Students will demonstrate their practical ability to operate the mics for a production by first completing an actor scene breakdown, and then cueing the mics for the first act of Fiddler on the Roof in a script.
Hook (3-5 minutes):
Finish the practical sound test for all those who have yet to complete it. This test should ensure that all the students know how to operate a mic from the mixer. More specifically, they know how to connect it (in the case of a lav/body pack), turn it on, check to see if the batteries need replacing, how to unmute it, and how to control the volume slider. After this exercise they’ll be totally ready to operate the mics for a production. Ask the students to reiterate how to operate a mic. This could happen in several ways: you could ask a different student to tell the class about each step, students could create an infographic or some other drawing in groups, the class could say together out loud what the different steps are, or students could draw the process on the board, etc. Anything will work- it’s just important to briefly review so all students are clear on the process before they move onto the next necessary step to running sound for a production!
Activity 1 (55-65 minutes):
First students should complete an actor scene breakdown- this will make the process of of cueing the script much easier. Hand out copies of the first act of the script that students can write on. On a separate piece of paper make a table where all the character names are on a list on the left, and the numbers of the scenes are listed in a row across the top. For each scene mark with an X or some other notation which characters are present (more specifically which ones speak) in each scene. This will make it much easier when deciding which characters will need to share a mic.
After the actor scene breakdown is completed for the first act assign each actor that has speaking parts to a microphone. Number of available channels/microphones will vary, but for this exercise assuming ten (or whatever your system has available) is great. Leads should have their own mic, but there are probably several actors that may need to share mics. On the back of the actor scene breakdown designate each actor to a mic, and detail who will be sharing a mic. Actors who are in the same scene together cannot share a mic. Sharing mics works best when the actors have many scenes in between when they speak, for example one has all their lines during the first act, and the second has all their lines during the 2nd. This gives them plenty of time to switch microphones. For this exercise looking at your actor/scene breakdown will help you easily see which actors are in which scenes together, and where they appear in the act. Again, this will help you tell which actors are best suited to share mics with each other.
Your script should be comprised of standby cues, go cues, and off/mute cues. A standby cue should be written in around 3-5 lines before a mic would need to be turned on/unmuted. This will help you know what to expect during the middle of the show when there are several mics to turn on and off seemingly all at once. Write in a cue to turn the mic on right before the line starts, and off right after the line ends. If you turn the mic on too early then you may catch backstage conversations, and if you start it too late then you’ll cut off some of the actor’s line. If you turn it off too early, again, you could cut off a line, but if you turn it off too late you’ll again possibly encounter backstage conversations. In the professional world you’ll get fired if these things happen, and here at school you’ll likely get in trouble. It’s important to pay close attention to detail, but to keep going if you make a mistake. You can demonstrate how some of these cues might look in the script.
Give the students the rest of the class period to finish this work. If they don’t finish during class, which they likely won’t, they can take it home and finish it for homework. They may also work by themselves or with one partner. It’s likely that some of these cues might change once you start rehearsals and see which characters may not need a mic (if they only have a line or two), or if something within the show calls for a mic to be turned on/off earlier/later than expected.
Wrap-up (3-5 minutes):
Have a brief discussion about what type of stage management skills the students think, or that they can tell are necessary to work in sound. We can gain these vital skills through hard work in every aspect of technical theatre. Have you made any realizations about what it takes to work in this field?