Thursday, July 11, 2013

Communication Is Key

By Victoria Chatfield (Executive Director)

To all aspiring directors, producers, designers, and actors out there: Communication is key.

I am perpetually amazed by our directors and the fact that, even though I've yet to enter their rehearsal rooms, I feel like I know exactly what's going on with their shows. They keep me informed about every single change that happens through text messages, emails, and phone calls. However, I'm starting to realize that keeping everyone in the loop can be challenging. You don't want to share too much with the team while everything's in flux; at the same time, you want to make sure that they have enough information to do their jobs successfully. So how do you walk the fine line between too little information and too much?

If you've ever worked on a show, you know that things change constantly during the rehearsal process. The set design that you started off with on the first day will rarely be the one the ends up getting built on the stage. (Our mentor director told me that, for his current show, they needed to change the design SEVEN TIMES before they finally reached something that was functional and affordable.) The problem with making all of these changes is that other members of the design team understandably get discouraged when everything keeps changing. For next year, I believe that communication needs to be more transparent -- between the directors, the designers, the stage managers, the actors, and the producers. But how to facilitate that kind of communication without everyone getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that we deal with collectively every single day? (I literally see hundreds of emails come through my inbox every day -- from ticket requests to design notes to rental contracts.)

I suppose that there are two ways of keeping everyone up-to-date:
1) Everyone being present in the rehearsal room more often
2) Finding a better way of facilitating online conversations

Next year, we need to get our designers and producers into rehearsals at least twice a week if not more frequently. That would give them the chance to get a sense of who these characters are and what kind of world they're inhabiting. You can only take so much information away from a production meeting, after all. Having the designers and producers come to rehearsals more frequently also means that the actors could share their input (since they inhabit these characters every day), and the directors could have more regular in-person check-ins. Not to mention that if some of the designers arrange to come on the same day, they could have more regular in-person check-ins with each other!

We also need to find a better way to facilitate online conversations. Dropbox was a major help during the early stages of the design process (and many kudos to Justin Tolbert, our outstanding set designer, for continuing to post renderings of his designs along the way -- constantly updated renderings posted in a public forum = one happy creative team). Perhaps we need to create a forum where production updates are posted on a daily basis by each department. Even if that means that one department posts a message saying "no changes" every day for a week, at least the rest of the team will know that there have been no changes. Our stage managers, Carmel and Daria, do a fantastic job sending out the rehearsal reports every night -- but we need to find a way to transform those rehearsal reports into a two-way conversation that everyone can participate in.

I feel like I'm learning so much through this process. Every day, the students that I'm working with teach me so much about how to help them produce innovative new art. Before we started, I only had a vague idea of how to best support producers, directors, designers, and actors in the work that they do. I feel that after the premiere of Circuits Clipped, I'll be much more proficient at giving company members everything that they need in order to succeed.

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