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To take a cue or not take a cue, that is the question

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by Techiegirly, Dec 10, 2007.

  1. Techiegirly

    Techiegirly Member

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    Let's say you already know the show well enough to not need your cue sheet any more and the SM is busy dealing with an issue that came up during the show or just plain zoned out for a second...1 theatre I work for in particular is STRONGLY against you taking a cue on your own, even if you know EXACTLY when to take it, even if it kind of ruins the show if it's not taken on time while a few of the other theatres I work in will jump your crap for not taking things on your own if necessary. I know it's the SM's job to call the cues but let's admit it, sometimes it's not always feesable right?

    What do you do in this situaton and what experiences have you had with this sort of thing?
     
  2. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    You only push go when the SM says go. When we're talking on com, we even spell out G O when we're not actually talking about go for a cue, purely out of convention.
     
  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I've gotta "GO" with Soundlight on this one. As dumb as it may sound, the SM runs the show. Maybe the SM is a complete Nimrod with ADD, in that case you may want to take the cue when you know it goes, or in the rare cases when you've been given a warning or stand-by then the SM gets distracted by an emergency or something you might go ahead and tell them " hey I took that cue.", but for the most part you take it when they say and not before. Now there might be some argument from people in the "Production" world. In the world of R&R and Production, as a board op you are usually granted more autonomy, as there isn't usually an SM calling every cue, but in Theatre, you're strictly "Neck-down" when op-ing
     
  4. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    I can see the problem. If the SM hasn't called the standby for the cue then I would get on the cans and say "LX standing by on cue no.". This is a polite way of reminding them if they zone out. If they are going off cans they should tell you and hopefully you can ask them what they want.

    It can depend on also where the cue is. For instance if it is coming from a B/O then there may be a set /actor problem you don't know about. If it is going to a B/O where the actors have a freeze and can't move until the B/O then this may be where you need to act.

    But in the end it comes down to the SM they are responsible for the show so long as you have done everything when they told you.

    Depending on how well you get on with the SM for each show I would ask them how they want to play it. They may say never do anything until I tell you or they might say if you can see I am going to stuff up the cue fix it.

    I take it your are talking about paid SM's as opposed to amatuer SM's.
    If a paid SM stuff's up it is down to them. If it is an amateur SM then I would probably try to help them out of any problems.
     
  5. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I have worked some places where they say fish instead of go if you are just talking about it. I have taken a cue without it being called twice, one for a show that had a light switch on the wall, the actor who as supposed to "turn on the lights" forgot to, and the SM was busy calling sound cues for a phone call and another actor ran over to turn the lights on and I took the cue, the other time was a button that was not called.

    With an equity SM you do not take the cue unless it is called, period. When I am running LX for a show, I don't even watch the show (usually I try to distract myself playing a game on my laptop or something, I am a bit ADD when it comes to running show). When you are running a board, you are that console, that is all there is to it. You have no call in when anything happens, if they say something should go, you go. I have gotten yelled at before because the SM called the wrong cue number, jumping a cue, and I took the cue number that he called which blacked out the stage. When we were on the dock he asked why I did that and my only response was "I take what youc call and don't question it". You do what the SM says, no matter what.
     
  6. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    As has been said--its the board op job to take the cue WHEN they are told G-O. I've been doing shows for 22+ years in venues from Broadway to the Burbs....and when I'm LX board op I usually have the show memorized after the first or second rehearsal..but its the SM's responsibility to call the show..period. If the SM is yappin on their phone, doin a soduku puzzle or otherwise distracted (yes I've seen all of that--the SM's were usually replaced or yelled at, especially when the producer/director happens to stroll quietly into the booth to give a note and see's the SM doin a puzzle.).

