It's been a ragged week. A hard tech, a complicated show. But we opened last night, and it worked, and the fudging qlab software system didn't crash in the middle of the show, which is good, because otherwise I would probably not be here to write this. I would still be sobbing.
But we opened. And audience came, and they liked it.
As I was going through this week as the stage manager, I was making a mental list of all the things I need to remember to make good theatre happen, possibly without going insane.
So what I'm starting to do is compile a set of tips for myself, as I learn different jobs. I haven't followed a lot of these tips, so that's why I'm putting them on here, in order to avoid saying to myself : 'Why didn't I do that?' next time. There are some jobs I have yet never had, but the nice thing about working at Touchstone is that you get to see first hand how many different jobs are done.
So, for future reference:
Tips for the actor:
- Make strong choices.
- Research your character. What consistency does the character have? How does he/she move? Laugh? Sing?
- Try different versions of the character. Try out shades and textures. Don't settle for something until the director says to settle. And then, explore the variations of the settled choice.
- Make big mistakes during rehearsal.
- Don't be afraid to act, to do "too much", to be over the top.
- Learn your lines soon in the process and get it over with.
- Drill lines and songs (if songs are involved) on your own, at home, in the shower.
- Don't doubt your ability (Ha! Can't believe I just said that - easier said than done).
- Believe in the power of relaxation. Bad things happen when stress levels are high. Good things happen when stress levels are - level.
- Be nice to the stage manager. Answer emails, be on time, don't be a needy annoying "actor-type".
- Have fun. Don't ever forget that you are a part of a PLAY, and that's pretty darn cool.
Tips for the stage manager:
- Ask questions to all members of the team. Never be afraid to ask questions, because you have to know all the answers.
- Make sure there are many production meetings scheduled, especially when the play involves a lot of tech.
- Keep the actors in the loop. Give them schedules, and rehearsal plans. They love those.
- Never show that you are stressed out (Ha! Can't believe I just wrote that either).
- Always go through cues before the show, do a dry tech. Ignore the world during that time.
- Keep an accessible small notebook to take notes (I have yet to figure out a good system for notes).
- Write tasks to do on post-its, and throw the post-it out once the task is done.
- Always be polite, but firm.
- If people offer help, take it. Delegating tasks to responsible people is a beautiful thing. Take advantage of assistant stage managers, if you ever have the priviledge of working with them.
- Don't be a control freak. Well, try not to be too much of a control freak.
- Be aware of time, make things moving if they are slow.
- Take care of the actors. Encourage them, smile.
- Do your very best to serve the director's vision.
- Do your very best not to give your personal opinion on artistic choices, because that is not your job.
Tips for the director:
- Have a vision and stick with it.
- Be specific when talking to actors. Remember that they can't see what they are doing and that they are therefore highly insecure that what they are doing is good.
- Communicate what you need with the stage manager.
- Explain your vision to the design teams, specifically, so that they can go do their tasks with a clear idea of what they have to do.
- Welcome artistic input from actors and the designing team. They will often enhance the original vision.
More tips to come....