SMA News and Events Diary

The AK Bennett-Hunter Award for Backstage Journalism

Established in memory of SMA Member and former stage manager Ken Bennett-Hunter, the AK Bennett-Hunter Award for Backstage Journalism will help meet the need for more journalists specialising in back stage and technical theatre.

The Award is a partnership between The Stage, the Association of British

Theatre Technicians, Stage Management Association, Skillscene, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

The Award consists of £2,000 of financial support, a year of mentoring from

established journalists and expert backstage practitioners, behind the scenes

access, introductions and networking opportunities, and publication in The Stage (for a fee of £500 in total), UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre websites, ABTT’s Sightline and the SMA’s Cueline magazine and website.

Ken was an advocate and passionate champion of the issues and developments affecting theatre technicians, stage managers, designers and theatre

managers.  He was an influential, knowledgeable and engaging journalist whose work brought the technical, back and off-stage elements of theatre to centre stage.

Ken Bennett-Hunter was editor of The Stage’s Backstage section and edited The Stage’s Working Backstage series of career guides. He was editor of the ABTT’s Sightline, and was a regular contributor to SMA magazine Cueline, and to UK Theatre publications, throughout his career. Sightline, and was a regular contributor to SMA magazine Cueline, and to UK Theatre publications, throughout his career.

The AK Bennett-Hunter Award for Backstage Journalism is open to all.

The Award may be presented to an established writer looking to develop their technical theatre knowledge, or for someone working in the off-stage world to develop their writing ability.

How to apply: Applicants are asked to submit a piece of writing, a covering letter and a CV. The piece of writing can either be a 500-word opinion piece or 1000-word feature about backstage and technical theatre. 

Applications should be sent to The Stage’s features editor Nick Clark, nick@thestage.co.uk

Apply Now! Deadline for applications: 30 November 2017

 

 

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 EQUITY/ITC AGREEMENT

24 April 2017

Equity celebrates the improved conditions recently negotiated with the Independent Theatre Council. The new deal will benefit performers and stage managers working for ITC Ethical Managers in independent theatre. The terms of the agreement were approved by Equity’s Stage Committee on Tuesday 18th April and are already in effect.

The new basic rate of pay is £458 per week, up from £447.50 in 2016/17. All additional payments, touring allowances and creative team fees have increased by the same percentage.

Equity allowed no reduction of terms during the negotiations. Equity members will continue to benefit from decent holiday, overtime, hours of work, touring and sickness provisions.

In a move welcomed by Equity’s Stage Management section, a new cap on overtime was established to tackle the problem of unmanageable Stage Management hours. Under the new agreement, the aggregating of overtime is now capped at 57 hours per week.

The Equity/ITC agreement sets the industry standard for terms and conditions in funding applications, and Equity is calling on Arts Council funded companies to respect industry standards.

Emmanuel de Lange, Equity’s Independent Theatre Organiser, said:

“Equity members value the work opportunities and creative contribution of the Independent Theatre sector, which we know has been suffering from the cuts to government arts funding.

We wanted this pay deal to maintain fair pay for Equity members, respecting the rights they have as workers, without damaging funded companies. We feel this settlement gets the balance right.

We now want to see more companies signing up to use this agreement, and call on all Independent Theatre employers to sign up to use it.

Equity’s Stage Management Committee welcomes the new overtime cap, which will help tackle the excessive hours culture affecting our members. Not only will it mean extra pay where long hours are unavoidable, but we also hope that it will act as a deterrent to unreasonable scheduling.”

Milo Twomey, Actor, Equity Stage Committee, said:

“The negotiations weren’t easy, as we all know the impact funding cuts have on this sector, but I am pleased we have reached a fair deal for both sides.

There are still problems to be tackled though – too many heavily funded companies still don’t use Equity contracts, undercutting their competitors and damaging the sector. Taxpayers money comes with responsibilities attached, so we want to see all funded companies using Equity contracts.”

Equity members can view details on the new ITC rate card.


Employing a Stage Manager?

