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!
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.
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!
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.
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!