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House manager vs. stage manager

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by Spikesgirl, Mar 8, 2008.

  1. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    FoH was trying to get people reseated due to a SNAFU in tikceting. The entire show was sold out, so some comps were being asked (nicely) to give up their seats - won't bore you with details. Anyhow, suddenly the house goes to back and the show starts with Maria (Sound of Mucus) waltzing down the aisle and into a patron. Paying customers ended up sitting in the lobby until intermission before the problem could be fix.

    Okay, my question - should the house have been held by the SM for this or was she right starting the show while patrons were still struggling with screwed up seating arrangements? I thought the house should have been held until the actress could safely move down the aisle and the patrons were safely down.

    What would you do?

    Charlie
     
  2. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    In all of the professional theatres I've worked in the House Manager turns over the house to the SM. So, a few minutes before curtain the HM will phone/radio the SM to give an estimate ("we look good for 8PM" or "There's still a line at Will Call, I think we'll need two more minutes"). Then, the HM will phone/radio again when he/she feels it's appropriate (AND SAFE) to begin the show ("The house is your's.)

    Also, whenever actors enter through the audience, someone with a headset (from the SM staff) is with them. This person is there to contact the SM about potential problems, and to report that those performers are (or are not) ready for their entrances.

    In short, the SM should not start the show without a "go" from the HM.

    --Sean
     
  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Yeah, an SM and HM Have to work together. I understand SM's getting snippy when they've held for 10-20 minutes, but if you have actors entering through the audience you have to wait for the house to give you an all clear. That was a bad mistake on the SM's part, or perhaps a miscommunication ?
     
  4. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    Seconded.

    Also, what if when the house lights turned off someone was up walking around and fell and broke their leg. The House Manager gives the theater to the Stage Manager before the show. The stage manager may help the house manager deal with the snafu to speed up the solution, but its wrong to start the show without the House Managers go.
     
  5. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Agreed.

    Sounds like a pushy SM who doesn't want to work any more.
     
  6. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    See, that was sort of my take on it as well, but since I've worked both positions, I thought the view might be a be askewed. Since we call from the booth, (mere steps from the lobby), I always let the HM know when we're prepared to run, wait for the lobby to clear and then start the show. Rarely have we started with folks still standing and never when an actor is doing a house entrance.

    SM is not always the easiest to work with, but neither is the House manager, so I could easily see a power struggle between the two.

    Thanks for reverifying what I felt was common sense.

    Charlie
     
  7. mike1023

    mike1023 Member

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    When problems come up, whether it be ticketing/house problems or technical difficulties before a show. There needs to be clear communication between all departments in the theatre. A plan should already be in place in case a situation ever arises.

    Sounds like this issue could have been easily resolved, if the HM and SM communicated.
     
  8. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    (rant on)
    I take issue with the title of this thread.
    Versus?
    That is absolutely the wrong way for a team to be thinking.
    (rant off)
     
  9. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    Then, AV, you've never stood between our house manager and the stage manager when both are deterimined to get their own way. It is definitely a verses situation.


    Charlie
     
  10. sobenson

    sobenson Member

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    Every night, I call the HM 5 minutes before curtain to see what the lobby is like and if we will be ready to. I either get the all clear or a request to hold for 5 min. I relay that info to the company manager who allows it or not. Most touring companies have it in the rider what is acceptable for a hold, and/or late seating policy. Some of the touring Broadways will not allow late seating for the first 30 min of the show.
     
  11. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Which is exactly the opposite of how it should be.
     
  12. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    And AV, we agree with you! There shouldn't be a division between the back and the front of the house, but that would be like saying that all actors/ actresses respect and admire us for what we do. It isn't the case in most theaters, although many of us strive to keep the tension to a minimum through communication and shared responsibilities.

    However, being able to defuse the situation beforehand enables me to be more cognitive of what the HM sees as her responsibilities. This also gives me the necessary backing when confronted by the director or producer asking why the curtain is being held. I feel that we have a responsibility to both our patrons and actors to keep them safe before during and after a show.

