What I learned in summer stock is...
So we only have a week left in the run for Murder for Two here in Auburn, NY. And let me tell you -it's a good one. These guys in the show are hilarious and it is an absolute dream getting to work with so many lovely and talented faces again from last summer (as well as some new ones). While this show is not to technically demanding, we have had to overcome quite a few challenges (including a power outage on opening night) that have come up due to the cast being onstage for the ENTIRE show. Each actor has maybe 5 seconds offstage which doesn't leave much time to fix any difficulties that arise when it comes to mics or costumes.
And since I've now experienced two power outages and two very different (but equally as awesome) summer stocks I thought I'd compile a list of tips and tricks I've gathered from my 2018 summer stock seasons. Including a few extra tips from some friends. Some are very specific and some are larger picture. So here we go:
You can use a pool noodle or (CLEAN) dust pan to fill up your mop bucket if you don't have a proper (re:deep enough) paint sink.
ALWAYS be ready for a power outage.
So if you follow me on any form of social media (if you don't I'm honestly not even sure how you found this little blog), you would know that this summer I experienced not one, but TWO power outages during a show. Here's a little about both experiences and what I learned from each:
The first power outage was at New Harmony during a PERFECTLY clear day during a performance of Nunsense. There were storms the night before so they were working on cleaning up from the storm when it happened. It only went out half-way so we continued the performance in emergency lights and work lights. Eventually it went out all the way and we got the actors offstage and made sure they were comfortable before helping with front of house. This power outage lasted a while but eventually it kicked back on and we finished the show.
Always have STRONG flashlights
Always have a CHARGED phone on you and necessary phone numbers already in your phone-headsets were down so this was how I got in contact with my PSM. It is also super useful having all of crew's numbers in my phone and not having to try and look them up quickly in an emergency.
The small things matter. When the power goes out, the AC goes out. Offering cold washcloths to the cast goes a long way.
For my second power outage of the summer I was ready. Or more ready than the first one. It was a dark and stormy opening night (#YayHamlet) and I sent a text to my PSM (honestly an epic moment of reading each other's mind) since we had never officially talked about a plan. Moments later, the power went out. Marisa (the SM intern) and I each went out with our flashlights, grabbed the actor closest to us and promptly escorted them offstage. While the power had already turned back on by the time we got offstage, we had to make sure all things were working on the technical side before we started back up again. So we made sure the cast got water, was comfortable, and got to use the restroom (a luxury in this normally straight 90 minute show) while we waited. I turned the AC's back on because they didn't automatically kick back in when the power turned back on.
Talk about a plan before hand as much as possible.
Be ready, be safe, be efficient. We made reviews with how fast we got the actors offstage. You want to be safe but don't let the actors be stranded for any longer than they have to be.
See people outside of the company. Or if you do see people within the company, realize everyone's going to know your business before you do.
Honestly seeing someone outside of the company is beautiful. People have an idea of what's going on, but they don't really care enough to ask for more information. Start seeing someone within the company and suddenly everyone is your new bff asking for deets. And unfortunately (from my experience) they tend to only ask the ladies about it and the guys just get to blow it off. But know YOU DON'T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING. It's summer stock and everyone is itching for gossip and drama because there isn't a lot to do in these small summer stock towns. Live your life and be happy.
Negative energy attracts negative energy.
My friends Ashleigh and Colin always say, "Praise the positive." Which I love and adore and think it should always be applied in summer stock and theatre. Theatre can get stressful and it can be so easy to focus on everything that is going wrong or isn't perfect. But instead of focusing on that, focus on what's going right. Look at all the incredible things that have been done and compliment it. It can be so easy to feed into the negative energy/gossip and it can become toxic. So help out and be a positive light in stressful times. Trust me when I say everyone will appreciate it and feed off your happy energy and vibes.
PS. My friend Ashleigh has also started a blog so check it out by clicking on the photo of us on the left (stage right)!
Also Colin has started a website/FB Page for his magic so be sure to go give that some love by clicking the photo below!
Actors are people too. (And really awesome ones at that)
As I've started my professional career, I've had the opportunity to work with a slew of incredible actors who each come with very impressive resumes. And while I normally tend to be the biggest fangirl, I've realized you can be impressed with someone's resume and respect their work without being weird about it. This includes designers/directors/everyone you work with. We all wake up and put our pants on one leg at a time, so don't let peoples resumes intimidate you. Also I've met some of the chillest actors who I now consider close friends which probably wouldn't have happened if I was being a fangirl. So be normal friends.
Erasable colored pens are one of the greatest things on planet Earth.
So I was introduced to these at New Harmony as a way to do line notes. You start doing them in red the first day and then the next day you do them in blue. This way you don't have to re-take the same notes every day (because chances are they mess up the same lines 90 percent of the time). This also makes it SO much easier when you go to type them because you can just copy and paste any of the red notes because you know you already typed them yesterday.
(This was difficult to explain so please let me know if you have any questions)
I also used these as a way to do script /production analysis for Murder for Two. I went in with one color and underlined all of the characters (as one actor plays 13 characters). I used another color for any potential lighting/sound cues. Another color for props and another color for potential costume pieces. This made it way easier when I went back through the script for paperwork to pick out the needed information. Had I chosen to stick with this script, I could have also gone back in and erased said notes, but alas I printed a new one for bigger margins.
Regardless, those pens are DOPE.
A few extra tips from some friends:
Always pack 1 night of necessities in your carry on.
If your summer company status makes it so you’re officially an educational faculty member, use that discount on software! Adobe Acrobat Pro is awesome. Used it today to sign and return a contract without ever printing, used it a lot this summer to clean up scripts.
Always bring a mattress topper. Your back will thank you!
Befriend company management.
For first timers: Don't feel like you have something to prove. It makes you seem arrogant also desperate. Be confident but grounded. You have a lot to learn and they knew that when they hired you so work hard and admit when you don't know something because it's an opportunity to grow.
So there it is friends. Some of the most helpful tips I (as well as some friends) learned this summer. Hope everyone is having a fantastic time wrapping up their summer stocks/ starting school/ etc. ! Here's to one more week of shows 💜
Much love always,