There is a wide range of off stage opportunities in MUGSS, and the crew is actively involved in preparation for the show all year. Since we build most of our sets ourselves, and make the majority of props and costumes there is always work to do. The crew are also heavily involved with the social side of the society. They've been known to rig pretty impressive parties, and put up a good performance for the annual 'Cast vs Crew vs Old Soaks' drinking challenge (even beating the well-trained staff at Copper Face Jack's last year). This isn't surprising, since they spend most of the cast's rehearsal time in the bar. They are also the proud owners of all the in-jokes in the world – just ask one of them about 'GUST'...
If you're interested in any of these posts, please contact our current Production Manager via email@example.com. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, he'll be glad to hear from you. The vast majority of these jobs require no previous experience; if you fancy having a go at any of them, feel free to get in touch.
These are the jobs as they are arranged in the MUGSS crew. Some of these definitions may seem a little strange to people who have worked in other theatres or with other companies, but hopefully not too strange. Anyway, they work for us...
Production Manager (PM):
In brief, the PM is responsible for making sure there is a show to put on. Everything that isn't directly the responsibility of the Director, the MD, or the committee comes within the jurisdiction of the Production Manager. By far the biggest part of that job is managing the crew. The PM appoints the various other positions within the crew, and together with those people is responsible for organising whoever's left. The PM should ensure that everything is going to plan, and should act as the liaison between different parts of the crew, and indeed between the crew and the rest of the society. The PM should be able to understand each of the different technical areas of the show, but should always be a step back and should not get caught up in doing everything him/herself.
The PM is also responsible for
- budgeting the technical side of the show.
- Representing the crew (eg. at committee meetings)
- Working closely with the Director and MD to make sure that the show as produced is as close as possible to their conception of it.
- Anything that everybody else forgets to do.
Basically the Technical Manager is there to take some of the technical problems off the Production Manager. The PM does not need to know every last detail of every problem, but it is nice to know that somebody does. The Technical Manager works with each of the various backstage departments to help and give advice on any problems that they may have, and keeps the PM informed as to how much progress is being made and what problems there are. S/he should also provide guidance for the less technically experienced members of the crew.
The Arch Manager is responsible for keeping the arch (where we store and build most of our set) in a condition fit for set-building, as well as keeping tabs on what set, equipment and building materials we have stored there. Most of the time this job will involve making sure the arch gets tidied up after set-building (dragging the rest of the crew out of the pub if necessary), and keeping a list of what we've got and where it is. The arch occasionally needs some maintenance work, particularly on our newly pseudo-waterproofed roof, and the arch manager is also responsible for organising the rest of the crew into carrying out this work.
Set Designer & Construction Manager:
Essentially there are two jobs here but they could be done by one person if they wanted to.
Set Designer – Produces detailed drawings of the set including measurements, materials and methods of construction. Responsible for making the Director's 'vision' become a possibility, and making sure the set can be built on stage as quickly as possible. The job of set designer is one of the first to be decided, as MUGSS sets are not noted for their simplicity.
Set Manager – Responsible for turning the set designs into a physical reality. Buys materials (including screws!) and arranges and oversees the building of the set. Should get stuck in to building the set and should be at as many set construction days as possible. Responsible, with the stage manager, for the set part of the get in.
The two above jobs have joint responsibility for the following:
Although both these jobs can get quite involved at times (particularly nearing show week), the buzz you get from seeing 5 tons of set that you designed, or you managed is fantastic.
- Cost: Budgeting the set (with the PM), and managing the actual cost of the set. These are two amounts of money which never seem to bear much relation to each other. I want to fix that.
- Get-in: The set should be designed and built with this in mind so as to make the construction of the set on-stage as quick and efficient as possible. I can dream, can't I...Cost: Budgeting the set (with the PM), and managing the actual cost of the set. These are two amounts of money which never seem to bear much relation to each other. I want to fix that.
Costume Designer & Construction Manager:
Again, there are essentially two jobs here, but one suitably inclined person could do them both.
The Costume Designer is responsible for taking the director's vague costume ideas ('I want the female chorus to be pretty'), and creating designs and costings that can be turned into real clothes. As MUGSS' costume budget is not renowned for being bountiful, the ability to work miracles with sacking and steel strapping is helpful. This is another one of the earliest appointed jobs, because costume construction always takes longer than everybody thinks.
The Costume Construction Manager takes the designs made by the Costume Designer, and organises the crew to make sure they get made. This job involves the purchase of materials, the begging/borrowing/stealing of equipment, and constant arguing with the more chauvinistic members of the crew that sewing machines really are power tools. Costume Construction takes place from late November onwards, and often members of the cast who don't fancy building set in the freezing cold come along to help out on Saturdays.
