It’s the end of week 2, rehearsals are now well underway and the production of Tartuffe is slowly accruing the attributes that will, at some point, coalesce and take on a life of its own.
The actors are immersed in the exploration of their characters, while the Director is constructing the world they inhabit. Alongside this, the set and costumes are being made, and all the while I’m busy keeping things on track – recording the blocking and props notes, scheduling the production and liaising with the Company’s other departments (Workshop, Sound, Lighting, Wardrobe, Publicity, Administration) about the show’s requirements.
Back in the rehearsal room, at this stage everything that happens is an experiment. Damis needs to overhear a conversation between Tartuffe and Elmire. Will he hide in a cupboard, will he hide in plain sight or will he hide in somewhere in the architecture of the theatre?
While this debate takes place, I’m making sure that the cast members and Director have everything they need to keep experimenting and, at the same time, I’m keeping the production departments up to date as the show evolves. It’s a balancing act between keeping things outside the room moving forward, in terms of sourcing props and building the set, but not moving too far in case the parameters shift when an idea doesn’t take hold. It’s about finding the fulcrum that allows creative expression within a finite deadline.
At this point in the production, it’s important for Stage Management to remain flexible, because things are always being added, changed or cut at short notice. We have to allow the Creative team to play. However, it’s also critical that we have everything finished by opening night. Balancing the competing interests is not always easy, however if you are clear on exactly how long things will take, and know the latest point at which you really need a decision made, you can work out when the experimentation needs to move into something more solid.
For now, it doesn’t matter where Damis hides, but I know exactly when we need to start pushing for a decision. So until that crucial moment, I’ll give them the opportunity to play.
We had show and tell in today’s production meeting. A few prototypes for the fake candles. Only 300 left to make…
Tomorrow is the first day of rehearsals, but work started long before now.
The roles are cast and the Director has developed his vision. Using this vision as a jumping off point, the Designer has conceptualised the set and costumes which, during the rehearsal period, will gain substance from off the page, to be walked in, on and through. The Production Manager has staffed the majority of the crew roles and the Stage Manager has been following well-established systems and routines to ensure rehearsals will run smoothly from the first morning.
The time that a Stage Manager has to prepare (known as pre-production) can vary from company to company. In this case we have one week.
In that time I will:
- Meet or speak with each member of the creative team (Director, Writer, Designer, Composer, Choreographer, Lighting and Sound Designers, Accent Coach etc.)
- Meet or speak with all of the company departments (Scenery Workshop, Wardrobe, Wigs, Publicity, Marketing, Finance, Company Management, Development or Sponsorship, Education etc.)
- Prepare a schedule for week one (and a daily call sheet) detailing what the Director wants to work on in the room, wardrobe fittings, publicity calls and marketing calls (I’ll have more to say about scheduling in a future post)
- Prepare templates for all show-related documents (more to come in a future post)
- Set up the rehearsal room
- Mark-up the set on the floor (more details in a future post)
- Source rehearsal props and costumes
- Prepare welcome packs for the cast, containing useful information
- Copy and bind scripts
- Contact each cast member to tell them about the first day
Tasks vary depending on the organisational structure of a company and the composition of the stage management team. In some cases, a Company Manager will take on some of these duties, however in smaller organisations, it’a a job for stage management.
The first day of rehearsals can be a nervous one, and the Stage Manager’s role is equal parts logistical and pastoral. Ultimately, my goal is to make sure everything is in place to make it as comfortable, smooth and stress-free as possible for everyone. That includes having a hot kettle and some fancy biscuits ready when they arrive.
It’s only now that the real work can begin. The Show’s heart beats a faint rhythm and it takes its first tentative breath.
To find out more about Tartuffe, check out the State Theatre Company website: