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Knowing and Remembering Cues

January 7, 2011

There will probably be cues in your score. Sometimes you see a line with the word WARN next to it. This is the line you’re listening for to get ready. Then you see CUE: or Q: followed by the line you start the music on. Occasionally you see the word MUSIC or the word GO at the moment during the line or action where the music enters. Sometimes you get nothing at all, in which case you consult the script and write in the cues.

I usually wind up playing a little game with myself during tech. “She starts her song downstage left and delivers it to Jorge, who is upstage center, standing on his head”, I’ll tell myself. Jorge isn’t onstage yet, so I’m good. Then I’m waiting for the girl to come downstage left, cough 3 times and for Jorge to show up, and I’m ready to go. Telling myself the sequence of events keeps me engaged in what’s going. It’s when I’m on autopilot that things go wrong.

Chances are you’ll be changing some of the cues. Dialogue gets cut and you have to start earlier. Or actors speak too slowly and you have to start later. Don’t be afraid to change the cue line to suit the situation, but in the interest of principle no. 2, make sure you try it the original way first, before you start messing with it.

Another thing to know about underscored dialogue: When the music doesn’t cover all the dialogue, it’s probably not because people are speaking their lines too slowly. It’s probably the dead air between the lines that’s killing the pacing. Practice beginning each lines right after the previous one has ended with your actors. There are theatre games that help with this, and your director might know them.

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