Stage Manager backstage

Does your SM spend most of each show backstage or at the Tech Table/Tech Booth?


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nate

Member
Joined
Mar 16, 2004
Location
Rock Creek, Ohio
In our school, there aren't enough people on stage crew usually for me, as Stage Director, to be at the Tech Table like is ideal. Since this is the case, I always stay backstage and help. Usually I try not to assign any set pieces to myself. If I have to, it is something smaller or closer to the wing so that I can get back to the wing ASAP. The reasonong behind these practices is so that I can ckeck and make sure that everything is on that needs to be. My question is: Do you find it strange that a SM is backstage for the entire show, every show? Also, do you have any ideas for how I might go about enlarging my crew (since I am lucky to have enough people to cover the entire set)?

Thanks,
-Nate
 

ship

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Mar 29, 2003
Location
Illinois
You also find no doubt that you have much better control and knowledge about what's going on now don't you? Verses in the booth, hmm, you give commands to the sound and light people, watch the show from the audience, but what's going on back stage? Is the main ready to go up... how do you know? Should there be a problem, you are a good long distance away. Not to mention, is it not the job of the stage manager to take on a role as necessary should there be a problem and otherwise nobody available?

In other words, both out of utility and control, and normalcy for how it's done, the stage manager is back stage and normally on stage right. Very rare the stage manager is not managing the stage, instead is watching it.

Any help? I think you have naturally fallen into doing things about right in helping where you can or are needed, but not abandoning your post. I take it you announce your going off headsets for a moment etc.
 

zac850

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2003
Location
New York
well, for me, as the light board op (and lighting designer) as well as the TD/SM, I was working from the booth. However, I had someone back stage who was in charge of the run crew who I was in contact with over the coms so that I knew when the show was ready to start, or when to pull the lights up and all of those things. If I wasn't also running the board I would rather be back stage to help out and see for myself what needs to be done, as well as when people went off coms without telling me and without getting back on the coms when I flash the call button!!!! ugh.... yea.....
 

echostryk

Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Location
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Our stage manager is always backstage. Generally our shows require a large stage crew and he has to be back there so he can monitor things. Everyone is equiped with walkie-talkies, including those of us back in the tech booth so that we can coordinate efforts. This seems to be most effective.
 

SMTashi

Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2004
Location
London, UK
Definatly backstage. As a TD/SM myself I've never managed a show watching it (quite honestly I can't remember the last time I worked on a show and saw it from the front). At the same time however I always delegate a lot of small tasks to my ASM for practical reasons (I graduate in 9 weeks). We're always connected with radios/walkie talkies to the booth and the followspot operator for cues which I prefer as I would rather be able to cope backstage with the actors and my backstage running crew than hear about backstage problems over a radio.
However until tech rehearsals start I usually sit in on rehearsals to get to know the actors, take notes on behaviour that might be a problem, talk to the director, etc. That way I also essentially get to see the show =)
 

zac850

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Joined
Nov 21, 2003
Location
New York
For me, as I said, I am also running the light board, but I found that if I have a trusty person back stage to be me backstage and I can tell him what to do, it all works out well enough....
 
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MikeJM

Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2004
Location
Rochester Hills,MI
It all depends on your theater and how things are set up. It is nice to have the SM backstage to view what is going on, but if things are properly rehearsed and everyone knows their responsibilities, I say it is ok to have the SM in the booth. You could always assign crew heads for both SL/SR or have the Assistant Stage Manager backstage, and have them on headset along with anyone else that might require one due to a special job or cues. It is nice to have the SM in the booth because they can be with lights/sound and coordinate everything. They can also have a full view of the stage and can better watch things for cueing purposes (i.e. blackouts, lines that cue things etc....)

Excuse the incoherent post.
 

Toul

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2004
Location
NC USA
It's all about having a competent set of ASMs. We usually do three ASMs on a direct headset line to the mid-house console where three to four people sit: lightboard op, SM, and one to two audio operators, depending on the complexity of the show. A separate person to call the cues to the follow spots (usually assigned to the LD or his assisstant) is added if there are any follow spots. Generally speaking, the ASMs are all good people who know what they're doing, and the SM won't get a final "ready" from the stage until every single piece of the puzzle is in place. If necessary, crew chiefs, flybosses, and props crews can be added to this communication circuit. A good SM knows exactly what's going on at every single instant, but that doesn't require them to be backstage by any means. Out in the house, they're able to spot things that can be obvious to the audience but barely noticeable to anyone standing backstage. It's also much less hectic up there (except from getting constant headset chatter), which allows for clearer thinking and more rational decision-making.

