Edward Highlighter Hands | The Secrets of Prompt Books
What is a Prompt Book and Why Do You Have Highlighter Hands?
As a stage manager, you have to keep a prompt book, which has everything in it from cast and crew contact sheets to line notes, and of course, the script. During rehearsals, stage managers and/or assistant stage managers (ASMs) write in the script each sound, light, or scene change cue. Each cue has a number that we call over headset to the sound or light crew and they control it from their sound or light boards. Stage managers color code their prompt books in order to keep track of which cue is which (sound, light, or other).
When the show closes, the stage manager usually hands over their prompt book to the theatre company they just did the show with for archival purposes. Sometimes stage managers want to keep their original prompt book, so it is an assistant stage management duty to copy everything in the original prompt book and make a duplicate. This week, I was working on the prompt book for our show that just closed, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As I was color coding everything, I made a joke and said I felt like “Edward Highlighter Hands”.
A Closer Look at the Book...
In the first photo (left to right), you’ll see a bunch of sound cues (orange) and light cues (pink) as well as a scene change (green). This page is only about a couple minutes of the show, which as you can see, is a lot of cues for only a few minutes.
The second photo shows the same page; however, there is a blocking sheet on the other side. We use a small picture of the set's ground plan to write blocking (stage directions) for the actors in case they forget which door they need to go out of (which was sometimes a frequent question during dress rehearsals for this particular show (the set is made of doors)). We keep a copy backstage during shows too and follow along during every show, but stage managers get about 5 days to learn all their cues correctly before the show opens.
The last picture is a page of the script that doesn't have any cues on it, so it’s interesting to see how we call a handful of cues one minute and then nothing the next.