Stage Managing in Sherwood Forest

After having an incredible summer vacation of relaxing, keeping a yoga routine, reflecting on my first full year of teaching, and planning for a new September, I jumped right into action for Fall 2015!  I was asked to Stage Manage a community theatre’s production of Don Nigro’s Robin Hood.  I was caught by surprise as I had spent the previous three years being an Assistant Stage Manager for East Side Players and Amicus Productions, but never before offered the chance to be part of the production team from the very beginning, all the way through the run, and assisting with the wrap up.

I was excited to take on the challenge as I would be given the opportunity to watch the President of Amicus Productions in action as Director.  On a daily basis I was reminded of how much work goes into these productions and more impressive is that the work comes from community members that also have jobs, families, and other responsibilities to take care of in addition to transforming a script into a show!

So, the big question is: What does a Stage Manager do?  You don’t see them on stage; they aren’t running around backstage; you can’t see their lights or hear their sound effects.  Where exactly are they?

Answer: We are EVERYWHERE.

My Stage Management breakdown for Robin Hood:

Pre-Production:

1. Organize initial read-through with the director and in this case, with 20+ actors! as well as available designers.

2. Attend production meetings to understand the Director’s vision, how the designers relate their ideas in order to actualize that vision effectively

3. Create rehearsal schedule taking into account actors’, director’s, and designers’ availability, time needed per scene, for costumes, and for fight choreography.

4. Attend all rehearsals and keep up to date with actors’ needs throughout the process.  Make changes to rehearsal schedule as necessary.

5. Ensure rehearsal space is ready to go each night – with set pieces, props, and keep tabs on actors’ attendance!

5. Keep Director and actors focused on particular scenes during rehearsals, organize props with Property Master (who, in this case also held the role of Producer and Assistant Stage Manager!)

6. Maintain an organized Prompt book with blocking notes, scene transition designs, and props lists.

7. Assist with set building, painting, collecting props, moving all items to the performance venue.

8. Ask lots of questions as to what the heck I’m doing! 

Production:

1.Assist with technical set up, running lighting and sound cues; organize backstage and green room space for actors to move in.

2. Organize pre show schedule: Actor warm ups, tech and props check, clean and stage set up.

3. Coordinate with Assistant Stage Managers to ensure a smooth run backstage and with Front of House crews to ensure a smooth run in the house!

4. Account for safe use of all props and set pieces during the run.

5. Call all cues for the show (and in this case, run the lighting board, too!)

6. Clean up space each night to prepare for next performances

7. Attempt to maintain the Director’s integrity of the show!

8. Ask lots of questions as to what the heck I’m doing! 

Post-Production:

  1. Strike the set with members of the cast and crew: Clean out stage, backstage, and green room areas with company
  2. Celebrate the end of a great run!
  3. Return all materials to theatre’s warehouse space
  4. Attend a post-mortem meeting with Director and production team to discuss effective strategies and new ideas to use in future.
  5. Ask lots of questions as to what the heck I did! 

Overall, this was an incredible experience. From being in the front row of rehearsals to watch the artistic side develop through actor work, to sweeping and mopping the stage on a nightly basis, I was proud to be part of such a production with incredible people.  I learned some new skills on the technical side of shows and got to see how much dedication is required to pull something like this off with no injuries to actors, audience members, or set pieces (other than a falling tree, we were successful in that!).

I can’t wait to jump in the Stage Managing seat again, armed with new strategies to try.

All those nights in the booth did make me wonder when I will get my butt back on the stage, however.  So, we shall see what 2016 brings.

A Letter to my First-Year Students

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot about my first year of teaching, my students who I got to know over the year, and the careful alterations in approach and in material that I made each quadmester.  I learned more about myself as a teacher and the needs of the people sitting inside my classroom.  This letter is to you, the 200-ish students I was privileged to meet and work with last year. 

