Backstage Guide

This document is designed to be a guide to who-does-what when it comes to putting on a show. Behind the fun, a lot of people are putting in a lot of work to make it a success. Our principle in the Players is to be as democratic as possible: If you want to try your hand at something – go for it! This guide will show you what’s involved. It is intended to be a checklist to guide you through the tasks

PRODUCER

You are the main administrator of the production. As such you need to be well organised and efficient.

Role

Close liaison with the director in matters of administration, recruitment of non-acting roles (e.g. front of house) and co-ordination of the production team.

Pre Production

1. Arrange for audition dates 2. Rehearsal dates and booking of rehearsal venues. This involves liaison with the Secretary and possibly with the Director of other shows in rehearsal. 3. Budget: consider the cost of the production costumes props etc and discuss with the committee.

Production

Co-ordinate all various arms of the production team so that they all aim to be ready and running by the technical rehearsal. IF A PRODUCER IS NOT AVAILABLE, THE ABOVE TASKS WILL FALL TO THE COMMITTEE.

DIRECTOR

The Director bears the responsibility for the play as an artistic whole. The Director must know the play inside out and decide on its interpretation and bring their overall vision to fruition. As such, you need some understanding of stagecraft. You must be patient, diplomatic, firm and able to put your ideas across.

Pre Production

First liase with the committee to select the script bearing in mind anticipated numbers of cast, special effects etc. You should also check that venues have been booked for rehearsals and performances. You must study the script, work out all moves and give thought to the overall “look” of the show, including costume and scenery. Sound and lighting must be thought through. A reading of the play must be arranged and the audition dates set. The Director should ascertain whom he is to work with i.e. co-director, producer, stage manager. There should be a first read through when a potted description of each character and a series of request slips are prepared so that those people attending can express their preferences. This should be followed about a week later if possible by the audition, the aim of which is to give everyone a reasonable and equal opportunity to read for parts. Therefore: • Ensure sufficient scripts are made available • Relevant previous experience and performances should be considered • Credit should be given for services rendered previously in other capacities e.g. front of house, stage management etc. After consultation with the casting sub-committee, (made up of Director and two committee members) cast the production and notify every one who auditioned of the outcome within 3 days. A series of meetings are then arranged with backstage staff.

Rehearsals

Ideally “blocking” should take place before rehearsals begin. Good organisation of rehearsal time is vital, with a rehearsal schedule available for all in advance. An indication should be given to the cast as to when scripts are “dropped”. Attention should be paid to the acting performances and guidance given in respect of speech, movement and artistic interpretation. Hints on conducting rehearsals: • Regular attendance, punctuality and quietness offstage should be emphasised • Good manners from cast and spectators should be expected.

Technical rehearsal

The Director is present so that the lighting and sound plots can be finalised and practised. Attention is given to costume, make-up, off stage effects and props so the the dress rehearsal can be carried off according to performance standards

Dress rehearsal

The Director is there to make comment and, from time to time, change what they see. This is best done from in front of the stage. It is not the time to change fundamentals – so attention should be paid to details, props etc.

Production

The Director’s job is nearly complete but you are still needed for morale boosting and motivation. At all times the Director should remain calm, diplomatic and optimistic.

STAGE MANAGER

This is a job for a practical person. You will inevitably find yourself working at all hours alone and unloved on the set and at other times besieged by questions from stage crew and actors. A placid temperament, ingenuity, the ability to keep cool in a crisis and an ability to lead people are necessary attributes. When rehearsals have finished, you are in charge of the entire production.

Pre production

Design set in conjunction with the Director and/or Producer – is it feasible? Obtain a scale plan of the stage and prepare a PLAN, check possible items needed, watch rehearsals – is the plan workable? e.g. position of doors and windows; will lighting and sound fit in the correct place i.e. access and cable etc. Select your work teams in advance – set building, set painting and stage hands. Check flats are available. Inspect the scenery for general condition; undertake repairs and any work which can be done early. Draw up a list of any additional items for set construction i.e. paint/wallpaper/wallpaper paste/timber/hardboard/sashcord/masking tape/paintbrushes/nails/screws/hinges/curtain rail/ fireproofing solution/tools etc. At production meetings called by Producer and/or Director, discuss workability of plan and make necessary changes, encourage ASM to attend as well. Draw up job list. REMEMBER IN ALL CONSTRUCTION WORK TO ADHERE TO FIRE REGULATIONS AND HEALTH AND SAFETY PRACTICES. If the director is missing you take the rehearsal, so you need a copy of the directors file with all actors moves in.

