organisation problems


I need some help. I'm currently working in a highschool and I'm having trouble with some of the crew and my stage manager. I'll talk about the crew first.

We seem to have a problem with some students and maintaining discipline on our communication headsets. There's always some form of side conversation going on and the only way I've found to stop it is to yell at them. This is unfair both to those who are doing their job well and not talking. I'd really like some insights into how to deal with this.

My stage manager has this thing for rotating everyone into every position (lights, sounds, stage) even if they've already proved their expertise in another feild. He is new so I can give him credit for trying new things but soemtimes I find it so very frustrating that a show runs bad because they wrong people were chosen for certain jobs. If any of you have dealt with anything lik this, please respond with how you dealt with it.

I'll break this into 2 posts: It sounds like you have problems, but very easy solutions. First off, with the headsets, there should be a talk button to push. It toggles on and off and is very easy to use. I remember once i was in the tech booth and i was talking to the stage manager and bad mouthing the curtain puller how he was late on cues and how he always asked when he was supposed to close it and then never did it. And evidently, he heard me and he's never talked to me since. But I don't know how your headset system is, but there should be somewhere that they can turn off the "talk" so nobody else can hear what your talking about, and still hear whats going on. If you don't have the "talk" button, I strongly suggest you look up something called "telex" because thats the model we use and they work great with that feature. If you are talking about people with headsets talking to other people with headsets, then they should not have headsets on becuase during a show, it can be very hectic if somthing goes wrong and 10 people are talking at the same time. Keep as many people OFF headsets as possible.
As for your stage manager, I would suggest you tell he/she to stop. I mean maybe it'll be a good idea for rehersals, but not for a show. Maybe you can have all of the crew in a group, and have the person who is good at that particular thing, show the rest of the crew how to use their skill. Otherwise, you will have a bunch of mixed up crew. I'm not sure what position your in (student director, assistant stage manager, tech director, etc.) but you should probably pull the stage manager aside and let he/she know that it's probably not a good idea. Good luck.
I agree on the stage manager thing. Jobs should be assigned to tech people. If they want to learn how to do other things, I don't see a problem with that--but it makes it easier for everyone if the tech people themselves know what they're doing. As for the side conversations on the headset, I can't really criticize anyone because I do that frequently myself (I'm baaaddd), but instead of yelling, it might be a good idea to calmly (but sternly) remind them that they have a show to do, and that if they'd rather goof off and put the show at risk of failure, that's fine with you. They'll only be embarrassing themselves. That might put things in perspective for them...good luck!
In the past I have just made the rule that no one can talk in a "ready" on headset. So the stage manager can call a ready for a Q and no one can talk until the Q has been executed. That way people can still talk about things if they need to but it won’t disturb the other people who need to hear what is going on. One rule should defiantly be enforced though, headset conversation needs to pertain to what is going on during a show. You shouldn’t have to remind your crew of that during a show. As for the stage manager, that might be all part of the same problem, the stage manager should be responsible for controlling the talking on headset as well as properly assigning jobs. They should be well throughout and kept once the rehearsals start. I can't imagine ever running a show properly and having to change jobs different nights. People need to get into the grove of the show and learn to anticipate their Qs without having to refer to a Q sheet all the time, that’s what makes a show flow, people not thinking about their Qs but knowing them...
If the venue is educational theater then rotation of jobs per show is very important. However, in the heat of construction the technical production staff (AKA the Adults) need to becareful that one just does not always jump to a certain person to get work done. I work very hard to make sure that I am maintaining the "Hierarchy of Communication for Production," unless of course something happens that requires me to step in as an adult.