To my Students in my First Year of “Official” teaching,

I call last year my first “official” year of teaching because everyone that you talk to about teaching overseas or in private schools never seems to calculate that experience as “real” teaching.  I have no idea why, as most of the people who say things ask, “when are you going to become a real teacher?” have usually never stepped foot in a classroom or worked in a position of responsibility with “learners.”

Anyway, before the new year unfolds, I just wanted to say thank you for all that you did for me last year.  I was lucky enough to hear a lot of “Thank yous” from many of you at the end of our classes together and I appreciated every one of them. At the same time, I owe you thanks as well.  You made me want to walk in to my classroom each day pushing to be the best teacher I could be.  You pushed me to look carefully at the best strategies that would benefit each of your learning needs.  You required me to reflect on my lessons at the end of each day to discover what I could change for future students to make my approach more effective and engaging.  I am so grateful for that.

You also taught me so much about being on a team.  In our classes, we were on a team together.  Sometimes I stood at the front of the class; sometimes you did.  Sometimes I sat shoulder to shoulder with you as I watched you interact in group discussions; sometimes you sat back and listened to your peers, taking in their perspectives and preparing your own responses.  I truly wanted to make sure everyone on our team was where they wanted to be, and you were truly missed if you were absent.  The team wasn’t complete without each of you.  I will never forget that.

Even more, you opened my eyes up to so many different cultures and life experiences.  I greeted each class with excitement to introduce my lesson and have you take it to your own level and see it through your perspective.  You respectfully shared personal stories and beliefs (and sometimes food!) from amazing places around the globe and you welcomed me to be a part of your life.  Coming back to school as an adult can be daunting, but you took the challenge and made studying part of your already busy life.   I have incredible admiration for that.

For some of you, I got to work with you in more than one term. We got to grow together, both of us learning new things as we went.  You took on the challenges I brought to you, and I accepted the ones that you brought into class with you.  Together, we created a system that worked.  From part-time jobs to family commitments, from health issues to stressful schedules, you did your best.   I respect that.

So, thank you for being my student: thank you for not giving up; thank you for taking risks; and thank you for opening your minds.

Thank you for being MY teacher:  thank you for teaching me not to give up; thank you for teaching me to take risks; and thank you for opening my mind.

I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

 

Student to Teacher Part 2: Entering OISE

With only two weeks left of my program, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the different aspects of my year in Teacher’s College – a program that people gaze upon with MANY different viewpoints.

Remembering back to September, it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago and other times like yesterday.  My cohort, my wonderful SP6 family as it came to be, entered our classes with a sense of curiosity and openness.  I enjoyed the format of the program, where we had a “homeroom” group that shared eight hours a week together with a mix of different subject expertise and life experience.  I found that this brought a surprising amount of richness to our program.  On a weekly basis, we met together in our “Teacher Education Seminar” and in “School & Society.”

In addition to the readings and the discussions, these classes opened my mind with a new way to teaching.  The behind-the-scenes policies and the current and relevant “pedagogy” and “discourse” (words I’ve never heard so much in my life as I did this year) lured me in to the academic side of a world I thought I was familiar with.  Even so, as we laughed through the requests for personal “reflections,” all the work we did was quite relevant to making me a better teacher.  Every class introduced something I hadn’t quite thought about before.  As I studied more closely with my colleagues, I got to know them through the perspective of their experiences and I got to learn a little about my own developing teaching philosophy.

My Curriculum and Instruction classes for English and Drama were also fantastic!  I had incredibly passionate instructors, and their energy was infectious.  I had a good balance between policy, lesson structure, curriculum guidance and practical suggestions for the classroom.  Strategies were often modelled for us so we could truly see what students feel when they are in our classrooms.  Before my first practicum, I often referred back to my teaching experience abroad and in Toronto in discussion about the concepts we were covering.  It made me wonder a few things:

How can someone complete a Bachelor of Education coming straight from their undergraduate degree?  I met some amazing people who were doing just that!  But I wondered what the general assumption was.  Were they too young to be stepping into a teaching setting- often with students only five years younger than them?  Should it be mandatory that you need some real world experience between an undergrad and a B. Ed simply in order to gain new perspectives and consolidate your desire to be a teacher?

