Illusion shows Rundowns and Prompt Books


Link to the Excel file Promptbook

(Please inform me if it doesn’t work)

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Put on a stage-crew intercom headset and listen to stage manager, Mark Stevens, calling some of the lighting, follow spot and set cues for the San Diego REP’s musical production of “HAIRSPRAY.” No rehearsed action is taken by the stage crew unless they hear the word “GO” from Mark’s lips. The sound feed from the actors has been turned down on the headset so the crew members can clearly hear Mark’s directions. No talking on the intercom please.

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Rundowns

When I help magicians one of the first things I always ask is if they have some rundowns for me. And: no one has. Rundowns are a line-up of all the basical things you need for your act. Everyone needs to have that!I find it completely unbelievable if a magician doesn’t have something on writing about his act. He can tell what illusions he does, but he can’t even hand me that on paper!

In my rundowns I mostly have the following things:

Rundown:

Music

Magic

Props

Notes

And that’s it. It’s nothing more than that. It’s a list of the music and magic used in your entire show. So every show could have a different rundown. I always suggest to make separate rundowns of every act. So, when a customer calls for a show you just have to connect the rundowns of the acts you want to perform and you instantly know what to do and what to bring. A shortlist of all the magic in your act. How amazingly simple as it sounds: no one uses rundowns, except the very professionals. It makes life so much easier. When you have 200 shows a year with several special request you can’t go without them…..

Checklist

After you made a rundown you complete that with your listing. A list of everything you use in your act. With that list anyone knows what magic to bring, what props, what lights…. If you can leave your bubble machine at home and how many moving lights to bring.

Many professional magicians have rundowns and checklists for every separate act, printed out in a large binder. In that way, if someone calls them tonight for a performance tomorow, they can react instantly. After agreeing the price the magician just has to take his binder, take out the rundowns and lists of the acts he wants to perform, and he is all set. He knows who to call, he knows what to prepare. Then he can get another binder for this show and fill it with the prompting sheets of all the acts. In just 5 minutes he is all set, and with the promptbook everyone knows what to do at the performance….

This is what sets the professionals apart from the amateurs!

Promptbook

This is a script of your acts and shows in which all actions and effects are mentioned and explained. Promptbooks are used in the entertainment industry for theatre plays, musicals, concerts and other large stage productions. If you have a large stage: make your promptbook!!! Also here I would suggest separate promptbooks for every act. Prompting is necessary when you have a stageshow with several assistants and stagehands. If you need people for the sound and light effects and have several stage hands then all you need to hand them is the promptbook of the show. It will tell them what to do. It makes practising much easier, your whole life gets more relaxed when you have a map with prompts. There are programs that do this work for you. The problem is that your show changes continuesly. It is not one show constantly repeated, like a musical. It will be extremely time consuming to keep your program updated. Any excel sheet will do the same and is just as handy for your stage manager…

Prompting is used in EVERY professional musical, play, circus or other type of show. EVERY!


Blocking

Blocking is the recording of the performers’ entrances, exits, moves, gestures, pace use of props, etc. against the script. This serves as a daily reference for the performers and director during rehearsals, and is a record for the moves.

For blocking you need to understand first how any stage is devided and what’s where. Also you need to know that this is from the actors point of view and not from the audience.

Downstage is closest to the audience. Large theatres have an inclining stage so that the audience has a better view.

Notation

There are two types of blocking used in theatre: graphic and shorthand notation.

These are the most commonly used symbols. Anyone who had any sort of education in theatre has a knowledge of these symbols. They are used in any theatre all over the globe.

Thus the following move:

Magician enters from upstage right, walks downstage right towards the Crystal Box Illusion, crosses stage left to a chair, and sits….

Could be shown in shorthand like this:

M EN USR, X DSR -> CBI, X SL -> CH1 + ↓

You can find symbols in Word via Insert and Symbol.

↑↓←→⌂▀▄█▌▐░▒■□▪▫▬▲►▼◄◊○◌●◘◙☺☻☼♀♂♠♣♥♦♪♫♯

Note entrances and exits, as well as the peoples relationship to the different elements on the stage. For example, when someone has been blocked to move behind the illusion at upstage right, coming from downstage left, your notation in the script may look something like “XUR-B ST.” Make the notation in the script at the point in the dialogue where the actor is supposed to begin moving.

Remember, stage right and left are from the actor’s perspective – facing the audience. Get used to having your right be stage left and visa versa. This takes some practice.

This a job for a pencil, NOT a pen. Bring either a good mechanical pencil with lots of extra lead or several sharp wooden pencils. Also bring an extra (big) eraser. Blocking often changes in the first few weeks of rehearsal.

Make sure you can read your own notes; you may be asked to remind the assistants where they are supposed to be.

Wallet Card

When working with several stagehands, aassistants, tchnicians and other crew, it is very wise to have a wallet card for any of them with contact info and what to do in an ’emergency’. What if your stagehand is caught in traffic? What if your lovely female assistant, who you need to cut in half, breaks a leg two hours before the show? You can have phonenumbers on the card and leave some room for the info of their ‘understudy’. That way you can leave some responsibillity with the people themselves. The guy in traffic can check if another stagehand, who has a day off, can be in time. The assistant can call her understudy herself before calling you. It’s great to get a phonecall about a big problem, and hearing it’s already solved.

Stage management and Stagecraft

All these things mentioned above are part of any stage management education.

Stage management is the practice of organizing and coordinating a theatrical production. It encompasses a variety of activities, including organizing the production and coordinating communications between various personnel (e.g., between director and backstage crew, or actors and production management). Stage management is a sub-discipline of stagecraft.

Stagecraft is a generic term referring to the technical aspects of theatrical, film, and video production. It includes, but is not limited to, constructing and rigging scenery, hanging and focusing of lighting, design and procurement of costumes, makeup, procurement of props, stage management, and recording and mixing of sound. Stagecraft is distinct from the wider umbrella term of scenography. Considered a technical rather than an artistic field, it relates primarily to the practical implementation of a designer’s artistic vision.

In its most basic form, stagecraft is managed by a single person (often the stage manager of a smaller production) who arranges all scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound, and organizes the cast. At a more professional level, for example modern Broadway houses, stagecraft is managed by hundreds of skilled carpenters, painters, electricians, stagehands, stitchers, wigmakers, and the like. This modern form of stagecraft is highly technical and specialized: it comprises many sub-disciplines and a vast trove of history and tradition.

There is a lot to find online about stage managing. Managing an illusionshow is very different from managing a musical. Circus and entertainershows need a specific kind of managing that is almost never taught in any course. So if you tend to get an education or take a course: be sure to check for what kind of play it is mostly targetted on!