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Archive for June, 2009

Stage Management Awards Update: We have Green-light.

June 16, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Community Building, In a Perfect World, On the Theatrosphere

Very happy news came in a couple days ago from @mltachco: The New York Innovative Theatre Awards (they that evaluate the off- off- broadway scene) is trying out an Outstanding Stage Management award this coming season.

Nice job, off- off-ers. Hey Chicago, can we make this happen already?

From their press release:

Since the very inception of the IT Awards, we have wanted to develop a means of recognizing the unique, necessary and often overlooked role of the Stage Manager. As a part of the celebration for our 5th year, we are excited to be able to present the inaugural Outstanding Stage Manager Award.

The IT Awards will be the premiere ceremony to showcase the people who are the “glue that holds the whole show together from before first rehearsal until after strike. Our work as designers, performers, and directors is NOTHING without stage managers to understand, interpret, support and execute it in a real-world context.” — In Defense of Stage Managers blog

(that’s me. hee hee!)

After years of research and consulting hundreds of theatre practitioners and especially Stage Managers, we have developed a process similar to our honorary awards, but one as unique as the award itself. The two-part process includes both judge’s scores and an application that will be reviewed by a committee.

Beginning in January of 2009, as a part of their assignments IT Award judges were asked to evaluate how the technical elements of the production flowed together. Those scores will help inform the committee who will review applications and make the final decision. The application asks for examples of the Stage Manager’s organization and leadership. Two letters of recommendation are also required from people who worked with the Stage Manager on the production.

The OSM (Outstanding Stage Manager) Committee is made of eight individuals that include stage managers as well as directors, actors, press, producers and crew. OSM Committe Chair, Stephanie Cox-Williams said “There are awards for directors, lighting designers, sound designers, set designers, actors, etc., but without a Stage Manager to put all of the pieces in motion, correctly and on time, those elements would not make a cohesive production. The IT Awards, is taking a big step forward by recognizing the unsung heroes of the stage.”

All productions registered with the IT Awards for the 2009 season and that had opening dates after 1/1/09 are eligible to submit an application.

We believe that we are the first awards organization to recognize Stage Managers along with all of the other production elements. It is an exciting step, but an unprecedented one so feedback from the applicants, the OSM Committee and the OOB Community at-large will be an important part of this process going forward.

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Those Who Do Not Learn from the Publicity Photos of the Past are Doomed to Repeat Them

June 11, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Teachable Moments

It’s that time of the year when a new crop of companies pop up in Chicago, as ensembles of young artists graduate from colleges and form the next big thing, eager to announce a season of work. (I think we’ve counted 12 this year?)

Benno Nelson, a company member of The New Colony (who very well may be the next big thing that formed 2 years ago, or as I like to call them “an annual that managed to pollinate into a perennial”) is already interrogating the value of this particularly short and internal kind of life cycle.

Some of them *will* be the next big thing. But all of them will get there after exploring what came before.

So, with that in mind, I invite you all, young and old, to check out this blog hat/tipped my way by Simon Ogden.

inaproductionof.blogspot.com

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In Defense of Stage Managers

June 09, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Teachable Moments

Anne Nicholson Weber, in the podcast interview I posted a few weeks ago, asked the question: “What exactly does a stage manager do?” Josh, Ray and I kind of looked at each other in that moment, thinking: “Do people really not know how important the stage manager’s job is?”

At the non-equity Jeffs last night (yeah, Jared), I got to thinking (again) about something I think is missing these theatrical award ceremonies – Jeff, Tony, the whole lot of ’em.

How in the WORLD can we structure an award for best stage management?

Because when they do their job right, they are the the glue that holds the whole show together from before first rehearsal until after strike. Our work as designers, performers, and directors is NOTHING without stage managers to understand, interpret, support and execute it in a real-world context. With patrons, house emergencies, prop emergencies, scenic emergiencies, costume emergencies, skipped pages…

Sure, it’s a tricky award to evaluate – there are enough pitfalls in evaluating design (which still can be flashy, brash and loud enough to draw attention to itself), let alone a role that is quieter if not more central to the functioning of theatrical performance. The very definition of good stage management is when it just works, seamlessly, brilliantly, and without leaving any trace of emotional, procedural or intellectual tint on the designs, direction or performances. That is a no-mistake tough job.

You *can* tell when there’s a ninja SM calling a show back there in the booth – usually when a mind-bendingly complex sequence of events is timed so perfectly either very early (first time!) or very late in the run (ready for closing!) that it still leaves you breathless.
I’m talking about you, Ellen, Amanda, Joe, Tim, Kim, Jaime, Alden and so many, many more.

If awarding committees can see beyond the footlights enough to give awards to directors, musical directors, lighting designers, or musical sound designers (the mad science/art of seamless vocal amplification that again, ideally doesn’t draw attention to itself – a fact that led to it not being included in the Tony Awards until last year, 30 years after the beginnings of theatrical sound design), certainly there is some way to evaluate and recognize these foundational artists who through their creative management support the entire team.

So here’s the question: If you had to write the rules, how would you choose to evaluate a stage manager’s performance?

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Maintenance

June 04, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Collaboration, In a Perfect World, projects

So this was on my desk two days ago. An inbox of low-priority filing that went back to October 2007. Yikes.

I realized, as this particularly busy season draws to a close (at the Goodman Owen stage alone our season included the premiere of Million Dollar Quartet, Ruined, the O’Neill Festival, Ghostwritten, most of which were tech-heavy monoliths), that it has been over two years I’ve done a real spring cleaning. It’s really only in June or August when we find an appropriate moment to do this kind of invasive cleaning and reorganization – where you open everything in your house up, one piece at a time, blow out the dust, and ask yourself the question: do I need this anymore? If I had this object or system around to solve a problem, does the problem even exist anymore?

July and most of June’s always devoted to the 24-7-30 Cherub program, last year’s cleaning was postponed by the immediacy of three large Goodman projects – Gas for Less, Turn of the Century, and the Latino Fest, and the year before that was devoted to planning, traveling, and getting our family to our wedding in Nova Scotia.

This year, I have cause to clean. (ha ha to KF). My wife just turned in her notice at her day job, a day job that has both paid the bills and caused immeasurable stress and disappointment in her life over the past two years. Instead, Marni has trained herself in a wide variety of graphic design and skills along with a group of like-minded creative types, and begins freelance design and project management work for a number of clients, including this design firm, doing work that challenges and empowers her. The choice to leave traditional, corporate employment at a time like this is not an easy one – we’ve needed to scramble to find health care, for instance, which by itself could cause someone to turn back. But the known benefits and promises of opportunity are many: flexibility in hours means our schedules will no longer be opposite, and we’ll actually get to see each other awake from time to time, and it’s amazing how much more energy and happiness you can have in your life when you do something you actually find enjoyment and value in.

Leaving the day job means that Marni’s coming back as a teacher at Cherubs this summer, and will be leading the fundamentals of design class. This is an amazing job – basically teaching 10 high school students who already love theater the language and tools of design.

So I’ve been devoting a lot of time to maintenance lately: cleaning the house, sorting through hardware, fixing the internet, archiving scripts and old work projects, repairing and upgrading equipment, getting rid of the stuff we don’t need anymore

Bit by bit.

Getting our house ready for a new life.

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