Shows and Work Ins
You’ll find that EUTC shows are the worst to deal with, they see the theatre as there to serve them and don’t understand that they have a duty to look after the theatre too. Outside companies are easier to deal with cos they’ll do what you tell them too and ask before they do anything stupid, act on your advice and tend to keep the dressing room tidier. They sometimes pay you too which is nice. But the theatre is here for the use of EUTC and basically you’ve got to work with them as best you can although they can get quite antagonistic at times. For some reason actors are unable to use brooms, mops and vacuum cleaners properly. And when producers ask what they can do to help they don’t like being asked to clean the toilets.
Ok, most of the people doing lunchtime shows will have never done a show in Bedlam before and have no idea what’s sensible. They will do stupid things and the excuse is that nobody told them not to, no matter how often you stand up and tell them in company meetings it doesn’t get across. So I wrote a set of Stage Manager’s guidelines which should be at the end of this, I understand that being about 10 pages long they’re a bit of a heavy read but at the same time they can’t use the “I wasn’t told” excuse anymore. It’s nice to get set plans a decent period in advance of the show and you’ll normally need to pester the SM so find out who it is early. In terms of set and stuff the general policy is that Lunchtimes can use whatever they can find, obviously make sure they can’t find the stuff you don’t want them to use. Never buy coloured paint for them, and they will often try to make you buy extra stuff for them but it’s not worth the effort. Make sure that lunchtimes are aware that although they can use the theatre’s gaffa tape if they use too much they will be charged/in trouble. You’ll find that most lunchtime SM’s are friends of the director and you need to be very careful about what you let them find.
Mainterms have big budgets and should pay for everything they use so it’s best to lock the gaffa tape away because it’s amazing how much walks even though they aren’t using it….and although they don’t buy any cos they don’t need it there’s loads holding their set together. They also need to buy black paint to paint the stage at the end of their run, you’ll find that they need considerably more paint to do this than you do, and still make a considerably worse job. Don’t let them delegate it to actors because they’re even worse at it. Mainterm SMs should know everything because they should have done the job on a lunchtime show (Unless they’ve passed an eligibility vote and the company will normally let them even though they know nothing) but at the same time there is a big difference between a lunchtime which normally have a set budget of zero and a mainterm with a set budget of £300 so be careful with them. You really need to be supportive to first time mainterm SMs, they often need to be helped with the concept of “No that’s not safe” when communicating with the director. I’m quite happy to be used as a threat by SMs along the lines of “Well yes I’d get flaming torches on stage but the Theatre Manager wouldn’t let me” if only because that’s the reason that most SMs wouldn’t. The other thing to be mentioned is that often SMs don’t realise just how important their job is because in Bedlam it is often considered less important than the Tech Director but this really needs to remedied. Press upon them the fact that in the real world the SM runs the show from the get in till the end of the get out and is in charge no matter how stressed and annoying the director is.
For Fresher’s week just keeping the building reasonably tidy is enough work, combined with having several shows running and it’s lots of work. The shows basically run on a similar format to lunchtimes in that they can use anything they can find (Because they never have any budget), but you can be sneaky and keep stock levels down to limit them. Storing all the sets can be a nightmare so keep an eye on them all to make sure that all set is stored compactly and safely.
Festivals (Like FoNTS) are a bit of a nightmare because there are so many shows running and they often have their own Theatre Manager who you need to let run it while you make sure they don’t do anything too illegal. In terms of set it’s up to the festival TM but you still need to guide them in what’s sensible for storage and usage.
The Fringe is hell.
Luckily the Fringe Theatre Manager doesn’t have to be the Term Theatre Manager although some people are stupid like I was. The Fringe work-in lasts two months and is very hard work. Basically the run up to the Fringe is the only time when you can do those large projects (Things which will take more than 6 hours). During the Fringe the Theatre Manager works non stop to keep the building legal, stop anyone dying and making sets go up and down in time. Although you have a Tech Manager that you work with you’ll find that there are changeovers which take both of you. If you’re lucky they’ll be in the early evening so that one can have a lie in each day. Whatever happens just try to keep the building running and be aware that if you’re running less than half an hour late you’re doing well (And better than many venues) and if you are on time keep it going and relax a bit while you can. Make sure to get hold of a copy of Fringe Safe because it contains all the legal stuff in easy to understand language. Also you’ll find that you get a visit from the Fire Officer every week or so, this means that you have to extra strict on sets and fire exits. You’ll also get checks from Environmental Health on the café and kitchen, make sure to kick the Café Managers so that they keep everything tidy, we almost got closed down in 2001 because the inspector found a carton of Mrs O’s out of date milk in the fridge….and we were out of green towels…and the oven door was broken….and the chiller was manky. So the café manager stayed late that night and tidied hard whilst I fixed the cooker. When the inspector came back the next day there was a show running so he never got to check my cooker bodge but it’s still holding the door on so can’t be too bad.
They’re normally not too bad, try to get the Venue Hire Manager to let you do the get in so that you can make sure they don’t do anything stupid (and get paid for it). Chances are the set will fail your inspection but be nice and try to help them. Outside companies tend to know that keeping on the good side of the Theatre Manager is important and will buy you beer and coffee if you let them.
