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Acting ASM

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Hey Guys, hope everyone is doing well.


Im new to this so here is my first question.


I am still at school doing my A Levels but have worked in some venues as a DSM, including Curve Theatre in Leics.

I am also a part of the National Youth Theatre of GB for Stage Management as of this year and loved every minute of it.


I also really enjoy acting, and have recieved an A in my GCSE and AS Level Drama.


I was just wondering, what the role of an Acting ASM was? Is it a common role? Will companies employ you as an acting asm or will I eventually have to specialise in one of the area?


Many thanks guys


Rory :unsure: x

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Acting ASM is simply the poor soul who has to work twice as hard (well, sometimes) and in a small or budget concious production, do the asm role, and be on stage - exactly as the name suggests.


As an example, in my pantos, we usually have two asms, and on a busy show, we might get an extra acting asm, and on a less busy one, then one of the two Asms will be the acting asm. Depending on the company, there is usually emphasis on the acting - so somebody who gets to be the guard, or the back end of a dragon, or somebody dressed in black for the UV scenes, or even the stooge who gets covered in slosh or water. They may have a few lines, but it's the bit part stuff. When they're not on stage, they're doing ordinary asm duties. The big snag is that sometimes, the acting asm job is given to a really keen actor, who takes the job because they wish to be a performer, but have no interest, or sometimes even knowledge of backstage activities - and, as a result are a weak link, meaning the other team members get lumbered with their asm duties when they're swanning around being a luvvy! Equally, you also get proper back stage people who don't enjoy the on-stage stuff at all, but do it because they really love looking after props and making things run smoothly.


Acting ASMs in panto rarely get to be in the end walkdown because they're often busy backstage at that time - but if they can get a posh costume and take a bow, they do.


Personally - I find it a bit of a gofer job - it really suits some people, and they do it efficiently and cause no problems and are a real asset. Others, clearly don't wish to wear blacks, and get dirty, or be in early to repair things or do resets. Very often, they think they're somehow better than the ordinary ASM - which is rarely the case.


However - it's one wage rather than two, so does help the show's finances.


Sometimes, Directors or the casting team select perfect people for a minor role, but then add in the asm work, taking the job from a 'real' asm. This results in useless asms who rarely gel, simply because of their lack of experience.


If you are good at both - then an acting ASM role can be good interesting work. However - if you only have an interest in one discipline, then you won't be effective and if people give you additional pressure because they recognise your weaknesses, it can be quite unpleasant.

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Quite a few of the straight plays that tour round at the moment have an acting ASM, but it's a cheap cost effective way for companies to tour an ASM and an understudy at the same time - two for the price of one (everyone likes a bargin!). Rather than just touring as an understudy, it also gives the performer something to do on the show, rather than just following the production round as a spare part, waiting for illness or injury. The production company feels like they're getting their money's worth, and the person in question is happy because they are working. The people not happy are the company stage managers, who have to cover for the ASM when they go on stage, as well as covering their own plot. Also the company stage manager has to cover for (often) the acting ASM's lack of experience running a wing, or their telling 6 crew the wrong thing to do on a get out. (not my personal experience, but my girlfriend has toured in this exact situation.)


That said, it used to be a way into the acting profession in the old rep system. If you wanted to be an actor, you started as an acting ASM, until you got your chance on stage, and worked your way up through the ensemble/bit parts, until you didn't have to do the ASM part of the job any more.

Many old school actors would have started out this way. I can't think of any examples right now, but I have heard a few life stories that would be relevant.




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