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5 Essential “Tools”

March 27, 2012

Using Tools as a Stage Manager.  This was a very difficult blog to consider for me, as Stage Management is something that I think is so infinitely personal and there are literally one million ways to accomplish the same task.  Then I thought, geez, the same can be said about Acting so shut up and share what works for you!

The word “tool” I use loosely, but here are the 5 “tools” that I believe are absolutely essential for promoting yourself as a Stage Manager:

  1. http://www.actorsequity.org Click on “casting call” then click on “stage managers.”  Yes, it’s that easy.  Just note that the Stage Managers postings appear about 1-2 days after the same ad appears on http://www.playbill.com.  I’ve definitely accidentally applied for the same gig twice. [For you non-AEA SMs, Playbill is a great site for both paid and unpaid work].
  2. Your System Okay, once you book the gig, you must deliver!  My “Templates” folder on my computer has Rehearsal Reports, Line Notes, Prop Tracking, Costume Flow Charts, Petty Cash Sheet, Rehearsal Schedule, and Production Calendar documents that I simply have to fill in the appropriate information and I’m done!  This saves me immense amounts of time and helps me be consistent in all my work.  In today’s day-and-age, it is especially essential to both attach [as a PDF!] and copy into the body of the email all the information.  Half the people receiving them will prefer to print out at a computer desk, while the rest need to access the information effortlessly on their smartphone.
  3. Stop Watch/Applicable Phone App Even if you’re non-AEA, actors deserve breaks at appropriate times.  A stopwatch counting from when you start rehearsal waiting until that 80-minute mark, then restarted for a 10-minute break is very accurate and respected by everyone in the room.  Always note exact times in your rehearsal reports, in case of a discrepancy.
  4. Tape Measure If you’re rehearsing for a show where the performance space is 15′ x’ 15′ and the rehearsal room is 20′ x 27′ it’s easy for the director to block inaccurately if you have no spike marks that notate the exact size of the space.
  5. Professionalism!!! Last and not least.  Professionalism covers a lot and starts with the way you speak to your actors [my common phrasing after a break is something like “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are back – we are back! Please pick up from…”].  Professionalism includes how you use your smartphone and computer while rehearsing  [Just because we SMs sit behind a table with technology at our fingertips doesn’t mean you should be texting your roommate what to cook for dinner].  Rehearsal attire is extremely important.  As I may have mentioned before, Theatre is a relatively backwards profession when it comes to several practices [It’s completely appropriate to wear jeans to work – but not appropriate to be in a suit/skirt when you have to be moving rehearsal cubes around].  Dress nicely, but in a way that allows you to do your job.  My rule-of-thumb is jeans/khakis  and a professional top.  I don’t think sweatpants and graphic Ts are appropriate for rehearsal.  I’m not saying I wear a blazer, but I may wear a blouse or solid-color/patterned top that looks nice while still allowing me to move those  cubes 10 times a rehearsal.  Oh, and footwear: don’t wear heels or flip-flops if you can’t do your job in them, an actor should never feel as if s/he has to help you move something because you aren’t dressed appropriately.

Stage Management is an individual profession and everyone works differently.  But these are the 5 “essentials” that can be applied no matter what your Method of Operation.

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