SMA, with Skillscene have developed new guidelines giving employers advice and help when employing an SM, with tips, links to advice, and guidance on best practice.  We like to believe that there are not many bad employers out there, but quite a few who need some guidance and help about what SMs do and can do for their shows.

We hope that this document will be helpful.

PDF   SMA: How to employ a stagemanager

Please contact SMA for more information

Also available to accompany the SMA guideline is the Equity SM Committeee's excellent Buyout Guide 


SMA AGM 2016

Our AGM this year was held at the lovely Matcham theatre —now a vibrant local London venue - Hackney Empire, on Thursday 18 August at 2PM.   

The AGM was followed by an excellent tour of the theatre and backstage led by Producer Clive Chenery, and networking social

  View the 2016 AGM Agenda              View the Proposed changes to rules for applicants.            View the 2016 Annual Report              View the Minutes of the AGM 2016


What’s worrying you?

Your mental health is really important. If you have any worries about it then don't be afraid to talk, ask or seek help. The ArtsMinds information hub is here to help you find sources of support.  We all know that Life can be the hardest act of all.  Artsminds is here to support performers and creative  practictioners in need.

www.artsminds.co.uk

ArtsMinds is a collaborative project between Equity, BAPAM (British Association of Performing Arts Medicine), Spotlight and the Stage.  It offers sources of support for people in our industries who are facing mental health challenges.  It came out of a piece of research undertook across various members and networks and the results of the survey have formed the basis for the content of the new site.


I imagine that there is scant sympathy in our ranks for the political Brexiteers who woke up last Friday morning to the dawning realisation that they were now expected to know what to do next;  “how would it be” we may be thinking “if we persuaded everyone to start a tech rehearsal a day early and then revealed that we had no idea whether we were ready or even up to the job”?  

Brexit: Uncertain times?

As you read this today (28th June) England have been unceremoniously ejected from Euro 2016 (unsurprising) by uber-minnows Iceland, and Britain has voted to face an uncertain future outside the European Union (very surprising); the latter at least, at a guess, most SMA members and theatre people did not want or see coming.  So what does this mean for us?  Well, firstly I suggest we all become rugby fans- England have just demolished the Wallabies in their three match test down under- a one in 30+ years event.  Secondly let’s not panic!  As many have predicted we are now heading for a period of uncertainty in commercial and financial markets (and this does affect us in the longer term, even if we have but a modest Equity pension) but it was predicted, and markets and sentiment may well recover quite quickly IF someone in parliament comes up with a PLAN.  Let’s face it, stage managers are planners.  Many of us plan our work schedules (and even our social schedules) in great detail; given the hours we work and deadlines face, we have to.  I imagine therefore that there is scant sympathy in our ranks for the political Brexiteers who woke up last Friday morning to the dawning realisation that they were now expected to know what to do next;  “how would it be” we may be thinking “if we persuaded everyone to start a tech rehearsal a day early and then revealed that we had no idea whether we were ready or up to the job”?   Unforgivable?  I think so.  Boris Johnson and his many colleagues have a lot of explaining and work to do quickly before they can look most stage managers in the eye again.  (Is this not the same Boris Johnson who a year ago was trumpeting London as the European capital of finance arts and media?).

So where does this leave us and why not panic?  Well, firstly, because it is becoming abundantly clear that nothing will happen quickly.  The UK is still a vibrant home of world class theatre and arts and media and this will not change- at least for a long while, if ever.  Our work is in demand, our shows tour across Europe and the world, and for as long as possible we need to continue to support excellent theatre and live events.  Speaking to one member yesterday who glumly told me that she has been offered a European Tour and wondered if she should turn it down, my answer was to take it and do a great job - demonstrating that in theatre and live events at least, we are still Europeans as well as Brits.  After all, we were touring to Europe in the early 70’s when this european adventure started for us, and we will be touring to Europe in the 2020’s when it may well have ended – at least for England. 

At this point I should offer a word of support for our Scottish, and Northern Irish members, who may well still have a future in the EU;  if so we will have the starkest measure possible of the success or failure of what may turn out to be England’s ‘folie de grandeur’ and hubris (and a group of current politicians could be facing a legacy of breaking up both the EU as we now know it and the British Union, not bad for what appear to be a set of unintended consequences).

Here in SMA we are not party political, so our job now continues to be support our members and our industry in whatever climate or circumstances we find ourselves in; we will continue to shout about our world class stage and events management in UK, through our Awards, Stage Management Day our publications and in our day to day relationships with theatre colleagues.  We will endeavour to win the case for better employment conditions for many members, and for greater recognition of the value of your work, through campaigns and alliances which stress the uniqueness and value of what we do, and raise the profile of stage and live event managers.  We must also fight and campaign to protect the excellent training that we have developed in the UK for backstage professionals, and the ability of future colleagues to study arts subjects in school, which is very much under threat right now.  Most importantly, although our country may face many changes and challenges in coming years, there will also be many opportunities. We and our membership know that change and challenge is what we manage every day, and this will continue.  

As your association SMA promise to renew our support for excellence in performance demonstrated daily by our members, we also urge you to keep calm and keep planning – so that (even if no one else does) we will continue to face each day with a good idea of where it will take us.  After all, we’re SMs, it’s what we do!


New stage management MA in Scotland
Queen Margaret University in partnership with The Edinburgh Stage Management School are pleased to announce that our new Stage Management MA is open for applications for September 2016 entry.
 Please follow this link http://www.qmu.ac.uk/courses/PGCourse.cfm?c_id=291
 The course is run bywhich specialises in post-graduate vocational training and combines a well established industry focus with successful graduate employment. The MA course combines the best aspects of the vocational, practical and academic models. This MA is designed as a conversion degree and we welcome applicants from non-arts related subjects. It is suitable for both graduates who wish to add a vocational Stage Management emphasis to their first degree and those with equivalent professional qualifications or experience. It is likely to be of interest to those who studied the arts and humanities at undergraduate level or those with significant workplace experience who would like to gain a formal qualification.

Volunteers Week: 1-12 June 2016

Transferable Skills in the Jungle

SMA Member Harriet Saffin has sent us this inspiring news of her volunteering experience at the 'jungle' (refugees) camp in Calais

Many stage manages somehow manage to find wonderful ways to regularly volunteer. I have never really found a way to balance this with my freelance life style. However in a recent gap between jobs (another joy of the freelance lifestyle) someone suggested I join them on a trip to the Refugee Community Kitchen, Calais. There is a range of grass routes movements out there doing shelter building, arranging distributions, supplying thousands of hot meals and everything in between. All of this is achieved by hundreds of short term (2 -7 days) volunteers managed by a very small group of permanent volunteers. This core team have been out there for months. The skills of the average stage manger are very valuable in this situation, even if you're only there a few days. The ability to collect information fast, think on your feet, work hard, problem solve, load / unload vans and take the load off those who haven't had a break in weeks are very much appreciated. Many people tell us we have transferable skills and here is a very practical way transferring them in between jobs with no need to commit regularly. For those interested in heading over as a volunteer this is a great website to start with http://www.calaidipedia.co.uk/. Whatever you do good luck & break a leg!


Employing a Stage Manager?

SMA, with Skillscene have developed new guidelines giving employers advice and help when employing an SM, with tips, links to advice, and guidance on best practice.  We like to believe that there are not many bad employers out there, but quite a few who need some guidance and help about what SMs do and can do for their shows.

We hope that this document will be helpful.

 

PDF   SMA: How to employ a stagemanager

Please contact SMA for more information

 

Also available to accompany the SMA guideline is the Equity SM Committeee's excellent Buyout Guide 

 


Regional Reps for SMA.  Would you like to represent SMA in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, North East England, South West England, or Midlands and the North West? SMA would like to hear from people willing to become regional contacts for the Association. The voluntary role would be to coordinate social and maybe training activities in your area, and represent your region to the SMA board and vice versa.  If a candidate wished, a co-opted place on the SMA board of directors could also be a possibility. We would hope that regional reps (who might be college tutors or grads) might organise get-togethers such as theatre and backstage visits and networking drinks and suggest ways that SMA might better support members in their area.
Our first regional meeting in 2016 will be on Wednesday April 13 - 2PM at Pontio in Bangor, North Wales  Register for this meeting now

 


A Trip to the Theatre
 
For many stage management the Xmas season is the time of the year when the days blur into one, and the cleaning up and resetting between shows can seem quite relentless.  Nevertheless the excitement in the house and the rowdy audience reactions so often lift the spirits, as can the ad libs and unusual audience reactions which keep us on our toes and can make a show at this season, rather than break it. 
This Xmas I was able to see this carefully planned chaos on stage from a different perspective, taking the family to our local theatre and enjoying the reactions of young family members attending a pantomime for the very first time. 
The sheer commercialism of the modern panto is what hits the audience first.  Having shelled out an ASM’s weekly wage for the family seats, we now ran the gauntlet of merchandising (light sabres, light wheels, t- shirts, fairy wands and head gear, programmes, CD’s, plus sweets, pop corn, drinks, and sweet treats all at eye-watering prices). The excited chatter and crush of the foyer was a new experience for some, but good spirits abounded and everyone was clearly set to have a good time.  
From the first cheery and very professional welcoming front of house message from the prompt desk – just after the half in this case –we knew we were in good hands.   Clutching the pre-ordered food and drinks, booster seats (£2 a pop extra for the youngsters’ already full-priced seats) and stopping only to buy programmes and more essential light wheels, we decided to get settled into our seats and enjoy the anticipation and cheery Xmas house music whilst making a start on the sweets!
The clever decision to give early and plenty of FOH calls paid off in this case, and to the great admiration of the SM’s in the party, a large and unruly house were all in their seats and ready when a chatter-silencing clap of thunder and drum roll announced the start of the show at bang on 2PM.   
Watching the faces of children sitting with rapt attention at their first theatre show is a treat few of us forget, and as the annual ritual of hoary jokes, innuendo, unflattering references to the local towns, and cheery salutations unfolds, the adults catch each others eyes and smile as we find ourselves responding enthusiastically to the banter from the stage and swept along by brash musical numbers and familiar front cloth comedy schtick.  For the youngsters the excitement of live performance left them in awe.   Effects so familiar from the screen now coming to life and presented by real people drew them in like a spell – a timely reminder of the real power of live performance. 
The formula may be familiar but what struck me watching this extremely well presented local Xmas show was how busy a show it was, and how slickly and smoothly it was run.  This is one show in the year when a theatre’s resources are fully deployed: from pyrotechnics to flying ballet, a grid full of sets and lighting effects to assault our senses and dazzle us into suspension of disbelief, music to charm and seduce, costumes to dazzle, sound effects to scare us and the familiar girl- dressed-as-boy meets girl scenes (to confuse us?) and slapstick jokes to reassure us; this spectacular show deployed the full armoury to great effect. I was in awe at how brilliantly this complex array of tableaux and energetic performers were martialled and presented with faultless timing and well drilled choreography to keep even the most fidgety child engaged.  This is truly impressive teamwork, and I found myself wishing that more of my backstage colleagues were able to experience the fruits of their labours from out front.
 
Despite the assault on our wallets and waistlines that modern pantomime represents, it is the timeless fascination of experiencing  a brilliantly conceived and executed live entertainment show that remains in the memory. 
To all of our colleagues, all over the UK, using great skills and unique talents, time- proven techniques and clever new technological whizzbangs, whether you are on stage or behind the scenes, the SMA salutes you.  This work is important – perhaps more so than any of us realise.  So important, in fact, that we need the eyes of a child to recognise it.  
May your shows be clean and your houses full this Christmas!
 
-Andy

A new system of personal tax accounts, which will eventually replace annual tax returns, is being launched by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The system of online accounts will be similar to online banking, HMRC says.

The new accounts will allow people to see their tax details and make payments at any time of the day or year.

The roll-out for individuals is being phased in, for people currently in the self-assessment system.

All personal taxpayers will have personal accounts by April next year, as will all of the country's five million small businesses.

Two million businesses are already using the new system. Read more here.

 

A huge THANK YOU to all the Stage Managers who to help us in our work! #IVD2015              

Our members make us who we are                 

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“Variety At Night is Good for You.”

