Diary of an SPT Stage Manager: Rehearsal Week 2 for Godot

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Rehearsal, Day 7:

After Sunday’s rehearsal, the AD (who is the director) asked if there was any way we could rehearse on Thanksgiving (we are going to be short three hours this week because of the extra day off). This is my 4th show with this company in this slot and we’ve never had this come up before. It’s probably because we would have normally started a week earlier so this would have been week 3. I also happen to think we’re in really good shape considering we’re just starting week 2. According to the SPT (Small Professional Theatre) rulebook, we are not allowed to rehearse on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. But, I emailed my Business Rep just in case. My Rep is great and not just because I’ve known her for a while. She emailed me back within half an hour or so and explained that if he really wants to rehearse on Thanksgiving, he could contact Equity. IF Equity says it’s ok, it would probably be very expensive. She said he should call on Monday if he wants to try. I emailed him that information and told him if he wants, he could add an extra hour to three days of rehearsal this week, but that would mean we’d go into overtime for those three days. Needless to say, I didn’t hear anything today about rehearsing on Thanksgiving or adding extra time to other days. Personally, if I were home with my family for Thanksgiving and was told I have to work, I wouldn’t want to. But since I’m not and since it would have only been three hours, I would’ve been ok with it (especially if I was going to be paid more). But, I’m also not upset that we’re not rehearsing because who doesn’t like having an extra day off.

Anyway, back to the business at hand:

It’s week 2! I came in this morning and made brunch plans for Sunday with the Company Manager and the Education Manager. I can’t wait!

My ASM swept and set up the prop table while I reset the tables (since we are finally done with tablework). One table for stage management, one for the AD, and one for the actors.

There was a weird buzzing sound in the room which got worse when I put the lights on (maybe as a result of the power outage on Sunday), so we kept the lights off most of the day. Luckily, it was a nice, sunny day so we had a lot of light coming in through the many windows.

We started staging the top of Act 2. There’s a lot of blocking that happens without any lines at the top so I made my actor a little cheat sheet which he was very appreciative of.

One of my actors has had some medical problems (that I will not go into since it’s personal) that we were aware of long before starting rehearsals. Because of that, he will have to leave for various appointments including today. It makes it a little difficult since he’s pretty much on stage the entire time and we can’t really do much without him but we certainly want to be mindful of his health. While he was gone, two of my actors ran lines with my ASM reading in the other actor’s lines.

It was Moe Monday ($5 burritos or bowls at Moe’s), so the Education Manager picked up a bowl for me and we had lunch together. It was nice.

When we came back, we tried the lights again but got the same loud buzzing sound so we turned them off again.

My actor who had the doctor’s appointment was late coming back so the other actor ran lines with my ASM.

By the time my actor got back, it was time for the other two actors to join us so we picked up staging where we had left off on Sunday and then moved on to the second scene that the four are in together. And hilarity ensued. At one point, my ASM and I put our sunglasses on because the sun was in our eyes.

The rest of the day was pretty much the same. After rehearsal, I quickly did the schedule and report. I had to go to the store to pick up some stuff for Thanksgiving.

Rehearsal, Day 8:

My actors playing Didi and Gogo are always early. I usually get to the theatre 30-45 minutes before we start and my actors are always there before me running lines. They’re so good. Today, we started at 10:30am (half an hour later than normal) so I told my ASM to be there at 10. She had told me that the later start time really helped her because she had to go downtown to pick something up. Unfortunately, she underestimated how much time it would take for her to get from downtown to the theatre so she was late. She had let me know though and there wasn’t really a lot to do beforehand so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

We continued staging and had the Boy come in earlier than usual; he had been released from school due to Thanksgiving break. I’m from New York and we never had a Thanksgiving break. We had Thursday and Friday off and that’s it.

When I made my character/scene breakdown during prep week, I broke it down into essentially French scenes (a French scene is delineated by when people enter and exit; the scene starts when someone enters and ends when someone exits). This particular play is in two acts, but has no scenes so making French scenes is helpful. There’s 10 French scenes; two scenes have all four adult actors and two other scenes have Didi, Gogo, and the Boy. The other scenes are just Didi and Gogo. I have two extra blocks under each scene column on my breakdown to mark when we’ve done them. We read thru all the scenes so they all get a check mark. As of today, we’ve staged all the scenes except for two so those scenes get another check. Once we stage everything and really start working through the show, each scene will get another check. I keep my breakdown in front of me so I remember to check things off as we do them.

After rehearsal, I did the daily and report and then I talked to one of my actors and one of the education actors for a bit and then went to pick up my dinner (Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken; it’s literally the best).

At about 10:30pm, my ASM texted me asking if we were starting rehearsal at 10:30am again because that’s what the daily says. I could have sworn I had changed the time but when I pulled up the daily I saw that it did indeed say 10:30. I sent out a correction email and apologized for any inconvenience. Then my ASM texted me thank you and I said “No, thank you!” Good thing she caught that. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times you proof something. I normally would have my ASM check the dailies before I email it but I thought it wasn’t necessary for this show since it’s such a small cast and our rehearsal schedule is pretty much the same every day. Except for this one day! I will look it more closely from now on!