The Studious One

Too often I have heard the phrase, ” I didn’t know what to do, so I went to Teacher’s College.”  That phrase makes me cringe.  There are so many fields out there. So many tiny niches of interesting work that perhaps would be better suited for some.  But no, they decided to be teachers because that don’t know or have the courage to explore or that they have been surrounded by teachers for so long that they see it as a good profession.  On the other hand, there are people out there that have known they wanted to be in a classroom from their very first day of school.  Like me, who “played” school with teddy bears and unwilling siblings, perhaps some people jumped into the program straight from undergrad because they had a passion to be a teacher and couldn’t wait to get started.

I still don’t know where I stand on this issue.  My bias is evident, as I was one of those people who jumped on an airplane after my four years of study to go and explore.  I am forever grateful for that experience, and I know I walked into OISE at the beginning of the year with those adventures plastered all over me.  I was happy to share them and basked in the stories of colleagues who had had similar experiences.  We quickly bonded as a cohort and supported each other.  It was a great community to build new relationships with a shared bond in a love for education.  Still, I wondered, how scared were those who had never stepped foot in a classroom before as an instructor?  I still        wonder.  Is there a right and wrong answer?  Probably not.

Finally, after two months of trying to cram in as much as our instructors could to prepare us, we were released for our first Practicum.  Mine, with an ESL department in a downtown Toronto high school.  I couldn’t wait!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Szoki Adams

Stage Managing in Sherwood Forest

After having an incredible summer vacation of relaxing, keeping a yoga routine, reflecting on my first full year of teaching, and planning for a new September, I jumped right into action for Fall 2015!  I was asked to Stage Manage a community theatre’s production of Don Nigro’s Robin Hood.  I was caught by surprise as I had spent the previous three years being an Assistant Stage Manager for East Side Players and Amicus Productions, but never before offered the chance to be part of the production team from the very beginning, all the way through the run, and assisting with the wrap up.

I was excited to take on the challenge as I would be given the opportunity to watch the President of Amicus Productions in action as Director.  On a daily basis I was reminded of how much work goes into these productions and more impressive is that the work comes from community members that also have jobs, families, and other responsibilities to take care of in addition to transforming a script into a show!

So, the big question is: What does a Stage Manager do?  You don’t see them on stage; they aren’t running around backstage; you can’t see their lights or hear their sound effects.  Where exactly are they?

Answer: We are EVERYWHERE.

My Stage Management breakdown for Robin Hood:

Pre-Production:

1. Organize initial read-through with the director and in this case, with 20+ actors! as well as available designers.

2. Attend production meetings to understand the Director’s vision, how the designers relate their ideas in order to actualize that vision effectively

3. Create rehearsal schedule taking into account actors’, director’s, and designers’ availability, time needed per scene, for costumes, and for fight choreography.

4. Attend all rehearsals and keep up to date with actors’ needs throughout the process.  Make changes to rehearsal schedule as necessary.

5. Ensure rehearsal space is ready to go each night – with set pieces, props, and keep tabs on actors’ attendance!

5. Keep Director and actors focused on particular scenes during rehearsals, organize props with Property Master (who, in this case also held the role of Producer and Assistant Stage Manager!)

6. Maintain an organized Prompt book with blocking notes, scene transition designs, and props lists.

7. Assist with set building, painting, collecting props, moving all items to the performance venue.

8. Ask lots of questions as to what the heck I’m doing! 

Production:

1.Assist with technical set up, running lighting and sound cues; organize backstage and green room space for actors to move in.

2. Organize pre show schedule: Actor warm ups, tech and props check, clean and stage set up.

3. Coordinate with Assistant Stage Managers to ensure a smooth run backstage and with Front of House crews to ensure a smooth run in the house!