Stage Manager (SM):
One of the biggies, this. Once the tech rehearsal starts, the show belongs to the SM. During the tech, the director will still be involved but can be overruled by the SM or PM. Once we start the show itself, the SM is not just God, but Mr God to you sonny. Nobody, including the Director, is above the SM in terms of getting the show on the road, except maybe the PM – and a good SM wil a) not need the PM to overrule and b) will not let them.
The responsibilities of the SM are:
So, why would you want to do this job? Like everything else in the crew, it's fun if you do it well. It's a really good taste of responsibility and a test of your ability to lead a team. (Believe me this stuff looks fantastic on a CV or in an interview. How the hell do you think ex-MUGSS people get jobs?) If you do it properly you'll be amazed how grateful people will be – it makes everyone else's jobs a lot easier if someone's organising the big picture side of things. On top of that, you'll get to know the cast a lot better than most of the crew do, because you'll be at rehearsals and dealing with them quite a lot.
- Rehearsals: the SM should attend at least one (blocking) rehearsal a week so that they know the show backwards. It also gives us a '(wo)man on the spot' to put forward salient technical points such as 'You can't stand there, you're halfway through a wall.' Also, the director will occasionally ask for advice on certain aspects of the tech side. For this reason, the SM should also know the set design fairly well.
- Managing the stage crew: There will be a team of grunts for lifting and shifting. The SM should organise these dimwitted types so that they stop skulking in the shadows and actually do something, at the right time and in the right place. Really, this involves making sure that everybody knows where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing during the show. The ASM's are largely involved in this too.
- The tech rehearsal: On the Sunday afternoon of the get-in we have our tech rehearsal. Like everything else in theatre a well run tech is stressful but fun – a badly run tech is a disaster. The SM's job is to coordinate the running of the tech with the director, LX and DSM. These three will all have their own agendas and jobs to be getting on with – the SM must ensure that each of them gets what they want done, and keep the pressure off them. This means not being afraid to shout at the chorus to make them go, stop, move, breathe, etc. They'll grumble and give you dirty looks and bitch about you at the AGM, but if you do it properly you get a well-run tech and that makes the whole show a lot easier and better. The SM must also be able to stand up to the director – this is nothing personal, but directors always try and slip in a bit of extra blocking/dancing rehearsals during the tech. It's just not the time to do it, and the SM has to be able to say no.
- The dress rehearsal: Similar to the tech, but a full run through, with more leeway given to the director and MD. The SM must ensure that the crew is fully prepared for what they must do.
- The show: If everything has gone right, the SM shouldn't have a huge amount to do now apart from coordinating with front-of-house. However, they need to be 'on the spot' in case things go wrong. For example, Eliot's 'knawing through power cables with his teeth' moment two years ago when we managed to attach a seriously large piece of metal to the stage momentarily in the middle of Act 1.
Deputy Stage Manager (DSM):
The Deputy Stage Manager has the following responsibilities:
That's what the DSM does. It sounds like a big job, but it really doesn't take much time. Before show week, there's really not that much to do, but the show is very stressful. However, you also get a great buzz of feeling like God – all your mates have to do what you say (Mike made Jonesy lie in a puddle when he did it). It's the job in the crew where you're most actively involved in the show while it runs. I guarantee you will be crapping yourself on the opening night just before the curtain goes up, but once the curtain's down at the end of the night you'll be well chuffed.
- Cueing the show: The DSM has a full libretto, with all the sound, lighting, scenery changes, everything marked in it. They are responsible for following the action on stage and cueing the various parts of the crew when they need to take action. This person is a minor deity – if you are in the crew and you have something to do, you do not do it until you hear the DSM say the word 'Go.' Once the show is running, it's their show.
- Maintaining crew communication during the show: The DSM is usually in the lighting box or somewhere else where they can see the stage. They will be on cans (like a radio headset), and will be in contact with all the important people in the crew – most importantly, the lighting operator and the two ASM's. The DSM is in charge here – there's a lot of chatter goes on on the cans during a show, which is fine, but if the DSM tells you to shut up, you shut up. It's usually because there's an important moment coming up and they need quiet.
- Knowing the show: Seems obvious really. The DSM has to cue the show, so it's a good idea if they know what it looks like beforehand. This means attending rehearsals occasionally (ugh).
- The book: The DSM puts together the definitive version of what goes on during the show. This should be done before the get in. What's in the DSM's book is what goes – If the DSM is God, the book is the Ten Commandments.
- The Tech rehearsal: The Tech is our rehearsal. The director will try to hijack it, but we can lock him up somewhere I guess. The DSM and the SM together should come up with a plan (or God forbid, even a timetable) for the Tech rehearsal. This involves writing a list of every cue that the DSM wants to practice, where they come in the show, and who's required for each. Again, this should be done before the get-in.
