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Note Taking Etiquette

September 8, 2014

Maintaining a long running production can be the toughest part of a stage manager’s job. One hopes that when the director has left, the cast will respect and listen to the notes that are given by the stage manager as well as the fight and dance captains. Equity dictates that actors are required to take these notes – it is part of their duties as listed with this union.

Recently, I witnessed a situation where an actor reacted unprofessionally to a note that was respectfully being given by the Music Captain at music call (interesting to note that Equity says nothing about music captains – it’s not in their vocabulary … yet). The Actor aggressively began shouting and verbally abusing the Music Captain in front of the entire cast, crew, and front of house staff. He then stormed away leaving behind a poisoned atmosphere. The Music Captain and Stage Manager handled the situation with grace and professionalism. The Actor was spoken to after he had cooled down. But it brings about some keys things to remember when giving and receiving notes for a production:

  1. Listen to the note with an open ear. This is meant to help you to maintain your performance. Feedback is useful. If you disagree with the note, ask to talk about it in private. Have a conversation. There’s no need to fight the note. Understand that the stage manager may not know why you are doing something differently. Tell them and then trust the SM’s judgment on what they decide to do next. And maybe they need to consult the director which will take time and if they do, take the note they are giving you in the meantime.
  2. For those giving notes: communicate the note with no opinion attached. Have the reason why you are giving the note (i.e. is it for safety or because of how a technical cue is constructed). Listen to your actor about why they are changing something. Consider if you can come to a compromise. And when in doubt, consult your director.

Above all – respect each other and have fun out there on the boards! The joy you bring onto the stage will be felt out in the audience.

Green Room Sig

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