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Where do you call your shows from? (High school especially)

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by bendersen, Jan 22, 2008.

  1. bendersen

    bendersen Member

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    A quick thought.

    I've always called my shows from our theater's balcony, but I know a lot of stage managers who call their shows from backstage.

    Which do you use, and what are the relative merits of each?

    Thanks!
     
  2. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    It often depends on the show, the SM, and the venue. Some theatres don't have room in the booth FOH for the SM. Many Broadway shows have the SM in a wing somewhere with a wall of video monitors. I have been in a theatre where the SM was tucked in a corner between the seating risers and the wall. The audience couldn't see her there, and she had a full view of the stage.

    For our theatre, the SM usually sits in the booth. We have plenty of room, and it really is the best view of the stage. If you can be out front with a real view of the stage, that is usually best. Calling a show from the wings can be a lot harder, especially if you have a box set. Calling from the wings usually requires having a good CCTV setup, with at least two stage views, one with an IR camera. Often, even when an SM is out front they will have an IR monitor so they can see transitions.

    In the professional world there are AEA rules that can affect where the SM calls a show from. Certain types of shows require certain numbers of AEA SM's/ASM's to be on the deck, and sometimes to meet this requirement the SM will call from the wings.

    Frankly, I don't think the SM should ever call the show from the house. You mention that you call shows from the balcony. That seems like a not so great idea. Mostly because an SM usually never stops talking during a show, and it can be distracting to the audience if the SM is sitting in the house.

    In short, there is no right answer, it all depends. There are often many things that factor into the decision.
     
  3. midgetgreen11

    midgetgreen11 Active Member

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    Stage manager's at my high school always call from the SR wing, almost right behind the proscenium wall, they have a little podium set up.

    we don't ever have cameras set up either, its just what they can see from eye's view.
     
  4. bcfcst4

    bcfcst4 Member

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    The SM at my school calls from the balcony also. We don't have a booth really... the balcony acts as our booth. There wouldn't be any room backstage for the SM in our current set up. We haven't had trouble with the audience hearing the SM and getting distracted, so I think it's a good set up, especially since it offers a complete view of the stage. When they build the new high school however... who knows what that setup will be. I certaintly won't be here to enjoy it.
     
  5. bendersen

    bendersen Member

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    I don't open the balcony usually (only had to for one production, West Side Story last spring). So I don't worry about the noise. Frankly, I don't think the audience was really too bothered by my talking -- I'm quiet and the music and actors were loud.

    We do have a booth though, which I've always wanted to use for the stage manager. Right now we're just using it for storage. The biggest issue with the booth is that there is no monitor, so I cannot hear what is going on onstage. Plus, it means I need an extra headset for the spotlight op that I normally sit next to and cue manually.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    --

    Also, to reply to Charlie: How does your SM call the show AND remain an active participant in set changes? That strikes me as absurdly confusing, and I'd love to hear how the SM makes that work.
     
  6. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    A Booth used as STORAGE? Wow. You should fix that one. If the booth window is big enough for the followspot to shoot through as well as let you cue the show, then you're set.

    Things were kinda whack at my HS. I was the Student Technical Director, which meant that I cued sound and lights and followspots off of my script, and communicated with the stage manager and ASMs via cheap two-way radio for curtain, set change, and prop cueing. The stage manager was responsible for everything that happened upstage of the edge of the stage - the curtains, the actors, the props, the set changes, and all that fun stuff. We did have an ASM in charge of each side of the stage, and the SM delegated many responsibilities to them, but the SM was ultimately responsible to the director for everything that was on the deck and the goods in the air during the show. I often choreographed set changes, but the SM was the one who cued them. The SM was also the one who kept the actors in order with a huge super-soaker. No one ever went on wet, but some came pretty close...
     
  7. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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  8. midgetgreen11

    midgetgreen11 Active Member

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    yeah the title "stage manager" has always been a self-explanatory one in my school... a manager of the stage... because they have complete control of the shows in my high school... they ARE the TD.
     
  9. bobgaggle

    bobgaggle Well-Known Member

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    in response to Ben Anderson's question of how the SM calls and helps with set changes...IT DOESN'T WORK. My drama department has had a brand new SM each time we do a show (like, still doesn't know what a traveler is, that kind of new) My director is...interesting.
    Anyway, a guy in my department found a night vision security camera for free on craig's list. He rigged it up in the catwalk so that the SM can watch the scene changes during the blackouts and call lights at precisely the right time.
    Unfortunately, our tech crews suck and the SM has to run out there and be like "see the neon green spike tape that says 'chair' in glow in the dark paint? the chair goes there"
    So by the time she gets back to her chair and calls lights, the audience has been sitting in the dark and hearing enraged whispers from the stage for 2 minutes (well, maybe not that slow...I think that their record slow time for our production of Dracula was 1:13)
    I picked up a spare headset one time pre-show, 5 minutes after the 2 minute warning and heard this, "umm...lights and music, you can start the show now."




    'nuff said
     
  10. themuzicman

    themuzicman Well-Known Member

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    a "guy" haha..

    their the best thing I've ever found

    anyway, as Bobgaggle was saying, our crew is full of idiots, and our SM is too new to get any sort of routine down and nail some sort of consistency between shows.
     
  11. bendersen

    bendersen Member

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    "Eesh" to the above horror stories.

    I have zero patience for that sort of thing.

    I call everything, and design the initial set changes -- although my ASM is smart and she tends to be the one who takes responsibility for the final product (after the director has changed where the bed goes for the hundredth time in a given rehearsal).

    As for stage crew not knowing where things go during a show, I just can't fathom that. I just make them do it over again in rehearsal. But mostly they're just... you know, competent, and they get it right after doing it once or twice. I mean, my stage crew members aren't exactly all veterans of the stage; half of my crew for City of Angels was brand new. But they practiced and got better at it. Simple, no?