    In the chain of command, the board op is UNDER the SM for show duties--they do as they are told by the SM. If the SM is a flake, unable to call the show or handle all the cues or just not payin attention--they need to be replaced...simple as that...and that is the Producer and Directors job to decide that..not the board op. The SM is responsible for the show continuity and the show cues and performance production.. The board op may know the cue--but its not their job to call the show or take cues on their own. That is a good way to get fired. A nasty SM may even report you for taking cues on your own, and you can get yelled at or fired--even if you are right on a cue--you did not follow chain of command. The SM will get yelled at by the producer/director if something is wrong--and they will sacrifice the board op to cover themselves--and if you are asked and say that you took the cue without a GO--then YOU are wrong, not the SM, and you will take the heat. If the SM did not give the cue--that is all you need to report--and its the SM who failed, not the board op. If a producer/director has to talk to the board op for running on their own or ignoring the SM--the board op will usually be replaced without a second thought. You do a show NO SERVICE by tryin to do the SM's job or usurping their authority....you do the show NO SERVICE by covering for a lousy SM... If they miss a cue--they miss a cue and they will hear about it... As Board Op--YOU do not always know of any of the changes which may have been made between the SM and the director/producer...for all you know the CUE may have been instructed to be called later or earlier or to wait for a visual the SM knows about....but if you take it before you get the GO cause you remember the nite before it was at a certain point--you again do NO SERVICE to the show. Do your job when you get the GO call...don't try to do the SM's job as well..thats what the producer and director expect of the board op--to do their job when they are told by the SM....not take a cue when they think it should happen. It all comes down to "Too Many Cooks..". Nothing wrong with letting the SM know you are standing by for a cue if you see they are not paying attention and a cue is getting near or passed--and that often snaps them back into attention...but that is as far as you take it... If they ignore you--or they don't follow the cue--that is the SM problem, not yours. I know a few SM's who never can get the cue right or call it properly for timing after 5 rehearsals--and while its annoying to see and you know it could be better if it was called properly or at a certian time, its their job, not yours to decide that and figure it out.. Many SM's if they have a problem with a cue or timing will often ask the board op about the cue timing and so on--and its those opportunities when you "may" be able to offer a suggestion to help....but in the end its up to the SM to call it...

    -w
     
  7. mixmaster

    mixmaster Active Member

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    I expect my operators to exersize some logic. If I miss calling a cue that coordinates with something else, they should be able to recognize the need to think on their own and take the cue. It just doesn't work if the lighting guy take cue L214 on cue and the sound guy doesn't roll the thunder cue S215 right away, even If I miss calling it.
    On the other hand, stand alone events like show music and lighting scenes should be taken on cue, from someone who is keeping track of what's going on. I once jumped a cue bringing the lights back up after a scene change in black. The SM had just jumped all over the stage crew during rehersals for taking to long to do the change. He only wanted to hold black for a certain amount of time. (otherwise the audience goes to sleep in the dark) "30 sec black, 30 sec black", we heard it over and over. Half way though the run I'm waiting for the GO cue to bring back lights and after 90 sec I decide I must have missed the cue in the chatter on the comm circuit. I take the cue on my own and bring up the next scene.....There's the SM and one grip, on all fours, asses to the audiance, trying to fix something on the set that broke during the change.:eek::eek::eek: MORAL OF THE STORY: Listen to your SM but be smart.
     
  8. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    So true. Most of the time in concerts, etc., you go when you know to go. Seldom is there a person calling cues. Also, if you're a spot, and your guy goes off stage, or is drinking, or swapping guitars and the like, the standing order is usually to fade out on him until he's back. Only times you wait until told is with pyro or other stuff that's real deadly, like moving truss, etc.

    However, if the standing order for everyone is "go when you know to go" then that's what you do. That seems like a risky standard, since it puts the blame on the op when it might be the fault of the SM or the fault of the actor.

    As an addendum: In concerts, the talent doesn't necessarily do the same thing every time. Solos don't go right, musicians like to move around wherever, etc. The board op(s) need the freedom to follow the talent as needed. On a rehearsed show, such as a Cher, or Justin Timberlake, where all the movements are fairly well choreographed, that's not the case. But in a band that just does whatever the hell they want and the LD needs to follow, you need to have people who can make decisions on their own.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2007
  9. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    For concerts, especially if it's an LD (this means lighting designer or lighting director in this case), usually they have creative control over the lighting aspect of the show. However, for theatre, I stand by the neck-down approach. I push go when I am told to, and no other time. I place all of the responsibility on the SM, because that is how it is supposed to work in theatre. The SM has control of the show, unless you're told to take a visual cue (which I have had to do a few times) or a cue from a time called from the sound guy on the CD player (which I've also had to do), but all in all, the SM tells you when to do GO, and no one else. This means that if something happens that is wrong, "the SM said GO" is the only explanation that is needed. This also means that the only person that the director and LD need to explain cue timings to is the SM, not the SM and LBO.
     
