About those prompt books...


Just wondering - new member and all that - how do people usually set up prompt books? Separate scripts for blocking, diagrams on opposite page, color-coding and whatnot. I've seen some pretty interesting forum discussions grow out of this... and my prompt books have evolved as well.

Stage Managing is pretty new to me, but I'll tell you what I was taught (and I've also found it works well when LDing a show, too)

I normally use 2 scripts. The first (single sided, read vertically) is great for blocking and rehersal notes. You can simply draw a diagram of where they move. The second is the cue script (prompt book). Double sided pages allow you to look ahead easier to see what's coming. No special color coding or anything like that. Pencil--always. Even in the prompt book.

For musicals and operas though, I like to/am forced to read off of a score for the majority of the show--interlacing the dialouge from the book where needed. That's what a musical background does to ya. In that case, cues are color coded. Normally something like green for sound, purple for lights, blue for staging, and red for FX.

My $.02

Jeremy Lyon
Asst. Sound Engineer at The McAnich Arts Center
I used two scripts. One was the blocking script that had the text on the right side and a diagram of the set on the left. A lot of the time I had an Assistant Director or an ASM doing the blocking script as I tended to the directors/actors needs. I would then transpose in my other script, which direction people entered and exited, mostly for spot cues, and quick changes.

I have also used two methods for cueing. I have used the "Light Cue Root system," basically keep a running total of cues and not separating them by sound cue, light cue, fx cue, and spot cue. So you have from cue #1 to cue #411. For big shows that have a lot of action and not a lot of time from chatter on the head sets it works well. If you needed to add cues, you just add a point one, and a point two. Cue # 3.1, etc

The other method that I have used from college was based on the Lawrence Stern method. Stern wrote several editions of a Stage management textbook. The Stern method broke everything down into sound cue, light cue, fx cue, and spot cue, and advocated the "stand-by cue #, ready cue #, and cue # go."

Find what works for you, the crew, and the production.
I use two scripts as well. The I use for all of the actor information, and the second is all of the tech information. I put blocking in the first, and I use it for promting lines as well. My second script I use for all tech cues, and I write it all in pencil, but I use letters for sound and numbers for lights. The first time I stage managed, I didn't have two scripts, so I had to highlight my cues so I could see them. But now I only use pencil.
As for me, I've always used two scripts. Just not in the "normal way". I use one for rehersals and blocking. I write all my blocking on the same page as the line because I usually dont have time to move over to a sheet on the other side. About halfway through tech week, I used my other script to finalize everything. This is where I put the blocking in the correct form and add in the tech cues. I like to write the cues all starting at 1 (IE: SQ1, LQ1, FQ1, BQ1), then I highlight each set of cues in a differant color. I make sure that the people on the other headsets know their respective cue #'s so I can just said "Sound Q 1, Standby..... GO" and the sound tech will know exactly what is supposed to happen. Thats just my random method, hopefully in college they will teach me a more effciant or the "right way" but this has always worked for me.
As far as I can tell, there is no official "right" way, so no worries about needing to conform to a certain style...

A question - have you ever seen different types of numbering? A designer I worked with last summer said he had been raised on numbers referring to light Qs, letters referring to sound, and greek alphabet being deck Qs. I've tried this on the last few shows I've called, and it can be really helpful sometimes, just as a means of keeping headset conversation organized. It also makes my final call book much prettier...

I've heard the letters for sound and numbers for lights, but Greek alphabet? I can see how that would work well--gotta try it now.

Jeremy Lyon
Technician at The McAnich Arts Center
I use just one master prompt book, but it get pretty detailed. I ussually copy about 3 mini-ground plans on the back of each of the pages of the script and draw the blocking as it happenes. I also write it in the normal script too. That way if the director decides to change the blocking again you have exactly what happened and you aren't trying to read your own blocking hyrogliohics. It makes for a lot less confusion when someone else looks at your promt book. Hope this gives you some ideas!

Good Luck!!

Im usually at every single rehersal, or at least most of them, so I always end of knowing the shows like the back of my hand (I can resite almost every line of the last show I did). I also useto be an actor, so if someone is missing I will read for them. All of this makes it so that I know most stage directions and lines, so by the end of tech week, I know almost everything without a script. However, the next show im working on is going to be the biggest yet, so I may try doing something like that.

Also, what juat came to mind, I donno if this is routien or not, but have a master list for each pereson (sound/lights/stage, etc) that says cue 1 is this, cue 2 is this, and so on...
Heh, I wish sometimes that I took the care to make a nice list...

Although I am not in management, I do end up writing on the sound script. So, my notes are half memory based, and the other half consists of 'one dong here,' or 'Long crash,' relying on the operator to know which effect it is...