    So I guess here's a better question. I am going to college for stage management in the fall (not quite sure where, but it's happening). How are your tech rehearsals set up that these stage crews just aren't getting it? I feel like I'm bound to run into some of these people in college, and they just seem like a foreign people to me.
     
  12. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I had a really good post going, but my computer at it, so I will try again.

    <...how can you manage the stage without being on the stage...>
    Well, that is why you have ASMs. You should have two, one for stage left and one for stage right. In the US, AEA rules for musicals require a minimum of 2 AEA SMs for a show.

    When it comes down to it, the SM has to be able to call the show, and sitting on the deck can come with lots of distractions. It shouldn't be the SMs's job to deal with deck crew not being able to hit their spike while a show is running. Sure, in tech the SM needs to be involved in making sure that the crew knows what is going on, but during a performance there are many other things that need to be dealt with. It is your ASMs job to deal with all issues on deck, and decide what needs to be relayed to the SM immediately or what can be taken as a note to give at the end of the show. In the case of some schools and probably some community theatres, you may not have ASMs, but generally you have some crew people who are in charge of each side of the stage, so they may take on the job of ASM.

    Take for instance a large musical with 300+ LX cues plus sound FX, and scenery cues. All of this has to be coordinated so that people don't get hurt and things don't get broken. Oh, and you have to give the audience the experience that the director and designers want. I have done shows where the SM just gives a standby for act 1, and then never stopped talking (calling cues) until intermission.

    The thing is, it is human nature to go to the person in charge when something goes wrong, so if the SM is on the deck inevitably everyone will go them with any problem. Why is this an issue? Well, generally the deck crew and actors don't know when the SM is in the middle of a complex series of cues, and the last thing the SM needs is an actor walking up to say a prop is broken when the actor should be going to the props people. Sure, if something goes seriously wrong the SM needs to know and is the final say in how to proceed, but we are talking mission critical problems. If a chair gets placed off spike a show can go on, if a wagon jams half way on stage, it might be something that has to be fixed to continue the show, so there is a big difference.

    Keep in mind that I speak from a professional mind set, but at least for me, through high school and college the SMs always called shows from the booth. Sure, there are shows and venues that make this impossible, but generally calling from a FOH position gives the best view of the stage. You will find that most, if not all professional SMs that call shows from the wings won't actually look at the stage, but will rely on multiple CCTV views.
     
  13. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    First of all, you are going to school to learn how to deal with situations like that. Also know that if you are going to a school with a big theatre department you will be working up the chain from the bottom, and you will have plenty of time to see how crews are run and how SMs handle all sorts of situations.

    I think though that it is not such a great attitude to say that people who can't get it right in the first couple tries are "like foreign people." In the professional world it is not uncommon to spend many hours teching aspects of a show. When you have lots of moving scenery, flying scenery, props and actors that have to get on and off stage it can take a lot of time to get it right. Then try throwing in a costume quick change.

    I suppose the point of all of my rambling is that as a SM you need to be able to get things to run smooth, but you have to be patient and be able to work with people. OYu can walk into a venue and have a completely veteran crew who can get everything done without you even telling people what you need, or you can walk in to a completely green crew who have to be taught everything, and you have to be able to deal with that in a civil, calm, and efficient manner.
     
  14. Hughesie

    Hughesie Well-Known Member

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    i think the sm needs to be among the on stage actions otherwise you have to others on the stage.

    one of our sm's called her position "the bull pit"
     
  15. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    I generally believe that calling a show from the booth is better as long as you have a reliable and capable ASM on each side of the stage.
     
  16. Hughesie

    Hughesie Well-Known Member

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    i have never heard those words put together in a high school show:!:
     
  17. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    The ASMs at my HS were good at what they had to do - scene changes, actor warnings, prop cues, and keeping things and people in order backstage. You just have to find a few control freaks and give them walkie-talkies.
     
  18. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    OK... First off I'm presuming you had meant to say 2 AEA ASMs for a musical. I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but if something goes wrong that does need the SM's attention, is it not more likely to be on stage than on the booth? I agree that the SM wants some degree of separation from the chaos of the deck, but close proximity can be useful also. With the wonders of modern CCTV, you can virtually call a show from anywhere these days. I'd have thought it could be distracting for both crew and punters to have an SM continually talking in a booth that might only be a metre or two away from the seating and dependant on what else is going on at the time and the acoustics of one's space, it could carry.

    I guess part of my opinion comes from what I've seen. I figure if it wasn't the best idea then somewhere like the Sydney Opera House wouldn't place the SM's console in the wings. See a pic on page 11: http://www.juliusmedia.com/cxweb/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=73 The story is rather interesting as well...

    But I guess in the end, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. The best place for an SM to call the show from is wherever he or she feels most comfortable, be it in the wings, in the booth or in the basement for all I care, so long as cable can get there, everything else can be worked around...
     
  19. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    This is exactly true. Ultimately the SM should call the show from a place that is logistically feasible and that works for the SM. Weather that is the booth, a wing, or the bottom of a box boom it doesn't matter as long as they have the views of the stage they need and the ability to hear the show and communicate with crew.
     
  20. cvanp

    cvanp Active Member

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    It's changed for us over the past few years, depending on where we have our light board. We don't have a booth, so usually the light board is SR with a monitor. In those cases, the stage manager is SL (although our LD thinks he's a stage manager too, and tends to be pretty bossy on SR).

    Last year we made an attempt to put the lightboard in the rear of our auditorium, put the stage manager on SR, and the ASM on SL. That worked well but because of technical restrictions we have to go back to our old way.
     

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