The Senior Project in Theater Studies gives students an opportunity to engage with theater, dance, and performance studies as methods of research that are interdisciplinary in scope and global in perspective. Moving fluidly between creative and critical strategies, students will develop a sustained, in-depth inquiry over the course of one semester or year.
The senior project represents a culmination of study in the major, as well as a site for discovering and strengthening authorial voice across multiple mediums. Senior production projects are part of the Theater Studies curricular season, and are usually produced by junior Theater Studies majors.
As heads of their production teams, producers are expected to play a critical leadership role in ensuring that all students involved in production share responsibility for the safety of their designers, crew, cast, audience, and for the performance space itself. Producers should familiarize themselves with UP regulations governing production work, and should consider themselves responsible for upholding these requirements in all phases of the production process.
Important Steps for the Producer
Step 1: Read the Theater Studies Producer’s Packet
Step 2: Schedule a design concept meeting with the designers and director
- This is the time to start hashing out what you want the set, lights, and seating arrangement to do. It isn’t necessary to make final decisions at this stage, but it will be helpful to have a few strong ideas about what your team wants when you fill out your CPA application. Bring the application to the meeting and make sure you leave with all of the information you need. Be sure to include the budget in your discussion.
- Confirm that performance rights are available for any copyrighted material included in your show. This process is often initiated by the executive producers. Check to make sure things are on track before you apply for funding.
Step 3: Apply for funding from the Creative and Performing Arts Fund and other sources
- The CPA application process takes place twice a year for academic-term projects. Theater projects may apply for up to $1200 for production and up to an additional $500 for rights costs through the CPA. Additionally, Theater Studies grants THST productions $300 per credit-earning senior. Please add this funding to the budget and make sure to note it in your CPA application. Non-Whitney venues may also be requested here. If possible, the CPA application should be submitted by the producer.
- Meet with the Theater Studies Technical Director (TD) and Production Manager (PM) to discuss your CPA application before you submit it.
- Think creatively about alternative funding sources. Many senior projects are eligible for Mellon grant funding up to $500 per proposing senior. Additionally, work with your team to identify academic departments or organizations whose interests intersect the themes being explored by your project: they might be interested in supporting your work in a number of ways. All anticipated supplemental funding should be noted in your CPA application.
- You will need to carefully track your spending. The Producer Budget Worksheet is set up to help you track spending against multiple funding sources. Contact the production manager if you have any questions.
- The CPA application form, along with additional information about the CPA Awards, may be found here.
Step 4: Fill out the Prop Weapon & Stage Combat Request Form (if applicable)
- If you plan to include staged combat in your production you will need to complete and submit to UP a Prop Weapon & Stage Combat Request Form by the CPA deadline at the beginning of the semester in which the production will occur. If you plan to include prop weapons in your production you will need to complete and submit the form at least 6 weeks prior to your first performance.
Step 5: Create a file sharing system and production calendar
- Set up a file sharing system that all of your team members can access, including the THST TD and PM. You should create folders for each department as well as for budgeting, recruiting and basic show information. This should be complete by the first time you meet as a group.
- Using the Production Calendar Guidelines provided by the TD, create a production calendar with deadlines tailored to the needs of your production. Distribute this calendar to your design team as soon as possible, as many deadlines will be earlier than they expect.
6 WEEKS before Load-In:
- Schedule a meeting with Theater Studies Technical Director and Production Manager to discuss your contact sheet, calendar, and budget worksheet.
- If using prop weapons, complete the Prop Weapon & Staged Combat Request Form on the UP website.
- Note the date of your design presentation (scheduled during the Theater Studies 491 seminar meetings), generally four weeks prior to load in.
- Make sure the stage manager and director have a plan to distribute rehearsal reports to the members of your production team and the Theater Studies TD and PM after each rehearsal. This is an essential tool for fostering and maintaining communication between artistic departments and your support staff. A sample Rehearsal Report can be found here. A downloadable template (MS Word) can be found here.
5 WEEKS before Load-In:
- Schedule a practice design presentation for all members of the design team to present their designs to the Theater Studies TD and PM.
- Ask each designer to bring some kind of research (images, sounds, objects) that gives a sense of what they mean to do. After the Director presents a brief overview of the project for the group, ask each designer to present their ideas.
- Be prepared to present the production schedule, noting major design deadlines, an outline of the rehearsal schedule, the first run-through, and any other production-specific benchmarks, such as recording, costume fittings, special materials acquisitions, etc.
4 WEEKS before Load-In:
- Ensure that as many members of your team as possible can attend the THST 491 Design Presentation. Using the practice meeting as a model, assist the executive producer in presenting the production to the class.
3 WEEKS before Load-In:
- Once the design is set, continue to schedule weekly production meetings. This should be with all of your department heads if scheduling allows, but if not you should check in with each design team at least once a week. Make sure everyone is following the same plan, knows what their deadlines are, and that groups with overlapping needs are effectively communicating with each other. For guidelines on running meetings, see Notes on Notes: How to Run a Production Meeting.