  10. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Well, I don't have to say anything, it has all been said. But, just because, I will say, at least in theatre, you only take a cue when it is called. Then it isn't your fault if it is wrong, even if you get blamed. I also second Footer, I make it a point to never learn the show, and I only watch the show when I am in standby and while a cue is running. You need to look up every now and then to make sure the cues still look right.
     
  11. What Rigger?

    What Rigger? I'm so fly....I Neverland.

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    Hey Sound, spelling out G O is actually a really good safety/operational thing backstage anywhere. That's pretty smart.

    On my gig, where human life is put into the breach nightly, none of us on the crew ever actually say "go" or anything like that. I mean, we don't say "no", "oh!", "D'oh", "slow" or "hobo".

    Good on ya!
     
  12. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Yeah - we also try to refrain from using short words with that O sound...just part of a good SOP for shows. I find this to be good, as some of the SM's here are not the best at calling cues - sometimes a "standby lights 34.2...GO" is all that I get, so it's good to have that rule, because sometimes the GO isn't even given with a cue number..it's just given off of the standby.
     
  13. Techiegirly

    Techiegirly Member

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    One of the theatres I work in it's a long running show that runs 4 times a day almost 365 so I have no choice but to memorize the show. The toughest thing for me is to wait for the "G" because a lot of the BUMP cues I have programmed into my head to take them on my own with the music but I alway have to hold back for the darn "G". The first couple of months I worked there I literally had to TRY my hardest to not take them on my own and I went early and got yelled at a few times.

    In the same show we have a blackout, lightning strikes, a flash photo, a gobo that is supposed to be glass shattering on stage with a sound cue...several cues that MUST be taken on time AND with sound to make ANY sense so I always feel obligated to care even if the stage manager is busy or zoned out. I guess though since EVERYONE here thinks it's best I'll just try and forget about "show" and let the SM take the blame no matter how ghetto it ends up looking :grin::neutral:

    Thanks guys!
     
  14. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    I follow the SM calling bit. But what I don't understand is not watching the show. If you don't watch the show how do you spot when a lamp blows during a show?. What if a light starts flickering?
    You may not actually be able to do anything about it at the time but during the interval you can at least
    tell the SM and see what they want to do.

    Where you are, who does the pre-show lamp check?

    I do lighting at High Schools from time to time and theres no way I would let a student muck around like this.
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Kind of missed this thread. I agree with everything said. The only thing I would add is if there is an SM screwing up it's important that you protect your butt a little bit because the SM is very likely to blame you for not following the called cues. So, I would be proactive and detail exactly how the SM is screwing up and go to the producer/director and tell them before it becomes a problem and you get fired for someone else's mistakes.
     
  16. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    If an SM can't take the blame when he/she doesn't call a cue properly or at all, they shouldn't be an SM.
     
  17. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I find that if I start watching the show (unless it is a bad show) it consumes my attention, and I am far less likely to hear the SM talk to me. Why? mostly because you tune out the things that are not important to you, so when the SM starts talking to the deck crew about an issue with a props hand off and you are concentrating on watching the show, you literally stop hearing the SM. This = bad. Sure, in high school, you shouldn't let your board op play computer games, but I find that having something to do that doesn't consume my attention helps. You should walk backstage for one of our shows, almost everyone on the crew knits or crochets, but apparently it helps with focus and such.
     
  18. cvanp

    cvanp Active Member

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    On a production we just had, the Stage Manager obviously called cues and things, but if he was tied up with something on stage (it was a high school production, so he's the go-to guy if something is breaking) then I had the job to call cues for him as a backup. He knew the show well enough where he could call cues over the headset without his book or anything, but it was good to have someone there, just in case someone missed something.
     
  19. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    True. My point is, if it's an ongoing problem, they shouldn't be and SM in the first place. What are they going to say when the Director/producer comes to them and asks why cues are off every night? The person has already shown you they shouldn't be an SM because they can't call a show... do you really think they aren't going to blame the Light OP for the mistakes?
     
  20. thebikingtechie

    thebikingtechie Active Member

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    I know people have been saying a lot of the same things but: Ever since I was trained by someone who actually knew what they were doing, and had actually worked on shows that weren't in a little old barn in the middle of vermont, I was taught to always wait for the cue and never do anything without the SM.

    There have been times when I have been working on high school dance concerts or in community theatre when I have questioned the SM because they weren't on top of it. There were a few times when I have taken cues on my own, I think they've all been smaller thing, that the SM would not call on a regular basis, and if I didn't do it the lights looked like crap.
     

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