4. Account for safe use of all props and set pieces during the run.

5. Call all cues for the show (and in this case, run the lighting board, too!)

6. Clean up space each night to prepare for next performances

7. Attempt to maintain the Director’s integrity of the show!

8. Ask lots of questions as to what the heck I’m doing! 

Post-Production:

  1. Strike the set with members of the cast and crew: Clean out stage, backstage, and green room areas with company
  2. Celebrate the end of a great run!
  3. Return all materials to theatre’s warehouse space
  4. Attend a post-mortem meeting with Director and production team to discuss effective strategies and new ideas to use in future.
  5. Ask lots of questions as to what the heck I did! 

Overall, this was an incredible experience. From being in the front row of rehearsals to watch the artistic side develop through actor work, to sweeping and mopping the stage on a nightly basis, I was proud to be part of such a production with incredible people.  I learned some new skills on the technical side of shows and got to see how much dedication is required to pull something like this off with no injuries to actors, audience members, or set pieces (other than a falling tree, we were successful in that!).

I can’t wait to jump in the Stage Managing seat again, armed with new strategies to try.

All those nights in the booth did make me wonder when I will get my butt back on the stage, however.  So, we shall see what 2016 brings.

A Letter to my First-Year Students

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot about my first year of teaching, my students who I got to know over the year, and the careful alterations in approach and in material that I made each quadmester.  I learned more about myself as a teacher and the needs of the people sitting inside my classroom.  This letter is to you, the 200-ish students I was privileged to meet and work with last year. 

To my Students in my First Year of “Official” teaching,

I call last year my first “official” year of teaching because everyone that you talk to about teaching overseas or in private schools never seems to calculate that experience as “real” teaching.  I have no idea why, as most of the people who say things ask, “when are you going to become a real teacher?” have usually never stepped foot in a classroom or worked in a position of responsibility with “learners.”

Anyway, before the new year unfolds, I just wanted to say thank you for all that you did for me last year.  I was lucky enough to hear a lot of “Thank yous” from many of you at the end of our classes together and I appreciated every one of them. At the same time, I owe you thanks as well.  You made me want to walk in to my classroom each day pushing to be the best teacher I could be.  You pushed me to look carefully at the best strategies that would benefit each of your learning needs.  You required me to reflect on my lessons at the end of each day to discover what I could change for future students to make my approach more effective and engaging.  I am so grateful for that.

You also taught me so much about being on a team.  In our classes, we were on a team together.  Sometimes I stood at the front of the class; sometimes you did.  Sometimes I sat shoulder to shoulder with you as I watched you interact in group discussions; sometimes you sat back and listened to your peers, taking in their perspectives and preparing your own responses.  I truly wanted to make sure everyone on our team was where they wanted to be, and you were truly missed if you were absent.  The team wasn’t complete without each of you.  I will never forget that.

Even more, you opened my eyes up to so many different cultures and life experiences.  I greeted each class with excitement to introduce my lesson and have you take it to your own level and see it through your perspective.  You respectfully shared personal stories and beliefs (and sometimes food!) from amazing places around the globe and you welcomed me to be a part of your life.  Coming back to school as an adult can be daunting, but you took the challenge and made studying part of your already busy life.   I have incredible admiration for that.

For some of you, I got to work with you in more than one term. We got to grow together, both of us learning new things as we went.  You took on the challenges I brought to you, and I accepted the ones that you brought into class with you.  Together, we created a system that worked.  From part-time jobs to family commitments, from health issues to stressful schedules, you did your best.   I respect that.

So, thank you for being my student: thank you for not giving up; thank you for taking risks; and thank you for opening your minds.

Thank you for being MY teacher:  thank you for teaching me not to give up; thank you for teaching me to take risks; and thank you for opening my mind.

I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

 

Student to Teacher Part 2: Entering OISE

With only two weeks left of my program, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the different aspects of my year in Teacher’s College – a program that people gaze upon with MANY different viewpoints.

