Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vacation Post Mordem

Back from visiting Lana and Kat.  It was so much fun and exactly what I needed.  This show is very draining, but now I'm actually glad to be back.

I do have to say the weather in the Pacific Northwest is less pleasing than elsewhere, but oh well.

My plane flight back went pretty much perfectly.  I even got in half an hour early.

Yesterday was super long.  I was up for about 38 hours straight and got maybe one-ish hours of sleep.  After my flight, I had rehearsals, and after rehearsals I had a three hour production meeting.  I didn't get home till almost 11p.

This post has pretty much no substance, but it really was basically a check in.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I have done other things today, so hopefully I would be less angry when I finally posted this.  My plan was mostly successful.  Mainly I just feel resignation at this point.

Today I had a flight scheduled to leave at 1p so I could go visit Lana and Kat.  I had a transfer I needed to make only short time after my first flight was scheduled to land.  We were twenty minutes late in boarding.  10 minutes before the plane was supposed to be in the air we finally started to board.  We then proceeded to sit on the plane for forty minutes.  You see, the lavatory door (the only one on the small plane) refused to stay closed and they spent and entire hour troubleshoting the broken door.

Finally they got it fixed.  We were in the air 50 minutes before my next flight was scheduled to be in the air.  I spent the majority of the flight pleading with the world for my next flight to be delayed.  No such luck.  Me, and four other people, ran to the connecting gate just in time to see our plane pulling away from the gate.  One woman in the group of five took charge and asked if they had been aware we had a connecting flight.

The woman at the desk cut her off and said that, Yes they had known, but the connection had been illegal.  We all looked vaguely confused.  And she then said: "I don't know how you did it.  It was illegal and you shouldn't have been able to do it.  So since it was illegal, we didn't hold the plane.  Besides, it's not like you missed it by minutes, you missed it by ten minutes at least.  Besides.  Every time we hold a plane we lose money."

I'm not sure I've ever met anyone with spoke with quite that much emphasis on accusing words.  We weren't accusing them of anyone.  It was an unfortunate situation and they got us seats on the next plane leaving to our destination.  However it completely pissed me (and the rest of the people) off to be blamed for the entire situation.  As one woman pointed out after "you" had been emphasized four or five times, it was their system that had allowed us to book this so-called illegal connection in the first place.

Unfortunately this airport is fairly small, so the next flight was actually five hours after my original flight had been scheduled to leave.  So I've been sitting here doing a lot of blogging and music listening in an airport that has practically no food after security and has two full closed wings.  It's been rather frustrating.  Oh well.

Advice I Don't Agree with

Occasionally I get bored an do some google searches on stage management.  Sometimes I learn new things, some times I don't, but reading what other people have to say is fascinating for me.  However, in my most recent search, there were two things that kept popping up that really bothered me.

1.  The advice to never admit that you don't know something.  This obviously extends beyond stage management and into our general culture.  We're taught as children to "fake it till you make it", be "independent", and not to ask "silly questions".  With all this conditioning, it's not really a wonder why people have trouble admitting that they don't know something.  This is particularly troubling with people in authority, because they're told it's a sign of weakness.

 But here's the thing.  Sometimes you don't know something.  Particularly in regard to stage management, you have so much information thrown at you constantly, that sometimes you just don't know.  And saying so shouldn't be a sign of weakness.  It's a sign of humanity.  I am not a robot and giving the appearance of being one is going to get me into trouble when people assume too much of me.  So yes, I do say: "I'm sorry.  I don't know."  That statement however is almost (possibly without exception, but I can't be positive) always followed by: "But I'll find out" or "Let me get back to you about that."  or "Let me connect you with someone (usually a designer) who might know better".  Saying any of those things is infinitely better than just making something up and being wrong.

On that note.  I've also seen advice about not admitting you're wrong, which paradoxically is often paired with the advice of taking responsibility.  If there is a mishap, mistake, or miscommunication, just say that you messed up.  Just admit you were wrong, and that you're very sorry, and that it shouldn't happen again, but that you were wrong.  People seem to take an odd sort of comfort in these words and I've often said them, even when it really truly wasn't my fault.  They cost you nothing but pride and in all honesty, if you're serious about stage managing, you can't afford a ton of pride in being perfect/never wrong.

One more thing before I move on.  But saying "I don't know" or "I was wrong"  has not once lost me respect from anyone I've worked with.  Maybe I've been lucky, but in my experience, people appreciate you just being another person and not some untouchable demigod.  Like I said, I could be completely mistaken, but I'm less than a year out of college and have been hired for nine shows, so I must be doing something right.

2.  The other piece of advice I saw constantly was to wear appropriate clothing.  Is this really actually a problem?  I mean that question seriously.  I've met quite a few stage managers and have never once run into this problem.  I mean, theatre is more of a casual atmosphere to begin with, so wearing something that scandalizes people and that might be considered inappropriate seems highly unlikely.

