General Wisdom

At the end of each of our shows, directors, stage managers, and sometimes designers meet with a couple of staff members to discuss their projects and to reflect on the ups and downs of their processes.  Here is a selection of the advice past crews would like to pass on to future shows:

Show/Process Advice

  • Work on other peoples’ shows before deciding to direct.
  • Make sure your designers know whom to contact on staff.
  • Book rehearsal & performance spaces as early as possible.
  • Pre-casting may not be the best way to do things.
  • Don’t cast people who you know have ridiculous schedules if there’s another good option. It’s better to have to do more work with someone who will actually be present.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask staff for help.
  • Second Stage not centered around the ‘92. If your show is assigned a campus space, it is not because we think your show is less important than others; rather, another location on campus might be more conducive to your artistic vision. Second Stage productions have thrived in locations such as Indian Hill and Olin Library.
  • Don’t stop yourself from taking on a project because it seems too ambitious or crazy.
  • Don’t be afraid to cast someone with little or no acting experience.
  • Working with classic texts should not be daunting - in fact, putting your own spin on a well-known play gives you unlimited creativity.
  • Use a fight choreographer for any and all moments that are violent or could potentially be dangerous.
  • If you have a non-traditional production team configuration (e.g. co-SMs, a large number of directors, a playwright-director partnership, etc.) sit down with your team and write a “roommate contract” of sorts. Discuss who can be expected to perform each task, how potential conflicts will be dealt with, and what the dynamic in the rehearsal room will be. Actually, you might want to do this even if you have a traditional production team.
  • Use the Second Stage website as a resource. It’s awesome. We promise.
  • If you are working in a campus space and you are having conflicts with the people who run that campus space, talk to us. We are an organization. We have power. We can help you negotiate with them.
  • If you are looking for an intensive, more professional rehearsal process, consider rehearsing over winter break and going up early in the spring semester. Rehearsing when classes are not in session means that you and your actors can give their undivided attention to the play.
  • There is no typical Second Stage production. Dance groups, come work with us. Performance artists, come work with us. Festival-type-things, come work with us. If you feel that our Show App isn’t suited to the needs of your show, contact us.


Design/Tech Advice

  • Don’t underestimate the time and effort tech will take.
  • Ask for help early (carpenters, electricians, etc.)—don’t wait until things aren’t getting done in time. And get as many people as you can.
  • Have people on your team who are inexperienced but known to be competent, because that creates more experienced people.  For example, it can work to have inexperienced set and lighting designers paired with experienced master carpenters and electricians.
  • Pay attention to what you see in other shows in terms of props, etc, because those are resources you know you’ll have for yours.
  • WestCo is not the only campus space option.
  • Designers: It is always better to tell your director in advance when you are not going to be able to finish a task on time. Don’t wait until you are already behind schedule to tell them. Be honest!
  • Have a detailed plan for tech and stick to it. Give yourself strict deadlines.
  • Matinees can affect the amount of light you get in your performance space.
  • Don’t forget to get purchases approved.
  • Don’t ever put aesthetics before safety (but at the same time, there is often a way to make your aesthetically pleasing designs very safe.)
  • Educate your cast on how to move around the set safely.
  • Let limitations (space, money, time, life) inspire creativity.
  • Don’t limit yourself because you want a shorter strike.

Playwrights Advice

  • Use AnyStage as a stepping stone to a full production. You can do as many readings, workshops and talkbacks as you want at each stage of your writing or revision process. Hearing it out loud, working with actors and receiving feedback from your audience will be invaluable to you as you revise your play. You want your play to be the best it can possibly be before you embark on a full production, and using AnyStage will help you get there.
  • Some playwrights prefer to direct their own work. Others write better work when collaborating with a director they trust and who genuinely cares about the play as much as they do. If you are working with a director, talk to them about what your role in the rehearsal process will be. See "roommate contract" idea above.
  • If you are writing or re-writing your play throughout the rehearsal process, manage your time well. Agree on deadlines with your cast and director, and let them know in advance if you don’t think you can make a deadline. Don’t ask your actors to memorize a ton of new lines during production week, or throw off the rehearsal schedule because you couldn’t meet a deadline.

Life Advice

  • Don’t assume everyone you’re working with will be on top of their shit. But don't do other people's jobs for them. Clear communication of what you expect throughout the process (deadlines, job expectations, etc) is crucial, even before a person accepts a position.
  • Don’t do multiple major projects in a semester—it will make life difficult for not only you but everyone who has to work around your schedule.
  • Know what you’re getting into.
  • Doing a show can be stressful, but also fun.  Never lose sight of the fun in it all.

Tech Week Advice

Tech Week Help! Here is a document from our last Intro to Tech Week