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I've recently taken on responsibility for operating the stage equipment in our school and asked for volunteers to join the stage team. (Our school has never had an organised team before) I have 23 people who are interested which is much more than I was expecting. Obviously the amount of interest is great but I fear this is too many for the size and frequency of events in school. I don't want to turn anyone away but at the same time we really can't have this many people in the sound booth/backstage etc.

What should I do to make the numbers more manageable? I thought maybe splitting them up into sub-teams with different roles e.g. sound , light, set etc. Or rotating the teams between events?

Has anyone had a similar situation? What do you think I should do?

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There is often a strong uptake for any new initiative which can quickly drift down to a hard-core of dependable bodies. The knack is to make the initial stages interesting but not too rewarding and the dilettante's will self-select themselves out.


Have you thought about a lunch-time or even after hours Tech Theatre Club? That could give time to sort out those willing to actually work from those who want to "hang around with luvvies." I found teaching them how to coil cables boring enough to spot the would-be's from the willing. H&S was good at sorting wheat from chaff as well.


I wouldn't even think about team building until I had some idea of the strengths and weaknesses, that way balanced teams could be created. It would be a retrograde step to have all the really keen ones in Team A, the effective ones in Team B and the complete wasters in Team C. Similarly their interests and skills need assessing so that all the lampies or all the carpenters do not end up in one team.


Don't be scared or concerned, look at this as an opportunity to learn about management, scheduling, training and all the other skills you could gain but also talk to your teachers who should be keeping a watchful eye on things.

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T'is easy as J859, one day your potential recruits will be going out to gain work in a competitive process.


So, do the same. Interview them. Start off with First Aid...do they know any and if so what to do if they find someone unconscious with a lead/cable in their hand? Then CPR. Then ask then to lift something not too heavy yet bulky. Did they ask for help or struggle on their own? Then evacuation in a fire scenario. Never mind actually putting it out. Our training of old was that if you were not confident about tackling a fire, then clear off and raise the alarm. Basically are they thinking?


If they get through that lot then easy stuff about identification of cables and connectors, then ask them why were such cables designed. Then ask them about power loading on a lighting circuit/dimmers. Ramp up the questions until you ask them to cable up a simple lantern to dimmer...desk to dimmer. DMX from desk to LED fixture. What do they understand about DMX addressing, RCD, MCB?


That is a reasonable start for you to begin developing the interview. Should teach you something at the same time. Then when a person is accepted see how they behave...ie no messing around or abusing kit or horseplay. Are they punctual, come every time when asked.? Do they stick around for the get out/tidy up routine? Be brutal if they mess you about and cause you to sort out cover for absences, in short sack them.


(Anecdote alert...We had one twit who agreed/promised to work on a run, then casually mentioned he would be going to a party on THE Saturday...he had his ear bent and got his horoscope read for him should he not do as he promised...no work ever again in our venue. Trouble was, for him, he had unwittingly revealed his true commitment and was never asked again after that run...you don't need that type around at all.)


If you set up a load of hurdles for them to negotiate then you are also teaching them the life skills thing too.

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Start off with First Aid...do they know any... lift something not too heavy yet bulky... easy stuff about identification of cables and connectors, then ask them why were such cables designed.

Bwahahahaha :D... Ramdram, this is a school (a high school from what I can gather from the OP's profile?) not a job interview... I appreciate where you're coming from, but don't you think it's a little OTT? :)

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Certainly not D.E, if I did First Aid in the 5th year (45+ years ago) then so can they. Besides, it might be "you" they had to resuscitate, ** laughs out loud **.


As for learning about cables the nippers of today know all about the difference between vga cables and HDMI stuff or IEC and 13A stuff. Don't forget the old gag that only the kids of the household knew how to set the timer on the VCR...


I recall we were taught to use a Wheatstone Bridge so knew about (if not completely understood...) the fundamentals of "electricity" sort of. Or shock each other with a Van de Graaff generator and hence knew about high voltages and low currents. Played around with oscilloscopes looking at sound waves.


