Hit by a Bus Rules: Mind Your Panel

Alandra Hileman just emerged from her cocoon of tech week only to discover that she’s actually a moth, dammit.

Considering that my column is called “Hit by a Bus Rules,” writing about the topic of breaking the rules should have been easy, right? I mean, I sort of already did that in my second ever post when I talked about what a terrible job I do of adhering to the titular rule. And there are so many other great theatre rules to talk about, including but not limited to:

*The Ten-Block Rule (don’t talk about the show you just saw/worked on until you’re ten blocks away from the theatre)

* The Cough Drop Rule (unwrap your lozenges BEFORE the play starts or the actors are
allowed to suffocate you with your own crinkling cellophane)

* The Two-Hat Rule (you should, if at all possible, never be doing more than two jobs on any one production)

I wanna talk about that last one for a minute. Because, like keeping my Master Book organized, I’m really bad about minding my panel and only doing the job assigned me. And it’s not always my fault, but it’s still a problem.

The last shows I worked, a two-show rep festival, hired me as the stage manager. In the course of the production, I also ended up doing a massive amount of scenic painting, creating or hunting down some small props, helping photograph the show, and co-heading the scenic changeover…all of which you will note are not jobs generally ever done by the stage manager. I’m in a similar situation on my current show, where I helped paint the set, helped the costumer do some alterations, play the drums (no, seriously), and am responsible for setting up/striking the set along with the Artistic Director of the company (who is also the Production Manager, built and painted half the set by himself, and is acting in the show).

Now, in both these cases we’ve been fortunate enough to have incredibly dedicated designers and cast members who have also helped pick up the slack, but look at this. The exception to the rule has now become the rule itself, and that’s a little frightening to me. The idea of the two-hat rule is to keep everyone from being overworked-and-underpaid, or just generally from going crazy. But at the same time, when you’re in a situation where you love the show and you want it to be perfect and there just aren’t enough hands on deck, you break your own rules just to make it happen. And I’m pretty sure there’s not a single person reading this blog who wouldn’t also break this rule in a heartbeat, even at the expense of some degree of their sanity, in order to get a show off the ground.

So the long-and-short is that I’ve spent every night for the last week in John Hinkle Park in Berkeley loading bonsai trees and drums and bags of bedsheets into a shed at 12:45am so that this fantastic production of Much Ado About Nothing produced can happen, and as a result I completely forgot that I had a blog due so at the last minute I turned the entire thing into a shameless plug. It’s free, and guys, it’s so, so good. Please come. Maybe bring me some bug spray and a whiskey and I’ll tell you more about the rules we’ve broken on this show.

Alandra Hileman is drumming for…er, stage managing TheatreFirst’s “Much Ado About Nothing” running Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm in John Hinkle Park through October 4th and it’s 100% totally free. Check out more info at http://www.theatrefirst.com/

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