Whispers from the Wings

New York part two

March 27, 2014

The Antony & Cleopatra company is rounding the corner on third base and getting ready to slide into home (seeing as we're in America now I had to reference a national pastime!). We're in our third and final city.  We've been through our third and final tech.  We made it through our last round of previews, our last opening night, the star studded opening night party, our first five-show weekend, and we're now settled into a couple weeks of just doing the show. 

Now that we're finally, finally at this point – where there's no more changes, no prepping for the next city, no wondering how this moment will work in a new and different space – I've been able to try out something that I've been aching to try but just haven't had the right show for it yet – calling the show from my iPad!  It's a new trend among stage managers, particularly on long-running shows and tours.  I figured since I'm incredibly comfortable and familiar with the show and with the call, now was as good a time as any to leave the safety blanket of a paper script and bring myself into the 21st century of stage management. 

The call script was already in electronic format. I did that back in Stratford as I knew it would make it easier to make changes and updates for the next cities.  I just downloaded the PDF into iBooks and…well…gave it a go!

Things I love about calling from my iPad: 

 - Page turns are much simpler; no fear of ripping my page as it turns or giving myself a paper cut (yes…it's happened.  About the most dangerous that my job gets, really).

 - Backlight provided – no need for any other external light source and no awful glare from little lights.

 - Takes up far less table space; more compact.

 - I am more easily mobile and can be onstage giving notes to an actor about specific moments while calling up to the light board operator to bring up specific cues we may need.

Things I don't love:

 - I have no “at a glance” idea of how far we are into the show – there is no “this many inches of paper” left to tell me how long until bows.

 - I can't hold my place with a finger while I flip ahead.  Frequently when something goes awry and I have to think on my feet about how/when/who/where to solve it, I am looking ahead in the script while still needing to stay in touch and call what's in the moment.

All told – I can't wait to call another show from my iPad and hope that this foray will continue to bring me closer to a paperless and greener way of working.

Martha at the places call - getting ready to call the showThe second great thing I've been able to do now that the show has settled is take a break from calling because the fabulous Martha Mamo has learned the call!  New for New York - a production assistant!  Emily Hayes came in on our first day in New York  and it's great to have a team of three again!  Emily and I went to graduate school together and have worked together before, so our natural shorthand helped her assimilate smoothly and quickly into the team and the company.

Once we were through tech and through the first week of previews and the show was frozen, Emily started shadowing Martha backstage to learn the deck track.  Once Emily was confident in the deck track, Martha could step away and come upstairs to start shadowing me.  She had a copy of the call script and would sit right next to me on headset during the show to learn the call, including all the cue light switches, which monitors and actors I'm watching when, and the rhythm and timing of each cue.  Martha also did a lot of studying and practicing on her own.  Learning to call a show, no matter how well you know it, is always nerve-wracking.

The day after opening Martha felt comfortable enough to get in the hot seat and of course she did a great job!  I sat right behind her for the first couple shows, making sure she had her fingers on the right switches and guiding her through tricky sequences until she felt confident enough on her own. When you're first learning to call, it's important to do several shows in a row to really solidify it in your mind and muscle memory.

Now that Martha is confident with the call, I can step out into the house and watch.  In the US, part of the PSM's job is to maintain the artistic and technical integrity of the show once it has opened and all other creative collaborators have left.  This week I'll actually get to sit in the audience with a notepad and pencil and jot down some notes to make sure that the show is staying on track as we continue our journey towards our final closing night.

And in the midst of all this excitement in the A&C world, I've managed to make marginal progress on my apartment – I have a bed (though no headboard) and curtains (but only on two of four windows).  I have some plates (but no silverware) and a few pots and pans (but still haven't bought groceries).  I had an old friend over the other night to catch up and she sat on my windowsill while I sat on my kitchen counter. 

Well, as they say…Rome wasn't built in a day!

Picture 1 - me, Emily, and Martha at the opening night party.

Picture 2 - martha at the places call - getting ready to call the show

by Evangeline Whitlock  |  No comments yet

Previous in Whispers from the Wings

Next in Whispers from the Wings
Cut and thrust »

Post a Comment

Email address is optional and won't be published.
We ask just in case we need to contact you.

We reserve the right not to publish your comments, and please note that any contribution you make is subject to our website terms of use.

Email newsletter

Sign up to email updates for the latest RSC news:

RSC Members

Already an RSC Member or Supporter? Sign in here.

Teaching Shakespeare