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GUEST POST BY AUDREY T: The Stage Manager’s Script

July 14, 2014

Please welcome Audrey to the blog today! Audrey is a double major in stage management and business management information systems at East Carolina University, who also attended high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. After stumbling across her fabulous blog, I asked her to write a post detailing her stage management script strategies. She’s shared some of her excellent insight here today!

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The Stage Manager’s Script: In Color?

 

Stage-managing a show requires the stage manager to constantly think creativity, and demands inventive problem-solving skills. In this post, I’m going to talk about the five most useful ways I’ve found to notate my script during the rehearsal process. Some are more general housekeeping notes for my production book, where as others pertain to the actual script notation. All could be useful! 

The following is just a collection of fun things I’ve discovered while working on shows. This being said, they probably won’t work for everyone – but this list could be a springboard to help you, the reader, develop your own awesome way of doing things.

1: Color-coding

At my university, the first thing they teach you is to do all of your work in pencil. This is great advice since blocking [and many other elements of the show] change at the drop of a hat. However, if you’re like me, crazy amounts of gray lines all over a page can get overwhelming some times. When you’re notating the script alongside your blocking, figuring out what goes with which note or symbol can be even more challenging. This is why I like to block with colored erasable pencils. They make your blocking much more easily deciphered. And – as an added bonus – the colored notations make your production book much more visually pleasing!

*Where this came from: I’m really bad at mathematics. Geometry class, for me, was like taking a daily bath in acid for my brain. What helped me pass the class was color-coding all of my work so I could fully understand the diagrams. The same principal works for me with blocking/ script notation. 

2: Numbering

In my past experience, lists have been total lifesavers. From pre-show check sheets to rehearsal reports, lists are how I prevent things from falling through the cracks. The use of lists when notating your script is also super-useful because you can immediately tell what comes next – or, more importantly, if you’ve missed anything.

Personally, I use bubbles with the first letter of the character’s name and a small number next to that letter to indicate where that position falls in the sequence of blocking. When I worked as an assistant, I’ve seen other stage managers block with arrows, dotted lines, and other indications of sequence so this is by no means the best or only way to notate – but numbering is what helps me keep the blocking and script notations correlating clearly.

3: Key words

Recently I’ve been required to communicate extremely specific blocking. We lost one of the main actors in the show I’m currently working on, so I was asked to teach all of the blocking to the new actor. The best way I found to efficiently and accurately record blocking was by writing the actor’s movement cue words on the blocking sheet, while underlining that word in my script. It was very important for me to record the time between the start and stop of the movement, so at the top of the sheet I would write the movement cue word, and at the bottom write the words on which they stop moving. When the time came to communicate the movement to the new actor, it was a lot easier to simply be able to tell the actor that they have between ______ and ______ to get from X point stage right to X point stage left.

4: Flags and arrow flags

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I absolutely adore office supplies. As a college student (and stage manager), I’m constantly hauling around staplers, highlighters, flags, and tabs. Recently, I discovered some book flags that look like arrows – but are transparent. I used to struggle notating blocking when the cue words for movement were in the middle of a huge paragraph. Drawing the reference in the margins always seemed to leave a scary amount of room for error in my mind, so I would draw all these crazy things in pencil. Instead of making things clearer, I made my script look as though a toddler had taken a grey crayon to it. With the new arrows, that was no longer a problem! The ones I like to use are matte finish, so you can write symbols from the blocking sheet on the arrows themselves to eliminate any room for misinterpretation.

What’s more is that you can leave them on your script – even for non-blocking occasions. For example, if you’re on book for the night, you don’t have to move the arrow to see the text. Also, these arrows make your script all pretty with various neon colors, which is a total plus! 

5: Art supplies

Ok, so this one is a bit general. However, I’d like to draw attention to the fact that pencils with different hardness levels of graphite can be really useful to the stage manager. If you would prefer to work in black and white, the different shades of grey can make distinguishing your blocking a lot easier. Personally, I just like using softer pencils because they make me write more neatly when I’m in a rush.

Kneaded, and other types of plastic erasers can really help clean up a messy script. These types of erasers are great for getting rid of a lot of blocking in a short amount of time – which is really useful in fast paced rehearsals.

 

Ultimately, trial and error with different things could lead to major success. I fully recommend trying new things every time you get to rehearsal until you find a way of getting the job done that you absolutely love. From the different tools one can use to block and notate their script, to the actual notation one uses to indicate the actor’s blocking, there are all kinds of opportunities to find new, perhaps better (or worse) ways of doing things. I believe the important thing is to be inventive. We’re stage managers! We can solve any problem! Right?

 

Thank you so much for sharing your personal stage management script marking process with us, Audrey! Fellow stage managers: do you have a similar technique? Or does yours differ?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2014 2:18 pm

    Wow, I’ve never even considered pencils with different hardnesses of graphite. That’s an excellent idea.

    And I share your adoration of office supplies – Staples shouldn’t make someone as happy as it makes me, but, Post-It notes and gel pens and assorted pencils… so much fun.

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