Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I must have jinxed myself last night, silly me for thinking that everyone would make it to rehearsal.  We were still missing three, two to injuries and one to work.  I'm beginning to think I won't have a full cast until opening night -- if I'm lucky :)

Missing people aside, last night was a good rehearsal.  I think all of us walked away from it feeling like progress has been made.  The scenes we did last night, the director is down to little picky things, a fantastic place to be with nearly 4 weeks to go.  

My quest to find a stage manager for the original show this fall is over.  Only one of the two showed up yesterday and she was perfect.  She's never stage managed before, but she's done costumes and lighting.  She knows what she's signing up for.   I hope she works out.  I need the help.  Now comes the hard part for me, the letting go, but not letting her get overwhelmed.  There's a definite balance and it's different for each person.  I'll find it with her, I just hate the trial and error part.  

I know I can't stage manage the original show, but there is a sense of sadness for me.  The booth is where I am at home and where I love to be, so giving that up for this show is a big thing for me.  It's almost an addiction.  It will be a much different process for me to just be the production manager, probably a welcome change, but something I'll have to adjust to as well.

Last night after rehearsal I had a meeting with the publicity team.  Not a stage manager job, just another committee I ended up on when the company formed.  It was a good meeting, we got a lot of things decided and divided up.  This company is a lot of work, but when I'm sitting at a table in a deli in Hollywood at 11pm on Monday night with four of my good friends, I'm reminded that this is worth it.  All of it is worth it.  If we can create something remarkable within this company, then all of the work is absolutely worth it.  I also realized that one of the regrets I have is that I didn't meet the majority of the people sitting around that table sooner.  I'm sorry I had to wait until 2 years ago to meet them.  

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Dreaded Inbox

I didn't used to cringe when I signed on to AOL.  I used to like the computerized "you've got mail" announcement.  That was when I knew that any mail was from family or friends sharing funny stories or passing along invitations to fun events.  It's not that I don't like getting mail, it's just a bit exhausting when you sign on and realize you have 25 new messages just in the past 8 hours.  Don't actors and directors ever sleep?  How can I possibly get that many messages between midnight and seven in the morning?  It's a question I continually ask myself :)  

  Last night's fun rehearsal went well.  I think they had a good time and I think it served it's purpose of bringing them together and making them feel like a complete cast.  Up until this week for the most part they have been separated into their own groups: The Lords, The Lovers, The Fools and the Spirits, last night was the first time they really mixed and mingled with each other.  Not everyone could be there though, we were missing five out of the 17.   Most of them are sick or injured, I hate telling the director that we'll be missing people.  Last night I told him and he said, "they have to stop getting sick."  -- 'Cause I'm sure they are all doing it on purpose!  Fingers crossed we'll have a full cast tonight -- for the first time in nearly 2 weeks.  

  The set of one acts that will be going up at the same time as Tempest are all in rehearsal now.  That's making me a bit crazy, it's an additional 6 plays to schedule rehearsals for and an additional 14 actors to interact with.  Not a bad thing, but it does take a bit of time.  

  The last play of the season, our original show of the year is also moving into production, which means in the next or so I'll be adding 9 more actors to my roster.  I'm excited for that one, it should be a good show.  I'll be more excited if I end up just being the production manager and not the stage manager.  I'm interviewing a couple of people today regarding the SM and ASM positions I have open.  
   I'm pretty skeptical about finding good stage managers.  There are several reasons, the first is we don't pay -- I know that's probably insulting.  It's a thankless job and we can't even offer a stipend.  I don't get paid either, but I know these people and I love all of them.  That's why I do it.  It's hard to explain that to someone who doesn't know them and doesn't love them yet.  It's also a big task and if you have never done it before it can be overwhelming.  I need someone who really wants to jump in and take over.  I'll help of course, I don't mind teaching and advising, but I have my own show right now, so I need someone ready to do the job well.  I've had SM's quit before.  I think there is some myth that the SM has an easy job until tech week.  Not true at all.  Tech week is where the fun starts, but the hardest part is the 8-12 weeks leading up to tech week.  If you don't make it to tech week you miss the best part, but if you can't handle the hard stuff, maybe you don't deserve the fun part.  
  Things I must get done today -- flesh out a rehearsal schedule with times for this week for Tempest cast, make a birthday list also for The Tempest cast -- I like to bring them cupcakes and a card for everyone to sign -- I really believe it's the little things like that that make casts feel valued, contact sheet for the original show, rehearsal schedule for 3 of the one acts and schedule auditions for the last role in the original show.  Not too bad of a list, although I'm sure it will grow as the day goes on :)


