Tuesday, May 22, 2012

That Perfect Moment

Super excited for my summer show now, but first I have to get through my current show.

Also I should probably be sleeping, but I had a random thought.

One thing I've been complemented on by just about every director I've worked with is this: I call an excellent show.

Calling a show isn't actually my favorite.  I would consider myself good at it.  Just like I would consider myself good at running tech.  But it's not my favorite part of the process.  I like seeing the actors learn and change throughout the rehearsal process too much for anything besides that to be my favorite (how many times can I use that word in a paragraph?)

And I think, possibly (and of course I could be wrong), the thing that sets my calling a part from some other stage manager is that I see that for every cue there is that one perfect moment for it to be called.  The moment where the actor steps from one area of the stage to another and the light comes up on them just as the other area goes out.  Or the lights complete right as the vocals for a song begin.

I try to find that exact moment for every cue.  It really is an art to me.  I was never a great designer and I could never be a director.  I honestly don't think I'm creative enough for it.  However, with calling a show there is something so elegant.  When called in that perfect moment you somehow don't even notice the lights change because that's just how it's supposed to be.  It's so seamless and part of the story.  I think I would be taken aback if someone who hadn't worked the show or wasn't a stage manager came up and complemented the timing, because it shouldn't be noticed.

I truly believe that a well called show should not be noticed by anyone not on the above list.  It needs to help draw in and keep the audience in the story.  Conversely, a poorly called show can so easily pull an audience member out of the show.  If you miss a bump (which is a 0 second light cue which goes on the final beat of a song) then it's jarring (and goddamn obvious).  If you miss bringing up another area of the stage, then the actors aren't lit.  It's a very subtle, very fine art.  And it is one that I love because it's almost always a challenge.

PS. To me it seems like my last posts have been really boastful....that's not how I'm trying to come off, I swear.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Look at this, three posts total, two days in a row.  How good of me.

Anyway, I could have sworn I already told this story on my blog, but I looked and I couldn't find it.  I think the truth is that I've been meaning to tell this story for ages and never got around to it.

Senior year of college I took the required directing class.  I was nervous.  Out of my mind nervous really.  My experiences with directors hadn't really been a good one during college and my experience with the professor had been even worse.  However I had to take it and, because it was a class many people failed, I wanted to take it earlier in the year than later.

The class ended up really not being that bad.  I'm fairly sure directing will never be for me.  It's not that I don't have an artistic opinion, because I do and I need to turn that part of my brain off while I'm stage managing.  It's more that I'm not comfortable being the one people turn to about the artistic vision.  I'm bad at having a unifying, whole artistic view.  However, the class went as well as could possibly be expected.

The reason for this background information is I want you to know this: Directing as a class scared me.  It scared me every day I had a class.  

At the end of the term we did an interesting exercise.  Each of us wrote down one word or phrase that described each person in our class.  At the very end of the last class period we would get our compiled lists.  It was a little bit of an unnerving experience.  Everyone was scared that people secretly hated them.  Everyone was scared that people would be mean.  We didn't have to look at our lists, but we did have give descriptors (confidentially) to our professor for every classmate.

I got my list and looked at it and it wasn't mean.  It wasn't brutal.  Confidentiality seemed to have brought out honesty from people, at least I can hope.  My list was primarily composed of words and phrases like: Stage Manager, Competent, Assured, Calm, Reassuring, Confident.  Twenty-one other people in the class and I got twenty descriptors like the ones above.  However, one person saw through me.  One person put: Scared.  And that was the truth.  The complete truth.

The point of this story?  You can influence what people think of you.  I wasn't calm in that class. I wasn't assured or confident.  I was terrified; scared out of my mind.  But I projected those attributes.  When at school I was constantly in my role as stage manager.  Even in classes I needed to seem calm and self-assured when I wasn't so that the actors I had classes with come to me during a show a trust me.  The traits above are how I want to be viewed by most people and that little exercise in directing gave me proof that it was mostly working.  One person saw through my projection.

Unfortunately, describing things as I am, it seems horribly manipulative.  And I suppose it is manipulative.  But it's not all a facade.  In directing it was because the scared feeling mostly overwhelmed everything else. However, at most points in my life I am self-assured, competent, calm, reassuring.  I don't get stressed easily, I enjoy helping people as best I can, I enjoy my job and it is a major part of who I am.  Even as a small child I have always been self-possessed.

These days whenever I start a new show at a theatre I've never worked at before I project calm, in control, and competent.  And those things are true.  I'm not the best with new settings though, so subconsciously, I tend to get extremely serious and formal because in truth, I'm not at ease.  I'm working with the same actors I worked with during winter and doing so is making me realize this fact.

For my winter show I was stiff and formal.  Towards the end I started to relax.  Tristan is hard not to relax around and the actors are so damn charismatic.  Now, coming into this new show, despite being flung into it head first, I'm comfortable with the actors.  I can joke with the actors and stage manager (who I actually had never met before Tuesday).  I'm still competent, the actors still trust me, but now I'm more myself.

What does this all mean?  I'm not entirely sure.  In part it's just a realization I've been coming to.  Despite all my descriptions above, I don't pretend to be who I'm not.  I honestly believe that with all my heart.  Even in directing I wasn't pretending to be someone else, I was just hiding being scared with other traits from my personality.  It's all rather complicated.  I also worry about being manipulative, but still, I can't show I'm panicked or upset in front of actors during a show, etc.  There are just some circumstances where I need to project a different emotion than the one I'm feeling.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I really really need to get back into the habit of blogging.  It's a good outlet and I like sharing my thoughts.

Over the weekend I helped run auditions for my summer show (auditions were combined with two other shows).  My speech went something like this: "Hello. What's your name?  Mhhm. Mhhm.  Here's your number. Here's your audition packet for this show.  Here's your audition packet for that show.  Here is your audition information sheet.  Here is you audition form.  It's triple carbon-copy so please press hard. Return that and your resume and headshot when you're done."  When all was said and done I gave the spiel approximately 200 times over the course of several days.

Then on Tuesday I started rehearsals for my next show (it's a short one, total production time of only a month).  The stage manager (I'm asm again) for the show informed me on Monday that I would be in charge of rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday (my first days of rehearsals).  And so I was plunged into this show.

The director, choreographer, and music director don't talk.  They don't schedule.  They're never in the same room as each other.  We aren't getting the schedule out to the poor actors (junior high/high school age again) until the day of rehearsal.  Yesterday I ended up with five angry texts and one angry phone call from a parent.  The thing is, I had been given basically no information about the show at all.  I was handling things blind and the actors were asking for information I couldn't give them, because I just didn't know myself.  I felt so bad.

I finally talked to the stage manager, Cady, after yesterday's rehearsal.  She assured me that she was frustrated too and was in fact in the process of trying to handle things.  She gave me some background about the whole situation and suddenly I was feeling bad for her too.

So basically it's been an eventful week.  Add to the stories above that my friends are starting to arrive back in town and I am pretty  busy.

Show Post Mortem #2

I finished the show I was working on almost two weeks ago.  It went really smoothly in general.  Everyone was impressed that it was a high school school, which I take as a major success.  We've also been nominated for a bunch of awards for the show, which makes me really really proud of the actors.

There's not really much to say beyond that.  I was genuinely sad to be done with the show. I had bonded with most of those thirty-odd actors and it was sad to say goodbye.  Luckily I'll see at least some of them over the summer.

Despite it being a high school show, it really didn't feel like one.  We ran it in a professional manner and had soaring expectations of the actors.  It was really an interesting experience.  However, now I need to clean up my prompt book.  It will make a better interview book than the one I'm currently using.