Performances

• Arrive early with ASM and run through any problems • Check all backstage staff have arrived. • Check in actors and make sure all clothing and props are present. • Check with Front of House to arrange a signal for operating house lights. • Supervise scene changes. • Make sure actors don’t miss their cues. • Make speech regarding fire arrangements, switching off mobile phones and no taking of photographs.

Post production

Strike set. Allocate removal jobs. Experience required: good all round experience and bags of confidence.

ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER (ASM)

Reporting to the Stage Manager (SM). This is a nice job to do especially if you are a beginner. It means being back stage with the cast and a part of the backstage team without the responsibility of being the SM. No previous experience is required – just common sense and good humour. Purpose: To help the SM prepare and organise the set and backstage before, during and after the production. Tasks will vary depending on the type of play and what the SM wants to delegate.

Pre production

• Attend production meetings • Help build set, ensure exits clear etc. • SET UP DAYS – before the production helping to put up the set

Production week

• Help SM backstage during technical and dress rehearsals and actual production nights. • Help change set between scenes • At least 20 minutes before curtain up check cast and prompt have arrived • Keep people quiet backstage • Pull curtains between scenes Post Performance – strike set Experience required: good organisation, some DIY.

LIGHTING AND SOUND

More art then science, but you need the ability to climb ladders to set up lights and some knowledge of basic electrics (circuit loads etc.)

Pre production

Understand what lighting and sound equipment you have to work with. Read the script. Note special lighting effects. Work with the Director and SM to devise a lighting plan for each scene, though this will need modification when the set is erected. • Mark lighting areas in the script. • Work out special lighting effects. • Do you need additional equipment? If so, discuss with SM and Producer as to whether this is essential and if so can it be borrowed, hired, or purchased. Work out circuits on lighting board. • When set is erected and during technical rehearsal, set final lighting levels for each cue, and practise each cue. • Check what sound effects are required. • Acquire necessary sound effects

Production

• Arrive in time to check all lights functioning. • Check lighting board • Light the play

Post production

Return all borrowed lights and sound effects.

PUBLICITY

You have to be creative, ingenious and persistent. Consideration should be given to obtain assistance and delegate where appropriate. You have to get “bums on seats”. Essentially you are required to: • Plan an overall publicity campaign • Design and produce posters, handbills and programmes for circulation • Find ways of advertising (as cheaply as possible) in local papers on our web page etc • Arrange cast photos for display on production nights or liase with photographer • Get banner erected across the street in Grassington • Arrange printing of tickets and distribution • Attend directors meeting and obtain deadlines. You can expect to attend some production meetings but would only be required to deliver the literature for distribution. Enthusiasm required.

PROPS

You have to provide all props needed for the production and ensure the actors have them when they go on stage. This needs a good head for organisation. imagination and preferably transport to fetch and carry. ALWAYS KNOW WHERE THE PROPS HAVE COME FROM SO THAT THEY CAN BE RETURNED. Two props people are desirable – to share the making, borrowing or begging of props and furniture and to work at either side of the stage on performance nights.

Pre production

Go through the props list and decide: • Which props can be acquired – simple hand props – ask the actor concerned if they can provide them. For sources of other props – ask around. If props have to be bought get budget from the producer and keep receipts. • Which props have to be made – decide with SM the boundaries between props and set items. Make props yourself or delegate others to make them. N.B. liase with director – does “a length of rope” mean 2ft or 20ft! • Attend as many rehearsals as you can: a) to remind actors who have promised props b) to ensure actors have props to work with as soon as possible c) to familiarise yourself with which actors need what and when. • Keep props tidy.

