gift ideas for theatre folk
For Stage Managers
This is my absolute favorite gift. There is an extensive review of it elsewhere on the tools page. I suppose you could consider anything mentioned on the tools page as an ideal gift for a stage manager, but this is the one I actually give people.
Sometimes, however, the Photon Freedom Micro is just not enough. This is my everyday working flashlight. It takes a single AA battery, is very light and small, and is really f-ing bright. You really don't want to look into it. It's not as bright as a Surefire, but the quality of light is more similar to a Surefire than to, say, a Maglite. It also doesn't take obscure, expensive batteries. It works by the same principle as the Freedom Micro: click the button to make the light come on at full. Hold it down to slowly dim the light until you let go. It also has a red LED if you really don't want a lot of light. It's accessed by holding down the button when the light is off -- the red light will get brighter until you let go. Also, the button is really close to the light, which I love because I can shield the light with my hand while activating it.
The exact model doesn't really matter, but the one linked is the one my ASM and I gave to our stage management interns for Triassic Parq. I have to confess, I've never really used one of these (though I did buy one for myself at the same time as I bought the interns' gifts, but for a PSM after opening night it's basically useless). I know lots of people who swear by them, though. They are definitely more useful for an ASM than a PSM. Most of the people I know who love them started out just buying one to see if it would be useful. Your friendly ASM is probably like, "I'm interested in trying that, but not enough to buy one." That's where you come in. Then they're like, "Hey, free holster!" and can experiment at will.
This pen covers part of the territory of lighted pens suggested below for directors, but it has many more features that make it a more ideal gift for a stage manager. My assistant, Nick, got this for Christmas, and it's quite amazing. In addition to having a gooseneck light sticking off the side, it also has a laser pointer (which I love for pointing out things around the stage from the house), as well as a UV light (they suggest using it to identify counterfeit money), a ballpoint pen, and a stylus, if you still use a PDA that requires a stylus, or if like Nick you have a Nintendo DS.
Compact Space Pen
If you're a stage manager, maybe something like this has happened to you:
You're out at dinner with your cast or crew, and at the end of the meal everybody is paying with credit cards and the waiter drops off the receipts and doesn't have, or forgets to leave, a pen. Then everybody looks at you -- and this is one of those evenings, you've dropped all your stuff at the hotel or whatever and are enjoying the rare opportunity to just go somewhere without lugging all your crap -- and you don't have a pen. And then everyone else at the table is like, "What? A stage manager without a pen?"
You may mutter something about not being at work, but then secretly you spend the rest of the outing suspecting that you may be a failure as a human being because you are at once a stage manager, and not within reach of a pen 24 hours a day.
This exact event has happened to me a lot in life, but as a kid who used to wear a pocket protector in my Catholic school uniform shirt (simultaneously with a fanny pack, while lugging an overstuffed backpack as big as me), I have fought hard to convince myself that it's OK not to carry the kitchen sink on my person at all times.
Recently the above situation happened several times in one week, and aside from the embarrassment, the actual inconvenience of not having a pen started to get to me, and I decided that it's time for me to suck it up and carry a pen everywhere I go. I already knew which pen it would be, one that I already purchased for this purpose years ago, but didn't adopt steady use of.
I don't want to recommend a specific pen too strongly, any compact pen would be better than none, but this one is the one I have, and a very good choice. It's very small and smooth so it fits comfortably in the corner of my front pants pocket, it has a clip so it won't fall out, and it's a matte black so you can always be wearing it, even in show blacks. It's very small when the cap is on, but very well constructed so that it is full sized and well balanced when you are writing with it.
Being a space pen, it can write for long periods against walls and at other odd angles you sometimes end up needing to write on backstage, as well as on wet paper (such as drawing on a cocktail napkin when having a debate with your crew), in extreme temperatures, and, if your show should be going on a really expensive, really long-distance tour, in space.
For the Director
One of the best things to get a director is a pen that lights up so they can take notes in the dark. I own this one from Brookstone, but I'm sad to say they appear to no longer sell it on their website. But there are tons of variations on this theme, so you should be able to find something.
This is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only will your director enjoy the use of the pen, it will benefit you as well. The director will have the freedom to sit anywhere in the theatre and not crowd into your tech table light, and will not ask to borrow a flashlight. As I said I have one of these for my own personal use, but generally when I'm in the dark I need a script light anyway, so I don't get a whole lot of use out of it. If you know a PSM in one of those cushy jobs where they get to sit in the house and watch the show, however, this is an equally good gift.
I first saw this product while doing summer stock. My assistant got it for one of our leading ladies who was often hot backstage and liked to carry a fan. The beauty of this fan is that it's small, powered, and as a bonus contains a flashlight for finding one's way around backstage. It also has a carabiner clip so it's filled with possibilities for ways you can carry and store it. REI sells it for $5, so it's even inexpensive enough to give to multiple people as opening night gifts.