The other thing is this piece of advice was always in relation to women.  No low cut shirts.  No exposed midriffs.  No short skirts.  No too-tight pants.  Men were only mentioned once and, frankly, in a  completely absurd manner.  The advice said that men shouldn't go shirtless.  Again, would that actually be a problem ever?  i just don't understand.  Also (and this is always my problem with dress restrictions) what qualifies as too tight, too low, too short? Is that definition based on a conservative man's?  A conservative woman's?  A liberal woman's? A liberal man's? Etc etc.

I would also like to say that if I was working under a stage manager that wore tight jeans, short skirts, and bare midriffs I wouldn't have a problem respecting them if they were competent and commanded authority with a calm, collected personality.  I don't really understand why conservative clothing should be a requirement.  Maybe in order for the director, designers, and actors to respect the stage manager.  But in my experience, those people respond most to competence and attitude, not pieces of cloth.

The Prompt Book

Considering the title of my blog, it's probably about time I addressed what a prompt book is and of what it consists.

What is a prompt book?  A prompt book is a binder that contains every scrap of paperwork a stage manager ever generates.  Why is it called a prompt book?   It is called a prompt book because you will use it to prompt your actors when they are off book and calling for line.  Your prompt book will essentially contain everything you will ever need for the show.  I once had the experience of temporarily losing my prompt book the day of a show and it was genuinely the most terrifying experience of my life.

Prompt books are personal and each stage manager sets theirs up differently.  Below I provide a general guide to what should be in a prompt book.

Company Information: This section has every contact sheet that you generate, meaning one for your cast, one for your production team, and one for your technicians.  I generally also put my scene breakdown in this section (a scene breakdown is a piece of paper that documents every entrance and exit of every character).  The last piece of paperwork that I generally put in this section is an emergency contact sheet.

Calendars and Schedules: This is a fairly self-explanatory section but it should firstly contain your rehearsal calendar.  It should also contain any daily schedules, production calendars, conflict calendars, tech schedules, and tech call times.  My current prompt book consists of everyone of the above mentioned schedules.  That is frequently not that case for me.

Audition Forms: This section could contain your audition form, audition flyer, and any other forms that you create for auditions.  Every single solitary production I have been involved in professionally has not had me involved with auditions at all, so lately I haven't needed to put this section in my book.  I think I may be something of an anomaly however.

Production Meeting Minutes: This section contains every set of production meeting notes that you take.  Again, since I entered the professional world, I haven't taken the production meeting minutes.  They have either been taken by the production manager or production stage manager, which was interesting and unexpected for me.

Rehearsal Reports:  Rehearsals reports are sent out after every rehearsal and contain information about  notes that came up during rehearsals of which the designers should be aware. They are sent out to your asms, director(s), designers, and anyone else that your theatre considers necessary (frequently theatre staff members). One handy hint is in addition to attaching the rehearsal report to the email; you can copy the body of the rehearsal report into the actual email in hopes that people will actually read the report. This section should contain a printed copy of every rehearsal report you generate.  You are most likely the only one printing them out, so if someone wants to know what's in such-and-such report, then you have them at your fingertips easily.

Rehearsal reports are tricky beasts.  The stage managers at my college were getting lectured about proper etiquette and the best way to phrase notes and requests.  Ultimately, you're never going to make everyone happy.  I've been yelled at for being too polite and I've been yelled at for being too terse.  Each designer and director will have a personal preference and you're just not going to be able to change that.  I try to cater to my designer's desires as much as possible, but if I get two conflicting requests, I am going to go with the politer option that suits my needs more.

Somethings to keep in mind about notes: 1) Be as descriptive as possible.  Give the actor/character that the note affects (if any), page number (and/or song), and any possible details you know about the note. 2) Unless someone asks you not to be, try to phrase things politely and in a non-demanding (more requesting) manner.  3) Sometimes where notes go in two categories.  If this is the case, I have a tendency to put the note under general and include the designers/directors' names in the note.

One other warning.  There are some notes that you might not realize are actually notes.  The one that comes to mind immediately is if an actor is blocked to sit on the front of the stage, this is a lighting note.  Lighting designers light people at the level where their faces are, not where their knees would normally be.  They need to know before they do their focus about any strange blocking moves.

Performance Reports:  This section contains every performance report generated.  Performance reports are very similar to rehearsal reports and the stage manager should make one for each performance, including if you have two performances in a day.  Performance reports more often consist of notes for the designers like: "The tea cup from Act I Scene 2 lost it's hand, but we repaired it temporarily with super glue.  We will use epoxy overnight to make more permanent repairs."  When the show opens, it's the stage manager and crew's responsibility to maintain the props and other aspects of the show.  Thus, it's more likely to see a note about something being repaired than a note about something that the crew and stage manager need help managing.