This is a fabulous big book you will want for your Christmas wish list. There are over 40 colour pages of montages of posters and over 500 pages in all so it will take you well into the New Year to read.

Nicholas Charlesworth may be known to many of us for his black and white drawings of theatres for sale as Cards and Postcards. But they say there is a book in everyone and after a rather long time this wonderful and very large book has arrived.  J.O. Blake is credited as “Author and Theatre-goer” and Nicholas Charlesworth  as “Illustrator and Compiler”. Sadly Mr Blake died twenty year ago.  This huge undertaking to write about and illustrate all 92 of the London Variety Theatres must have been more of an ambitious task than either author can have foreseen.  

“Variety” in the title should really be theatres that have been used for variety performances and these include many like say the Adelphi and Prince of Wales which I think of as West End Musical Houses. Cinemas are included too if they have been used for variety.  Sadly for instance The Leicester Square Theatre has now been demolished and is a hole in the ground. So this book is an important record of what has been changed and was once a live venue.  So, all your favourite London houses are just guaranteed to be in here.

Inevitably with such a big book of 507 pages I have only been able to dip in and out mainly looking at theatres that I know. My delight in the future will be to discover the very many that I have never seen.   The pen, ink and wash drawings are great and somehow more evocative than old photographs. The words are full of enthusiasm and information about the golden era for Variety.

I might quibble with the text for Richmond Hippodrome and the history of Edmund Kean who managed a previous theatre. I believe he collapsed onstage at Convent Garden and not Drury Lane. The story of the actor who replaced Kean is about to be revived in ”Red Velvet” at the Garrick. Ira Aldridge was the first black actor to play ‘Othello’. It made him a Star. However I am delighted that Chung Ling Soo is mentioned and almost gets the last word. That’s Magic. So in one word this book is   “Marvelous.”

- Adam Harrison

ISBN 978.0.9526076.6.3

£40 including postage

Order online from www.vaudeville-postcards.com


      SUPPORTS                       For Technical BSL Theatre Survey info scroll down
 
 

Indiegogo campaign is live!
PIPA have just launched our fundraising campaign on Indiegogo and need your support to spread the word.
Following the launch the aim is to raise enough money to continue researching the reality facing parents in our industry and find sustainable solutions.
£7000 will help PIPA take the next crucial steps:
Next 6 months:

  • Host at least 2 Open Space style meetings, one in London and at least one at a regional venue
  • Develop the partnerships we have already established and continue to build new ones
  • Develop our website to become an online resource for parents and employers.
  •  Set up as a charity so we can access funding to work on our long term goals.

Next Year:

  • Campaign for an affordable drop in creche in London's West End or Southbank
  • Lobby flagship Theatres across to the UK to provide childcare facilities
  • Ensure that pregnancy isn't a barrier to working
  • Establish 'back to work' schemes for parents 
  • Establish Best Practice and Guidelines for production companies and theatres 

PIPA say: It's a big amount to raise but there is a lot do so please help us to make this happen and give whatever you can. Every little donation is a show of huge support.
We are a small team taking on a huge project and in a small time we already have achieved more than we could have imagined. 
Please donate if you can and spread the word. Here is the link:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/parents-in-performing-arts/x/11413917#/ 

As ever, please keep an eye on our website www.pipacampaign.com for updates, talk to us on Twitter @pipainfo and join our Facebook Parents In Performing Arts group.

Cassie Raine, Anna Ehnold-Danailov, Claire Wyatt and Adam Burns
The PIPA Team


NOVEMBER 2015:  PLEASE TAKE PART IN THIS TECHNICAL BSL THEATRE SURVEY and help us to find the best ways to broaden diversity backstage
Not another survey, I can hear you say!  I know, but I promise that this one will be painless. My name is Ali Pottinger, a member of Equity, the ABTT and the SMA. I’m also a board member of the latter.  In addition I am the project manager of the Technical Theatre BSL (British Sign Language) Project, which aims to promote stage management and technical theatre as careers for deaf people.  Some of you may already have heard of the project. 
 