Remembering back to September, it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago and other times like yesterday.  My cohort, my wonderful SP6 family as it came to be, entered our classes with a sense of curiosity and openness.  I enjoyed the format of the program, where we had a “homeroom” group that shared eight hours a week together with a mix of different subject expertise and life experience.  I found that this brought a surprising amount of richness to our program.  On a weekly basis, we met together in our “Teacher Education Seminar” and in “School & Society.”

In addition to the readings and the discussions, these classes opened my mind with a new way to teaching.  The behind-the-scenes policies and the current and relevant “pedagogy” and “discourse” (words I’ve never heard so much in my life as I did this year) lured me in to the academic side of a world I thought I was familiar with.  Even so, as we laughed through the requests for personal “reflections,” all the work we did was quite relevant to making me a better teacher.  Every class introduced something I hadn’t quite thought about before.  As I studied more closely with my colleagues, I got to know them through the perspective of their experiences and I got to learn a little about my own developing teaching philosophy.

My Curriculum and Instruction classes for English and Drama were also fantastic!  I had incredibly passionate instructors, and their energy was infectious.  I had a good balance between policy, lesson structure, curriculum guidance and practical suggestions for the classroom.  Strategies were often modelled for us so we could truly see what students feel when they are in our classrooms.  Before my first practicum, I often referred back to my teaching experience abroad and in Toronto in discussion about the concepts we were covering.  It made me wonder a few things:

How can someone complete a Bachelor of Education coming straight from their undergraduate degree?  I met some amazing people who were doing just that!  But I wondered what the general assumption was.  Were they too young to be stepping into a teaching setting- often with students only five years younger than them?  Should it be mandatory that you need some real world experience between an undergrad and a B. Ed simply in order to gain new perspectives and consolidate your desire to be a teacher?

The Studious One

Too often I have heard the phrase, ” I didn’t know what to do, so I went to Teacher’s College.”  That phrase makes me cringe.  There are so many fields out there. So many tiny niches of interesting work that perhaps would be better suited for some.  But no, they decided to be teachers because that don’t know or have the courage to explore or that they have been surrounded by teachers for so long that they see it as a good profession.  On the other hand, there are people out there that have known they wanted to be in a classroom from their very first day of school.  Like me, who “played” school with teddy bears and unwilling siblings, perhaps some people jumped into the program straight from undergrad because they had a passion to be a teacher and couldn’t wait to get started.

I still don’t know where I stand on this issue.  My bias is evident, as I was one of those people who jumped on an airplane after my four years of study to go and explore.  I am forever grateful for that experience, and I know I walked into OISE at the beginning of the year with those adventures plastered all over me.  I was happy to share them and basked in the stories of colleagues who had had similar experiences.  We quickly bonded as a cohort and supported each other.  It was a great community to build new relationships with a shared bond in a love for education.  Still, I wondered, how scared were those who had never stepped foot in a classroom before as an instructor?  I still        wonder.  Is there a right and wrong answer?  Probably not.

Finally, after two months of trying to cram in as much as our instructors could to prepare us, we were released for our first Practicum.  Mine, with an ESL department in a downtown Toronto high school.  I couldn’t wait!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Szoki Adams

Awards

Kristin’s Backpack won 1st Prize for TESL Ontario’s 2011 ESL Week Blog Contest.
About Me


Welcome to Kristin’s Backpack! I jumped on the blogging bandwagon in 2010 to share my Canadian-theatrical-backpacking perspective on my world adventures. With my return to Canada, I will continue to dig into my pockets and reflect on life as it has come to involve Teaching, Travel, and Theatre. Time to unzip the pockets!
Portfolios
Check out my past and current work here: 

Kristin's Library
Looking for some interesting reading material? Check out my Reading Picks and Bookworm post for some ideas! 

               
This is what summer is all about- finished a book yesterday and am on to the next today.  I just opened The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, which has been on my shelf for ages.  I have been extremely interested in reading accounts that stem from true stories in a dark history that is often swept to the side.  
At the same time, I have been listening to The Maze Runner series as an audio book and have been extremely captivated by the young characters’ circumstances and their view on the world.  
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