I've been working on a prep week check list. It seems never ending. It simply gets longer and longer and longer...and I started to wonder if I'm making this list a little too comprehensive.
But I'm a list maker at heart, so I've started to embrace this massive pre-production check list. I've been organizing it into sections and including most the obvious and obscure and the "this really only applies to very specific situations and companies".
So yes, It's a long list. But it really gets me in the mindset of starting a show and gives me all the right starting points.
Why a check list?
It seems obvious but necessary to justify the need for a pre-production check list. For many of the items listed, it will seem silly or redundant. But it is surprising how many of those "obvious" or "easy" things will slip through the cracks - and Production will expect Stage Management to catch them.
For items that deserve more than a bullet point...
1. The very first thing is - don't work prior to signing your contract. This is a way not only to nudge a company to officially hire you, and quickly, but will also protect you from performing unpaid labor. The only person looking out for the freelancer is the freelancer themselves.
2. One-on-one Questions: It's vital to make a strong first impression with your director and creative team when you first meet them. It's likely that this is over the phone or in a production meeting. Setting aside time to glean pertinent show information prior to the first rehearsal is pivotal to making sure you're up to speed instead of playing catch up. I always like to ask directors why they chose to direct this play and what their vision is. Stage Managers need a strong understanding of the concept (and the their directors goals) to uphold said artistic values.
3. Facebook stalking. Yes; I find it vitally important to know WHO I am working with, in all senses. If a designer is coming from a show you saw and loved - it's worth keeping in your back pocket. If you have a mutual friend with the director this can serve as a positive way to start your professional relationship. If you heard that an actor is awful to work with you can a) find out why and b) proactively install strategies to create a better outcome. First impressions set up your working relationship with these people. Being good at your job is great - but having real, personable connections with folks with strengthen that relationship immediately. It's also important, in this moment, to identify "areas of support". In working with a recent cast that compromised of 4 mothers of young children, it became quickly apparent that the area of support was "child care". Although we could not provide child care onsite at the space, we allowed for families to come by and were lenient concerning scheduling conflicts that arose from child care related emergencies. We were lucky in that we foresaw those issues and were flexible.
This check list is always changing - as it should! I am always discovering additional things to add or better ways to organize it.