Please click on this link - Technical Theatre BSL Survey – and give 5 minutes of your time to complete the short survey.  This is to help us get an idea of the number of deaf people already working in this field – and to think of the best ways to broaden diversity backstage. There is a link to the project website at the top of the survey and also an email address at the end of it.  Please feel free to email us if you have any other comments.
 
I am indebted to the SMA, Equity, the ABTT and BECTU for their support with this venture.
And many thanks to you in advance for your support.
Best wishes
Ali Pottinger
Stage Manager and BSL/English Interpreter

PLASA launched and debated the SiPA goals for sustainability in our industry over the next ten years. This is a broad ranging and powerful initiative with comprehensive backing across theatre and live events (including, of course, from SMA).  Do we think that the move to freelance working backstage has gone to far, and we should move back to more stable employment? That could be a SiPA economic goal.  Worried that our workforce does not reflect the diversity of the communities we serve?  We could make solving that a SiPA social goal.  Concerned about the waste and throwaway culture our short theatre runs cultivates?  We can address that as an environmental goal. The ball is now in our court: we all need to act to find powerful goals which we can work to make happen - and as ten years is a long time they can be big goals!  Plus we have Goal 10: "the open goal":  this is the one we can all contribute to writing.   Let us know how you think we can now move forward to making things happen      Read more about SiPA


Good news! It is commonly thought that these arrangements only apply to employees, and we and fellow associations and unions suspected that this may be the case when the new arrangements were introduced. In fact a number of allowances and benefits available to workers in the UK are 'contributory' - in other words they apply to anyone paying Class 1 OR 2 NIC (which is almost all freelance stage managers). This situation applies to shared parental leave and also to Maternity Allowance which is claimed by the self-employed and is a useful extension of rights for  many members who may want to juggle the leave/childcare arrangements. Thanks to members for raising this – both SMA and Equity will be looking at it further and providing further information for members soon. In the meantime please read this very informative article  https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/overview

 

 

 


SMA's  SAFETY NOTICEBOARD DESIGN ADOPTED BY TSC

The SMA and Theatre Safety Committee are aware of the noticeboards which exist in most theatres and which vary in design, positioning and  purpose.  The intention of the Safety Noticeboard is to make safety information easily accessible to both resident and visiting staff in a clear format which will be widely recognised and understood.  The design is simple and easy to implement, (it can be printed and pasted, or projected and painted onto board, etc. from the PDF file supplied)

The safety noticeboard answers the requirement to make available copies of risk assessments and safety notices to all staff, by giving clear information about these and other safety issues and measures to be taken in one prominent place. The specific information can, of course, be adapted to local needs. We hope that theatres will welcome this initiative. The clear information about who is in charge of each activity on stage, and the safety precautions needed or in place, can be easily written or chalked up for every session and will be available for all to see before entering the stage. This will improve communication and safe working for all staff and visitors.

                       (Click each image to download a PDF design template)                             

Theatre Safety Committee Logo here

 

 


 

      Working through breaks: To change we have to engage

Be honest: how many Stage Management regularly take the proper breaks that they are due? Members may have read comments about working hours and breaks in online blogs recently.  Frustration about this issue is certainly understandable, but what, other than complaining, can we do about it? In the SMA mailbag over the holiday weekend we also had a message from a member trying to schedule a two show Saturday and facing shifts from 11AM -11PM for Stage Management with no break. We advised that member about her contract and provisions for double time pay for infringed breaks (1 clear hour break between shows on a commercial tour contract). More importantly we were able to help with advice to take to the producer about both contractual and legal reasons why the SM team (and cast) must all have proper breaks.

Although most of our negotiated agreements offer better, the law in England and Wales says that after 6 hours work all staff must have at least a 20 minute clear break (this is a LEGAL MINIMUM). Strategies that SMs should consider include split breaks for the team (including some team members coming back after the half. If that can be arranged, why not?) It is very important for our health and safety responsibilities that we work with the producers to write schedules that give these breaks (and also in their interests to do this - who wants the bad publicity of an accident or incident  on a show when the crew have been working hours which are illegal or contravene the agreements?)  In the longer term SMA agree with the member who wrote to us recently asking why stage management are always compared for pay and conditions with actors; we all know that SMs responsibilities start before the cast arrive, continue when they are on breaks, and often end well after they have left the building. 