With respect to Head-Set etiquette the stagemanager needs to be the final judge. To reduce the backstage and sound crew chatter on the headsets we moved those crews to wireless Motorola Talkabouts. There are some simple rules of thumb do not have private conversations on headsets. Never Critique the actors, they will find out. Never Talk during a ready!
As I was reading the posts on this subject I noticed the use of the term ready. Is this what schools are teaching these days?
I know regional theatres, small professional theaters, and equity stage managers all use the terms warn, stand-by, and then the "go" sequence.
So about a minute before a cue you hear "Warning sound cue B"
then about thirty seconds you hear "Stand-by sound cue B" at about fifteen seconds you hear" Sound Cue B..." so at the precise moment of the cue "GO".
And it is understood that there is absolutely no talking once you are in a warning.
There should be no regular chit chat on headsets at all, but from time to time a quick joke will pass over which usually will be fine the idea is to keep it to an absolute minimum.
However there are many shows where that standby and warning system dosent work because the Qs are far to close togther. I SMed a show where there wasnt even enough time for the word ready and readys were in groups. Different theaters have different methods none will ever be exactly the same as much as everyone would like them to be. I am not sure what my point is other then that "ready" isnt that un common.
What you say maybe true, but what I was saying was regional (LORT), Small professional (SPT), and a vast majority of the equity stage managers use the terms I described in a previous post. Road houses tend to work under different concepts from time to time. But in my 10+ years of professional experience. The 5 states, 2 countries and 30+ theatres have all used this system. Friends of mine in close to 30 theaters all use this system. In very few circumstances the SM had tight calls, but the way the worked around it was.
Warning lights cues 23 thru 58, Sound Cues D thru H-9, Pyro cues 17 -27, and Stage Shifts Beta and Gamma.
Stand By... (all that above, but feeling lazy)
Lights Go
Sound Go
Lights and Pyro GO
Beta Go
This is the way most Broadway shows are called.
I'm not saying that using the term ready is wrong. I just think that the warning stand by method is very common so why not learn it early on. I am not trying to come off as egotistical I just wanted to back up what I was saying.
All I am saying is that in HS situations, ready+Q# then go is probubly the standard. I am teaching kids now at the district I work for and I am teaching them this method because they just don't have the patients for anything else. The majority of them are not interested in the exact sciences they just want to have fun, which is thier right at this age.
I haven't heard "ready" being used in my HS or in the community theatre I worked at...I don't know if that's just more common to my area or because of the SM's personal preference. I prefer to use "warning" & "standby" when I'm calling cues, just because it keeps me and everyone else more organized and informed. Much of what I learned about SMing has been from the Internet though, so it could be that the online crowd leans toward using those instead of "ready". Just a thought.
I understand what you are saying Delnor, but my concern is for the students that do take it seriously and want to learn the science. I feel that you might be doing them a disservice by teaching them an easy fun way. Then as they continue on in theatre they have to re-learn a system.
And I think this web site proves that there are plenty of HS students that do want to learn as correct of a way as possible.
for districts, they have a judge listening in on what everybody is saying on the headsets. when i screwed up a light cue during the one acts, i said a word i probably should'nt have said. but we got disqualified because we did "women and wallace" which evidently "encourage's youth sex" so we claim ourselves as "disqaulified but supierer" but the main point is to limit conversation to the least amount as possible.
I'm not sure how much I can add to this conversation, but as a High School SM, I thought I would throw my two cents in. I have always been taught (along with several others I know at other area schools) "Standby"/ "warn"/ "go". This could have something to do with the local college's theatre ed programs though.
As for tight cues, we address that as it comes, usually calling it as described a few posts up, but always after talking to those involve and explaining the changed sequence.
Hoped that provided something, for whatever it was worth
I have to agree on the SM rotating everyone being a bad thing. This year we took all the freshmen (and other students who hadnt done theatre before) around our stage (which is in the elementary gym) and showed them how the lights worked, how the spotlight worked, how the curtains worked, etc.. during rehearsal. After a rehearsal I sat down and assigned everyone to jobs and rearranged it if necessary.
I know this theard is on the dead side but I think I have some things to share. At my highschool when I do sound I dont wear a headset becasue that affects my mix, I have an assistant who runs the cd player watchs clear com and the script, plus if I need to fix something he can mix. When I do spot its spots stand by the actors name and postion then go, but by the 1st show these are unnessisary. When Im a grip for the dance shows (paid gigs RULE0 some one on each side follow the program because last year we talked to much according to soem but there were 5 or 6 of use that had to move mats 3 time for a 2 and a half to 3 hour show, we tried to not talk between songs when lights and sound got their cues but a good story just need to be told. SO lighting just went off on the grips then we followed the program and went on channel B.
:? Cues and Readys and Stuff

I use a somewhat custom system of cues when calling a show.
I'll have the Sound, Lights, AV, or anyone else with cues to give me a sheet with a cue synopsis and the point where it occurs in the script.
I'll number these Lights/Sound/AV A-Z, then AA-AZ, then BA-BZ... etc...

I then sit down with my ASM's for about two-hours (depending on how long the show is) and create a master cue list.

From this master cue list, I take out the specific departments cue lists and give them a copy. On this sheet is the master cue and also the slightly less noticable specific cue.

That way when a light and sound occur atr the same time (say for example: light AS and sound BY) I can just call Master Cue 32 and they both run!
The past show show I worked on we had around 16 some clearcoms being used on a single channel. The was no a master station in the SM panel so we could not split up channels. And it would get to hecktic using two different head sets for the SM. Plus B was supposed to be reserved for video, but the cameras were all focused staticly. I mixed the show, so I only used the headset during preproduction and intermissions. I had to listen to the mix, left all communication duties up to the assistant. Anyways, considering the SM really had no cues to give other then starting the show and ending blackouts the amount of headsets used weren't too big of problem. But, sound was using about a third of all the headsets just for convience (designer listening to mix/on call on the mezzonene level, foh assistant, spare headset in both, two back stage) so it wasn't that many people. Just about every crew had at least one headset, but no one really seemed to use it for conversation which was nice. People just really listened thats all, and they only asked questions if absolutely neccessary. I personally believe that you shouldn't be so dependant on it. It's best if you just act like it's not there, it should only be used if you need to communicate some sort of problem or last minute detail. Too many people rely on the things too much, imagine if your clearcom system breaks. What would you do? Do you have a plan b?

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