Setting Up My Prompt Book

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  • Cristina D'Almeida

When a production is complete, and you are on the technical side of the table, there are a number of ways you can organize all of your work to have it ready for future employers or just as a way to refer back to it. I try to give myself a ritual at the end of each production I work on as far as organizing my scripts and paperwork. I usually am the role of the Stage Manager on most shows, so there are a few things I believe in doing to keep things organized during the show and post-show. Even before a show begins, I always start by buying and building my binder. It can be any kind of binder, expensive or not. I try to keep them on the inexpensive side because I buy many throughout the year depending on how many shows I work on. Every Stage Manager needs a binder. I even go as far as trying to pick a color that is relevant to the show itself.

Inside that binder, I simply add my dividers and tabs. This helps me stay organized throughout rehearsals. Usually, the first tab is labeled “research.” This is where I like to include some of the designer’s research and inspiration as well as my own research. This helps to refer back to during rehearsals if there is ever a question in any department. The second tab is usually labeled “contacts.” This is where I keep my contact sheet and attendance sheet. It’s very helpful to have those names and numbers readily available at all times. The third tab is usually labeled “paperwork.” This is where I like to keep any relevant paperwork I’ve made such as line note templates, props lists, scene breakdowns, etc. The last tab is always labeled “blocking script.” This is where a single-sided, fresh copy of the script lives and is used to take down all blocking notes and to refer to during rehearsals. People set up their binders differently, and I’m aware of that, but this is how I usually set up mine, and it works for me. Other ways might work better for other people. It’s all about what makes things easier for you to navigate. To me, I try not to overcrowd the binder too much and have most of my documents on my laptop.

When I move into the performance period of a show, I have one skinny binder that I use for just my “calling script.” I do not buy a new binder for every calling script or for every performance phase of a show. I keep reusing the same binder show after show because eventually when the show is complete, I take that script out and put it into one single binder with other paperwork to make one main binder. I usually use my blocking script/rehearsal period binder. The calling script should have its binder separate from everything else. To me, the rehearsal period and the performance period are two different entities and should be kept separate. The duties in each phase are entirely different. It’s best to keep things apart from each other, so you don’t get confused because that has certainly happened to me. Also, when you’re calling cues during a performance, all you want to have in front of you is the calling script and any other minimal, relevant paperwork. Usually, something like scene change paperwork doesn’t overcrowd your space because you want to be able to flip through your calling script easily and quickly. This is why having it in its own binder works so well.

When a production is finished, I like to take all of my own paperwork and other people’s relevant paperwork and put it together in one binder. I always have one main binder for this. This is what everything relevant to the show will stay in so if I want to refer back to it years from now, I can just pull it out. On the cover of the binder I like to put the show title and who wrote it in large, clear letters. On the side of the binder, I like to put the title again and the year that I worked on it. I have a really strict yet simple set up for inside the binder which usually requires some more dividers and tabs. I like to first put the title of the show on a blank piece of computer paper in big letters. Below that I put either the company or theatre it was performed at. That is your first page. Then the second page is usually my stage manager approach. This always takes me a long time to write. I often wait a few days after a show closes to write this because I like my experience to fully marinate in my mind. I think about what my general approach to the show was. Then I talk about my experience and any challenges I had as well as what I learned and took away from the production. It’s usually about a page long. After that is set, I like to add any photos that reveal great angles of the set or any candids of the cast. I always put captions and give credit to the photographer. Visuals are everything.

The next part is usually my research section. The research that I made at the beginning of the process, as well as the set, costume, props and lighting designer research, is in this section. Don’t forget your research tab and divider to split this section up. Each subject should have its own section. The next part is my paperwork section. I include all paperwork that I created that was there before with the addition of examples for daily schedules, weekly schedules, tech schedules, all contact paperwork, an example of a rehearsal report, an example of a performance report, sound cue lists, props lists etc. Any paperwork at all, from any department, is put in this section.

The last two parts of my binder are usually my blocking script and my calling script, neatly divided. This part speaks for itself but they’re the bulk of my binder set up. This is why it’s good to have a large binder to fit everything.

I usually keep my binders for every show either stacked or on a shelf of some sort so I’m able to easily find which one I’m looking for. Having each show neatly organized will help you immensely during interviews for jobs. It lets employers easily flip through all of your work. Not only that, but it allows you to build your own timeline and work in a neat and accessible way.