It is true that SMs must work to minimise these hours (of course many SMs have been tackling this issue of breaks and scheduling quite successfully for years), and this includes making sure the team is big enough in the first place, but SMA will definitely represent your views on breaks and working hours to the teams negotiating the next national agreements.  For 60 years now the SMA has always fought the Stage Management corner on pay and conditions (it was the issue that started the Association after all). Things have improved, but we think that they must now improve further (also the scandalous situation with some low/no pay "contracts").

We work closely with Equity, and will also raise the matter of planning for proper breaks when we meet with UKTheatre's ED David Brownlee soon.

In one recent blog the writer decides to go it alone- and certainly SMs should be proactive in planning shows to ensure that breaks can be taken; however no SMA member need ever feel alone on this. We regularly offer practical advice and support to members who have work questions (backed by experienced working (C)SMs, and people who negotiate the contracts). We also offer further help and sources of advice and support if problems occur. Our advice to members is therefore quite simple: to change we all have to engage. The more members who do that by contacting SMA for advice and report issues, the more effective we can be.

So when you pick up a pen, how about you make your first words an email to the SMA?                                  - Andy Rowley, Executive Director

Stage Management praised in Oliviers speech
Lesley Manville (Ghosts, Best Actress) "We had a stage management team to die for and those things are very very important" #oliviers

Changes to the way that stage managers and performers are taxed are due to come into force in April 2014.  UPDATE: You need to register for Class 2 NIC by filling in form CWF1 (unless you are over pension age). Those reaching pensionable age in 2014-15 and earning over £7956 should not need to pay class 4 NIC others earning over this amount are liable for class2 &4 NIC payments . 

 

The present arrangement - whereby actors, singers, musicians and many stage management are categorised as employed for NIC (but not tax) purposes (meaning they qualify to pay class 1 NICs and are eligible for benefits based on how much they have paid into the system) is about to change. From April this year stage management will not have Class 1 NIC deducted from their pay at source. Although many members probably did not use (or even value) the benefits from paying Class 1 NIC, the new arrangement will not be a gain for all. Most SM's will now need to pay their own (usually lower) Class 2 and 4 National Insurance Contributions (this can be done monthly). The impact on eligibility for allowances including job seekers allowance - part of the so called Universal Credit (UC) - could mean that some lower paid members will lose out due to a minimum income assumption of £11,000 p.a which will apply.  Read this article for more details.   Also good article from Theataccounts here (just apply "SM" for "actors"- rules are the same) SMA will be keeping a close eye on how this works in practise and would like to hear members experiences as the new rules come into effect


It is not every week that a new theatre opens in the UK, so it is with great pleasure and anticipation that we welcome the opening of the brand new Everyman Theatre in Liverpool this weekend, with a lighting-up parade on Saturday and an open day on Sunday. The theatre's rebirth comes after a dark period of three years for redevelopment, and against a background of funding cuts. Liverpool City Council has said that it plans to cut its culture budget by 50% by 2017, although the Everyman would be protected.  

Like many school students in the North West my love of theatre was kindled in large part by the fantastic performances at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. The Everyman, which was known for putting the city's social and political struggles of the 1970s and '80s on the stage. became famous in the 1970s for launching the careers of actors like Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Pete Postlethwaite and Sir Anthony Sher, and was also known for bold invention and energetic and lively interpretations of the classic repertoire. The talent at that time also included Bernard Hill, Jonathan Pryce, Alison Steadman and Trevor Eve; writers Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell; singer Barbara Dickson, and poets Roger McGough and Adrian Mitchell.

Everyman and Playhouse artistic director Gemma Bodinetz says she wants "rebellious stories infused with wit and love" to reopen the venue. The first production, which opens on 8 March on the new stage, will be Shakespeare's Twelfth Night starring Matthew Kelly and Nicholas Woodeson - who started their careers at the theatre in the 1970s and were both part of the celebrated 1974 Everyman company.

