By Victoria Chatfield (Executive Director)
Be Carmel Bendit-Shtull. (She's the one next to the windows!)
Carmel is our stage manager on Circuits and has, from the beginning, been an outstanding team member. She collected all of the information for a company-wide contact sheet long before rehearsals ever started; she created an emergency medical form to ensure that all of our cast and crew members will stay safe during rehearsals and tech week. She leads production meetings every Saturday (once again, without ever being asked to -- she just stepped up and took charge of the situation). Yesterday, she emailed me to point out that a communications breakdown seems to be happening between the directors and the designers. Totally understandable. The majority of our design team comes from the same high school; our directors just graduated from the same college. Both groups are used to completely different expectations for communications on a production. And someone (i.e. the producer) forgot to set company-wide norms for communication at the beginning of the production process. (Sorry, everyone!)
So there are two lessons that can be taken away from this situation. 1. Be Carmel Bendit-Shtull. If you see that there's a problem, tell your directors and producers as soon as possible. Even if they already recognize that there's a problem that needs fixing, your email/phone call will help give them a new perspective on what's happening. (It'll also light a fire under them to find a solution as quickly as possible!) If you come with your own ideas for prospective solutions, that's double the bonus points for you. Everyone loves a company member who takes the initiative to help solve the biggest problems.
2. Set company-wide expectations up front. It's sometimes easy to forget that not everyone has the same expectations going into a project. If you want everyone to respond to questions asked in the rehearsal reports via email, then you need to let them know that. If you want everyone to respond to email correspondence within 24 hours, then you need to let them know that. If you want everyone to give you 48 hours notice if they're not going to be at a rehearsal/production meeting, then you need to let them know that. Are you seeing a pattern? If you don't set the expectation, then your team can't rise to meet it. It's unfair to your company members if you expect them to read your mind. You chose them because they were talented theatrical artists -- not because they were talented psychics.
Luckily, if you forget to set expectations up front, it's easy to go back and fix the problem. Our team's meeting on Saturday to discuss how to create an effective communications system. It's really important to get this taken care of ASAP so that we can all go into tech week feeling confident that we have the information that we need to succeed. Identify the problem, ask your company how they think the problem should be solved, make an executive decision on how the problem will be solved, and then watch your company succeed!