Stage Manager primer for schools

King Kong Full Moon

King Kong Full Moon

Many of us working as venue technicians often work on school productions that come through the venue. This can be an interesting experience especially if you have never worked on one. There is various levels of skills that school have or don’t have. For those of us that primarily work with professional companies, this can be a shock. What we normally expect as normal theatre protocol and procedures can go out the window when the school arrives. We sometimes have to get around how they think and try and translate what they want and need into something we understand as theatre professionals. Not all schools are bad, some have teachers and other staff that understand how theatre works. Some have performed on stage or directed shows outside the school. Some teachers even understand the technical aspects of theatre. But as the saying goes ” a little knowledge can be dangerous”. I once had a teacher call our 3 colour wash a 3 phase wash. They were not happy when I explained what it was. And woe betide anyone that corrects a teacher in front of their students, I have had a few complain when I have corrected them, but I am sorry if these students actually want to go further in theatre they really should have the correct knowledge and the means to find it out. I am quite happy to explain and pass on my knowledge to these students.

Some teachers have quaint names for things like dinger – for house bells. Or may favourite, Teacher asking for special string lighting – turns out it was a cyc chase. Not sure how they can by that name, it took a lot of discussion to get what they were after. Or the music teacher telling the vocalist to pull back and not hit their performance volume during sound check. Or just before curtain up you are told of the extra vocalist, or the PowerPoint presentation they want you to quickly make from some pictures and pdf’s they have.

Now not all teachers are like this, I have met quite a few that do understand the technical side of things and understand it takes time to make their show look and sound great. They plan their production schedule to allow time for technical set up, they don’t expect to do a West End style musical with one tech on duty and a day to bump in. They know their limits, their budgets limits and the venues limits.

I know these teachers have their students best interests at heart, but if they don’t know or are not sure, just ask. We are more than willing to guide them through the intricacies of the technical aspects of their show. We have many shows under our belt and we want their show to be brilliant and their audience to walk away with a smile. So if you have questions etc. ask them before you arrive. See if you can talk to the technician that you will be working with. Give the venue as much information as possible. The venue’s technicians can advise you what will or will not work.

So ask questions, the technician is there to realise your vision but be realistic about your vision.

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