Performance Forms:  This section of your prompt book should contain forms like a quick change list, props preset list, pre and post show checklists, actor timelines, sign in sheets for your actors, scene change lists, and any other paperwork that pertains to your individual show.

Costumes: This is one of the design sections.  Most of the paperwork in this section will be generated by the costume designer.  Some of it includes a costume plot and copies of the costume renderings.

Lighting: Most of the paperwork in this section will be generated by the lighting designer.  Some of it can include an area plot, color key, instrument schedule, channel hookup sheet, lighting renderings, light plot, and light cue sheet.  Don't worry if this section is empty until you get closer tech.  This is fairly normal because lighting design (unlike set design) is a back loaded design.

Properties: Most of the paperwork in this section will be generated by the properties master/designer.  Some of it may be generated by you.  Generally a props list (or a more detailed props plot), rehearsal props list, and sometimes a props tracking sheet (generated by you or your asm) are included in this section.  Lately I've had extremely props heavy shows so I've needed the detailed props tracking in order to be able to set up rehearsals correctly.

Scenic: Most of the paperwork in this section will be generated by the scenic designer.  Some of it includes renderings, a ground plan, and elevations.  Later on, you should get a fly cues from the scenic designer.

Sound: Most of the paperwork in this section will be generated by the sound designer.  Since sound is a different medium than the rest of the designs, I frequently buy CD sleeves to insert in this section.  I also include sound cue sheets.  CD sleeves are an excellent investment, especially when running dance calls via CD and not a live piano.

Blocking Script: The blocking of the entire production is recorded in this section.  It contains two parts: 1) the script and 2) the blocking.  Blocking will most likely need to be an entirely separate entry.

Calling Script: This is the section in which you record your all of your cues.  You use this section to call every performance.  See my post on how to call a show for more details:

General/Miscellaneous: This section is just what it sounds like, a general area for miscellaneous notes.  I put notes from rehearsals, line notes, and other notes in this section.  I also frequently include dramaturgy materials (because I haven't had any overly intense dramaturgy shows before, otherwise I would give it it's own section) in this section.

These sections can be expanded or reduced according to the needs of an individual production.  Occasionally I have had a hair and makeup section.  I have also seen stage managers with a separate section for line notes.  I've only had one, very simple show, have projections so I haven't yet needed a section for it, but I might in the future.

Reusing Old Posts

I flipped through my livejournal posts from senior year which was fairly amusing, because they are so full of drama.  Though to be fair, my senior year of high school actually was filled with all sorts of drama.  I wasn't making things up.  My last post on my live journal was fairly interesting though.  I wrote it after seeing my first show in college.  It's more of an abstraction than about my actual life, but I think it's pretty, so here you go:

Walking in to an enclosed, crowded space: an air plane, coffee shop, even a class; everyone is a stranger. You don't know them, there are no preconceptions. No baggage. You can choose who you wish to be and if you wish to reinvent, recreate yourself you can.

Sitting next to that person. Just sitting down in that open chair and remaining quiet until some one reaches into your life and grabs you.

They won't shut up, they keep talking and you grow more familiar with them but paradoxically uncomfortable. They pour out their story for you. You can't stop the flow of words. They won't let you. You can't get up and walk away, you need to be here, you need to be touched by this person. You can't.

Listening stirs you up. "No, how can you do that!?"

"No, you have to repent"


"Don't leave it there! Please!?"

Your emotionally invested now. Some how, this person, this stranger you don't even know has you. You're in their power now and there's nothing you can possibly do about it. "So, what did you do? What's your story? What wrongs have you done?"

You shake your head, deny it all. "It doesn't matter. I've changed. I've repented. This is who I am now."

They smile. "Who are you? You who claims to be more than mere mortal. You have sins. You are human."

No. No. How can they know? How can they see everything? You shake, clench your hands, shudder. Let it drop. Please, please let it drop. Don't bring up my past.

They do. They leave your mind, but won't let go of their hold over you. They continue their story.

"How can human beings be so evil?"

"No, it doesn't feel good. I don't like it. No!" Deny it all.

You feel yourself talking. Opening up, what has been shut deep within you and your mask starts lower.

It starts to slip.

You tell them, as you have rarely told anyone. You open up and reveal your story. Slowly, ignoring details. Glossing over memories and your deeper past.

You can see them react and you like it. You like that they draw back a little, you can see their pity.

Maybe you tell the details now.
This is how it happened:
This is what I did:
How I lived:

They squirm. We're all human. What they said is true....

"Please, please help me!"

No, no, I can't possibly.

"Please. You've changed. Help me."

But what can I possibly do.

"Life itself is against me. Please......I need you..."

You relent.

It falls.

You tell them how you change. What is different now. How you repented and were made anew. You shed yourself and everything that formerly went with that.