Rehearsal, Day 9:

We didn’t have our Lucky today because he had to teach and perform one of the education shows all day, but we were able to get a lot done without him. We reviewed the parts of Act 2 that we’ve already done (except for the part with the Boy, because he wasn’t called) and we staged the last two little scenes. We finished the initial staging!

It has been so cold in the rehearsal studio that the Company Manager gave me a small space heater. I put it on a chair slightly behind my ASM and I. It’s definitely helping.

We spend a lot of time in rehearsal talking about the Marx Brothers. Any time you can talk about the Marx Brothers is a good time. Seriously, if you don’t know who they are, Google them! We talk about them for a reason though. Didi and Gogo are clowns. Not circus clowns but clowns like the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. It’s research!

I got a new unicorn notebook from the dollar bins at Target the other day so I now have that with my show notebook. I’m currently using my new notebook to write down bullet points for this diary!

The last hour of rehearsal before any day off, but especially an extra day off, is rough. It goes by soooooo slowly and everyone gets really punchy.

In addition to keeping my character/scene breakdown in front of me (as described above in Day 8), I also keep my conflicts calendar there. I hand write updates in as necessary but it’s good to have nearby when we’re making the schedule after rehearsal. The conflicts for this show haven’t been terrible, especially because of the nature of the show. Last year was brutal because we had a cast of eight or nine; every person was playing more than one character and half of the cast was in the education show so it made scheduling a nightmare.

I’m so glad tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Not just for an extra day off, but so I can eat my weight in food. I don’t even need turkey; just give me the side dishes and dessert (I made two pumpkin pies after I got back from rehearsal; tomorrow I’ll make baked brie. It’s going to be delicious)! My AD and his wife (the General Manager) are having us over so it should be a great day!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Rehearsal, Day 10:

We talked about Thanksgiving and what everyone did on their extra day off. I had brought in a huge thing of Ambrosia that my host had made for her Thanksgiving.

We reviewed/worked scenes today, mostly in Act 2. Everyone was called at least for an hour. We also started fittings today; Didi, Gogo, and the Boy tried on their costumes. Pozzo and Lucky’s weren’t ready yet.

I’ve done a number of shows with kids in them (varying from elementary to high school ages) and each experience is different. This show is no exception. The Boy’s mother emails me in response to my daily schedules almost every day. Sometimes it seems like she’s just double checking that he’s only called for that particular amount of time and sometimes she says things like “his dad will be picking him up, what time is he done?” when it’s clearly stated on the schedule. Today was a new one. After we were done with the Boy in rehearsal, he went for a fitting. We had gone a little over time and decided to take our ten-minute break a littler early since we were supposed to start something new. It’s a good thing we broke early because the Boy’s mother called me. She said she emailed me but figured she’d call me anyway and asked if I was in the space and who should she ask about getting him a haircut (because he really wants one). I said I am in the space because we’re in rehearsal. I also told her that I would ask the AD and costume designer about his hair but I think we want to keep his hair this length. I swear I was on the phone with her for like eight out of the ten-minute break. I asked the AD and sure enough he said the Boy should not get a haircut.

About half an hour after we started up again, I saw the Boy leave and I went to talk to the costume designer. We need a specialty item for one of my actors and I wanted to know if she understood my notes in the report and if we could get the item by Monday. She said yes to both things.

On our next break, I checked my email. I had forgotten that the Boy’s mother had said she emailed me as well. She asked me the same question in the email and also said that the Boy wanted to know what the schedule was for Saturday and when would I know that. I emailed her back and said I would know after rehearsal today. I’m not sure how many times I’ve told her that.

We had a production meeting after rehearsal. It took a surprisingly long time, considering there are only four of us.

Rehearsal, Day 11:

One of my actors brought in a coffee cake from Panera and said it’s the best. He may be right about that. I had just had breakfast so I didn’t eat any before rehearsal.

Ten or so minutes before rehearsal was supposed to start, my actors informed me that they just made the last pot of coffee and they knew they were going to want more during the day. It would’ve been nice to know we were running low a little sooner but, whatever. Luckily, there’s a Walmart and a Target across the street so I sent my ASM to get some. Coffee crisis averted! Whew!

We were working through Act 1 today. Lucky has a big, non-sensical speech from page 33-35. During our first week of rehearsal, he had said he was going to get the speech word perfect the first time he was off book so I bet him $5 that he wouldn’t be (my ASM was our witness). He decided today was the day. I made sure that my ASM knew this was his choice. When it came time for his speech, he was doing really well. He substituted one word early and if that was the only thing he had missed, I would’ve just given him $5. But, he missed “a sentence” (there’s no actual punctuation in the speech but in a normal speech, it would’ve been considered a sentence), so I won the bet. I was still really impressed with how much he got right though.

My AD used the word “vociferously” today. I was very impressed and am going to try to use it in my everyday life. It means “in a loud and forceful manner”.

I ate a piece of coffee cake during our second break. It was like second breakfast (I’m kind of like a hobbit).

