CriticalDance Forum

Dividing up the Tasks
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Author:  Basheva [ Thu Mar 01, 2001 5:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Dividing up the Tasks

I am going to ask a very sensitive question here because I would really like to have your opinion.......<P>I know that the division of tasks backstage is very strictly divided - usually union rules. For instance, as I am sure you are aware a dancer cannot put on her own costume - or take it off for that matter - like if she has to go to the ladies room.<P>Once, as I have read, Nureyev took up a broom to sweep up some "snow" that was not entirely swept up from the snow scene in Nutcracker - and he was due to dance on that stage and it needed to be clean. The entire backstage crew threatened to walk out.<P>I guess my question is - I know tasks need to be allocated and jobs protected - but do you think it can be carried to an extreme?

Author:  salzberg [ Thu Mar 01, 2001 5:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

I'll take your word for it, but I've never worked in a house where the dancers weren't allowed to dress themselves.<P>I have had to mediate between the SL prop man and the SR prop man when a prop got left exactly on centerline, though.

Author:  BabsLights [ Thu Mar 01, 2001 6:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

I personally haven't been in a house where the wardrobe folks were putting tights on a dancer; but I've always seen them un-hook the back part of the bodices and tutus for folks, and hook them. (Frankly, having fastened one of those, I don't see how you could do it yourself.) <P>I would hazard a guess that if the tale of Mr. N grabbing a broom is correct, it was probably done for maximum effect to the crew, and they probably knew it.<P>I think there does need to be a division of tasks. Afterall, there's a lot that needs to get done to do a show. There is no rason in the world for a dancer to need to be using a broom, if there is crew to do it. (And admittedly, there's not always crew for all dance shows, and I am assuming that we are discussing a union situation here).<P>First of all, not everyone is trained to do all things. I do not want an inexperienced rigger, or flyman responsible for activity of thousands of pounds of sets over my head - or anyone's. Heck, I get nervous with an inexperienced electrician focusing when they are in the bucket. Any noise at all I look like a jack rabbit until I know they are pretty good about not dropping things on me, or at least yelling if they do.<P>If the tasks are not clearly divided, then there is not a good method of ensuring that all tasks are completed. One of the tasks in the business of dance is being a dancer. Another is sweeping the floor.<BR>

Author:  Marie [ Thu Mar 01, 2001 6:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Anything can be taken to the extreme, and sometimes "personalities" enter in to it, but I always feel privileged to be in a theatre where everyone knows their job and takes responsibility. Behind the scenes people shouldn't be interchangeable, just like the people on stage. <BR>I like to be in a structured environment. It means that you can ask one person, i.e. the Stage Manager "who sweeps the snow?" and be assured that even if the snow sweeper doesn't want to sweep for whatever reason, it has been noted. <BR>

Author:  Basheva [ Sat Mar 03, 2001 8:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

I have another dumb question (I have a rather large store of them) -<P>I know when the Civic Theater in San Diego is rented for a performance the union rules (so I have heard) require that a certain number of backstage people be hired for that performance. <P>Are there any people in a backstage crew that are not really necessary? Now before anyone hits the ceiling and lands on my head - let me explain.<P>I know for instance, that for many years the railroad union required a certain number of employees to be used everytime a train set out. These rules were set years and years ago. With modern trains some of these jobs became obsolete - but still these people had to be used. One of them (gosh - I forget the title) was seated in the caboose. <P>Are there any people like that in the backstage crew - that are there because of old rules - that don't need to be there now?

Author:  archaeo [ Sun Mar 04, 2001 5:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

I have just had my first real experience of working with a Union theatre, and found the crew there extremely helpful and understanding. The only matter that seemed to be a problem was when I asked the wardrobe mistress if she could iron two felt pieces that were used to drape props, and she said she wasn't supposed to touch anything to do with props. We worked it out though.

Author:  BabsLights [ Sun Mar 04, 2001 5:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

I would say it depends. And what is that minimum amount of crew? Is it to fill the key house positions? I think that's a better question ask the house, before worrying that it is too many people. Maybe you can find out?

Author:  Basheva [ Sun Mar 04, 2001 5:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Actually I have no opinion as to whether it is too many people or not. <P>Since there have been changes in technology in some areas of backstage work - I was just wondering if there were any positions that were made obsolete by that technology - but still had to be filled because of archaic rules. <P>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Mar 04, 2001 6:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Hi Archaeo! I know this is your second post on criticaldance, but looking back i see that we didn't welcome you last time.<P>Hope you continue to enjoy criticaldance and if not, DO tell us why.<P>If you wish you can tell us something about yourself in 'About criticaldance', but don't feel obliged.<p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited March 04, 2001).]

Author:  BabsLights [ Sun Mar 04, 2001 12:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Basheva - I don't think such a generality can be made. The base positions - props, electrics, fly, carpenter, wardrobe still exist, and are still needed.<P>Where it may no longer take 6 guys to run a big old light board, it may now be that there are more spots, or perhaps two light boards (one running standard lighting and one running moving fixtures). So I expect things balance out. <P>I don't know of any hard set position in a theater that is an obsolete one that some guy/gal is just sitting around all the time. Sure, there are some shows where that particular job isn't exactly taxing (like the fly crew on a Balanchine blue scrim show).<P><BR>Archaeo, yes, in the best case scenario, a union crew is just like any other crew. They are there to get the show on its legs, and they have an interest in doing the job right. When you approach them as partners in this task, and not as money-grubbing lazibones, you usually have a good time. Sure, there's some bad apples. There's some bad apples in non-union world, too.<P>They very first summer I worked with a union crew in a rather difficult house, I was a nervous wreck. I was doing outside props. When we got to the theater, we had a problem with a slip cover for a loveseat that wasn't finished before the show. The house guy told me he absolutely could not do such a thing as take the time and crew to finish it now, and I could not touch it. What to do? A few minutes later the guy grabbed me and said - "Go in dressing room 6, and don't tell me where you are. Close the door." Had no idea what the heck he was talking about. I got to the dressing room, and in it he had put the love I closed the door and did my work.<P>

Author:  Basheva [ Sun Mar 04, 2001 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Just you and the love seat Babs? LOL <P>sorry couldn't resist...........

Author:  salzberg [ Mon Mar 05, 2001 7:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Basheva, the quick answer to your question is "sometimes".<P>I've worked many shows where there were union crew members who had nothing to do.<P>I've worked other shows where, if there hadn't been such union requirements, the producer would have said something like, "We can save money if the spot operators come down the 4 flights of stairs between each dance, do the scene shift, and then go back up to their positions."<P>In a perfect world, both management and labor would always be fair to each other. this is not, alas, a perfect world.<p>[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited March 05, 2001).]

Author:  BabsLights [ Tue Mar 06, 2001 10:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Yeah, I realize when I re-read the post about the love seat, it does read a little open ended.<P>Short version - by myself I put a hem on the cover, using gaff tape.<P>I love gaff tape

Author:  Marie [ Tue Mar 06, 2001 2:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

Yes, it's just the fix-all for everything, isn't it?

Author:  Pas [ Tue Mar 06, 2001 6:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Dividing up the Tasks

We have used a "union" auditoruim for our spring recital. I know the "curtain person" was required to be at any and all shows and he MUST be the only one to push the button (not even a pull rope). He made $45 dollars an hour to sit there to push the button once to open at the beginning of the show and once at the end. Seamed a waste to me!<P>Now if only we teachers could get $45 a hour!<P>We are using a "union" auditorium again this year. Hopefully this has been solved with a techie that can do more than sit and push the button!

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