Tears. Their emotions tear at you and you realize what's happening now. They deny they can. They deny they can change.

You can't escape. You plead with them. "No...no...please. You can change. I did."

But what if you didn't? The accusation stand their in their eyes. What if you can't escape who you are? What if no matter what, what if it's always a part of you...

It breaks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Two Spirit

My final quarter at college, I was required to write a dossier for my class on Native American playwrights.  We were allowed to pick any topic and write about it.  I remembered vaguely the character from Little Big Man who was, I thought at the time (though now I know better) trans, and was curious.  My professor also mentioned some Native American tribes that had five, six, even nine genders and so the matter was settled for me.  I did my paper on Native American non-binary genders.  I did months worth of research and literally read thousands of pages in books.  I went far beyond the scope of the original paper, but I checked with my professor and she didn't actually mind.

Below the break is the paper.  It's extremely long (9 pages when single spaced), but it's that length because I had so much information to write about, not because I was bullshitting in order to hit the page requirement.  I think at the end it gets a little bit...over-reachy in it's conclusion about plays about non-binary genders, because in truth, there wasn't a ton of material out there about it.

Why am I posting this?  Because I learned an incredible amount and this isn't information they just teach you in schools, but it's so interesting and important.  Hopefully this doesn't read like this: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2525#comic

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why this Show is so Hard

I'm four weeks into rehearsals of my new show and I still feel slightly frantic like I do when I'm just starting a new show.

Everything is so overwhelming and it's a fucking high school show!  This is ridiculous and it's driving me crazy.  I can't really even articulate exactly what is making this so hard.  Part of is that I went directly into this show from my last show.  I had virtually no time to sit down and prep.  In most professional theatres you get an entire week to prep: set up your book, tape the groundplan on the floor of the rehearsal space, premake paperwork, talk with your director and designers, and more.  But I didn't get a prep week.  I didn't even get any thinking time.  Auditions for this show were on top of my last show's performance dates.  I think part of this feeling of frantic energy is just never quite being on top of all the paperwork and things I have to do.

The next thing that's making it hard is the sheer number of emails I get a day.  There are days when I've literally woken up to 50 emails.  And frequently, I have to respond to 30-40 of those emails.  So, I spend the first two hours after waking up answering emails and then by the time I'm done another 20 or so emails have come in to which I need to respond.  And then by the time I respond to those, it's time for rehearsals.  I'm good with email.  I respond quickly and I know a lot of tricks about my email server and I only respond to the people who need responding to, but 50+ emails a day is just ridiculous.  Many times the emails could just be condensed in one or two different emails, not 12, which would just make my life so much easier.

Number three on the list of things making this show so difficult.  After rehearsals I have meetings pretty much every day.  I meet on Mondays with the choreographer to discuss how things are going and next week's schedule.  I meet on Tuesdays with the music director and conductor to discuss next week's schedule and to check in.  I meet with the director on Thursdays to check in about my discussions with the choreographer and the music director/conductor and then to discuss next week's schedule.  On Friday's I discuss any leftover business with the director and go over the rough schedule with her.  And, I have impromptu meetings pretty much every other day, sometimes twice a day, too.  For some reason (I think because most of the directors also have full time other jobs) our directors are never in the same place at the same time, so it takes an obscene amount of coordinating.

Number four: we rehearse in our theatre.  We don't have rehearsal rooms and this is both a blessing and a curse.  It's nice for spacing to be in the actual space.  It's awful in regard to controlling the kids (actors).  There are 37 of them and they wander about the auditorium and I don't have a god-mic so I just have to yell/project to get the kid's attention.  The other problem with rehearsing in the space is that's also where the scene shop is, so the designers and carpenters are often in and out of the space working while we have rehearsals.  This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't get pulled aside everyday by a wayward designer or technical director (luckily our production manager is an actor, so he doesn't pull me aside) to talk to them about a note in the previous day's rehearsal report or something they're curious about.  And the thing is, these are important things to address, but I'm trying to run rehearsals!

Number five on this very long list: we haven't had a production meeting for a month and a half.  Our last production meeting we said: "Everything's going smoothly, let's meet again at the end of February."  But then, rehearsals started and people started to suddenly have a million questions.  We've had small meetings with designers, but we really need one where everyone is present.  It's just killing me the amount of extra work and number of extra discussions I'm having to have.

I think that might be the end of this list?  I'm not totally sure on that, there's probably other things that make it hard like a large cast, young actors, an obstinate conductor and props designer, etc.  But I think those are the major ones.  I do have two lovely, talented (though young) asms who help me so so much.  So thanks for small (or in this case very large and important) blessings.

The school I'm working at has midwinter break this week though, so I have an entire week off so I can recoup.  I'm also going to go visit Lana and Kat, which I am unbelievably excited for (plus they have much nicer weather than where I am currently).

