• Technical production is the craft of turning the scene design into reality.
• In general, stage scenery has nine qualities:
It is constructed to be used for a comparatively short time; It must be planned for rapid construction;
It is often planned for possible alteration and reuse;
It is usually built in one place and used in another;
It is constructed in easily portable units and assembled onstage by temporary joining;
It is generally finished on one side only;
It must be light in weight and capable of compact storage;
It must be strong enough for safe use and handling;
It must be constructed as inexpensively as possible and still comply with the foregoing requirements.
• Working drawings transform the elevational drawings of the scene designer into a back view showing how each unit will be constructed.
• Stage scenery can be divided into two categories:
Two-dimensional units, including framed and unframed scenery;
Three-dimensional units, including weight-bearing and non-weight-bearrng units.
• Sculptured effects give scenery a professional look and include:
• Stage properties fall into four basic types according to use:
Other properties not included in the previous three groups
• Decor items give final dressing to the set and consist of pictures, lighting fixtures, vases, flowers, clocks, and so on.
• The scene shop is as important to the effect of a production on an audience as the actors’ performances and the director’s concepts. A scene shop must be organized like a well-run factory.
• Vital to the scene shop’s operation are its space areas, tools, and materials.
Space areas include trial setup, construction, and storage spaces; tools include metalworking and power tools; materials include lumber, fabric, plastics, paper and paper products, and metals.
• All methods of shifting scenery are elaborations of three basic concepts:
Running—moving units manually;
Rolling—mounting units on wheels;
Flying—lifting units off the floor and out of sight.
Stage Management is more art than science. While we will try to give you some of the tools and techniques to perfect your stage management skills, It is a fact that some people have the talent and temperament to be stage managers and others simply do not.
Before discussing what a stage manager does and how to become a good stage manager, I would like to define what a stage manager is in order to have a basic foundation from which to begin.
Most people have a sense of what a stage manager is but are usually surprised to learn their perception is rather narrow. The stage manager should certainly have a knowledge of the varied components that go into the creation of a piece of theater.
The physical scenery, props, costumes, lights, and sound are obvious elements requiring the attention of the stage manager, but a stage manager must be part director, playwright, designer, and producer. A stage manager will also find himself in the position of confidant, counselor, and confessor.
Actors’ Equity Association (the professional union that represents stage managers) defines the duties and obligations of a stage manager as follows:
DEFINITION OF THE DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS OF A STAGE MANAGER
A Stage Manager under Actors’ Equity Contract is, or shall be obligated to perform at least the following duties for the Production to which he is engaged, and by performing them is hereby defined as the Stage Manager
1. He shall be responsible for the calling of all rehearsals, whether before or after opening.
2. He shall assemble and maintain the Prompt Book, which is defined as the accurate playing text and stage business, together with such cue sheets, plots, daily records, etc., as are necessary for the actual technical and artistic operation of the production.
3. He shall work with the Director and the heads of all other departments, during rehearsal and after opening, ~schedule rehearsal and outside calls in accordance with Equity’s regulations.
4. Assume active responsibility for the form and discipline of rehearsal and performance, and be the executive instrument in the technical running of each performance.
5. Maintain the artistic intentions of the Director and the Producer after opening, to the best of his ability, including calling correctional rehearsals of the company when necessary, and preparation of the Understudies, Replacements, Extras and Supers, when and if the Director and or the Producer declines this prerogative. Therefore, if an Actor finds him/herself unable to satisfactorily work out an artistic difference of opinion with the Stage Manager regarding the Intentions of the Director and Producer, the Actor has the option of seeking clarification from the Director or Producer.
6. Keep such records as are necessary to advise the Producer in matters of attendance, time, welfare benefits, or other matters relating to the rights of Equity members. The Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager are prohibited from the making of payrolls or any distribution of salaries.
7. Maintain discipline, as provided in the Equity Constitution, By-Laws. And Rules where required, appeal able in every case to Equity.
8. Stage Manager duties do not include shifting scenery, running lights, operating the Box Office, et cetera.
g. The Council shall have the power from time to time to define the meaning of the words “Stage Manager” and may alter, change or modify the meaning of Stage Manager as hereinabove defined.
10. The Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager are prohibited from handling contracts, having riders signed or initialed, or any other function which normally comes under the duties of the General Manager or Company Manager.
11. The Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager are prohibited from participating in the ordering of food for the company.
12. The Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager are prohibited from signing the closing notice of the company or the individual notice of any Actors termination.
Notice that the opening statement says a stage manager is”... obligated to perform at least the following duties....” You will be called upon and find it necessary to perform numerous other tasks. In a non-union situation, you may even be asked to perform many of the duties that Equity expressly forbids. This book assumes, for purposes of clarity, that the stage manager is working under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association.
There is no one-job description for a stage manager that applies to every production. Because every production is different, every stage management position is different. Your own production experience and working environment will no doubt inspire numerous ideas and incidents I may not mention. If you can recognize these differences early enough in the production process, you have one of the important characteristics of a good stage manager and are on your way to success.
Perhaps the most encompassing definition I have ever heard came from a young stage management hopeful. After a forty-five minute discussion of the duties and responsibilities of a stage manager, I asked if she felt she had a good understanding of what 1 expected. She replied:
“Sure, Totally responsible for totally everything.”
She was right. In fact, I believe a good stage manager will embrace this definition above all others because it not only describes the job; it describes the character of the person. Good stage managers want responsibility. The test of this book details many of the tasks I expect a stage manager to undertake if he or she is to be successful. The other key to success is character. The variables lay in a variety of character traits that most good stage managers appear to share
A stage manager is a LEADER, who is SELF-MOTIVATIED) and Even-Tempered, with the ability to Anticipate and ADAPT to constantly changing conditions. Stage managers are DEDICAWD to and RESPONSIBLE for every aspect of their productions without losing their SENSE OP HUMOR.
They provide an EFFICIENT and ORGANIZED work environment while remaining EMPATHETIC to the people and the process. And finally, as I stated in the opening sentence of this book, stage management’s art. A stage manager is as creative as any other member of the production.
It is very difficult to measure your success as a stage manager. This is partly because, unlike most management positions in business, stage managers do not have the clear guideposts of profit and loss to measure their success. Your success as a stage manager cannot be measured in quantitative terms alone. You must also measure the quality of the creative process, which is very subjective.
You will constantly look for a balance between costs and benefits. Will the artistic merits of the production be significantly enhanced by the costs of extra rehearsals or the construction of rehearsal props and costumes? Is money always the solution to a problem? These are two of the most important questions you will need to answer in order to serve the producer or producing organization.
As you begin the work of a stage manager, you will face challenge upon challenge cleverly disguised as problems.
You must never think of problems as negative, no matter how many times they come up. This will only depress you. Having a problem does not mean you have a problem. You should expect problems and take great pleasure in identifying them and implementing their solutions.
No one can anticipate all the problems a production will encounter because each production is unique, and there is no past experience from which to learn. I hope to provide you with the techniques to identify the problems before they become impediments and give you methods for solving them that will not curtail the creative process.