    Charlie
     
  13. Hughesie

    Hughesie Well-Known Member

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    where i crew the FOH sound position is closest to the doors and when they feel everyone is seating they give us FOH clearence at this stage we pick up our comms and relay the message to the SM.

    never fails
     
  14. tech2000

    tech2000 Active Member

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    Good thing I work in a high school where we don't have a house manager and our sound tech just turns around, observes the situation in the house, and then reports to the sm. Basically what Hughesie is saying.
     
  15. Clifford

    Clifford Active Member

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    We have a HM, but they communicate with the SM. When the seating is done, doors close and the show starts. Because we call from the booth, it's easy for the SM to see the seats.
     
  16. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    We don't have a house manager, but the person in charge of tickets usually has a walkie-talkie we can communicate with... Ironically, I'm usually the one as LB op who gives the call to start the show (by flipping the house lights switch off... yes, switch. No Dimmers.) Of course, as I give a countdown, I'm checking with the stage crew and tickets/ushers to make sure we can start. We have atomic clocks all over the building, so we use those to coordinate time.
     
  17. Fireguy551

    Fireguy551 Member

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    The only time I have ever have this get tricky is with symphonies or other shows what going into overtime is a large deal. You house should have a late seating policy established and if the show needs to start then the HM should have some kind of plan to deal with the straglers. In the case of a ticketing screwup then that shouldn't happen ever again. If it were me I (Being the house TD for a broadway/roadhouse) would have personally taken the production manager or money person out to the box office to help solve the problem.

    I would suggest that the box office not make that huge of a mistake in the future haha.
     
  18. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    Yup. HM deals with her problems and hands off to SM. At the same time, HM understands that SM is on a schedule, actors are "on the clock" and will only hold for so long before getting rolling and late seating the stragglers.

    Professionalism is what separates us from the animals. ;)
     
  19. thenelsontwins

    thenelsontwins Member

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    As a sometimes AEA stage manager I am well aware that we are responsible for the health and welfare of the actors and performers. That situation is avoidable and should have been avoided. If the stage manager was aware of the problem and aware that the actor is to be walking that EXACT PATH to start the show, they should have waited.

    If it were an Equity show and I were the actor, I would most assuredly be filing a complaint with the PSM and the Company Manager and any other person I can get in front of me.

    We are technicians, yes, and we have this bad habit of sometimes falling under the impression that we are more important than the actors, that our rules are more important than others, and our schedules are the ones to follow.

    But when safety and welfare is the issue, WE have a responsibility to protect the Actors as well as ourselves.


    I don't know what level professional, union, non-union, academic, etc. But to knowingly put an actor at risk by the stage manager, who is to be their advocate, is negligent at best, if not downright reckless. No matter who made the ticketing error or whether it is "their problem" or "your problem" that was just plain dumb. If that extra 3 minutes to hold the house pushes everyone past their call and into overtime, your show is too long and that is someone else's problem entirely. Even if the director is breathing down your neck to GO and an actor or hand is in potential danger, YOU DO NOT GO. Deal with the producer, or the GM later. Explain the situation and why you waited. Put it in the show report, do whatever you have to do, but at no point do you GO in those kinds of situations.

    Wait for the house to be released. When the house is safe to go, and you are safe to go, you GO.
     
  20. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    We are also responsible for the safety of our patrons.

    A few years back, we had as our act II opening, a corvette drive through the house. My job was to spot for the 'vette at the bowl entrance. Three times during the run of the Pageant, some of our ushers took it upon themselves to let people in for late seating before the car had completed its run through the bowl, despite instructions from the house manger to wait for the car.

    These ushers are now on the very short list of people who have seen me angry. Their actions in letting people into the house at a time when it was not safe to do so could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or killed. Needless to say I chewed them out right there, on the spot, without taking the time to find the house manager. Granted, I later had to apologize to the house manager for interfering in a situation she should have handled, but the safety of our patrons is something we don't screw around with at the Pageant. I flat out refused to apologize to the ushers I chewed out, as they deserved every bit of it for putting our patrons in danger.

    Fortunately, no one was hurt in these incidents. But we need to remember that as irritating as they can sometimes be, our patrons are the people we are in this industry for. These are the people who pay our salaries, and we need to be concerned for their welfare when they are in our facilities.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2008

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