Valentine's Day- Unpopular Opinion

This isn't twitter, but I tagged my post with #unpopularopinion (via the title) anyway.  It seems to be trendy to hate on Valentines Day.  It's too commercialized, too heteronormative, it's too couple-centrist, we should be celebrating love every day, etc, etc, etc.

And my question is: What is wrong with taking one day to remind us of our love for other people?  Not just our significant other(s) but everyone.  You know back in elementary school where you were required to give a valentine to everyone?  What is wrong with taking one day to be reminded the cherish the people you love?  Yes, Valentines day is too commercial and what the media has made it into is kinda disgusting.  But you have the choice not to buy into all the media crap and just celebrate with your friends, family, and lovers.

Every holiday is just a reminder.  Christmas reminds us of giving and genorosity (and if you're Christian, of Jesus' birth).  Halloween is a reminder of the old tradition of All Hallows Eve and also of childhood (both the past childhood of adults and the present childhood of children).  Earth Day-reminder of global warming and preservation; Memorial Day, Veterans Day- Reminders of those who have fought and died or survived in wars.  I have heard about so many of these holidays: "Earth/Veterans/Generosity/etc only gets 1 day?!  What about the other 364 days of the year?"  But no. No no no no no.  That is so not the point.  What is the point?  The point is to remind the world about these important causes so that they will remember the other 364 days.

So what is wrong with celebrating the love in your life and having one day a year to help remind you?  Nothing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

An Analogy (with Colors!)

I need to stop apologizing for not blogging.  I've been so busy lately I haven't even had time to think, let alone blog.  I will do my very best to blog as often as possible; as much as my job and schedule permit.  That said, I have four or five post ideas and an entire week off.  (I think I'm the only one who's actually worried about this, so I am saying it more for my own sake than anyone else's).

One of the most frustrating things for me personally is when I'm explaining things about sexuality to people and they say: "Why is there so much terminology?  Why can't there just be: straight and gay...and maybe bisexual."  And my answer is: "Because sexuality and gender are complicated."

And here is where the colors come in.  Like straight, gay, bi, female, and male there are common colors that everyone knows: red, green, yellow, orange, blue.  There are also colors that mean pretty much the same thing like purple and violet (violet is actually the proper name for purple, not an actual shade) just like straight is synonymous with heterosexual and het; gay is synonymous for homosexual and both overlap with lesbian.

There are also slightly obsolete/more obscure/less used/more formal colors: red-violet, red-orange, blue-green. Homosexual and heterosexual are terms the people will certainly know what they mean, but they aren't used in colloquial speech.

Then, beyond the common, universally-known colors and the uncommon, universally-known colors, then there are all the names for very specific shades of colors: maroon, vermilion, puce, periwinkle, lavender, seafoam green, cerulean, indigo, mustard, etc, etc, etc.  I literally could probably go on for an entire page without even having to think about it that hard (I didn't even name all of the Kanto Pokemon towns yet).  In parallel are sexuality and gender related terms that not everyone knows the meaning of: transgender, intersex, pansexual, queer, polyamory, asexual, cisgendered (to name a few).

In all honesty, I think that I'd run out of gender and sexuality vocabulary and terms a whole hell of a lot sooner than I'd run out of colors (maybe not, I might surprise myself, but I think I still might).  Why do we have literally hundreds of names for colors and people don't complain (at least not seriously (generally)) but more than one handful of sexuality and gender terminology is just too much?  Sexuality is an infinitely more complicated, more intimate, and more human subject than colors.  It's complex and if we are to be totally honest with ourselves, sexuality is truly unique to each person.  Yes, you can be heterosexual in essence, but even within that classification you might be more attracted to masculine people, feminine people, people with your own interests, people with opposite interests.  And those varieties are going to be unique and thus it is impossible to have a word that describes every person's gender and sexuality; just like how you could never have a word for every color, every shade, every tint, every tone in existence.

Saying: "Only heterosexuality, homosexuality, female, and male are valid terms, everything else is superfluous" is just ludicrous.  It's just like saying: "Only red, blue, yellow, and green are valid colors".  Yes, it's true red, blue, and yellow (or green if you're talking about light) are the basic colors which everything else is based on, but calling purple, blue instead is just not calling the situation what it actually is.  Just like calling a woman who likes men and is attracted to women occasionally gay is just incorrect.  Just like calling a woman who likes men and is attracted to women occasionally bi, is not necessarily correct.  The terms in common usage are limiting and archaic.

In the situation just described previously where my analogy breaks down is: if a woman likes men but is occasionally attracted to women and still identifies as heterosexual then that is her choice.  A choice which should not be questioned because only you truly know yourself.  It's entirely possible there are perfectly good reasons she still identifies as heterosexual.  Unlike with colors where that can be some debate: is it pink or purple?  In the end, it's still in that range on the spectrum, unlike (universally) in relation to sexuality and gender.

