Speaking Tube hardware including mouthpieces and whistles
Speaking Tube hardware including mouthpieces and whistles

Historical Calling Technology: The Speaking Tube

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

Before the mid-nineteenth century, prompters used aural methods to “call” the show. Prompters used bells, whistles, flags and call boys to signal a change in lights, scenery, or to cue a special effect. (See my earlier article on Calling Technology for more information on the different calling methods.) Over the next half century, calling procedures changed significantly. The audience heard and associated the bells and whistles as part of the performance, however, with new technology the prompter’s calling duties transformed into a silent, invisible activity. The first step towards imperceptible cueing was the speaking tube.

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Christina Watanabe, Lighting Designer
Christina Watanabe, Lighting Designer

Christina Watanabe: Finding Your Light

Porsche McGovern

After hearing about Lighting Designer, Christina Watanabe for years, I was pleased to meet her in person at a USA829 Diversity Committee Meet-up. Christina is a New York City based designer for theatre, dance, music, and events. Her designs have been seen at Lincoln Center, Primary Stages/Cherry Lane, 59E59, HERE Arts Center, The New Ohio, Urban Stages, Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, Penguin Rep, The Public Theatre, Intar, The Bushwick Starr, and Theatre for the New City to name a few. Christina has designed and taught at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and with the Yale Dramatic Association. Other design work includes cabaret, events, and Ralph Lauren’s Madison Avenue windows. Christina has toured with Shen Wei Dance Arts, Jonah Bokaer, and So Percussion. Christina has an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and is a member USA829. She recently took some time to speak with me for Stage Directions Illuminations blog:

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The flooding of the Museum of Art at the University of Iowa
The flooding of the Museum of Art at the University of Iowa

When Emergencies Are Too Big for an SM Kit

David J. McGraw
UI Museum of Art during Flood of '08 (Photo: University of Iowa)
UI Museum of Art during Flood of '08 (Photo: University of Iowa)

I am both unlucky and lucky when it comes to natural disasters. I am unlucky in the frequency of show-related disasters, but lucky in that there have been no serious injuries. There was the Opening Night tornado that transformed my station wagon into a convertible. Or the Valentine’s Day when an overnight fire in the venue’s ventilation system was caught by the cleaning crew but if I never see another bottle of Febreze, it will be too soon.

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Valérie Thérèse Bart
Valérie Thérèse Bart

Collaboration in Action

Porsche McGovern

I met Valérie Thérèse Bart through the wonders of the Internet. She is a costume and scenic designer. She is a proud self-proclaimed Franco-VietnAmericaine. She attended UCLA for undergrad and then the Yale School of Drama. She credits a 2-week intensive workshop, entitled “The Collaborative Process: Directors and Designers” taught by Ming Cho Lee and Constance Hoffman through a summer program at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for opening her eyes to the power of the conversation, the true essence of collaboration. She has designed at numerous regional theaters as well as off-Broadway. Bart designs for Opera and Theater.

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David Hicks
David Hicks

David Hicks: Enlightened Spaces

Ross Jackson

David S. Robinson Hicks is a Stage Manager, Actor, and Writer based in Los Angeles. David's connection to the arts was fostered by his family, who operated a network of non-profit efforts to deliver enrichment to underserved youth. David had the honor of assisting in the expansion of these efforts, which provided scholarships and vocational training for rising artists and at-risk youth in Greater LA and New York City. After re-discovering his love for technical theater in high school, David set about working with stage management teams at theaters such as The Pasadena Playhouse, Geffen Playhouse, and Theatricum Botanicum.

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Reading From a Manuscript Before him, He Continuously Whispers the Lines.  James O. Spearing. “The Prompter’s Art Lost to America.” New York Times, June 19, 1927. ProQuest Historical Newspapers
Reading From a Manuscript Before him, He Continuously Whispers the Lines. James O. Spearing. “The Prompter’s Art Lost to America.” New York Times, June 19, 1927. ProQuest Historical Newspapers

Historical Calling Technology: Bells, Whistles, Flags, and Call Boys

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

Tracking technological developments over time might be my favorite subtopic within the scope of stage management history. Calling technology predictably changed over time, however, it also affected how audiences related to backstage life. Before Clear-Coms and lightweight headsets, there were telephone switchboards and before that, there were cue lights. But let me tell you a little secret: before electricity, calling the show had an aural impact on the performance.

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Dahlia Al-Habieli
Dahlia Al-Habieli

Dahlia Al-Habieli: Undercover Advocate

Porsche McGovern

I met Dahlia Al-Habieli when we were both on a panel about gender equity in theatrical design at Wake Forest University, organized by Jyles Rodgers ’19. Dahlia Al-Habieli is an award-winning designer, visual artist, and educator currently teaching at Wake Forest University's Department of Theatre and Dance in Winston-Salem, NC. Upcoming projects include Native Gardens at Trinity Rep, and installation design for Consenses at MASS MOCA.

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The February 18, 1942 cover letter from Actors Equity regarding the "Committee to Consider Stage Managers’ Memo to Council"
The February 18, 1942 cover letter from Actors Equity regarding the "Committee to Consider Stage Managers’ Memo to Council"

Stage Management Grievances in 1942

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

Stage Managers Ban Together to Fight for AEA Stage Management Contract

On December 18th, 1941 and January 15th, 1942, a delegation of stage managers met with the “Committee to Consider Stage Managers’ Memo to Council” (yes, this was the committee’s official name), which was a special Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) committee specifically formed to consider their requests.

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2017 SM Survey Results!

David J. McGraw

The 2017 Stage Manager Survey Report is now available. My assistant and I tried to let the data speak for itself, noting only the trends and potential contributing factors. But we know that, by distilling the data into a report, we also prioritized some of the information and de-emphasized or omitted other information.

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Julia Morrison in street clothes. “Tragedy: Closed with a Speech by the Actress” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 11, 1900
Julia Morrison in street clothes. “Tragedy: Closed with a Speech by the Actress” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 11, 1900

Murder Onstage: An Early 20th Century Actress Kills Her Stage Manager Before an Audience

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

During a performance at the Chattanooga Opera House on Friday, September 22nd, 1899, Julia Morrison, the leading actress of the traveling show, Mr. Plaster of Paris, exited the stage in the middle of her Act II scene with Frank Leiden, leading man and stage manager.[1]  She seized the loaded revolver she kept between her breasts, reentered the scene, and shot Leiden three times, killing him. Fifteen hundred audience members looked on in shock until a call for a surgeon roused them. Morrison was immediately taken under custody by the local police and sent to the nearby jail to await the outcome of the coroner’s inquest. A few weeks later, the grand jury indicted her, and her trial was set for January 1900. By the beginning of her trial, Julia Morrison had become a household name and the event was covered across the nation, making headlines.

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