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Stage Management Project

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Hello to all who are reading this, my name is Melissa Molnar and with the help of two others Jennifer Hare and Joshua Guindon we are working on a university project that has us asking professional stage managers they're opinions and tactics on certain issues.

Questions: Have you in your career worked with a Director who demanded everything and wanted everything "right now"? If so, how did you handle that situation?

Have you in your career worked with a Director who just didn't understand the deadlines for adding or subtracting i.e. set pieces, props, or costumes from the show? What is the best advice you have to offer if you come across a Director like this?


This assignment is for 3 student at the university of Windsor and my partners and I would be greatly beneficial by any and all comments and reponses we receive. My university email address is molnarm@uwindsor.ca. Thank you for your time and consideration.Melissa Molnar

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Guys we've been found by Canadian students.





This is a predominantly (yes, I know there are lots of other people) British forum so you may find that we have different terms and working practices.


In costume I deal with Directors who ask for things late by understanding that they have the whole show to worry about, they are doing what they think is best for the show and that the reason I get paid is to try to make the desires of the Director and Designer in to reality.


I also try to build good relationships during rehearsals and am always very careful to say that I will TRY to do something unless I know for certain that it is possible.

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Windsor do seem to have 'discovered' the Blue Room en masse! - Still - not a snag, so welcome.


I think it's best to consider the problem as departmentalised. It won't just be stage management, it will be all areas. In the kind of shows I'm involved with, it's also important to place the Director's authority into perspective too. Although few admit to it, their powers are often quite limited. When I'm managing a production, part of my set of skills is dealing with the producer (who control the money), and the director, who effectively spends it. There is a figure that represents the production real cost, and there is another that shows the likely income from ticket sales. The pre-planning will have had a proper budget applied, and big decisions made. There will be in most cases a contingency fund, plus perhaps additional funds that can be allocated if a change results in better sales. There are also places where budget can be saved. In few cases will the Director understand this, and as this person appear to be in charge, then their assumption is that anything is possible. Sometimes the Director does know 'everything', but that's in my experience rare.


People doing my job are the people in control of the money. I do this by being honest or political (I didn't say dishonest). There's truth and there's what people need to know. There's always room to negotiate. In your question you are worried that Directors ask for the impossible, and you have to deal with it. They want everything yesterday, and are not interested in any negatives. To be fair, that's their job isn't it. To demand the very best, and not accept compromise.


In reality, many objections are based around a department not wanting to do something, not real impossibilities. So the extra costume demanded - is it possible to supply or modify it? If the answer is yes, then even if somebody works through the night, it is possible. Is what they want possible? If it's time that's the issue, can jobs be re-prioritised? Can you draft in extra people? Maybe the answer is simply "yes, I can get that done, do we have the budget for the overtime (or extra person). You've admitted it can be done, so we're just dealing with money again. If the Director wants something that is possible - then they've really done it right, haven't they. Especially when you do it, and the result is stunning. If you hadn't done it, then removing that 'worth' from the show would be your fault. If the Director doesn't have the clout to say yes, then it's up to somebody else to make the decision.


In my case, it's the kind of thing that I do fairly spontaneously. We're in rehearsal and we're over-running a bit and the band are about to go into overtime. You make the call on if you can justify the money, and if you can't you have a quiet word 'reminding' the director they'll be stopping shortly, and is he ok to carry on with just the MD? You don't give him the choice of deciding money, you give him the choice of stopping for lunch, or carrying on with just piano.


Each department have blinkers. The Director will be asking stage management for X, wardrobe for Y and LX for Z.


The only time this changes is when the Director also carries the role of producer. It's then their money, and how they spend it is their responsibility - BUT people like me then have to re-jig budgets, because in reality, it isn't extra money. Maybe wardrobe won't get the extra costumes they want, because stage management spent it on an extra flat!


Everyone believes their department to be more important than the others - this is fine. If you get extra jobs foisted on you, just accept them with the priviso that you will do your best, but can't promise. Don't try to find excuses for saying no that are mumbo-jumbo. The Director often comes to people like me, and says "It's a real shame LX can't rig that extra mover on the FOH bar for XYZ reason" - when I know perfectly well it is simply because it means an extra hour of messing around to get power to it. When this happens, if it is important, then you simply solve the problem and tell them it's sorted, and can they get on with it. Directors - at least lots I meet, have little technical knowledge. They don't know what things are called, they just know what they can do. If people want an easy life - don't work in the theatre.


Directors will always want last minute changes, and that is part of the job. Individuals maybe can't do what they want, but the department probably can. In school, college and university it's rare to find a production company simulation that compares to reality. Look at your own course - if you needed a team for a real paying event, which ones would you pick and which ones would you 100% not? This is why Directors often appear to be very demanding - because they're demanding from people who CAN do it, rather than those that they know cannot!

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the answer is simple and shorter than my colleague Mr Ears ....


Diplomacy....... :huh:


and if that fails .... health and safety is always a good trump card to play, or have a quiet word in your production managers ear (let them deal with it)



I once worked with a director who said he liked people to have a

rock and roll attitude


by which he ment was is it possible if so how much will it cost and how long will it take.. once he had these answers then he would decide if he really needed it.

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