The other thing about gender and sexuality is most of the terminology is incredibly intuitive if you know anything about Latin (and Greek) roots, which, believe it or not, even the average person knows something about just by speaking the language.  The "cis" in "cisgendered" isn't pulled from the middle of no where.  The "a" in "asexual" is common in so many other words: apathetic, atypical, amoral.  I don't understand why people complain when the language and terms are not conjured from thin air (like vermillion (a plant root) or cerulean (a dye pigment) seem to be).  It is true that even some of the terms get confusing for me (what is the difference between omisexual and pansexual exactly? (this seems to depend on who you ask)), but it is still mostly understandable.

There is just a human tendency to simplify things.  To shy away from anything becoming too complicated.  To shun situations that aren't easy to grasp or deal with or comprehend.  But people are the most complex things I have ever run into.  I love just watching people because you can learn so much just about humanity and how people exist.  I just desperately wish we could all appreciate the complexities of each other and our identities as much as we seem to appreciate naming colors.


Yeah, I know: "Why can't we all just get along.  Waahh. Waahh."  But some times I really just wish people could be more accepting of deviation.  Also, on an unrelated topic, I'm not generally very good with analogies but I'm really pleased with this one.  Everything just seemed to sort of fall into place.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reply All

Another rant (partially because I am so sick of people's lack of tact).

Reply all is a wonderful thing.  You can press one button without retyping all the email addresses.  However, it really really should not be your default in theatre.

If you're having a scheduling chain of emails between all of your directors you should be using reply all.  Why?  Because everyone involved needs to know when you're busy, when you're not.  Your music director needs to know when to teach a particular song if you want to teach a particular dance soon, etc, etc.

If you are sent a rehearsal report and it says:  "What size camera are we using'?  And the props designer gets back to you with the size but also is wondering: "Are we using a flash with this same camera?"  In that case, using reply all is a fairly good idea.  The director(s) is/are probably going to have thoughts about that, the lighting designer might have thoughts.  The sound designer might wonder: "Is the flash going to be making a noise?  Will the camera be providing this noise?"  Hence a situation where it helps everyone to know about your response.

When shouldn't reply all be used?  When you are replying in a fashion that has the potential to embarrass the person you're replying to if the entire production team,etc reads the reply.  That happened the other day, where our set designer was talking about the backdrop and our lighting designer had misunderstood her several times about what type of material the drop would be.  The set designer tactlessly replied to the entire team saying: "Oh! You didn't understand?  I've been perfectly clear."  And there was just no reason for that to be sent to the entire production team and if our set designer had used a tiny iota of sense, they would have realized that embarrassing another designer is not a way to make friends.

So what if you need to reply to five out of twenty people?  A) Press reply and add the rest of the names you need.  B) Press reply all and delete the rest of the names you don't need.  Or C) Send a separate email to the people you specifically need to talk to.   It's not that hard.  I just don't understand.  Yes, the stage manager and director(s) should be included in a lot of replies, but reply all is frequently not the best way to include them.  Sigh.

Props Person Problem

Okay world, help me out.  I have a situation I'm not entirely sure what to do with.

On my last show, I worked with a props designer.  I was asm and thus in charge of props.  We talked briefly about how to deal with props as we went into tech and then she left me to my own devices.

I'm working my current show with the same props designer, only this time as an sm.  And I'm receiving a minimum of five emails a day from her (something I know the stage manager on the last show didn't get because she always sends it to the entire production team).  And many of the emails are: "Can you rename your rehearsal report file names in _____ manner.  They're not convenient this way."  or "You should be pulling rehearsal props and them having your asms set them out on a table."

Maybe this doesn't seem like a big deal to you if you're not a stage manager.  But those are kind of intensely not things she should be interfering with and I'm just not sure what to do.  I'm trying not to take it personally because she is the type of person who always has to have a say about everything.  When we gave her the heads up notice: "We padded the bottom of the garbage can so Johnny could sit up higher in it during Musical Number on page#" she asked "What color padding?"  I would like to point out that the cushions could not be seen at all by the audience.  I understand she's always going to have questions like that, and I've accepted that; I understand that's just how she is.

However, the notes about how I can stage manage better are entirely inappropriate, especially since I am not some high school student stage manager.  I majored in it in college and have been working professionally for the better part of a year.  And I'm trying not to take it personally, but it's just extra frustrating because I know for a fact that she didn't give this type of crap to the stage manager on my last show (who is a high school stage manager).  And the things she's trying to "correct" me on are things that she didn't object to last show when we did things the same exact way.

It's just beyond frustrating.  And I can sit and grit my teeth and be nice to her anyway.  But I honestly thing she also needs to understand that it is thoroughly not her place to be giving me stage management "corrections".


