Monday, June 30, 2008

A Day In The Life of Mike Jones

Good Morning Bloggers!

I have a special update today with a blog from Mike Jones, our MFA stage manager for the production of Beaux Strategem. This restoration play (the genre after the civil war where the humor got increasingly raunchier, we'll talk more about that later) is about two gentlemen who decide to make their fortune by seducing country women and stealing their money. These two con artists get a surprise in the end from their lovely, and very clever, young ladies of choice. So here's a day in Mike Jones' life!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hey there blog buddies! My name is Mike Jones (Michael Aaron Jones on my union card), a 2nd year MFA student studying Stage Management. My current project is serving as Stage Manager for the MFA company production of The Beaux’ Stratagem. Here is a little peak into my day and the rehearsal process of our show.

8:30am – Start of the day

My alarm clock(s) go off. I actually have two to make sure I get up in time to start my day. I have a good 3 hours before I need to be in the rehearsal hall but I start thinking about the rehearsal day in the shower—if not in my dreams.

Stumbling into the kitchen I make sure to pack a lunch and a snack to eat during rehearsal. Over a bowl of cheerios I put together my To Do list for the day. Here are a few things on the list.

o Check E-mail / Respond. This one point on the To Do list often prompts additional tasks to be added to the list.

o Prepare for today’s production meeting by assembling all my unanswered questions and notes that came out of rehearsal.

o Check in with Katrina, the costume designer about today’s fitting schedule and questions from yesterday’s report.

o Check in with Dusty, the scenic designer about load in progress and questions from yesterday’s report.

o Homework! I confess I often fall behind on my Theatre History homework. This item has floated from “To Do list” to “To Do NOW” list over time.

After I make my list and check it twice, I spend a few minutes in quiet meditation to mentally prepare for the day. Then I pet my cat, Ophelia, before jetting out the door to the theatre.

10:30am – Production Meeting.

Once a week we have a production meeting in the large trailer behind the theatre. This is where all the designers, the director, production department heads, the production manager, and stage managers for the show meet to discuss the show, everyone’s progress and share concerns / answer questions. I make sure to have my questions written down and any e-mails/reports/drawings I need to reference printed and in my notebook.

11:00am – Set Up

In the hour before rehearsal Heather (the ASM) and I head into the rehearsal hall and get it ready for the day. This might involve re-arranging chairs and tables, setting out hand props and furniture, fetching costumes pieces from the shop for the actors to use, making coffee, filtering drinking water, etc. This is also a great time to talk to the director about the day, his concerns or worries, etc. On this day Heather sets everything up in no time while I follow up on some e-mail and start planning the next day’s schedule based on Ed’s (the director’s) plan for the week. When Ed comes in we talk about a few things on his mind in regards to the production. I take notes and get answers for him asap.

12:00pm – Rehearsal

Today our rehearsal is only from 12:00pm to 5:00pm because of the rep performance of Cymbeline tonight. All the actors are in Cymbeline and I’m the production assistant.

We start the day running through the fight choreography and the dance steps. Touching on these every day helps the keep them ingrained in the actors’ bodies. After that we pick up with scene work. I keep an updated prompt copy of the script with the blocking (where and when the actors move). Heather usually holds book in case the actors forget a line and ask for it then she can call it out to them. I create a rehearsal report while we work. This report will go out to all of the designers and production department heads as well as the faculty and artistic leadership of the theatre to keep them updated about how rehearsals are going and to ask questions that Ed has for the designers.


At 1:20pm I announce the break and hit start on my stop watch. Our break schedule is based on the Actors Equity Association’s rulebook. We must take a 5 minute break after 55 minutes of work OR if the director or SM want to keep working, then they MUST take a 10 minute break after no more than 80 minutes of work.

Breaks are a great time for me to check in with the director and ask about tomorrow’s schedule or get clarification on any notes he might have mentioned during the rehearsal hour. It’s also a good time to respond to e-mail, run to the costume/prop/scene shop if need be, etc. Hopefully, however, I get to sit on a sofa in the back hall and nosh on a sandwich with the cast. Today, that’s just what I’m doing when Tim, our production manager walks by and says “Hey- you got a minute?” Suddenly I’m in a meeting about next week’s schedule. Before I knew it my stopwatch is reading “10:00 ” and our break is up. I stepped back into the hallway and announce “We’re back!” as I walk to the rehearsal hall. SM’s rarely really get to take a 10.

5:00pm – The end of the rehearsal day comes with its own To Do list.

o Talk to the director. The time after rehearsal, once the cast has left is a great time to make sure the director is getting what he needs from you, the cast, and the team. It’s also a good time to discuss tomorrow’s schedule and today’s report with him.

o Prepare tomorrow’s rehearsal schedule. Check with Ed, the director about what he wants to work tomorrow. Check with costumes about fittings I need to schedule. Talk to David, our fight director, about what he wants to work tomorrow. Get a list of vocal sessions tomorrow from Sarah, our vocal coach. And confirm dance work schedule with the movement coach and choreographer, Denise. Now I put all of that together in one master plan of attack for tomorrow. Heather helps proof the schedule before I call it done.

o Publish the daily schedule. Once I finish with tomorrow’s schedule I send it off to the West Side Story stage management team if they haven’t already added their schedule to the document. The schedule is then e-mailed out to a number of people in the building. We print 29 copies 10 of which are posted on call boards in the building and 19 of which are put in people’s mail boxes in the building. We also record the schedule on a voice mail system that the cast can check from home if they forget what they read on the callboard.

o Complete & publish the rehearsal report. This is also e-mailed to a distribution list as well as printed with a few hard copies to be distributed.

Around 5:30pm or 6:00pm – Done with Beaux.. on to Cymbeline

I finish up my rehearsal day and head down to the green room to heat up a microwave dinner. I’ll eat that while I make coffee and filter water for our evening performance of Cymbeline. Setting up and running that show will complete my day.

That’s it! A peak into my rehearsal day for Beaux Stratagem. I hope you enjoyed it!