#69unbox - tagging nostalgia
Stop Gap Solution - Livescribe Display. (update 2019 at end)

SMA's Elements of Company Management Workshop

EOCM May 2016

I attended the Stage Management Association's one-day workshop for stagemanagers looking to move up to Company Manager. This was no ordinary workshop. I got my place because an attendee living in Portugal and 9 months pregnant wanted to attend too and I provided digital facilitation via Skype making her attendance possible.

The photo above shows all attendees listening intently.

I'd wanted to try this for a while.

How I did it.

  • MacBook Pro with Skype installed EOCM May 2016 behind
  • Lansing Altec portable speaker
  • Slik Compact II Tripod
  • Logitec C920 HD webcam with built-in mic
  • Lavolta Ergonomic Laptop Table Desk
  • iPad2 with Skype installed
  • Bluetooth mobile keyboard

It's not the most elegant solution but with investment in equipment and the right platform, the sky's the limit. The experience was crucial. Can a workshop be attended remotely with maximum value being received by the remote participant? Good audio and video, check. However, Facilitation is the element that makes this work.

Unlike the equipment, participants are not plug-and-play. Those taking part need a little more direction and attention before the event to ensure the venue, event host, those participating and the online event host (me) establish a common understanding and expectations are managed. On this occasion, it was with the course materials, session speakers and provision to dialogue with the participant.

It's easy to forget that the pile of technology on the desk, wires, camera, speaker and screen are a person.

Patricia attended from Portugal via a Skype setup. Once she was 'dialled in' those attending at the venue could see and hear her and vis-a-vera things fell into place. was very happy. But as a Stagemanager by trade myself, I was very interested in the workshop on a personal level. I am currently considering returning to the theatre and the CM role interests me greatly especially with the social media insights I have gained over the last 10 years.

Overview of the day - in case you are thinking of taking the Elements of Company Management course when it runs next.

The day was created to provide a comprehensive insight to the 8 attendees + me into taking the step from Stagemanager to Company Manager perhaps landing in the middle with the Company Stage Manager role as those on the workshop all had work in stagemanagement at the time. This workshop was about understanding the CM label. Andy Rowley, the Stagemanagement Association's director delivered a program for the day with top end presenters with real, current and practical advice about taking that CM step.

We started with Louise Waldron, a company manager turned accountancy manager specialising in Theatre with Anderson and Pennington

Receipts? Digital is acceptable and keep them regularly updated. As the CM is responsible for payroll Louise's top tips included "get payroll in for Monday" and "always know the allowances relating to the performance company contract you are working on.

What is VAT-able is forever a conundrum but apparently starred items on receipts have VAT. I'll be looking out for that star. I have seen it but didn't realise it related to VAT.

Breaking News... Jaffa cakes are VAT-able BUT chocolate biscuits are not!


Louise was informed, relevant and helped me to see the minutia of the CM role. Very useful that my SM's 'attention to detail hat' made much of this enlightening, yet reassuringly evident. Funnily, I had forgotten that feeling until reviewing my notes to write this post! 

Our second guest speaker was Tamsin Mehta, Associate Producer (tours) @ Shakespeare's Globe Theatre’s Hamlet Globe to Globe

As Associate Producer Tamsin travelled over 300,000 km and produced 293 performances at 202 venues in 197 countries, the production of Hamlet returned to The Globe for its final four performances on the weekend of 23 and 24 April 2016. The Stage Management team were awarded the Production & Stage Management Team “special award."

When the Globe to Globe Hamlet company set off on a two-year tour it's aim was touring the iconic play to every country in the world. They took a Folio Edition of Hamlet on their travels. The stage managers asked in each country they visited for someone to sign the book and inscribe the line “To be, or not to be” in their language. 
A nice touch I thought.
G2G2B First Folio
Tamsin provided some nuggets of wisdom that while not revelatory were fundamental. A quality presenter speaking with authority providing first-hand experience to help the group understand the role and scope of being a Company Manager. The purpose of the day was to inform the attendees who are currently work in stage management but are considering the next step in their career.
The Stage Managers focus is the 'on stage company’. A Company Manager's focus is wider, with an expectation you’ll develop a rapport with all departments and understand the 'Biggest Picture’ of the enterprise at large.
"If asked if you need help do take it if you can.” Being a 'control freak’ is never a good look especially when in a lead organiser or manager but it’s all too common. The greater trait is the ability to delegate and distribute workload. I think this was a moment for me when the CM role became a much more engaging possibility as I recognised skills I tend to feel comfortable delivering. Could I become a CM?
Familiarity with ambient communication techniques was hi-lighted as important, the example given by Tamzin was how she established a company channel for the Globe to Globe company using a WhatsApp ‘group' https://www.whatsapp.com/. Social communications technology I understand. Whatsapp, Slack, group.me, Tripcast and the like are a benefit not afforded to SM's or CM's before the dawn of digital or should I say the mass adoption of the smartphone. Other points were,
  • Be aware of being 'Out of Sight' when on the road. (All too familiar for those who have toured in the past)
  • Two weeks out on tour is like eight weeks out of the office for those in the office (you might have to read that twice!)
  • Visit with beer + biscuits (When you aren't there you want to be 'in mind')
Tamsin outlined the key attentions where expectations arise. Building a network with people in these roles is vital to the success of a company manager
  • Management
  • Creative
  • Production
  • Key decision maker 
Be sensitive.
You are bridging the gap between the Producer and the Stage Manager
The fact the Company Manager role sits close by Casting in the hierarchical production structure on many occasions was new to me.

Tamsin provided a comprehensive insight into 'being' a Company Manager and its' role. Citing many entertaining anecdotes along the way. Leading nicely into presenter three taking a more removed perspective having been a company manager in the past and now working in the 'key attention' areas listed by Tamsin previously.

At this point, I realise I need a part two for this blog post.

Part two will recollect sessions from...

Mark Everett
Theatre Director @ Marlowe Canterbury

Wayne Lee
Head of Employment Relations @ SOLT / TUK

David Bloom.
Head of PR @ Target Live

...the final panel discussion Company Management Panel with Adam Harrison, Mike Powell Jones and Anthony Sammut

ending with a what comes next for me, the Extend the Audience service and Company Manager aspirations.

Part 2 (link will be inserted when published)