In fact, my friend Rory and I recieved the nicknames Ding and Dong for all of the goddamn bell effects on 'a christmas carol.' We would have these rediculous conversations:

Tech: Was that my cue?
Dir: Yes, I need a bell.
Tech: How many dongs?
Dir: Um, 7, its 7 o-clock.
Tech: Hows this (plays effect)
dir: I need 'ding dongs' not just 'dongs'
Tech: What about this? (another effect)
dir: I dont like the funky chime intro...
Tech: Ok, ill get rid of it (saves it as 'ding dong's without funky intro)
dir: Oh, I need more ding now, they're too quiet.
Tech: Sigh.. Ok..
I love conversations like that :wink: .

How about actually calling shows? Do you all have any particular tricks or traditions on headset?
megf said:
I love conversations like that :wink: .

How about actually calling shows? Do you all have any particular tricks or traditions on headset?

Get someone who wont fool around on the headsets. I direct this towards High School performances. headset use should be strictly regulated, any annoying person can ruin cues. Thankfully, us senior techies are a tight knit group, so the screwing around is kept to a minimum. However, ive seen the younger techies miss many cues because they were joking around and screaming into the headsets.
Yea, I have that problem not only with headsets and cues, but with accutly doing your job. Last year for the big show we had a tag-team on the spot lights, without me knowing untill later of course, whereby 2 people would run the spots who had no idea of the show and a basic idea of how to work the spot, while the people who i thought were on the spot were outside fooling around....

I'm trying to work out a tech crew who will accutly do there job maturly, but mature techies are in short supply, so they always get short-changed at the spot light area where we bring in people who don't know what there doing....
I find that it is easier to set up standards very early for calling a show/headsets. I make it very clear that messing around will not be tollerated and those that do will not like the outcome. When I do that I find that many of the techies take the job a lot more seriously. When they understand why it is not tollerated they are relly good!! :) Set up your standards and stick to them. The students will respect you for it.

Good Luck!!
I know, I'm already trying to figure out what crew I want (who i can trust where) and I am already preparing my first speach to everyone :oops:

Now if only I knew for certin that they would listen. The main problem is there isn't a TD, so I could go to the Director, only she is always busy with the actors, accutly, the actors usually end up comming to me before her, since I always seem to have the answers... hum....
As well the actors should. As SM, you can, presumably, answer the majority of questions for actors during rehearsals, and certainly in tech and performance. You can't start giving artistic notes, but don't feel like your work is separate from the actors' - all of you, as a group, are involved in every reh and performance, so take advantage of being organized and present and make yourself a valuable resource to them!

Abt reticent techies: never let them see you sweat. I know it sounds snobbish to say that, but when I have worked on floor crew/spot, I have found it much easier to take cues and follow rules set by an SM who always seemed on top of their work and everyone else's. That doesn't necessarily mean that they *were* totally organized and ready to go, but their confidence and calm,, professional attitude ensured that everyone worked well and consistently. And they usually started the tech period with a short speech.... Something like "We are all professionals/good at this/proud of our work/etc, so I think we can expect the highest quality work from everyone one this show. Now here is the gameplan for tonight..." Basically, a very nice calm threat - if ppl don't keep their proverbial crap together, they won't be getting much work later on.
Yea, very true. As a former actor I will usually read for actors who are missing, and I am basicly the handy man who will do any job that needs doing, coppying scrips or rigging the lights.

I see your point about looking responsable. I usually try to make myself an equal to my crew. For the last show I did that, and it worked fine, but I hand-picked the techies from those who accutly know what there doing and will listen to me. However, for this next show I'm going to need a big crew, which means I need to get people who arn't as trustworthy. So, yes, my new resolution, I will try to appear like I know what im doing :D

I hope i'm that good of an actor :D :lol: :D
Hey, sometimes, it does come down to acting like you know what't going on. Keep in mind that no mistake is wasted - learn from EVERYTHING, especially the mistakes that affect how an entire crew or cast works. Ok, corny tidbit time.... Whenever I start a new notepad during a show, I reserve the last page to write down all of my mistakes. At the end of each show - maybe day after strike - I staple all the pages together and go over each one. If I can talk them into it, I talk with some of the more experienced SM's I know about how they avoid making the same mistakes.

I'm not saying that an incohesive/unprofessional crew is purely your fault, but sometimes thinking about problems as though they are totally in your control can help you fix them.

Best of luck.

thats a good idea, this way I could keep track of what I did well, and what I could have done differently....

I like that idea!!!!
Personally, I use two binders. In one is the script, double-sided or single-sided, with cues and notes. In the other is the set layout, which I make using a computer because I can't draw to save my life. Each scene has a title (Ex. Act I, Scene V) at the top. There is a plot for storage as well. I usually make two copies, one for me and one for my ASM. It seems to help if I write piece assignments in a corner (its best to always use the same corner).


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