Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lots of Paperwork…and cheese…

by Bruce Miller, Company Manager

For a place with so many creative, free-wheeling personalities, a theater seems to have a lot of managers.  Those of you who’ve been following the Playhouse blog know all about the importance of a Stage Manager.  The SM oversees the world behind the curtain.  A theater’s House Manager supervises everything in front of the stage; the auditorium (or house), the lobby, ushers, concessionaires and the like.  You might wonder what would be left for me to do as Company Manager.  Once a group of actors have been cast for a show, that troupe or company requires contracts.  The actors are all members of Actors’ Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers, so Ammie Brown, the associate director of production, produces each contract within their guidelines.   Every contract has a rider that delineates the actor’s housing, travel, billing and any special arrangements that might be necessary because of their role.  An actor, for instance, might have extra duties as the dance captain for a musical or be the fight captain. 

This is where I finally come in.  I am, for all intents and purposes, the concierge for the cast.

I assemble a welcome packet for each cast member. The packet includes a list of all events associated with their production (Opening Night, Symposium, Talk Back, etc.), driving directions, ticket request forms, and a history of the Playhouse.  Since most actors are commuters, I’ll include a travel & stay calendar showing which trains they’ll take, which tickets they’ll need to buy, and when and where they’ll be staying overnight for tech rehearsals. 

An actor who has to travel great distances might choose to live near the Playhouse.  I’ll work our list of contacts to find suitable housing.  Local transportation might be covered by borrowing a car or, in some cases, a bicycle. I’ve also developed a list of shopping and dining opportunities plus a book of menus for local restaurants and delis.  I might even arrange a short term gym membership or find an acupuncturist.  The most important part of my job is making an actor feel at ease with nothing to worry about except his role in the play.

The first day of rehearsal usually takes place in Westport but The Circle began rehearsal in New York instead.  The day is all about the director and cast meeting and defining the artistic direction they’ll be taking together.  But before the design presentations and the reading of the script, it’s paperwork and lots of it.  Along with their welcome packets, Ammie and I make sure contracts and riders are signed (5 copies each!), tax paperwork is filled out, emergency and dietary restriction forms are up to date, passports are copied…plus all those W-4, W-9, CTW-4, I-9, 401K, and EMC forms...more pages than a one act play!

Once the paperwork is out of the way, I can be a fly on the wall for the rest of the day and marvel at how a group of strangers can pick up a script and start bringing it to life.

And the cheese?  Actually, that comes later…

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