- Read and respond to rehearsal reports as appropriate. Look for issues that may affect more than one department. Think about ways that you can assist in problem-solving.
2 WEEKS before Load-In:
- Schedule a meeting with Theater Studies TD to discuss plans for load-in and to ensure you have an adequate crew, some of whom will need training. Your plans should include call times, duties and crew assignments, as well as times and lengths of breaks.
1 WEEK before Load-In:
- Distribute the load-in and tech schedule to all confirmed crew members. In your email, include reminders about proper clothing, tool and scaffolding training, and general safety procedures.
- All construction, rigging, and overhead work must be scheduled with and supervised by the Theater Studies technical director. The producer is responsible for not only coordinating this work with the TD, but for acting as her primary aide and manager of the work force. A specific list of activities that require supervision can be found here.
- For calls that don’t require TD supervision, the producer acts as primary supervisor. The producer is solely responsible for ensuring that all work areas are left clean and safe and that no work occurs after midnight.
- If prop weapons are needed, fill out the Stage Weapon Chain of Custody form and submit to the UP at least 24 hours in advance, so that their officer has adequate time to notify the Yale Police. Download and print the Prop Weapon Check-In Log and post it on the weapons cabinet. Though you may delegate the task of maintaining this log to the Stage Manager or other appropriate person, the responsibility for making sure it’s done is yours.
- Make a plan for managing front-of-house activities during performances:
- Confirm with the THST TD that a House Manager has been assigned to each performance and invited dress, and send their names and which performances they’re managing to the stage manager.
- Meet with the director and stage manager to determine where the audience will gather before the show, when the house will open, and at what point it will be appropriate to admit latecomers.
- Recruit ushers, keeping in mind that you’ll need at least two ushers for the first 50 audience members and one for every 50 after that.
- Fill out the House Manager Questionnaire.
- Before opening reservations on YDC, confirm the approved number of seats for your production with the THST TD. You must reserve 5 seats for THST faculty and 4 seats for FOH staff in addition to any you want to hold for production members and VIPs.
- Print the poster, playbill and any other publicity materials. Theater Studies sets certain content requirements for senior projects (See the producer’s packet, Appendix J, for a detailed description). A playbill template may be found here.
- Technical rehearsals and unsupervised work calls may be scheduled at the Whitney any time before midnight during your residency in consultation with the technical director. As with load-in, the producer is responsible for ensuring that the space is left clean and that all work, rehearsals and meetings end by midnight.
- Technical rehearsals may require TD supervision if the production includes complicated rigging or fight choreography. This time should be scheduled by you in advance and at the discretion of the TD.
- Lead the notes sessions (midnight meetings) following each technical rehearsal. These meetings should begin no later than 11:45 pm. Ask for a brief report from the director and each department head. This time is best used for issues that affect multiple departments- encourage breakout meetings for one-on-one issues. Consider yourself to be an active agent in solving any problems that arise. More guidelines for how to run effective meetings may be found here.
- Before the Fire Inspection, make sure that all scenic materials have been tested and that swatches are available for inspection by the fire marshal. Make sure the Fire Drill Log and a ground plan are available as well. Attend the inspection, and ensure that all requests are addressed as soon as possible.
- Though the producer isn’t required to attend every performance, it is ultimately their responsibility to ensure that the theater is clean and orderly when the audience enters the house, that the proper number of ushers is in attendance (the producer may be required to stand in for no-shows), and that the light booth, tool room, and storage areas are locked at the end of the night.
- Ensure that all prop weapons are accounted for both before and after each performance.
- Ensure the stage manager generates and distributes timely performance reports. Read them and respond as appropriate.
- Schedule a strike meeting with the technical director once the show is open. Email the cast and production team to ensure that they’ll be there on the final night of the performance, dressed appropriately and prepared to work. Make sure that the crew includes several ladder/scaffolding-trained individuals.
- The technical director will oversee the strike but again will rely on you as the primary aide and supervisor of the work force. On the night of the final performance, a generous 20 minutes should be given to after-show socializing. After 20 minutes, turn on the work lights and politely request that the audience members exit the theater so that strike can begin.
- Strike must conclude by 1am. In the case that strike cannot be completed in time, the producer is responsible for coordinating its completion with the technical director and, if necessary, the incoming producer. This includes props set aside for return to the warehouse.
- After Strike
- Ensure that all rental items are returned on time.
- Schedule a meeting with the production manager to finalize production accounting and facilitate reimbursements.
A Note on Scheduling
Given the varied and intense schedules of Yale College students, fatigue is a very real safety concern. Load in and tech are especially busy times. The entire production team share responsibility for prioritizing health and safety (and academic commitments). Producers and Stage Managers play a crucial role. Undergraduate Production recommends that no student work for more than 4 hours before taking a break of at least 30 minutes, that no work call total more than 9 hours, including breaks, and that work calls be separated by a rest period of at least 10 hours.