After lunch, we had the Boy in. He must have thought we were all crazy because we spent at least ten minutes talking about curling (it’s a sport that’s played with brooms and a large “stone” and is very popular in Canada. Seriously, it’s an Olympic sport. Look it up.) I think that started because my ASM is Canadian and Gogo has taken to calling her Canada.

I noticed while the AD, Didi, and Gogo were talking, the Boy wandered around briefly and was looking at Gogo’s script. A little while later, he asked me to look at my script. I asked him if he had his and he said no, he forgot it. I told him he has to remember his script. This wasn’t the first time he’s had script issues. The AD had emailed a script to his mother when he was cast. They never printed it out and he never even read his scenes. We had a copy for him for the first day of rehearsal which I had held together with a binder clip. When he came in that first day, I would tell him the page numbers and he said there are no page numbers. I said they’re under the binder clip, which he never took off. My ASM got him a small binder for his script but he never asked us to hole punch it so we figured he had one at home (not an unusual thing). The next time he was called (the last day of the first week), the page number thing came up again and the AD said we discussed this last time. He saw he had a binder and asked him why he hadn’t hole punched his script and he said he didn’t know. I pointed out our hole punch (which is sitting on the SM table), but he just took his script and left. I understand that he’s only fourteen years old, but this is not his first show. This isn’t even his first show with this particular theatre. My ASM and I are more than happy to help out in any way we can, but we’re not mind readers; we can only help if we know that it’s needed or wanted. Sigh.

Today, I started making a list of things we needed to bring to the performance space. Next Saturday, our Technical Director (who is also our Lighting Designer) will be loading up a large truck after rehearsal and then will load in to the space on Sunday. It’s nice to be in this new space because everything we need is here instead of being in multiple spaces. I also found two nice plastic storage boxes that we can use for stage management, hospitality, and show stuff to bring to the performance space. I put a note in the rehearsal report that the Admin staff should gather any Front of House stuff by the loading dock on Friday before they leave for the weekend. That way it can go right on the truck. Stage Management has this rolling tool case called Fat Max; we used it to go to all of our different performance spaces throughout the years. I’m retiring Fat Max. He had a good run but he doesn’t like to close anymore (or when you can close him, it’s hard to open him again) and we really won’t need him anymore since we’re going to be performing in our own space after this show. I honestly haven’t used anything in Fat Max, besides spike or gaff tape, in a couple of years, so I’m going to clean him out for retirement before we leave (that way we don’t have to lug him with us).

That’s the end of another week! Two down, three to go!

xoxox
Melissa

Diary of an SPT Stage Manager: Rehearsal, Week 1 for Godot

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Rehearsal, Day 1:

On our first day of rehearsal, I had my ASM work on the fabric on the mirrors. It seems to be a never-ending battle. While she was doing that, I was doing last minute things like printing copies of the costume renderings to post, setting up tables, etc. My ASM then swept and set up chairs. I put cough drops in a couple of paper cups to put on the tables as well as pencils, highlighters, tissues, hand sanitizer, a 3-hole punch, and the model of the set. One of my actors came in early and made coffee for everyone (and boiled the water for tea). That’s so nice of him!

We started the rehearsal day with Equity business: we elected a deputy (I said “Does anyone have an overwhelming desire to be the deputy” and was met with dead silence. Then I said “Don’t all raise your hands at once.”) My coffee making actor volunteered once I told him that all deputy things are now done online. I wish Equity would start sending deputy badges again; I feel like that would be a nice little incentive.

Then we took a tour of the new building and our AD spoke a little bit about the upcoming renovations.

By the time we were done with the tour, our non-AEA actor had arrived (after being part of the theatre’s educations tours) and we did design presentations. We don’t really have a set designer since we’re using the same set we used last year (except much more distressed; it won’t look anything like it did last year). Actually, I guess you can say we have two set designers: the person who actually originally designed it and my AD since he is the one changing it. We used the model from last year, which the AD had distressed and added to and he did the presentation. Our costume designer showed us her renderings and research. She had also brought rehearsal hats, shoes, and jackets, which is very helpful!

The next thing was to read the play. We didn’t have our Boy since he was in school, but my ASM read him in for his two scenes (just a reminder that we’re doing Waiting for Godot). We also discussed the play a bit.

After we came back from lunch, Boy was able to join us, so we re-read his scenes and had a lengthy discussion about the play and some of Beckett’s influences. Naturally, we talked about absurdism, but we also talked about surrealism, Dadaism, realism, existentialism, and philosophy. Then we watched a silent film called Film, which was written by Beckett, directed by Alan Schneider, and starred Buster Keaton. It was about 17 minutes long.