Sunday, August 10, 2008

The First One

This whole thing started a little less than 2 years ago.  I am not a stage manager by trade, I didn't go to school for acting or film/tv production or technical production of any kind.  But somehow I ended up here.  I was a teacher, mostly kindergarten.  I was for the most part intimidated by actors, they seemed loud and very confident, always wanted to be the center of attention.  So completely the opposite of me.  
       Flash forward 20 months and now nearly all of my closest friends are actors.  How did I get to this point?  A friend asked me to stage manage her 30 minute one act in October of 2006.  After much begging and convincing I agreed.  I think back now to that first rehearsal and laugh.  I was so clueless, no idea what I was doing and terrified of all these people.  I had originally agreed to stage manage as long as I didn't have to run the booth during the show.  The idea of being responsible for light and sound cues was exceptionally frightening.  Slowly though I began to change my mind and by tech week, I was learning how to operate a light and sound board.  My knowledge then was very much on a need to know basis.  I didn't want to know anymore than was absolutely necessary for that particular show.  After all once it ended I was going to walk away.  
      Then during strike for that one, I was asked by two other directors to stage manage their one acts at the next one act festival in March.  I agreed to do it, telling myself, it was just a few more months and then I'd be done.  I still didn't feel like I knew what I was doing and didn't think I was very good.
     March came, the shows went up, opening night I made my first ever sound cue mistake, a ringing phone rather than a busy signal.  I know, I should let it go, but it still bothers me even now.  I'm somewhat of a perfectionist.  A skill I've been told is good for an SM to have, but it can also be downfall as I tend to dwell on the mistakes for much longer than I need to.
     Somewhere in the rehearsal process for the March one acts, I began to really like what I was doing.  More than like it, I loved it.   It was almost a drug, I wanted another show, a bigger show,  a main stage show.  In a matter of weeks I got not one, but three mainstage shows.  
     I learned a lot with those three shows.  Left the company I was with and joined a new one.  New meaning brand new, not just new to me.  It is a company started by 9 friends, all of with one common goal to create truly remarkable theater in Los Angeles.  My job in this company is to be the production manager.  I oversee all things related to the actual production of each show.  So from scheduling auditions, to interviewing stage managers to being the stage manager and working with everyone in between that is my job.  Not paid, yet, none of us are, but that is the goal eventually.
   That brings me to now, August 10, 2008.  My list of things to do for this company is huge.  In the next 8 weeks we have three different productions going up.  My first and most important job is to be the stage manager for The Tempest.  It was my choice and I'm happy to be there.  Rehearsals six nights a week from 7-10 do get a bit tiresome after a while.  I can't complain though, I worked with this director last year and knew what I was getting into.  He is my favorite director.  Originally an equity stage manager himself, I've learned so much from him.  I have a cast of 17, not my largest, last summer I had one of 28.  17 is a good number.  I love this cast.  I've been fortunate with all of my casts, no petty problems, no back stabbing, no divas, just good friends and talented actors.
  We've been in rehearsals since June and have one more month to go.  The show is nearly blocked, two more scenes and we'll be done!  We'll be starting stumble throughs at the end of this week.  My concern as always is my cast.  I want them to be happy, I want them to see how much their hard work is paying off.  It's something I don't know they really see until we get to opening night.  I know it has to be frustrating to be called at 7 and then not work until 9.  I see it on their faces, but some nights just don't go according to the plan.  Not that they complain, they never do, but I know some are thinking of what they could have been in doing in those two precious hours of free time.  
  Tonight they should have fun.  Tonight is the one night in the rehearsal process where we set aside the play and have fun as a cast and crew.  We'll play games and finish getting to know one another.  The cast members who worked with him last year are looking forward to tonight, the others a bit nervous.  My hope is that they will relax and enjoy themselves and realize tonight is their night.
  I'm off to go unlock rehearsal space for one of the other productions.  Then to a budget meeting and then to rehearsal.  Feels like a pretty typical Sunday :)