Stage Managing 101

Just in case you ever wondered what stage managers do during Prep Week (the week before rehearsals start)…it’s just what it sounds like: getting ready for rehearsals. I contact the actors with final directions to the rehearsal hall and deal with all the paperwork we’ll need for the first day. I create the show’s contact sheet (with cast and crew’s info), the rehearsal calendar (actually the director does the heavy lifting here), the prop lists (Kate the prop goddess does the heavy lifting here), and the prompt book, the stage manager’s best friend. The Prompt Book is my copy of the script in which I record all the blocking (the actors’ movements), and it’s also where I’ll write in the sound and light cues to call each show (It’ll hopefully LOOK like the sunrise just happens, but in reality I’ll be up in the booth saying, “Stand by, Light Cue 171.” “Light Cue 171….Go.”). For the Prompt Book, I make a ¼” scale sketch of Gary’s set (remember back two posts or so?) and as the director and actors figure out where they’re moving, I write it down on my sketch.

Taping out a facsimile of the set onto the floor of our rehearsal hall is another job for Prep Week. We won’t have the actual set in the rehearsal hall, so it’s important that the actors can tell where the walls, doors, elevation changes, etc. are, so they have an idea of what the set will look like—where doorways are located, if there is a staircase to go up or down, and such. From the first day of rehearsals on Sept. 10 to the first day of tech at TPAC’s Polk Theatre on Sept. 27, these lines of fluorescent tape on the floor will be the only set the actors have.

Kate, the aforementioned prop goddess, makes sure we have all our props to use in rehearsal (or at least “do-fers”—as in, not the real prop but it’ll “do-fer” now). In addition, we try to use as many of the actual set pieces (beds, benches, window seats, etc.) as we can. It’s always tricky when the actors move from a taped set to the real thing during technical rehearsals, and the more actual props and set pieces we can use, the easier that process becomes. In addition, for a period piece like The Crucible (1692 Puritans), Trish, the costume designer, makes sure that we have rehearsal versions of petticoats, corsets (for the women “lucky” enough to get to wear them), coats, and, most importantly, the actual shoes. Shoes are very important at this stage of the process—they totally change how actors move and, more practically, we need to find out early on if there are problems with comfort, slippery soles, etc.

The last step in Prep Week is to set up the rehearsal hall with tables, chairs, pencils, pens, etc. René Copeland, the director, often spends the first few days around the table, listening to the actors read through the script several times and talking about the play, the characters, etc. In the next post I’ll share a bit of what we’ve been talking about this first week (I can’t quite share EVERYTHING we’ve been saying—we theatre folk can be a tad frank in our talk J—but all that’s fit to print!).

 And don’t forget The Crucible Playlist contest–deadline is Monday, Sept. 17 before the Sept. 18th LookIn.

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