We talked a little about schedule for the rest of the week. The AD usually does an acting exercise called Dropping In (a process/exercise developed and introduced by founding Artistic Director, Tina Packer, of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA). It is intended to help the actor more fully and imaginatively explore, and viscerally and emotionally connect to the words in a text. It can be quite a powerful experience for the actor as they immerse themselves into the thoughts and feelings of a character through the words a character speaks or hears spoken, making imaginative associations and emotional connections with their own lives. It is usually the first step in the rehearsal process. The actor sits in a chair facing their scene partner (also sitting in a chair) and a prompter sits behind each actor feeding in the lines word by word stopping to ask a question then repeating the word/line to the actor who says the word/line until the prompter moves on. One can expect to take 15-20 minutes per page. This is really something that needs to be witnessed; the explanation doesn’t do it justice. The AD decided he didn’t want to do that this time and we were going to do regular table work instead (dissecting the play).

After rehearsal ended, my ASM went back to taping the fabric on the mirrors; they had fallen during the day. While she did that, the AD and I discussed the schedule for the next day. Then I typed and emailed the daily schedule for Tuesday and that day’s rehearsal report. I also printed three dailies (1 to post on the call board, 1 for stage management, and 1 for the AD) and called it a day.

Rehearsal, Day 2:

My ASM and I came in and found one of my actors already there (at least half an hour early) and he had already made coffee. Once again, my ASM tried putting the fabric back up.

Today we did table work. We started with Vladamir and Estragon, since they are in the whole show. We let them go an hour early and worked with Lucky. The one time Lucky speaks, it’s a three page non-sensical monologue. Even though we had released Didi and Gogo, they asked if my ASM could run lines with them, so of course I said yes (since we were doing table work and there wasn’t really anything for her to do).

Our schedule for the next day was going to be the same as today, but this time I added Didi and Gogo running lines for the last hour of the day instead of being released and they thanked me, which was nice.

It’s amazing that we get anything done at all since we spend so much time laughing.

Rehearsal, Day 3:

Today was pretty much the same as yesterday: tablework with Didi and Gogo and then they went to run lines and we worked with Lucky. Today we also took publicity photos with Didi and Gogo.

Rehearsal, Day 4:

Today was pretty much the same as the past two days, except that we didn’t do photos. We did, however, have a production meeting after rehearsal.

Also, the Secret Santa forms have been pouring in! We’ll be picking in a couple of days.

Rehearsal, Day 5:

Today we did more table work, but also got on our feet and started staging. We’re using a lot of the stage directions that are in the script because the AD thinks that Beckett put them there for a reason. It makes writing blocking very easy: since there are so many stage directions, there’s no point to rewrite what’s already there. I will write new things that aren’t there, but for the most part, that’s just who is crossing where and in what direction.

After lunch, we got our Pozzo back (he had a conflict the previous three days), so we did tablework for the two scenes that the four actors are in together.

Once we did brief tablework, we got on our feet. The AD and Pozzo did some work with the whip, which will give me a heart attack every time.

Then, the AD worked with Lucky to organize how he would be carrying all his props (a large bag, a picnic basket with a bottle of wine, and a wooden folding stool). Lucky comes in with a rope around his neck (Pozzo has the other end); Lucky exits the other side of the stage and we have staged him to hit the back of the flat to make a noise like he’s falling. That won’t be an issue once we’re in the space because the walls will be secure, but currently they’re essentially supporting each other so right now every time he hits the flat, it moves. My ASM and I jumped every time. My ASM stood there to give it more support but it didn’t really work. Luckily, it didn’t fall.

As soon as rehearsal ended, I did the daily and was out by 6:15pm; I had a ticket to see Alton Brown at a theatre downtown. We were originally supposed to get out at 5pm so I would’ve had plenty of time to get there, but we changed end of day to 6pm. I knew I’d be able to get downtown in time (it was about a 30 minute drive), but I was worried about finding parking on a Friday night. Since I was able to get out by 6:15pm (that was probably the fastest I’ve ever gotten a daily out), I got downtown by 6:45pm and found valet parking (because there was nothing else). I made it with 12 minutes to spare! Whew! After I got back from the show (which was amazing), I sent out the report. I didn’t feel bad about not sending it out right away, because there wasn’t anything pressing that had to be addressed the next day.

Rehearsal, Day 6:

Before rehearsal, my ASM and I went into props storage looking for fake fruit and vegetables and I ended up cutting my hand on a broken plastic box, so that was fun. It didn’t turn out to be as bad as I originally thought, but it was hurting all day. We did, however, get our fruits and vegetables. The purpose of the fake items was to act as dofers (stand ins) for what will eventually be real turnips & carrots as specified in the play.

We did the last bit of tablework with the Boy and staged the first Boy scene. Afterwards, we released the Boy (he had his final performance at another theatre that evening) and continued staging with the other four actors.

About half an hour after lunch, the power went out. It had been storming on and off (and it was very windy), but it wasn’t raining at the time. We soon discovered that the power was only out in the offices and rehearsal studios, but the outlets in the studio still worked (I know, weird). At that point, the sun was coming out for a bit, which gave us light because we have a lot of windows. We got a number of lamps from various parts of the building and some large flashlights. As it started to get darker, my ASM used a little flashlight to stay on book and I happened to have a booklight that I lent to Pozzo, who was using his script. The power came back on at 5pm (it had been about two hours).

The last part of our exciting day, was picking Secret Santas! The people that were in the building picked and I was going to have everyone else pick tomorrow.

