Crazy, Confident Chrystal Coltharp
††††††††††† This semester I chose to complete my
service learning hours here at
††††††††††† SubUrbia marks the true beginning of my career in theatre. I will always look back to it as one of the most defining experiences I have had. It may seem as if Iím ďjumpingĒ the gun a bit with that announcement, but I truly believe that I would never retract that statement. The simple fact is that SubUrbia was the production where I learned not only how to be a good stage manager, but that I could be a good stage manager. Throughout the production, I learned so many new concepts that I canít cover them all in the course of this paper. I can, however, discuss a few of the more interesting concepts.
††††††††††† One of my main duties as stage manager is to facilitate communication between all members of the production team. For SubUrbia, the production team consisted of the director Mark Robbins, sound designer Jenn Peterson, properties mistress Jessica Thomas, and the lighting/set designer Jon Young (as well as me). In order to make this happen, I filled out rehearsal reports following every single rehearsal. These reports contained information gained during rehearsals and conveyed it to the members of the design team. This information could be anything from a sound cue the director wanted to add to a scene, a prop that was missed during the initial props list, a problem with the set or even a costume issue. On top of rehearsal reports, we also had weekly production meetings where the entire production team got together to discuss updates on the various production aspects. These meetings usually lasted anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half and like rehearsals, reports had to be sent out for them as well. In addition to facilitating communication between the production team, I also had to be available for any questions the cast may have and making sure they knew what times to be where. SubUrbia taught me that communication is the key to the success of any production and that without the stage manager there to facilitate this communication, the production would be in serious trouble.
††††††††††† Another important concept I learned was how a production combined the actors and the technical elements to create the final show and what the stage managerís role was near the end of the process. The process of adding the technical elements to the show begins with what is known as ďtech week.Ē Tech week is my favorite part of the rehearsal process and takes place prior to the first dress rehearsal. It begins with paper tech, which is a meeting where the production team (usually minus the costume designer) meets and goes through the script to mark out where cues are and what number those cues are. As stage manager, it was my job to mark these cues down in my book in preparation for dry tech. Dry tech usually takes place the day after paper tech and at this point, all technicians and backstage personnel are brought in along with the designers. Dry tech is usually an 8/10 or a 10 hour work day with a 2 hour break for dinner and during this day all technical aspects of the production are ran to see how they look. My job was to call the cues or to tell the technicians when to play a sound cue or light cue. Since SubUrbia had a smaller number of cues than most shows, our dry tech was actually quite short and we all got to go home early. The final day of tech week is known as wet tech. Wet tech is the day we finally combine the technical elements and the actors and we get to see how the show is going to look. For SubUrbia, we did a 10/12 work day which is common for wet tech. It may sound crazy that this was my favorite part of the production, but it was the point where I got to nuts and bolts of being a stage manager and I discovered that I liked it.
††††††††††† Communication and tech week were perhaps the most important concepts that I learned during SubUrbia, and the skills I learned during that production served me well when I went on to stage manage Park Universityís second production of the 2008 to 2009 season, The Book of Liz. The Book of Liz was at once easier and harder than SubUrbia for me as a student. It was easier, because since I already knew exactly what was expected of me in the production process, the reports and communication aspect of my job seemed to fall into place. It was harder, because I went from a two act show with a small number of technical elements to an eleven scene, one act show that had a large number of cues that had to be called in quick succession. During the Book of Liz, I also added new skills to my stage managing arsenal. I organized the huge number of props we had backstage onto the props table, as well as collaborating with the director, Crissy Young, to orchestrate fast and (for the most part) seamless scene changes. The Book of Liz taught me that other than communication and calling a show, organization can also be an extremely important part of stage managing.
††††††††††† The communication aspects of Book of Liz were easier for me to deal with as I had my SubUrbia experience to fall back on. In fact, communication during the rehearsal period and opening of the show went really well and I was proud of the progress I made in my communication skills from show to show. I feel that the timeliness and clarity of my reports showed a great deal of improvement. I feel that this was in part due to the organization I had to have in order to deal with the sheer number of props and technical elements in the show.
††††††††††† As for the technical aspects of the Book of Liz, all I can say is that tech week was one long, stressful, yet rewarding week. From changing and miscalled cues to costume issues and actor issues, it seemed at times that if something could go wrong it did. However, the main purpose of tech week is to work the bugs out of the system and it all worked out in the end. For me personally, calling the show was harder and required more concentration than SubUrbia did. Not only did this show have more cues and scene changes, it also added flies to the list of items that had to come on and off at various times in the show. Flies are scenic elements that are raised and lowered during the show to add to different scenes. In the Book of Liz, they consisted of clouds, stained glass windows, road signs and a moon. While they were a very important part of the scenic elements, they were also very nerve-wracking for me. However, when we closed the show, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well it all worked out.
††††††††††† In my previous reflections, Iíve discussed how my service learning led me
to choose my major and helped me discover a part of me that I hadnít known was
there. What the above experiences
have taught me is that I still have a great deal to learn, but that I have made the right major and career
choice. I loved stage managing
these shows and I wouldnít trade the experience for the world. Every nerve-wracking, stressful, minute
of the 261.5 hours I spent on SubUrbia and the Book of Liz that made me want to pull my
hair out was also part of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life. Also those 261.5 hours
helped me earn a practicum at the Unicorn Theatre in downtown