Inside the new theatre

The Everyman and Playhouse have already had their council grant cut by almost 20% since 2010/11, the last full financial year before the Everyman shut for redevelopment. The two venues received £846,000 from the city council in 2010/11. That will drop to £688,000 for 2014/15 and 2015/16.  After that, the council said it would introduce a new public-private funding system.The details and sources of private funding have yet to be worked out. artistic  director Gemma Bodinetz said the council cuts were"a huge worry". But she added that the council "absolutely understand the value of culture" after the city was European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Bodinetz asserts “Basically what you need is some actors and some lighting. It is almost Shakespearean in its simplicity.“  Although we sympathise with the sentiment, the SMA would respectfully remind Gemma that a top class stage management team working with inspirational creatives and talented technicians are also an inherent part of the successful legacy of the Everyman Theatre, and we trust will long remain so!

'Break a leg' from the SMA to all Everyman cast crew and SM's for this weekend and the upcoming productions.      Be part of the Everyman opening ceremony

The new theatre      The new season       Everyman theatre staff picks   More pics of the new Everyman 


     The SMA represents stage management on a number of important industry bodiesRecently a meeting of the Theatre Safety Committee received Information about an accident which emphasised how crucial careful, well planned rehearsal and attention to cueing can be to safety. During a complicated scene change in a dress rehearsal an ASM was delayed setting furniture and so was still on stage when actors entered as 'removal men' to set a lamp post and complete the change. Cued on (possibly too early) at an agreed point in the music, and then disoriented by the ASM's presence on stage one of the actors diverted from the rehearsed route and was hit by the conduit weight at the bottom of a flying gauze. The actor received treatment in A&E and subsequently recovered, but during the following first performance of the show the timing in the change was off again, and this time the ASM was struck by the descending gauze- albeit less seriously than the actor previously. This scene change had been rehearsed firstly at walking pace and again a few times more, speeding up to show conditions; the DSM's cue for flying the gauze was agreed to be the actors closing a door on exiting the stage.  The accidents prove that reliance on music timing and a visual cue taken by the DSM in the corner (where the sightline was obstructed) were not enough.  
In a complex sequence involving flying or set automation with actors and stage management all interacting on stage, it is vital to build the sequence slowly and carefully through a number of tech rehearsals with safety as a major priority. Scene changes rarely happen exactly the same way twice. As happened in this case actors can leave props on stage or out of position in previous scenes (-involving stage management in unplanned clearing or reseting); furniture can fail to hit marks, or brakes fail to engage, and any number of other variations can occur.  After these incidents the show implemented a safety first policy- whereby the flying cue could only be given after an all clear by radio comms. from the ASM on stage, and thereafter there were no further incidents.  Although we are all aware that rehearsals and cueing are both key safety issues, under pressure we sometimes forget how important taking time for these during techs and rehearsals can be - especially in understanding the variables in set changes. It is also often the case that the DSM in prompt corner has other duties at this point, and quite often an obstructed view of the stage.  Reviewing these incidents (thankfully causing no lasting harm to the actor or ASM) we should all consider the following points whenever scenery is moved with crew and performers on stage:

 

1. Careful and repeated rehearsal is required-  firstly at 1/2 speed or less with good lighting and then building up to performance conditions- this should not be skimped or neglected.  
2. Sightlines and the lighting states on stage during changes should be checked and if necessary adjusted so that the DSM and all those on stage have the best view possible when scenery is moving.  
3. A failsafe or 'all clear' cue is essential if the DSM is likely to be distracted or their line of site impeded when moving scenery is being cued.  In this case a cuelight 'all clear' might have been incorporated on the actor's exit through the door, but a verbal all clear from the ASM was chosen as the best way to allow for many possible variables during the scene change, and to be sure that the space needed for flying was clear and monitored.  
4  Cues taken from music cannot account for the variables which might occur in a scene change; a cuelight 'go' (or even a visual cue) given by the DSM or ASM when the actors should enter stage would have been less open to risk.  
The potential severity of a collision between crew and/or artists and moving scenery is high, and without properly planned steps to mitigate it, the risk can also be significant. These points should always be addressed in the risk assessment, and carefully explained to all concerned. 
 

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