Assistant Stage Managers (ASMs):
There are usually two ASMs. The junior members of the stage management team, they are there to assist the SM in his/her duties. The SM may well delegate particular functions to each – for example, it is quite common for one ASM to be given the job of making sure that all props are where they should be for each performance. The ASMs are there to help ensure that anything and everything goes smoothly. During show week, they will probably be on cans on either side of the stage just to make sure that there is someone there for communication purposes.
This is one of the less demanding positions within the crew, and is a good place to start if you have no previous experience and want to get a taste of what running a show is like.
Lighting Designer & Chief Electrician:
These positions may or may not be the same person. Briefly, the Lighting Designer is responsible for working out how the lights will look during the show. The main responsibilities of the job are:
The Chief Electrician is responsible for:
- To discuss and agree wth the director the general 'feel' of the show. Does s/he want it moody and mean or bright and in your face, for example. This includes discussing any special reuirements for specific scenes, e.g. perhaps they want a strobe to suggest a explosion, or they want lots of red to suggest a particular mood in one scene. It is probably a good idea for the lighting designer to attend some rehearsals, and listen to/watch the show to get some ideas of what they would like to do.
- After this, the designer should come up with a detailed proposal of how each scene will be lit. This includes types of lights, colours and direction of lighting. Also, any important lighting changes should be noted – for example, are there any lighting states where it is essential that they are timed to a piece of music. This proposal should be discussed with the Chief Electrician. In conjunction with the Chief Electrician, the proposal needs to be costed and presented to the Production Manager.
- Nearer the show itself, a lighting plot should be drawn up with the Chief Electrician. This is a technical document that details exactly what each lantern will be, what colour it will be, where it will be rigged and where it will be focused. This allows the Chief Electrician to implement the Lighting Designer's vision come the get-in. At the same time, the Lighting designer should work with the DSM (Deputy Stage Manger) to decide upon the Lighting cues in the book. i.e. exactly when each lighting change is in the show. This allows the DSM to plan the tech rehearsal properly.
- With the Chief Electrician, the Lighting designer should focus and plot the lights during the get-in. Focusing means making sure that each lantern is pointing where it should point, and giving the light beam the correct shape and focus (ie. hard or soft edges). Plotting the lights means programming the Lighting desk so that it knows which lanterns to turn on at which intensity for each Lighting state. It is likely that some of the focusing and cues may change during the get-in but if things have been planned well the changes should be manageable.
- The tech rehearsal: Although the SM and DSM run this, the Lighting designer should watch it and make notes on any changes they wish to make. The same goes for the dress rehearsal.
- Show week: Sit back, relax and watch all the pretty lights do what you told them to do.
- working with the Lighting Designer to come up with a manageable and affordable lighting plan.
- implementing that lighting plan: The Chief Electrician is responsible for making sure that the lights the Lighting Designer wants are where s/he wants them, are the right colour and are plotted correctly. This basically involves hiring the right lights, arranging for an appropriate LX desk, and organising the Lighting crew to rig and focus all the lights. Like most crew jobs, a good Chief Electrician will organise their Lighting crew to best effect rather than doing everything themselves.
The main responsibilities of the job are:
Designing, setting up and mixing a sound rig for the Orchestra so that
they can be quietened or loudened as appropriate to compliment the
Sourcing any sound effects that the director should wish for.
This job is not very complicated really – the director/PM gives you a big list of props, and you have to go find them from somewhere. In previous years, it's been difficult finding somebody to manage Props, so the crew at large has had to scour Manchester with a long list looking for items from an Arquebus to a headsman's block.
The Make-up Artist is responsible for organising the purchase of
make-up for all cast under the instruction of the Director and
organising the application of make-up for all cast before and during
Front of House Manager:
Perhaps not strictly crew, but this is the easiest place to put the information.... The FOH Manager is responsible for organising the 'Friendly Face' of the society to our audience. He/She will arrange Ice Creams / Sweets / Drinks to sell to the audience, sort out the display of how wonderful we are for the theatre foyer and make sure that he/she has a band of presentable, helpful ushers to make sure the audience sits down quickly and that they all buy a programme.
Anybody who's not managed to acquire themselves one of the above jobs gets landed with the lovely title of 'Grunt.' This basically involves doing anything and everything. Set building, rigging lights, pushing bits of scenery around, sewing costumes – you name it, they do it. They're just sort of general purpose people. Like everyone else in the crew, they wear black ALL the time, eat LOTS of pizza and take a strange and worrying delight in using power tools. Never EVER ask them what the Pig Joke is. You'll regret it. I promise.