Production

• Have props laid out ready Stage R and L. • Check props required on stage in the correct place • Remind actors to check their own personal props • Ensure actors have props at the right time for their entrances • Ensure actors return props when finished • Check props after play and repair any damage (N.B. good idea to have string, rubber bands, glue, pins, etc.)

Post production

Return all props promptly.

PROMPT

Previous acting experience is helpful but not essential. You must have a good clear voice and ability to read in semi-darkness.

Pre production

• The prompt must have full knowledge of the play by attending rehearsals prior to “dropping” scripts. • All pauses and moves must be clearly marked on the prompt copy. • Do not “jump” in too quickly with a prompt – some actors recover themselves if given a couple of seconds. • Follow the script avidly.

Production

• Ensure you have a torch and spare batteries • Prompt in a clear stage whisper • Note in the copy where any of the cast consistently slip up on their cues, so that you are forewarned. • If possible sit or stand in the wings where you can have a full view of the set – usually downstage right.

SET BUILDERS

Joinery experience would be useful as well as tools for the job. Familiarise yourself with storage facilities at the town hall.

Pre production

• Discuss needs with the director • Prepare sketches for director’s approval • Construct the set bearing in mind the sort of pressures to which it will be subjected • Bear in mind: a) limited off stage space – your name will be mud if actors have to climb over magnificent items of scenery to get on stage b) scenery gets subject to a lot of wear and tear – make it sturdy c) working parts must be reliable and easily workable by nervous actors d) attend dress rehearsals for last minute adjustment

Production

Why not go down to the pub?

Post production

• Re-claim any re-usable items and store where possible • Dismantle pieces which will not be required again

SET DESIGN AND PAINTERS

Artistic ability is essential for the designer, who will be in charge of the painters.

Pre production

• Design set in conjunction with director • Purchase paints required • Submit sketches for approval of the director • Designate assistants where needed • Book time with the Town Hall to paint sets with the assistants

Post production

Ensure that paints and brushes are cleaned, sorted and stored.

COSTUME

Your job is to advise on costume style and co-ordinate the costumes for the production. Sewing and dressmaking abilities are desirable as well as knowledge of costume styles.

Pre production

• Read through character list • Discuss with director the overall style • List the individual characters and decide/sketch the costume • Make, borrow or hire the costumes • Attend as many rehearsals as possible to attend to fitting and any problems with the costumes

Production

• Make sure costumes are on rails and ready • Be there early with safety pins, iron, etc. for any running repairs

Post production

Ensure all costumes are returned to owners.

FRONT OF HOUSE

Your purpose is to organise the front of house and represent the public face of the society.

Pre production

• Check with committee what refreshments have been decided upon with suggested pricing • Ensure all supplies are available e.g. tea, coffee, sugar, biscuits etc. for each performance • Start organising cover for each night early – do not leave until the week before the show. Friends are usually willing to help, also full members not otherwise involved in the production. • Help needed to receive audience, sell programmes and tickets, tea, coffee, etc. as well as making and serving interval refreshments – 3 or 4 people each evening

Production

• Pick tickets up from seller (usually Helen Midgley’s) before they close • Check exit signs are functioning • Ensure you have a torch • Tell SM when audience is in place • Ensure audience welcomed in a welcoming way and made to feel valued • Remember to set aside places with easy access for the disabled and the hard of hearing • Take time out, if possible, in the interval or after the show to ask members of the audience if they have enjoyed the show and to ask for any observations they might have • After the interval, tell SM when audience is re-seated • Keep quiet in kitchen during shows • Ensure refreshments are available for the cast during the interval • Ensure the side lights are on • Control air conditioning • In case of fire your are in charge

Post production

• Hand over all monies to the treasurer • Ensure kitchen is left clean and tidy, all rubbish is in black bags (usually provided by Town Hall) and that all equipment is turned off Remember it is a team effort. No production can go ahead if any one person does not do their job. So whatever your role you are very important to the production. Do a good job and enjoy yourself.