Knew about transformers and the relationship between windings and so on and so forth. In short they should know about those fundamentals anyway.


In UK we arrange work experience for nippers so the interview aspect is pertinent...in fact, and only slightly t-I-c, it might be the only interview experience they get for a long time...


OTT? Not for a second.

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I'm a bit with Kerry on this one.


The OP is also a student. Both from my own days in a pre-historic high school and, more recently, as a parent of teenagers, I know that the fastest way to become unpopular is for one student to pretend to be a boss to others. Heck, this forum tears apart any student making the claim to be a "technical manager" or to have "responsibility" for safety or whatever--yet here we are encouraging one to do exactly that.


To the OP, I think you'll quickly find this is a problem that goes away when the volunteers find that most of the job is coiling cables and dusting lamps rather than standing behind the mixer at the "battle of the bands" looking cool. I'd suggest you stage a series of familiarisation events where people can practise putting out mics and adjusting levels, then putting everything away. Or, for the lighting oriented, cutting and installing gels, learning a bit about the board, etc. etc. It would be even better if you could coerce some outside professionals (or at least advanced amateurs) to come in and run the sessions.


Anyway, I'm pretty sure that as soon as the students find that they are expected to do a range of grunt work after school instead of play with shiny toys at events, you'll lose quite a few of them.

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I was in a very similar situation myself actually not that long ago. Although I wasn't and never have been a student at the school, when I started I was only just turned 18 and so would have been the same age as the year 13 sixth formers at the school! I really could say I was the technical manager though ** laughs out loud **. I started off with doing the old rules and safety bit then done some stuff about communication and so forth which led onto using technical jargon. from there we looked at how backstage teams are divided up and how they work together then done some team building exercises etc. now they have done a bit about lighting a bit about follospotting a bit about sound and I am now going to find a few different excerpts from plays or similar and divvy them into teams and teach them how to do stuff like make sound effects in our recording studio etc then ask them to design lx and sound for their exercpt then rig and record it as if it were to be performed including keeping a "prompt copy" so that we can lead into stage management. I think the first aid idea is an excellent one though I must say. Also just something to add I think the 8 people I am now left with are very reliable and just to note that 5 of them are actually special needs which I found very hard at first but asked for some help and training and now its no problem. if you are ever struggling for any reason you should just ask for help in some form because its better than messing up, you will always have people on your back if you do.


:D callum

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I was in the same situation earlier this year, where for the first time we opened technical positions for our show, We Will Rock You, and had a massive influx of people wanting to help out, in the past there has always been a few 6th formers and then a few from the younger years, so this was a big shock. To start we assigned a 6th former to head each department, as we had,:

  • Light
  • Sound
  • Projection
  • Followspots
  • Backstage
  • Preproduction
  • Set design

And then after that the head of sound and I interviewed all of the potential applicants seeing what they would like to do and get out of it, experience they already had etc, and used this to assign people to roles, in the end we have 13 students and 7 6th former working on the show.

I have then worked with these students, as a 6th former myself, teaching them core skills, such as programming and running of a lighting desk, creation of video,mtes or microphone and how to patch and operate sound etc, so the skills continue once I leave.

Although I don't understand the concept on here when people say that because a person is a student, like me, other students will not listen to them when you tell them what to do. I have never had this problem with any of the students, but they seem to understand that I have a lot of external experience and am there to help them out, so they can get something out of the show.

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For a school you really can't expect the students to know things about different connectors, powerloading, first aid (which there should definitely be a tutor responsible for at the school during open hours anyway). I completely agree with Kerry - a willingness to learn and do the dull bits as well as the fun bits of the job is WAY more important at this stage - if I'd been expected to know about power loading, RCD, MCBS etc when I was messing around with some patt 23s and a twin preset desk at school I'd have had no chance and would probably have been put off even trying to learn. Schools are a learning environment first and foremost - having the freedom to learn, try things out (obviously under supervision when dealing with electricity) and most importantly make mistakes. You won't get this chance as easily once you leave - you'll be expected to know more about all the things Ramdram talks about.
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