After rehearsal, I went to the Grizzlies game (NBA). My host (we have host housing here) had gotten box seats from someone. The free food for the people in the box seats wasn’t very good, so I got Rendezvous BBQ nachos (seriously, they’re the best and if you’re ever in Memphis, go to Rendezvous). Unfortunately, the Grizzlies lost miserably. When I got back to the house I sent out the daily and report. Normally, I try to get them out as fast as possible, but since we were off the next day, it wasn’t as imperative.

I hope you’re enjoying reading this!

Thanks!
xoxox
Melissa

Rehearsal Week 1 Addendum:

Technically, we were off on Sunday, but the theatre was doing a reading at a fancy club, so I volunteered to help the Company Manager. When I say I volunteered, that’s exactly what I mean. No one asked me; I wasn’t forced. I just like to help out if I can. Besides, there was free food and everyone who hadn’t picked Secret Santas on Saturday, was able to pick, so we can get started!

Diary of an SPT Stage Manager: Prep Week for Godot

I had been thinking of doing something like this for a while but it wasn’t until someone else did it for a LORT contract that I decided it could be interesting to see the differences between that and SPT.

Before I get started, here’s a little background info. The theatre I’m currently working at is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. I am celebrating my 5th anniversary with the company (4 years, 5 seasons, 6 shows). The production is Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot which should be a lot of fun, especially with the cast we have. The theatre recently moved into their own building for the first time which is very exciting. There are a lot of renovations that have to happen before we’ll be performing there but we’re all moved in and can rehearse in the new space. Our performances will take place at a museum; we’ve been performing there for years and this will be the last time we have to transform a non-theatre space into a performance venue. I’ll miss the museum though; it was daunting the first time I had to be in that space but I quickly got used to it. They have great exhibits and the people that work there are really nice.

Prep Week, Day 1:

I started on Monday, 11/6 (our day off will be Sundays, at least until we go into tech; more on that later) and most of the prep days will probably be straight sixes. My ASM is non-Equity and she doesn’t start until Monday but, there’s really not a whole lot to do.

Since we’re in a new building, the first thing I did was get the new Wi-Fi password. Then I had to connect my computers to the printers so I could print remotely. I’m not sure I didn’t have access to the printers since I’ve had them previously, but I reinstalled them and it wasn’t a big deal. I could set up the black & white printer but was having trouble setting up the other one – I figured I’d do that later. Once I had printing capabilities, I printed the Equity ballots, info forms (for stage management’s files only), the Equity Pre-production Safety Sheet (which I have never filled out before), and the Equity Deferred Salary Agreement (which I’ve also never filled out before). The reason why I had never filled
out the two latter forms before is because of the recently updated SPT agreement.

The Artistic Director is directing the show so he emailed me some information for the calendar which I inputted into a rough draft of the calendar that I had made around a month ago (it’s easy when you’ve been doing shows for the same theatre, in the same slot, for the past three year). I then printed the calendar and put it in the AD’s inbox so he could proof it. He had also sent me some actor conflicts which I added to my conflict calendar (luckily there’s not that many this time around; last year was a little brutal).

Next, I set up my desk. Took out some tchotchkes from my work bag, along with my little digital clock, post-its, hand sanitizer, mints, and tea. Then I hung up some special photos that travel around with me: a note from my oldest niece that says “I love you Aunt Melissa”, pictures of my nieces & nephew, and some stuff from a show I did at the beginning of the year that holds a special place in my heart. Also, a picture of Elvis because, why not. I also put some non-perishable food items in a desk drawer for easy access.

After that, I met the new bookkeeper, who seems like a lovely person, and got some petty cash in case I need to get any supplies.

Then I ate lunch at my desk while taking the SM survey (seriously, if you haven’t taken it already, you should). The SM survey comes out every two years. Its purpose is to examine the current trends in American stage management. Here is a link: http://www.smsurvey.info

After lunch, I was able to set up the other printer with help from one of the admin people. I printed out the cover sheet for my production book and the Secret Santa forms (I include them in the actor packets, so people can get them back to me as soon as possible). It’s my fourth year organizing Secret Santa here and it’s usually a big hit. I’m not sure how well it’ll go over this year because we have a smaller cast, but I always include the admin folks so hopefully we’ll have a decent amount of people to participate.

By that point, the AD had given the calendar proof back to me with corrections. I made said corrections and printed out a copy. I always put holidays & such on my show calendars in different colors, so it makes it look nice.

Then I set up the first rehearsal & performance reports, as well as the daily call for the first rehearsal. I haven’t talked to the AD about first rehearsal yet, so I really just put the date and such on it (and Equity business).

The theatre does a lot of non-Equity educational shows as well so by that time of day there were a lot of actors roaming around whom I’ve worked with before. Everyone was so happy to see me and I was happy to see them. It’s kind of like Cheers; it’s nice to be someplace where everyone knows your name.

