Well readers, it has been a full week but the show is open and running beautifully. The past week has kept me busy, as it was tech. Tech is exactly what it sounds like, putting all the technical elements (lights, costumes, props and scenery) together with the singers. A Stage Manager’s job is to come into tech as prepared as possible by having paperwork up to date. Luckily, I have two trusty assistants who keep up on their paperwork. As promised, I will let you into the secret world of Stage Management paperwork.
As a team, we have to know and document everything related to a production. Take my SL Assistant, who works as the costume ASM. She is responsible for putting together costume plots for every single person who walks onto the stage in costume. The plot is in a table that lists singers down the grid. Each box is filled with whatever costume that character is wearing in that scene. She is also responsible for the costume run sheet, which documents EVERY change of costume, and the dressers (people who help singers change costume quickly) use it so that they know what people are wearing and when the singers need to change costumes. You can see an example of our costume plot for La Traviata here: cost-plot-principals.
Similarly, the SR Assistant works on prop paperwork such as a complete prop list. The prop list includes all furniture and anything that is carried by a singer. She also prepares a run sheet, which tells the crew exactly where to put the props so the singers can find them or where a piece of furniture sits during a scene. We used small L-shaped bits of spike tape to “spike” a particular piece of furniture. This insures that the furniture goes in the exact same place each and every night. We also spike set pieces and sometimes even singers! X-marks the spot! Check out our La Traviata prop list here: props-run-sheet.
I generate, among other things, the techmaster. It is a master list of everything that moves on the stage. This includes scenery pieces, microphones, curtains and backdrops that fly in and out, props, sometimes lights and monitors. (Curious to see it? Click here: tech-master.) This is just a small sampling of all the paperwork that the Stage Management team generates for every show. Whew!
During the show, I am responsible for calling the show. Calling the show includes all scenery shifts, light cues, spot light cues, rail cues, and singer pages. I call the show from SL from the Stage Manager’s console. It looks like a mini command center with all the cue lights, microphones and intercom systems.
If you have been to a Lyric Opera of Kansas City performance in the past year you have actually heard my voice. At the beginning of each performance I come over a microphone for my pre-show announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to this evening’s performance. In consideration of others please turn off all cell phones…” If you are reading this and saw The Pirates of Penzance, you have heard that speech and will know that the voice you heard is that of the Stage Manager.
As for the intercom system, I use that to call the singers up to stage for each of their entrances during the entire show. When it is 5 minutes before their entrance I grab the intercom and say “Places Mr. Smith to SL. Places Mr. Smith to SL.” I always repeat things over the intercom system just to make sure that the singer has heard the call.
Now for the technical call, nothing on that stage, singers aside, moves without my “GO!” The designers and director make the cues and then pass them on to me to make sure that they get executed properly. For every light cue I give the operator a standby, I say “Standby Light Cue 55.” And when it is time for the cue to be executed I say “ Light Cue 55 GO” and the operator hits the button and the cue goes. Same thing goes for whenever scenery flies in and out I say “Standby Rail Cue 9 the Show Scrim and Blackout Curtain coming IN at a medium speed.” Rail cues require me to say what is flying in or out and at what speed so that the operator knows what to do. So as you can see I tend to have a lot of things to saying during a show! (You can preview my tech calls here: calls___tos.)
Tech rehearsals are just as much for me as they are for everyone else. I need to rehearse timing out everything that I have to say and anticipate the amount of time it takes for my words to reach the operator and for him or her to actually perform the action at the right time. Stage Managing is a lot about logistics and organization but there is also an art in calling the show. So now when you go to see a performance and you see the lights change or the scenery move you know that there is a Stage Manager saying a lot of “Standbys” and Gos!”