Being organized before the show keeps everyone calm and prevents off-stage drama. A great way to stay organized is to create a checklist before the show – a list of all the tasks each theater department has to do before the show can begin. Here’s what you need to do to create your pre-presentation checklist:
Start working on the checklist early.
Before you even start auditioning, you will inevitably go through the script several times, taking plentiful notes about the characters, costumes, props, and more. While you’re at it, write down the moments that appear in the scenario that will require a task. For example, if there are obvious quick changes to the script, a pre-presentation task might be to check all the quick-change costumes and pre-set them backstage. Or if a character has to eat something on stage, a task before the show could be for the prop team to take the props from the fridge in the staff room and arrange them on a plate.
Being aware of these moments in time will help you as the week of the show approaches and your brain is full of a million other things. This is also a great job for your stage management team. Ask them to go through the script and write down everything they think should be added to the checklist before the presentation that you may have missed. Inevitably, you will add more tasks during the rehearsal process and during technology week, but it’s great to have an advance.
Remember to include pre-presentation tasks, such as printing and folding programs, changing your cash registers properly, and making sure your bathrooms are clean. Once you’ve produced or directed a few shows, you’ll have a better idea of the tasks that will be involved, and you can create a basic template that you can adjust for each new production. See our offer below for an example to-do list.
Determine your format
There are many ways to format a pre-presentation checklist. You may want to create a large master list for each department and keep it in a central location, or you may want to make mini-to-do lists for each department and keep them in relevant areas (such as in the technology booth). for sound and lighting technicians and costume team locker rooms). You may want to post the lists on the wall and ask students for their initial assignments when they are completed, ask a department leader to keep the list on a clipboard, and ask students to consult them when they complete a task or use a list. digital or an application for students to check on their smartphones. You know your students best and what method would work for you and them.
My tried and true method is to create a simple three-column table with the titles Task, Department, and Complete (initial). The first column lists the tasks that students must complete, the second column indicates which department is responsible for completing the task, and the third column is for initializing the right person when the task is completed. If you use this method, you can either print a main copy, put each page in a sheet of plastic, hang it on the wall, and have students wipe it with a dry-erase marker (then you can erase it after each show and you can reuse it for several days of performance); or you can print multiple copies and use a new copy for each show.
Always leave extra lines on the checklist before the show, as extra tasks that you didn’t think of will inevitably appear during technology week or during the performance of the show. This way, you can write those extra tasks to the list so that you don’t forget them.
Determine who is responsible for each task.
It is usually obvious who will be responsible for each task – the costume team maintains the costumes, the props team pre-sets the props, the lighting technicians check the lights and so on. But some tasks are not as clear. Will your stage manager be responsible for sweeping and cleaning the stage, or will you delegate this task to someone else, such as an assistant stage manager? Can any member of a particular team complete the task or do you want to assign each task to a specific person? Instead of using a general Department header on your list, you may want to list the name of the specific person who is responsible for each task (“Mikhail” instead of simply “Costume Team”). You may also want to add a fourth column to the “Approved” header table if you want a department head or teacher to confirm that each task has been completed to your standards. Again, use whatever method works best. for your students
Classroom exercise: Find a to-do list that your students think they should complete before a performance. Give students a one-piece scene. Ask them to read the scene and make a list of at least three stage-specific tasks they should finish before the show.
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She writes on the blog at www.kerryhishon.com.
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