My ASM came in to get a script so it was great to see her ahead of time and talk about some things. I’ve never worked with her as an ASM before but she was a sort of PA on a show I did here two years ago and she’s been an ASM on other shows here since then. I think she’ll be great. And she also works at a restaurant I really like near the museum so that’s good. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind coming in to help me tape the floor on Thursday even though she’s not technically on contract yet. She said she has to check her work schedule. It’s not a huge deal if she can’t help as it’s essentially just a bunch of lines, which I’ve taped out myself before. I’ve taped out worse by myself. But hopefully I won’t actually have to tape out the set itself, since it’s actually in the building. We’re working on the logistics of using it for rehearsal, which would be amazing! Fingers crossed!

The last thing I did was the blocking page for my script. There’s not a lot of “wiggle room” at the museum, so we’ve essentially used the same set configuration for the past three years but each year we’ve added to it. This year, is no different, except that instead of adding to the set, we’re distressing it. It already looks great; you’d never know it was the same. The good thing about that is I already have a ground plan from last year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t copy and paste the ground plan onto my blocking page for my script so I had to improvise. I printed it out, whited out some things I didn’t need, took a picture of it with my phone, emailed it to myself, adjusted the color a bit, then copied and pasted it onto my blocking page. I was able to put three on. I may not need all three but it’s nice to have options. That took more time than I had anticipated but at least it’s done!

I guess I should say the ground plan was the last “big” thing I did. Afterwards, I emailed the company manager with a list for Costco (she’s going tomorrow and I’m hoping I’ll be back from my production meeting in time to go with her). I also asked her for the rough draft of the contact sheet so I can make any necessary updates tomorrow.

That’s all for day 1! Stay tuned for day 2, where I’ll work on the contact sheet, the character/scene breakdown, and have a production meeting at a Mexican restaurant!

Day 2:

I started today by updating and printing the contact sheet. Then I created my email groups. Luckily, I already had most of the actors and production staff already in my email.

At 11:30am, the AD and I left for our noon production meeting which was taking place at a Mexican restaurant. Most of the production staff works towards the midtown area of the city so it’s easier for us to head out there during lunch. All production meetings should take place at restaurants. Once rehearsals start, the meetings will happen at the theatre after rehearsal. Our lighting designer got held up at his other job (he works for the local opera), so he was a little late. I won’t have to tape the entire set because we’ll be able to put some of our walls up! Yay! The costume renderings are gorgeous; I can’t wait to see the actual pieces. Once everything was said and done, we didn’t get back to the theatre until close to 2pm, so that took up a good chunk of the day.

After we got back, I went over the pre-production safety form with the AD so that can now get mailed to Equity.

Then I made some tea, because I was thirsty; I found a cute chicken mug in the kitchen and have now claimed as my own, at least for this show. That reminded me that I had to label mugs for the actors and my ASM.

I sent an email to the education folks to let them know that we’ll be rehearsing in Studio B and I’ll be taping on Thursday, so they should move anything that needs moving before then. I also sent an email to the production and admin staff with the calendar. I will also send one to the actors, along with other pertinent information, but I’m still waiting on an email address (we have a 14 year old in the show and I want to make sure both he and his mother get all correspondence).

I then asked the General Manager and the Education Manager if they wanted to participate in Secret Santa. I usually include the admin staff, but this year I’m going to include all the actors in the educational shows since my show has a small cast and I know at least one of my actors will not want to partake (he’s pretty curmudgeonly, but in a good way). Then I asked one of the educational actors if she could find out if anyone in her cast wants to participate. She was my ASM last year and she’s great.

After I left for the day, I received an email from the company manager with the email address I was waiting for, but I’ll take care of that tomorrow.

Day 3:

I came in and ate the Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwich I had just picked up while adjusting some formatting on the contact sheet. I printed the contact sheet for my book and then emailed it to the company manager so she could input it into the company handbook/welcome packet (she will add the calendar to the packet as well). Once she has the handbook done, she’ll print them and give them to me to put with the actor packets. I also told her that if she needed an extra set of eyes, I’d be happy to take a look at it.

Our costume designer came in this morning to pull things, so I went back to storage to see if she needed any help. Nothing is really organized back there since they just moved in not too long ago so she was fighting the urge to straighten up as she looked through everything. I told her if she needs any help to just let me know.

After that, I went through the script to mark any props as well as entrances & exits for my character/scene breakdown. Since this is Waiting for Godot, this may be the smallest character/scene breakdown I’ve ever had to make. The AD has made a props list (and most of the show props have already been pulled) but I’m going through to make my own list so I can then compare the two and make sure all of our bases are covered.

I emailed the calendar to my actors and not 10 minutes later, got a call from my young actor’s mother with loads of questions. I told her I am aware of his conflicts and we do not plan on having him miss school other than our 10 out of 12 day and two school matinees. We will have a script for him on Monday and he doesn’t have to pick it up before than. Hopefully I set her mind at ease. I think I did. I realized that this is the fourth show I’ve done in 2017 that has at least one young actor in it.

My company manager and I took a trip to Office Depot and Target to get some supplies. That kind of worked out well for me since I needed to get some other things at Target anyway so it saved me a trip. I got the last two things on my SM supply list (hand sanitizer and dividers).