Besides which, I think after putting that much work into a show, the SM should at least get to see it.
 

sallyj

Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2004
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
SMs in the booth

I am in support of an SM being in the booth, especially if it is a huge moving scenery show. When it is cramped backstage, and all you can do is sit and manage because (a) that is your job, and (b) you are tied to a headset and a promptscript, you are in the way. Should chaos break out, you can't or shouldn't leave the headset even for a second to "see what the problem is". Your job is to keep the show running, which means keeping the other cues on schedule as much as possible. It is about trust and delegation.

SJM
 

GeneralDoom

Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2005
Location
Lafayette, LA
Personaly, it depends on what the needs of the show are and what the style of cueing is. I happen to do a lot of shows with visual cues so for the space that I am in it is best if I am upstairs in the Booth. However, when I make out the crew assignment lists, I list whom is to be on what side of the stage and who is to be on headset so when there is issues with people not being on the headset I know exactly who to chewout, eventhough the note goes to the entire crew.
Being backstage give more control, but if you have a compentent crew, and a good ASM, it won't matter where you call the show from
 

egorleski

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Joined
Apr 27, 2006
Location
Chicagoland
I Think it entirely depends on the theatre. And also on the staff. Idealy you have a talented enough staff that you can trust they will get the job done. We are lucky at my school that we always have a good relyable group of people. The SM calls from the booth. They are in headset comunication with the light board operator, the spotlight operator, a person on sound, the SR and SL ASM's, flyrail, and a person on special effects. We are lucky in that our program is large enough that ASMs are always on headset and report when shifts are done, but we have a nightvision camera and a monitor by the SM so that they can see whats going on durign the shift and make sure it goes alright and if an actor drops somthing can tell the crew where to pick it up. seems to work quite well.
 

erosing

The Royal Renaissance Man
Joined
Jul 6, 2005
Location
Wisconsin
Ship or anyone really that knows the answer. . . you said if the SM is backstage they are normally on the right, is there a reason the right is better then the left?
 

Chris15

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Sydney, Australia
Arez said:
Ship or anyone really that knows the answer. . . you said if the SM is backstage they are normally on the right, is there a reason the right is better then the left?
Do you mean stage right or house right. House right (Stage Left) is known as Prompt side, so that might have something to do with it.

If they are the STAGE manager, then it would be logical that they would be on the stage which they are managing now wouldn't it?
 

erosing

The Royal Renaissance Man
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Jul 6, 2005
Location
Wisconsin
Ship's post(second or third post on the first page) said stage right.
 

fosstech

Active Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2004
Location
Tacoma, WA USA
Wow...old thread ;)

Anyways, we don't have enough space in our booth for the board ops let alone the SM. And the fact that the booth's HVAC does whatever the HVAC in the house does makes being up there sometimes a very unpleasant experience. Being crammed into a booth with numerous heat-producing pieces of equipment plus a HVAC vent in the celing breathing fire down our necks isn't very fun. It can easily get to be 85+ degrees in there in the winter. We can usually reverse the problem by bringing up FOH...the system intakes are up there, so when it gets the hot air from FOH, it switches to AC mode, and then things start to get a little more reasonable.

Gotta get off that tangent...

Our SM usually sits SL. Why SL? Well, the green room is SL. The fly rail is SR, and we have our ASM stand on that side. It works out pretty well.
 

audioslavematt

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Joined
Mar 30, 2006
Location
West Lafayette, IN
fosstech said:
Our SM usually sits SL. Why SL? Well, the green room is SL. The fly rail is SR, and we have our ASM stand on that side. It works out pretty well.
That's how our theatre is set up as well. All of our communications, a set of house and rehearsal light controls, and the God clock are in a nifty little console designed by one of our former master electricians.
 

Chris15

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audioslavematt said:
That's how our theatre is set up as well. All of our communications, a set of house and rehearsal light controls, and the God clock are in a nifty little console designed by one of our former master electricians.
The theatres nearest us have a similar sort of console, with paging, comms master station, clock next to a panel of light switches 3' x 2' PS. The flies are on that side but so is the Green Room. The Sydney Opera House locates all its stage manager's desks in prompt corner.
 

Spikesgirl

Active Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2008
Location
CA
Okay, first time here, so be kind - in our theater, we have two resident stage managers, myself and another lady. It really depends upon the show whether we call from the booth or back stage. If the show is large, we tend to call from the booth, but we have two ASMs as well as a deck manager to keep things under control. All of us are on headset and in constant communication with each other.

If the show is small (or if we can't get enough deckhands), we tend to call it from backstage, especially if it's a LU/LD show.

As for recruiting, we always have a volunteer working FOH to answer any questions that folks might have about being backstage. We have an active volunteer group as well as holding an 'open house' three times a year for anyone interested in working backstage. We also recruit heavily during auditions. So far, this has worked very well for us.

Charlie