Show Run Nights
When the building is open to the public the Duty Manager is responsible to you and the President for the safety of the cast, crew and audience. The fire evecuation procedure should be displayed on the wall in the box office. Basically from a safety point the exits need to be opened and nothing placed in the evacuation routes. The hardest one to enforce is keeping a clear route through the café, often the person running the café goes for the ‘spread the tables and stools out’ approach and the duty manager needs to keep an eye on them. If a show does something stupid/dangerous on the night then you, the president and the duty manager can all stop the show. The easiest way to do this to use the legal approach “As manager responsible to the licensee and the Edinburgh District Council the building cannot open because……, but if you do……then it can happen”. I’ve not really had to do this although I did threaten it to one show whose set was unsafe. This was remedied after a long argument with me load testing the set which failed dramatically. They complained in the Company meeting that it took them 2 hours to rebuild the set, and then after that they spent six hours reinforcing it before I would let them open.
Show Work Ins
All Mainterms must organise a show work in, normally on the weekend before their run. Basically this is the time to get the whole theatre tidied by someone else which is great. They were invented Ian in 1989 so you can thank him. Technically the Stage Manager for the mainterm is responsible for running the work in but since they tend to have a “Lets get this done as quickly as possible” approach they need to be monitored. I gave them a list of what needed doing and then got on with maintenance so I was there to check but didn’t have to tidy. You need to make them aware that Work-In time is not set building time and that the show gets no rehearsal time until the job is done to your satisfaction. I tend to get the director to scrub inside the urinals, it needs done and they tend to be the ones who make the most fuss about doing it. Make sure that the secretary gives you the whole theatre for at least two hours, so that you can make as much noise as you like. Two hours should be sufficient but you’ll find that people work slowly when they don’t want to do it so try and get three….if you finish early there are always plenty of other things for them to do. A thorough cleaning of the cafe, toilets and box office are the most important thing to take care of for a Work-In, but the dressing room is a fairly vital spot as well. Seeing as how this is where the actors will be spending much of their time during production week, it should be easy enough to get them to scour it. If the wardrobe manager can be present for at least part of the Work-In, it would be helpful for clearing out old costumes left in the dressing room.
Company Work Ins:
This is very similar to show Work Ins but it’s organised by you, normally to get the building up to code for license inspections. Advertise it weeks in advance and personally arrange lots of people who know whet they’re doing and you should be fine. This is the time to gut the balconies, check all the scaff clamps holding the rig up and other structural stuff. It’s polite to offer coffee and biscuits for the workers. The committee should attend, kick their butts to make them do it.
In 2000 people maintenance sessions were organised every Sunday from 12 till 2 because it is very difficult to organise maintenance without running into rehearsals (And directors will sometimes organise extra day time rehearsals without asking). It is difficult to persuade people to get up for this time on a Sunday and I tried bribing them with breakfast which worked to some degree apart from the Venue Hire Manager who would turn up, eat and then leave. The maintenance session basically allows you to fix small things and do a general tidy. I tried to get the lunchtime show’s cast and crew to turn up but was basically ignored which is kind of annoying since you tend to spend some of the maintenance getting the theatre legal so their show can go up.
The basics: All wood onstage must be painted on all sides. You can get "class 1" ply that is already fire proofed and needs no treatment. Paper is only allowed onstage in small quantities like hand props, sets constructed from paper are bad and not allowed. All drapes must be fire-proofed, and be aware that thin materials don’t hold fire-proofing solution very well and need to have it reapplied through the run. Some fabrics will burn no matter how much you put on them. Costumes do not get fire-proofed because 70% of the population is allergic to the fire-proofing solution. Smoking is NOT allowed onstage at present due to the smoking ban, but for information the usual regs in England are that it's ok providing: 1. The Cigarette is lit and extinguished onstage. 2. The item is lit with either a safety match or a lighter of the non-zippo type so that it will go out if dropped. 3. An ashtray containing damp sand or water must be onstage at all times. Candles are normally ok but you need to make sure there’s nothing near them they can set light to if they fall over. Make sure they are well secured. Thunder flashes and pyros are normally allowed but you need to get them checked with the fire officer who will want a demonstration.
Stage weapons can be hired from Arvalon Stage Armoury and must be locked away when not in use along with their ammunition. The lockable cupboard in the paint cupboard is quite good for this. Make sure you get a demonstration of the scene where the gun is used and that the actors know how to use it. Even though stage guns do not fire projectiles they still vent hot gas and some expel spent cartridges at high speed so make sure that the actors realise that they’re dangerous. I did a session on using stage weapons and had to move because I was getting showered by hot powder from the gun being used six feet from me. It is useful to make people count the spent blanks back in at the end of a show just to make sure that all the expected blanks have been used and there’s not one lying in the chamber. In 1987 an actor took a gun he was using out of the theatre and into the Odeon. He showed it to some friends in the lobby while he was waiting to get into the show and when he came out was arrested by plain clothed policemen. He was charged brandishing a dangerous weapon and it looked really bad for EUTC and the former-policeman owner of Arvalon.
More Safety Stuff
All paid up members of EUTC are insured if they hurt a member of the public and that’s about it. They need to obey the health and safety policy and should read the employee handbook. People should not use power tools or rig alone because if they have an accident no one will find them till someone comes in in the morning. The kitchen needs to monitored for out of date stuff through the year although especially when it’s being used to feed the public.