After the shopping trip, I put together the props list based on the script and then compared it to what the AD had. It was the same. Then I printed three copies (one each for myself, my ASM, and the AD).

I took a lunch break and then proofed the company handbook. I added some restaurants and such that are more local to our new location. Then I emailed it back to the CM.

I did my character/scene breakdown, which took about 10 minutes, but then I was having trouble printing it on the color printer so I printed it on the other printer for now just so I have something to reference until I figure out what’s wrong.

After that, I printed my blocking page on the back of my script. I use one script for both blocking and cues because it makes it easier for me. I’ve tried the two scripts thing and it’s just too much. I also like to have my blocking page on the left and the script page on the right. It seems like most right-handed SMs prefer to have their script on the left and the blocking page on the right. I’ve tried it that way and I just don’t like it. Maybe it stems from the fact that in college I was taught to have blocking on the left and cues on the right.

Then I set up the bulletin board by my desk and made a copy of the calendar to put on it. Next, I updated my conflicts calendar with the educational show info for one of my actors and put that on the board as well.

My final task of the day was putting my book together. I’m still working on getting some paperwork and whatnot, but I can put the dividers, calendar, contact list, script and such in, as well as my book cover and the side paper (so people can easily tell what show it is when it’s on a shelf).

Tomorrow is taping day!

Day 4:

I started my day by making oatmeal and tea in the kitchen and chatting with the Company Manager and Education Manager. The EM has been having back issues and may not be able to pack up her car for the two free shows they’re doing in the park tomorrow evening. I volunteered to help since I’m going to the shows anyway.

Next, I went to talk to the new bookkeeper about my salary deferment form (since I haven’t done one of those before and she is dealing with AEA for the first time). I also asked her about my paycheck because it’s Thursday and my direct deposit didn’t go through. She made some sort of mistake (not sure what), but has to give me a physical check this week. As I’m typing this, I can hear her asking the AD questions about it. Good thing I always check my bank account on Thursday mornings! It turns out she forgot to submit my payment but she gave me a paper check for this week.

My next task is setting up the callboard headers. Since we used to move around a lot for rehearsals and performances, we have a portable folding callboard with all pertinent information. I’m going to take the headers and the Equity info off of that and put it on our new permanent callboard by the green room. I had better take a stepstool with me.

Then I taped the floor. This is my 4th show in this particular performance space and I can never find the measurements for the deck. I’m sure I have them in documents for other shows but I always look and can never find them. So last year, I wrote the dimensions on a post-it and left it on the little post-it holder on my desk. Imagine my surprise when I came in for my first day of work on Monday to find that the little post-it had made it through the move! I was so excited! It was a little difficult to do by myself because it’s 41’ 10” long but I had a good system going. It took about half an hour. I almost taped the wrong side of the rehearsal room but quickly realized it before actually taping anything.

I had a good time exploring the area to find something for lunch. I found a great little Vietnamese place and had a delicious chicken banh-mi! And my 3 year old nephew called me when I got back to work so I pretty much stopped everything to talk to him.

Then I took last year’s schedule for our time in the performance space and updated it for this year. I sent that to our contact there for easy reference along with our actual calendar.

Afterwards, I enlisted the help of one of the admin folks to help cover the mirrors in our rehearsal studio. The building used to belong to the local ballet and since we recently moved in we haven’t had time to cover the mirrors. We used some big pieces of leftover purple fabric and gaff tape to cover part of the mirrors. Tomorrow when we come in we’ll see if the fabric stayed up and then we’ll do the rest. A little later when I was walking around with my General Manager, I saw that some of it had already fallen down. That will be a project for tomorrow.

My AD had already gathered most of the props (which isn’t a lot because of what show it is) and I moved them into the rehearsal studio along with 2 acting blocks (which are actually part of the show). Our lighting designer/TD will be coming in on Saturday to move some of our walls into the studio so we can use them (which is why I didn’t have much to tape).

Tomorrow I’ll finish setting up the rehearsal studio, finish putting my book together, and other last minute details. I don’t have much left on my checklist so I think I can get everything done tomorrow and then take the whole weekend off.

Day 5:

I came in to discover that the part of our mirror covering project that we thought would fall is still up while the other part has totally come down. We’ll finish putting the first part up and see if we need the second part. If we do, we have some quick solutions that may work. The best thing to do would be to hang curtains on a string or something so we can pull them across, but this is a very temporary thing since those mirrors will be taken down as part of the renovation, so we’re just trying to do quick and easy.

My Secret Santa partner in crime sent me a list of which of the education actors want to participate, so I put forms and info sheets in everyone’s mailboxes. I just put the forms for my cast into the actor packets, along with info forms for the stage management files, calendars, contact sheets, and Equity ballots (which only goes to three of the five actors and myself). My CM is going to email the company handbook so we don’t kill so many trees. I already gave my non-AEA actor (who’s in one of the educational shows) the actor packet since he’ll be late to our first rehearsal and he’s already turned in his forms!

Then I printed three copies of the props list and character/scene breakdown: one for myself, my ASM, and the AD. I put the ones for my ASM in her packet just so everything is kept together.

I helped load up the cars for tonight’s performances and chatted with some of the actors. Then one of the admin staff brought her one year old so no one could get any work done since babies are so distracting.

After lunch, I finished putting together the actor packets and finished putting my book together. I emailed my costume designer asking if she could email me the costume renderings or bring me copies when she comes on Monday for design presentations.

Now it’s almost time to leave to get ready for the educational shows. I don’t mind helping since I’m pretty much done with prep anyway (and I was already planning on seeing the shows). I’ll send out the daily for the first rehearsal over the weekend and I’ll set up the rehearsal space on Monday morning with my ASM.

UPDATE: After the educational shows (which had a great turnout despite the cold), I sent out the daily just so I could make sure it was done.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the rehearsal process installment!

xoxox
Melissa

Inside Look: Williamstown Theatre Festival SM Internship

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Williamstown Theatre Festival – Williamstown, MA

Stage Management Intern 2015 & 2016

By Allison Kelly

I worked as a Stage Management Intern at Williamstown Theatre Festival for two summer seasons. Each season lasted from mid June to late August in Williamstown, Massachusetts on the Williams College campus. A few participants each summer would start in mid/late May in NYC and begin prepping and rehearsing a show there for about a week and a half before traveling to Williamstown.

This was an unpaid internship. You are responsible for your transportation, food, etc. My first summer I paid $500 for housing to stay in the campus dorms (which is basically required for interns). However, as a returnee my second summer, my housing fee for the dorms was waived.  If you work in New York at all you are responsible for your housing there.  The dorms are all single bed rooms with community bath shared between the “pod” of rooms (about 4-6 rooms). There is a shared kitchen and living space in each building.

The Stage Management department was comprised of 14-15 interns, a Resident PSM, a Resident ASM, and 4-5 more AEA SMs. SM interns tended to be current undergrad students or those who had just graduated. The Resident PSM is the head of the department and handles hiring the whole department, scheduling, doing all the things and PSMing two Main Stage shows. The Resident ASM helps the PSM and is the ASM on those 2 Main Stage shows. Other AEA SMs come in to stage manage the rest of the AEA shows of the summer. As interns we served as ASMs and PAs on the AEA shows and could SM, ASM, and PA non-eq shows and other events. The rest of the festival is pretty large as well between the other departments’ interns, staff, and the apprentices – it’s a crazy amount of people to make the festival happen. It’s a blast to get to meet and work with so many people.

As a stage management intern typically (but not always) you work on at least one AEA show and one non-eq show as well as various small projects. WTF has two stages, the Main Stage and the Nikos where its AEA shows perform. For those productions SM interns serve as ASMs and PAs to the AEA SM. On these productions you work on a typical AEA rehearsal and performance schedule. Sometimes this overlaps with other events you might have in the evenings or day off depending on your assignments. Tech is very quick, usually 2 or 3 days, then a few days of previews and rehearsals before opening. The AEA shows are a great experience because it allows you to work closely with AEA SMs and learn from them and all others in the room. WTF does a lot of new works so job duties can be managing script changes, prop and costume tracking, line notes/being on book, maintaining hospitality supplies, etc. It is almost exactly like working professionally but you are expected to ask more questions if you need to.

Non-eq shows usually followed AEA rehearsal schedules but tech and performances were a little quicker. These productions usually featured the Non-Eq company and apprentices. (Non-eq company: actors whose only job this summer is to be in shows and so they have the most time. Usually post undergrad or current grad students. Apprentices: actors who come to the festival to act but also work a lot as crew for various departments. They are usually overworked and tired, but they are a fun and talented group.) The non-eq shows give stage management interns the chance to be the PSM in addition to ASM and PA. Additionally, there are lots of one or two night events and readings that stage management helps with.

Other elements of your experience include a more official educational element, workshops on paperwork, unions, tour life, networking, etc. Because the internship is unpaid it has to have an education element which is done through workshops mostly lead by the Resident PSM but often features the other AEA SMs. (The quality of these can depend on how the leader prepares for them.) WTF is also good at the work hard, play hard element of summer stock. Play includes finding swimming holes, BBQs, opening parties and galas, more parties, and lip dub videos. There are a lot of late nights working but there are even more late nights of having fun with tons of amazing people.

The greatest part of the program was the incredible friendships I made. Working so hard with these people created incredible bonds for all of us which helps with your networking for future jobs. The interns I worked with my two summers at Williamstown are constantly helping each other find work, acting as a support system in this crazy industry, and the people I talk to everyday years later. This festival does a great job giving you the chance to start networking with the people there with you that summer, however it also opens you up to a large number of WTF alumni. If you are interested in working in New York this program is incredible because the AEA SMs are usually NYC based SMs which can help open doors if you do well over the summer. My AEA show transferred to Off-Broadway and the SM of that brought me back as the PA because of the work I had done the previous summer. The Resident PSM brought one of the interns on as a PA on Broadway. Nearly everyone in NYC has heard of this festival and knows the quality it creates and that helps when looking for work. I can easily say WTF has helped me find plenty of work since graduating from college.