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Consent Post Number 3 (family)

Continuing on my theme of consent is: consent in regard to parents and children.  I mainly want to talk about consent for children who are self-aware (hence old enough) to reject being touched or to reject a decision made for them (either verbally or in body language).

Something I have never understood is why parents force their children to do something trivial.  "No, you have to take piano lessons, not violin lessons" or "no you have to focus on science, even though you hate it".  It just doesn't make sense.  Why is piano better than violin?  Why is biology better than creative writing?  Especially when your child tells you that they don't like biology and don't have the aptitude.  Teaching your child to eat balanced meals is important, but if they're going to refuse, then that is their choice.

Good parenting does not consist of forcing a child to do something for their own good.  That is just not good parenting, regardless of what society seems to think.  If a child doesn't do their homework then they get bad grades.  The bad action has unfortunate consequences.  But a bad grade isn't much of a consequence you say?  Well, for some people that's probably true, but if that bad grade is accompanied by a lack of freedom at home (no going out with friends, no tv, etc) then why is it a problem?  I'm oversimplifying by a lot and I know I was a relatively good (if not "obedient") child, so I had the drive to do well in school and eat my vegetables not to please my parents because it pleased me (the school work did anyway, and vegetables never tasted bad to me, so eating them wasn't a problem).

Lana is a vegetarian and her parents kept trying her to get eat meat as a child and she just never wanted to.  And being a vegetarian is such a valid choice, why force the poor kid to eat meat? It just seems ridiculous to me.  Not eating meat doesn't hurt anyone, yet parents object because it doesn't conform with their expectations.  Focusing on acting as opposed to football isn't actually hurting anyone.  Yes, maybe acting doesn't pay as well (in the long run) and it's less socially accepted, but that is the kid's choice.  Saying: "Well, you will be so much better off if you're an accountant than an actor" is financially true, but absolutely not necessarily true in any other way.  Wanting your child to be well off financially is valid, but forcing/coercing/pressuring them into doing something they don't want to do is just wrong.

Saying, "Well it's in their best interest, even if they don't want it" is a) totally subjective b) coercive and c) taking another person's autonomy away.  It's like fucking saying to your partner: "Well, you'll actually like sex once we start."  Here's the thing if you let your kid make their own decisions, even/especially if they're stupid ones, while they're still under your roof it means you can intervene/help when/if something goes horribly wrong.  You're their safety net.  If you wait until they're out in the real world for them to make their own decisions and they've never been allowed to do so before, it's far more likely they'll spend all their money on alcohol, get into a financial situation that's above their head, get involved with an abusive partner, etc.  And by that point they're legally adults and you can't do a damned thing to help unless they ask.

So many bad decisions have naturally bad consequences.  If you get your ears pierced and you don't clean out your ears then they'll get infected.  I'm not saying that you should stand back while your child gets gangrene.  But when my ears got infected, I can tell you the very first thing I did was start using my antiseptic as often as I was supposed to.  And I kept on doing so until my ears were fully healed.  I learned from my stupid decision and fixed it.

When I was 17 (right before going into college) I talked to my parents and said: "How am I paying for college?"  Their answer was student loans.  Well, here's the thing, even with the depression, I had enough money in my college account (which I hadn't even known existed until a few months before college) to cover my entire time at college.  And I argued with my parents and said: "Why can't I just use the money in my account?  If I take on loans then I have to pay interest?  Why do that when I can just pay for everything here and now?"  Well, they completely ignored me and said: "You'll need that money for the future in case things get really bad."  They made that decision for me since I was a minor and I couldn't have sole custodianship

Well here I am now and my student loan payments are starting and I'm not in a position where I have a lot of  money to cover them.  Through a fairly horrible series of money events (involving my parents) I still don't have access to my college fund account and still don't have a part-time job (and yes, I do swear to God, this is entirely my dad's fault (really long story)) and I'm just so mad at my parents.  I had a 4.0 GPA in high school, had a job, played two select sports for nine years, I even had a 3.8 GPA in college.  In short, I feel like I had completely proved myself worthy of making decisions about my own money, but my parents overruled me because I was a minor and they thought it was best for me.  What does turning 18 have anything to do with maturity other than being a kinda sorta maybe benchmark (this is something for an entirely separate post)?

So, this is a personal issue for me.  But no, my parents really didn't have my consent, even remotely, to do what they did and they did it anyway and they don't see anything wrong with that.  I might have been a minor but I was still a person, one who had more than proven herself capable of making mature, well thought-out decisions.  Why did they feel they had the right to take the decision out of my hands?  A decision that has had an extreme impact on my life and none on theirs?  The fact that they are my parents doesn't give them that right.

I've wandered so far off my original point, for which I have to apologize.  But parents often don't even ask their child about decisions.  And parents who do ask, frequently do so in a cursory manner and ignore their child's answer.  They have no say at all in their own lives.  Adults pick them up/hug them/pull them by the hand without asking.  They say "You're going to do Boy Scouts, it'll be fun".  And that is just not behavior that would ever be acceptable with adults, ever.  What is the harm in asking a child whether they want a hug?  And if they say no, why not just accept that answer?

