A blog by Harriet Stewart – Company Stage Manager on WASTED
7am. The day starts with a rather invigorating shock that my bedside alarm is actually going off. It feels like 20 minutes since I set it. Stage management are always the first to arrive, last to leave, so the early start is very usual, and yet so is the shock. Whether at home, or in a Travelodge – the day always begins with tea – Caffeine Hit Number 1.
8am. After a shower and quick breakfast, its onward to the venue. Having our fantastic producer, Hanna, with me on tour, is a huge support and I can rely on her for the morning van run, feeling as bleary eyed as me! I can rely on her too for joining me in Caffeine Hit Number 2.
10am. Arrive at venue. Engine off, and it’s a speedy van-unload, helped by any venue techs I have working with me that day. (Hopefully 2. On good days: 3; bad days: 1; and days we don’t want to talk about: 0)
10.15-10.30am. Recce the venue, talk to the tech manager about how we are going to set the show up, and what the plan for the day shall be.
The challenge, and an interesting part of a small-scale tour such as WASTED, is taking the show to a huge variety of spaces, from 600-seater venues with a traditional proscenium arch, to a shop front, literally, with 4 lights on a stand and a domestic electrical set up which won’t manage all our equipment. Every venue can create a different challenge – sometimes, trying to work out how the set will fit in, I have the Crypton Factor theme tune in my head. Seriously.
It means the show and company have to be adaptable and I have to be able to think on my feet and problem-solve each day, to get the show up and looking at its absolute best.
Coffee anyone? Caffeine Hit Number 3.
10.45am.Then it’s straight on to the dance floor. No, I’m not throwing shapes - that comes later. It’s the first part of the set to be laid. Followed by: the rest of the set, rigging the projector, getting the av working, and running in our own sound desk and equipment, and our extra set-lights. All being well, and problem free, I have time to stop and have a bite to eat for lunch.
1pm. Plonk myself down with Hanna who is hard at work at her laptop in the venue cafe, or dressing room if no such thing exists! After munching and distracting her from her work its back into the theatre to start on the lighting – with coffee number 3, Caffeine Hit Number 4 in hand.
2pm. Each venue pre-rigs our lighting plan, so when I get to the venue all I need to do is focus the lights, then do checks. A focus can take anything from an hour (if you’re lucky), to 2 and half hours. And this is where the chocolate comes in… and possibly, dare I say, Coffee 4 Caffeine Hit Number 5.
4pm. If everything is on schedule, I’ll have a couple of hours to finish little jobs off – running sound checks, lighting checks, setting props, ironing costume, tidying up, re-painting parts of the set, making props, etc. … the list is long.
6pm. The cast arrive: often a welcome sight. Time to run a cue to cue on stage – giving me a chance to check all the lighting states are working as they should be and everything is lit well enough. The cast walk each scene – stopping when I need them to. As venues and the lights used can be so different, this often involves a lot of tweaking and updating states, adding in light where needed.
6.15pm. I run a microphone check with the cast – and afterwards, we run the first part of the show purely for sound purposes, so I can make sure the levels are all correct – its also a good opportunity for the actors to run lines, get focussed, clear any, hmmm, hang-overs.
6.50pm. If I’m lucky, I may have a snack and sit down before we get to the half – but more often than not there are little bits to be done. By this time I’m off the coffee and moved onto the harder stuff: coke (diet) – if things are bad, it may even be a red bull – Caffeine Hit Numbers 6, 7 and 8.
7.10pm. The cast and I vacate the stage area and auditorium around 15 mins before the show for the house to open.
7.20pm. Dressing room. Essential group hug.
7.20pm 45secs. Yes that was a 45 second hug. And now it’s time to leave the actors at the 5 with the fond farewell, “See you on the other side” and get into position in my control area.
7.30pm. I love this show and never get bored of watching the performance, and cueing it is always fun – I operate the sound and av and the microphones live during the show and I cue the lighting to the lx op.
8.30pm. Once the show has finished, its to the bar… but only for one and a quick 15 min sit down! The last small job of the day is still to come… the get out. Luckily, our get outs are all hands on deck, so the team can be 7 or 8 strong with all the company getting involved – we are now a well oiled machine and our record get out time is 50 minutes including the van pack – the giant game of Jenga!
10pm. Van packed, drinks done, final checks to make sure nothing from WASTED is left behind, and its back in the fun bus and off to the pub… or dance floor… or hotel… or next town… or sometimes, if we’re lucky, home.
**All times are subject to change and are made at CSM’s discretion.