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Changing Your Scene

December 12, 2013

“OK Cast that’s 10!”

“Huh?”

“10… that’s 10 minutes.”

“…We get another break?”

“Huh?”

As a Stage Manager when you find yourself lost in translation your job can become hilariously frustrating. In Britain, I have always announced the end of every break by using the same declaration:

“That’s X”

a.k.a.:

“That’s X amount of minutes over and I would now like you to return to rehearsal.”

It is an announcement that is in my muscle memory and has always registered with Scottish Actors. When I called out the same phrase in my first American rehearsal the cast thought I had been gracious enough to give them more break time. I am now frequently learning to adjust tried and tested methods of going about a job that I have been doing the same way for a long time.

I’m from a beautiful city in Scotland called Dundee, but I have always been a bit of a traveller. Not a particularly nonchalant one because I am also a Stage Manager. I have never donned a backpack and set off into the unknown with nothing but my compass to guide me. No, I need logistics. A calendar. A schedule. A budget. Stage Managers tend to approach things like Vulcans— to venture into the unknown without a plan would be highly illogical.

I moved to New York City for a few months at the beginning of 2013 after finding myself between gigs and with an itch to leave my hometown. My steady string of freelance work had suddenly gone dry. I could either take a job that had nothing to do with my career path, or I could move and try to find work elsewhere.

I picked New York because, to a girl growing up in Scotland, it stands as the world capital of theatre. Feel free to disagree with me. I would love to hear from Green Room readers about other Theatre Capitals I can add to my bucket list.

There are advantages and disadvantages to “upping sticks” and relocating in this profession though and the following should be carefully considered if you are thinking of moving around:

Rebuilding your network

I spent 5 years building a network of people who like working with me in Britain. I took on many an unpaid gig. I once spent 2 weeks picking up poo on stage after every Dog Scene in Annie. When I arrived abroad, disinfectant and rubber gloves in hand, I had to start the same process again.

Get ready to restart paying your dues, because chances are no one in your new location will know anything about you or how good a Stage Manager you are.

 Becoming accustomed to a new practice of applying for jobs

I had to attend my first ever Stage Management interview when I arrived in America. I have no idea how I’d managed to avoid doing this in Britain but now I was face to face with a complete stranger without a clue of how to tell them I was good at my job. In the first 5 minutes I had convinced them that I had absolutely no idea what a theatre was, what I was doing there, or even what my name was—I nervously blurted out, “People call me Victor usually!”

 No, Victoria, no they don’t.

Be prepared to rise to the challenge of stepping outside your comfort zone. Whether that’s joining a new network, signing up for a new agency or (god-forbid) going for your first ever formal interview!

Learning new lingo or a new language

“10/12”, “Concession Stand”, “Equity Cot” “Load in” and “LORT” are a few of the new phrases I had to get used to in America.  Language can be a tricky one, even when everyone thinks they are speaking the same one, and it is so important for an SM to be able to communicate properly. Right now I’m working on reducing my Scottish accent down to something that can be recognisable over headset. If something goes wrong during a show the last thing someone wants in their ear is Groundskeeper Willy swearing at them in Scots.

So far, New York has been a wonderfully productive and worthwhile change of scene. Give or take a couple of blunders with British-English and American-English. I had no idea, for example, that “homely” over here means unattractive!?? In Britain it means the same as “homey,” so I accidentally told an actress that her dressing room made me think she was quite unattractive.

I would love hear from you about what big career risks (or moves) you have chosen and if they have paid off! I’m looking forward to having “a wee bit of a blether” (Scottish words of the week, let me know the translation!) about traveling, stage-management and everything that comes with it!

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2013 10:39 am

    Reblogged this on Victoria Barclay: Transatlantic Stage Manager and commented:
    My first post to The Green Room!

  2. December 12, 2013 11:05 am

    Welcome, Expat! Looking forward to some funny lost-in-translation stories 🙂

  3. December 12, 2013 1:05 pm

    Welcome to the blog, Expat! I made the move to Chicago, Illinois about three years ago to pursue theatre. There’s a great theatre scene over here (though I probably wouldn’t disagree with you about New York being the theatre capital). I also enjoy Chicago for the other acting opportunities available (film, industrials, extra work) that has helped pay the bills. I’m still doing the waiting tables thing, so I’ll be much happier when that part of my life is over 🙂 But I am very happy with my decision.

    I firmly believe that getting out of your comfort zone, plus living in a city that offers what you want to do is a big part of achieving your goals. I’ll stop here because I have a post coming up that covers this exact thing. Best of luck to you!

    • December 12, 2013 1:08 pm

      Thank you Chicago Actor! I couldn’t agree more about getting out of your comfort zone. Nothing like a challenge to the norm to cement in your mind that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life!

  4. December 12, 2013 1:40 pm

    Welcome Expat! If it makes you feel better, I’m a native New Yorker (Brooklyn born and raised), and I’ve had people unable to understand my Brooklyn accent at interviews, so I’ve worked on mine too. So happy we have another Stage Manger in the blog! 🙂

  5. The Growing Artist permalink
    December 12, 2013 1:50 pm

    Welcome to the blog, Expat! I really enjoyed reading your post. I can’t wait to read more about your journey! I admire your courage to move from Scotland to New York- you are a big inspiration! I have always wanted to travel to other places and continue acting abroad. I hope someday I can accomplish this goal. In the meantime, I will definitely enjoy reading about all your adventures 🙂

    • December 12, 2013 5:21 pm

      Thank you, that’s such a nice comment to receive! You are always welcome in Scotland! (That’s me just casually speaking on behalf of my nation there but I know it’s true).

  6. December 13, 2013 4:48 am

    Hello fellow Scot! 😀 I enjoyed this post a lot, particularly since a transatlantic move might be on my cards at some point in the future. My current plans are to get training in the UK, but my partner is American and it’s WAY easier for a Brit to get a US visa than vice versa, so. I’ll be following your posts with interest!

    (Incidentally, my partner swears blind that Chicago is the under appreciated True Capital of American Theatre, but feel free to take that with a pinch of salt!)

    • December 13, 2013 9:06 am

      Hello there! That’s amazing! Feel free to ask me anything, good luck beginning your journey! Word of warning about the visa process though, they are quite strict and it can take some time. http://www.artistsfromabroad.org is an amazing help! Give Scotland a hug for me, I’m posting about Panto Season on my other blog soon, I would love to know what you think!

  7. December 17, 2013 9:43 am

    Dear Expat,

    That is really brave from you to decide to move. Just to give you a small indication on how that works, please visit the link below:

    http://www.internationalshippingscotland.com/international-removals/north-american-removals

    Be prepared to have a lot of funds.

    Kind Regards,
    James

  8. Tattooed Theatre Student permalink
    January 12, 2014 8:02 am

    Welcome Expat, from one English stage manager to a Scottish one! Its really interesting to read about how things are different in New York as hopefully one day I may get the chance to go there.
    As for theatre capitals don’t forget good old London – I moved here for university and I’m so happy to be near so much theatre that is so very british – if you ever get the chance to come please let me know (:

    look forward to hearing about your adventures!

    x

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