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    Posted December 16, 2010

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Stage Managers Hold Industry Conference

By Sandra M. Bloom

On November 8, 2010 the Stage Managers' Association hosted an industry-wide conference in New York City. Stage Managers, Directors and General Managers were invited to exchange information in an atmosphere outside the traditional employer/employee or production situations. Members of each discipline were both on panels and in the audience. The first-time conference brought together people from as far away as Houston and Dallas, Texas. Consisting of three panels, a luncheon and a wrap-up session, the day ended with a cocktail party and presentation of the Del Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award.

For an exploration of the relationship between the Director and the Stage Manager, panelists were Roger Danforth, Timothy Douglas, Sheryl Kaller, Mark J. Schneider, and Henry Wishcamper. Zoya Kachadurian was the moderator. Most of the panelists had a Stage Manager background and all appreciated the scope of the job. Discussion centered on theatre as a collaborative art. Stage Managers set the tone and balance the directors, enabling them to create their artistic vision. Stage Managers should have an intuitive sense to understand what the director is trying to do. They need to keep copious notes for maintenance. A good Stage Manager makes it easier to direct. Collaboration, however, is a fine line between being supportive and being another director. The director's responsibility is to schedule private time with the SMs to lay the groundwork for maintaining the show after they leave. SM notes should reflect the director's language. Stage Managers should insist on periodic viewing from the house and have an ASM who can call the show. The Stage Manager is a valuable partner. Directors need to forge a strong relationship of trust and respect that the SM will maintain "their baby."

Panelists for a discussion of the relationship between the General Manager and the Stage Manager were Peter Bogyo, Nelle Nugent, Ben Sprecher and Charlotte Wilcox. Moderator was Robert Bennett. Not all Stage Managers fit all shows. GMs try to match the show's needs and requirements. SMs should have rapport with the cast, crew and director; technical knowledge; problem solving ability and managerial skills. People skills are important. SMs need to be able to watch technical aspects of the show and the acting, have an even temperament, and the ability to communicate in their reports. Good communication means fewer problems. The Company Manager and Stage Manager should work together and respect each other. The SM should see the show from the front with the GM so both see and discuss it the same way. The Stage Manager reinforces the director's notes and the GM reinforces the SM notes. The SM coordinates work calls, photo or press calls with the GM and the Company manager. The Stage Manager should be familiar with other union rulebooks.

On hand to discuss Stage Managers and the New Media Technology were Thomas M. Casazza (Altman Lighting) and Michael Clarke, projection designer. The Moderator was David Grindle. Mr. Casazza discussed the latest lighting products, their capabilities, what they could be used for, what they can and can not do and expectations vs. the way they actually function. Mr. Clarke screened samples as he explained some elements of projections. All projections are tied to a computer or network of computers. Technology has grown faster than the vocabulary. The discussion was highly technical. Seminars need to be held to train crews to use projections and SMs need to learn the timing of calling these cues. It was agreed "the laws of physics have not changed, just how we use them." Both panelists talked of having future workshops.

The wrap-up session concluded that it had been a very valuable experience, wished more time had been scheduled and offered suggestions for future conferences. Presentation of the Del Hughes Award

Susie Cordon, Equity Councillor Emeritus Alan Hall and Porter Van Zandt received the Del Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award from the Stage Managers' Association as representing the finest qualities of Stage Management: patience, diplomacy, organization and a sense of humor.

In 1985, Norman Rothstein approached the Stage Managers' Association about honoring the late father of his wife, casting director Julie Hughes. Together with members of the SMA, they created the award honoring Del Hughes, who made a 50-year career of stage managing. The recipient is chosen by the Executive Board of the SMA.

Sandra M. Bloom is an Actor, Stage Manager, member of the Stage Managers' Association and served on the Equity Council for 25 years.

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