Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dial "S" for Stage Manager

I was late for my call on Tuesday. We had a 10 am performance of Candide for High School students so I needed to be at the theater at 8:30 am. Normally, the stage manager and crew arrive for set-up an hour before half hour. Well, yesterday, I misjudged Philly traffic. I thought I might be 15 minutes late, but no, after spending 40 minutes on Lincoln Drive, I knew it was going to be bad. I got to the Arden a bit after 9 am. Luckily, we have a great crew on this show (an assistant stage manager, 4 spot operators and a deckhand) and I've made sure that everyone knows how to do everything for set up. And thank goodness for cell phones.

At at standstill on Lincoln Drive, I called my assistant to tell him I would be late. Then I called the Costume Supervisor to ensure that our dry cleaning would be back in time for the show. Of course she had taken care of it but with a quick phone call, I was able to cross that off my list. If I didn't have a cell phone, my assistant would be frantic wondering if I had forgotten about the matinee. Because I was in the car, he wouldn't have been able to reach me. I know, calling from a car is not very safe but believe me when I tell you that traffic was not moving.

Once at the theater, I realized that one of the actors had not arrived. I contacted him by cell phone and he had indeed forgotten about the show. He ran over and on his way, called us to ask if we could pre-set his costume which saved him valuable time when he did arrive. Without cell phones, I may never have reached him. We may still be searching Philly for him! Okay, not really but that cell phone came in handy.

The funny thing is I don't like talking on the phone at all. I avoid it at all costs. I much prefer e mail -- which is another technology I use quite a bit in theater. Part of my job is to take notes during rehearsals and performances and write up a report at the end of each day. The notes normally contain information for the different departments or request information. For example, I may let props know that we need 2 electrified lantern or ask costumes if a jacket has pockets.

Back in the day, the stage manager would write these notes up by hand (or maybe on a computer) and then photocopy them and distribute them to all the production staff as well as designers and directors. This often meant faxing to the out of town designers.

Now, instead of staying late at the theater to fax the report to several people, I can curl up in the comfort of my own home with jammies on and beer in hand (an IPA if you're wondering) and with a push of a button get the report out to everyone. And it saves paper!

The bulk of a stage manager's duties is communication so naturally I would say that cell phones and e mail have totally streamlined the job. I wonder though, if I asked the different production staff what technology they would cite as being most beneficial to their work. E mail and cell phones of course but they don't get a set built or props made. I might have to ask around and get back to you.

And if you have any thoughts on the matter let me know.

Oh, and the student matinee on Tuesday went really well. We started on time (even with all the lateness) and the kids really enjoyed it.

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