needed. That form is here: Blocking Page

As an actor moves, I notate on what line they move, associate it with a number and write the blocking code at that number.

CHORUS: “Two households, both alike in dignity,|_________________(1)        1: (CH) raises hands

In fair Verona | where we lay our scene. |____________________(3) (5)      3: (CH) bows, R hand out

From ancient grudge, break to new mutiny,                                                5: (LM) Ent UL, XDR; (LC) Ent UR, XDL

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

I like to skip a few numbers in between because invariably, the director will go back and tweak things and add little extra movements here and there.

Important Tips: Write everything in PENCIL! A lot of blocking will change. In fact, invest in a large eraser. I also use a ruler to draw the lines. And make sure you keep a copy of your blocking key in your prompt book. Not just to remind you, but in case something happens, someone else will be able to read and understand your blocking notations. Once a show goes up, I keep my prompt book at the theatre. You never know.

Hope that was helpful. Please comment if you have questions!!

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager

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Line, please!

Posted: February 25, 2012 in Prompt Book
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As actors are struggling to get off book, you (or your ASM) will have to be on book, available to prompt them. This can be a touchy subject. Here is what is supposed to happen:

Actor: ” Two household, both-” Line!

SM: “alike in dignity”

Actor: “Alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene.”

If they forget a line, you loudly and clearly give them the next 3 or 4 words and they continue on. If it’s been a rough rehearsal, and actors are getting frustrated, you’ll have to be vigilant. Here’s some scenarios:

Actor: ” Two household, both-” Agh! $%&#@% What’s the line?

SM: “alike in dignity”

Actor: “Alike in dignity, in fair Verona”. . . . . . . . (actor looks at you pleadingly)

SM: “where we lay”

Actor: I can’t believe I forgot that. “Where we lay our scene.” I feel so silly, etc.

What you should do, is at the next break, remind them to keep in character and just call “Line” when they need it. If you keep providing a line prompt whenever you hear a long pause, you might step on toes. The actor could be trying to remember the line or could be pausing for dramatic effect. Then they’ll get frustrated and you’ll feel sheepish.

Keeping Score

If you’re working with an older text, like something by George Bernard Shaw or Shakespeare, where the wording is very important, you may need to take line notes. There are a few ways to do it. You can fill out Line Note forms like these Line Notes Form and hand them to the actors at the end of rehearsal, or you can keep track in your prompt book, and review them with the actors at the end of rehearsal.

If you’re working with a very large cast on a very huge production, make an extra copy of your script. Put each double sided page into those sheet protector sleeves and then put each act into it’s own binder. Then, while you or your ASM are marking down line notes with erasable markers for one act, the cast can be reviewing the notes for the other acts.

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

Scene Breakdowns

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Prompt Book

Auditions are done, you have all the actors’ conflicts in front of you. It’s time to create a schedule. But not everyone can be at every rehearsal. You need to create a scene breakdown, which is essentially a chart that shows you which actors are in what scenes. If you have long scenes, you may need to further divide a scene into french scenes. A french scene is defined as when a character enters or exits, and is usually found in older french plays, like those by Moliere’. But it’s fairly easy for you or the director to divide your own.

When you have established your french scenes, you can create a spreadsheet of who is in each scene. Here is an example: Character Plot

This chart, or plot, is invaluable in creating a rehearsal schedule. More on that to come.

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager

Rehearsal Reports

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Prompt Book
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Rehearsal Reports help you keep track of everything that goes on during a rehearsal and allow you to share that information quickly with the rest of your production team.

What Should Be Included:

  • The scenes that are scheduled to be rehearsed and the time allotted
  • What scenes were actually rehearsed and for how long
  • Any actors that were late, absent or excused
  • When your next rehearsal is and what scenes are scheduled
  • A place for notes for the following departments: Sets, Lights, Sound, Hair/ Makeup, Costuming, Props
  • A section for general rehearsal notes

ASM-RehearsalReport This is the form that I use. You can type it in or fill it in by hand. At the end of rehearsal, just type it up and email everyone on the production team.

If you are lucky enough to be working at a theatre that has internet access, I HIGHLY recommend using docs.google.com. You can update your rehearsal report in real time, you can share it with everyone who needs it and no one can complain that they didn’t get that email that a prop/set piece/costume didn’t work out. I’ve used it on my last few shows and it’s been great! Especially for keeping track of props. But I’ll save that for another post!

Robyn

The Awesome Stage Manager