This post was thoroughly a cluster fuck because I have really strong views on parenting that are difficult to articulate and that don't seem to match up with the rest of the populations.  I didn't even get to talking about half of what I meant to, but my bottom line is that children are people and if they say: "No" to something (especially trivial things) that should be respected (if not 100% always followed).

Consent Post Number 2 (partners)

As my friend Jay pointed out to me, I haven't posted at all yet in February, so here is a post! :-)  I've spent most of my day typing up the script for my next show (the copies we were sent were so bad note even Scan Tailor can save them) so this will be a welcome break.

One of my first posts, back in September of last year I believe, concerned consent in relation to parent's piercing their baby's ears.  And I've been thinking about consent a lot lately (the Pervocracy posted on the issue twice, which helped) and here are my thoughts.  This promises to be a long post, especially since I was discussing my thoughts with Will yesterday, so I might split it into two posts.  Consent in regard to romantic/sexual relationships and consent in regard to parent/child relationships.

Consent is something that is undervalued in our society.  Much of our society is not taught the importance of personal, physical boundaries.  Yesterday I was out with Will shopping and literally had strangers touch me on my arm three times in the space of hours and then sort of spin me around so they could see the back of my sweatshirt (apparently it was an interesting sweatshirt).  Never before have I had that happen to me.

I honestly don't have a huge physical touch boundary, being touched on the arm by someone is just a way to get my attention and I understand that.  And I've long decided that I project a please don't touch me signal even to people I know.  As I said, I don't really mind, but it was certainly a surprise when three separate people physically touched my arm yesterday.  Could they have not just asked to see the back of my sweatshirt?  I certainly would have let them.  Why not just ask? I don't understand.

Yesterday sort of made me realize that I project the "Don't touch me" vibe without meaning to so what about people who project the: "Please touch me" vibe accidentally?  It's my body you're touching.  It does not belong to you in any way or shape.  You don't touch antiques in an antique shop because they aren't yours.  Why is a person any different?

And that really goes doubly/triply/many times more for your romantic/sexual partners.  They are opening themselves up to you and making themselves vulnerable to you.  Even with a one-night stand requires a level of trust.  Kink especially, especially requires trust.  So with a partner you're unsure of or new to, then you absolutely should be saying: "Can I kiss you?", "Can I do this?", "What do you want me to do?", "This is what I want."  An ongoing dialogue is so important and it might sound silly, but if you have unambiguous consent and if you're sure that your partner not only wants what you're doing, but is enjoying it, it'll make your relationships better.

I say this as something I firmly believe, but something that I will confess I'm not very good at in general.  As soon as things start to get physical, somehow I find my skills at communication just stop.  I'm not quite sure how or why it happens, but I'll fully admit it's something I need to work on.

Now, my biggest departure from the Pervocracy's thoughts on consent is in regard to long-standing partners.      I am not going to say: "I would like to be kissed" or say: "Is it okay if I kiss you?"  Every goddamn, single, solitary time I kiss Boyfriend, who I have been dating for four and a half years.  That's just silly for us.  If I lean in for a kiss he can (and has) say no if he doesn't want to.  If I hold out my arms for a hug, he can still say no.  It's pretty damn obvious what I'm asking for.  And I think it's still important to always ask about sex or any for of sexual contact much more than a kiss because enthusiastic, explicit consent is important.

Now, and this is where Will and I sort of got stumped in our conversation, what about surprise kisses and surprise cuddles and even to some extent surprise playful/joking gropes?  I really enjoy them.  I think they're adorable and enjoyable and I've never had a problem receiving them.  But they take consent and sort of throw it out the window, which makes me feel uneasy and feel like I shouldn't like surprise hugs and kisses. Will and my solution was that you should negotiate beforehand (ie when starting your relationship it should be included as part of your negotiations) and say that you enjoy surprises kisses and hugs and playful gropes, but if you say no at any point that they should stop (but only until you say that you don't mind anymore).

Like I said, I don't really say no ever to surprise kisses, etc but with surprise tickles, it's a slightly different story.  Generally I'm amused by surprise tickles and pokes and other things of that nature, but if I say "No/Stop" Boyfriend and Lana (and really all of my closest friends) will stop immediately and they tend to apologize.  And this is an arrangement I'm okay with mostly, though I can think of several pitfalls inherent in this system.

Bottom line: Ask before you touch someone unless you have negotiated with them if you can touch them without explicit permission.  This goes for your partner, friend, strangers in a bar or on the street, your coworkers, your child (this is trickier and something I'm going to discuss in a different post).  Every goddamn person has a right to not be touched if they don't want to be