Dear Professor Production
A Designer Dilemma
Our sound designer is one with whom the stage manager (SM) and I
have worked before, and we are not at all pleased with her performance.
She is flaky, irresponsible, selfish, and not once have
her cues been done in time for a final dress rehearsal. Our SM
went to the production manager (who is staff at the university)
and asked if there was any possible way the show could bring in
someone else to do the job. The request was denied, and we are
stuck working with her again.
My questions to you: What point
in the rehearsal process is a realistic cut-off time for changing
and adding new things (cues, costumes, props,
etc.)? Who typically sets this deadline? When
a designer just doesn't quite seem to understand
the importance of a deadline, how does one explain
that it's too late to add another sound cue
without stepping on his or her pretty little artistic
This is a very good question.
Usually, design deadlines are set and enforced
by the production manager (after consultation
with the director and production department
As an SM, I find it most beneficial
to have a "final" sound plot and tape
or CD before I leave the rehearsal hall so final
run-throughs can include some semblance of sound.
Of course, it will be different in the theatre
with the added equipment, but at least the actors
and the SM can begin to understand the timing.
Deadlines for all other production areas should
be set by the production manager as well, knowing
that there might be some changes necessary during
the technical and dress rehearsal period.
I don't know where you are
in the rehearsal process, but if you are just
beginning, perhaps you can assign an assistant
SM to check in with the sound designer on a
regular basis - two or three times a week.
S/he could work with her to keep the sound
plot updated, get tapes or CDs to feed into
rehearsal, and become her new best friend.
Invite the designer to rehearsals, seek her
responses, pull her into the fold. Make your
expectations clear about her role in the production,
and get her to agree to what you need. Maybe
treat her in a way she has never been treated
before. She is, after all, a designer and should
be working hand in glove with the Director
and the rest of the design team.
That said, theatre is an
ever-changing enterprise. We know that actors
and the director will make changes in the theatre
based on reactions to the space, set, and costumes.
And lights can certainly be quite fluid until
opening. Sound also can evolve, but certainly
major changes requiring hours in the studio
and extra rehearsal should be avoided. In a
university setting, the final word often falls
to the director. What does the director want?
Is production able to accommodate him/her within
available resources? If the sound designer is
adding cues that don't serve the play and the
director, then the cues are meaningless. We
are all involved to serve the play.
"Dear Professor Production" is
available to answer your questions. Please forward
them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Professor Production" is
available to answer your questions. Please forward any questions