Calls and Cans

Pre-Show Calls

The DSM (Deputy Stage Manager) is responsible for giving calls over the front-of-house and rear-of-house systems before the performance begins.

Time
(7pm show)
Time
(7.30pm show)
Call
6.25pm
6.55pm
½ hr call (35 minutes before show start time, known as the half)
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the show name company this is your half hour call. 30 minutes please”
Front of House call
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, (if pantomime or childrens show: “and boys and girls”) and welcome to the theatre name theatre. This evenings performance of show name will begin at 7pm / 7.30pm. “
when house open
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the show name company – the house is now open. Please do not cross the stage.”
6.40pm
7.10pm
15 minutes call
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the show name company this is your fifteen minute call. 15 minutes please”
6.45pm
7.15pm
10 minutes call
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the show name company this is your ten minute call. 10 minutes please”
6.50pm
7.20pm
5 minutes call
“Ladies and Gentlemenn of the show name company this is your five minute call. 5 minutes please”
6.55pm
7.25pm
Beginners call
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the show name company this is your beginners call for Act One. Beginners to the stage please: Miss Jones, Mr Smith, Mrs Jones. Standby stage management and technical staff”
Front of House call
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, (if pantomime or childrens show: “and boys and girls”) and welcome to the theatre name theatre. This evenings performance of show name will begin at 7pm / 7.30pm. “
As the first scene starts
“Lights up on Act One.”

 

Alternative calls: “Curtain in Fifteen” is used in the USA in some venues.

Headset

Headset

Cans Etiquette

The cans are the theatre’s headset communication

Important phrases:

  • “Quiet on cans please” other operators must respond by being quiet
  • “Going off cans” when any operator leaves the headset
  • “Standby LX Q 11” operator responds : “Standing By”
  • “LX Q 11 Go” operator may respond “Running” if its a cue which is not obvious, or is a long fade.
Beltpack

Beltpack

It is very important that the “Standby” is given at the start of the phrase, and the “Go” is at the end of the phrase. “Go” is the only word that can be used to initiate a cue. “Fade”, “Stop” are NOT appropriate.

If the operator needs a reminder of what the cue actually does, then the following are appropriate.
“Sound Q 12 which is a fade, Go”
“Sound Q 13 to cut the music, Go”

For non-standard equipment, (eg Slide projectors, smoke machines) a less rigid cuing method is possible ;
“Smoke GO”…. “Smoke STOP”
“Next slide GO”
“Slide off GO”

Mic switch, Headset volume control, Flash button.

Mic switch, Headset volume control, Flash button.

Where possible, one obvious action word should be used. This word should usually be “Go”.
Avoid using the word “Go” in any conversations.

Summary:

Every cue should have a standby.

Standby LX Q15

The lighting operator will then respond ‘Standing By’.

A few seconds prior to the cue:

LX Q 15…

Then at the cue point:

GO.

Alternatives:

  • Standby LXQ15 and Sound Q5
  • LXQ15 and Sound Q5… GO

Volume

The headsets are extremely sensitive, and can detect the slightest whisper. All operators should talk quietly, so that you can all turn your listen volume up high. Try cuing with somebody sitting 4 feet away from you. They should not be able to hear you.

USA Calls

Lighting cues tend to be called as ‘LIGHT CUE’ rather than ‘LX CUE’ in the USA. And Standby cues are often called ‘WARN’.

The Stage Management Desk

The SM Desk (or Prompt Desk) is the centre of stage management communications during the performance. Usually situated downstage left (in the prompt corner), a typical modern SM desk contains the following features:

  • Cue Light switches (red / green indicator lights and switches for standby and go, and sometimes a ‘group’ function).
  • Paging Controls and microphone (ROH Rear of House and FOH Front of House calls)
  • Show Relay speaker and volume control
  • Show Relay video monitor
  • Headset communications control and headset
  • Controls for practicals on stage (e.g. phone ringer)
  • Clock (with controls for setting it, or, in the UK, set by the nationwide radio signal from Rugby)
  • Stopwatch with start/stop and reset control
  • Local working light
  • Space for the prompt book
1980s SM Desk at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter, with GPO switches (from Cueline magazine, December 2012)

1980s SM Desk at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter, with GPO switches (from Cueline magazine, December 2012)

Cue Lights

Cue lights are a visual signal to technical operators and actors that their cue is imminent (flashing red) or has come (green).

The lights are operated by the DSM at the prompt desk.

There are usually two rows of switches. The top row operates the red ‘Standby’ or ‘Warn’ light. When first pressed, the light on the SM desk and at the operating position or entrance flash red.

The operator or actor has an acknowledge switch, which confirms that they are indeed ‘standing by’. This makes the light go steady on the desk and at the operating position.

At the cue point, the DSM switches the green light on at the desk. The light comes on at the operating position, and the operator (or actor) carries out the required action.

In most theatres, cue lights are used in conjunction with headsets, so that technical operators get a verbal and visual indication of a cue.

History of Cue Light systems

The earliest cue light controls used switches such as those used on pipe organ consoles for selecting voices.
Later, so-called GPO Switches which were used in telephone switching systems, came into use on SM desks, due to their unique tactile qualities, enabling them to be operated without having to look at them.

Recent years have seen the addition of presetting for cue lights. Using similar technology to lighting desks and computer-controlled sound systems, this allows complex sequence of cue lights to be operated reliably and repeatedly, at the press of a single button.
A typical system is Softcue made by Howard Eaton Lighting Ltd.