A well-designed prompt desk can be instrumental in pulling off a flawless theatre production. While nearly all spaces will have one, they often require some inventive adjustments to achieve the best results. Design update for a more user-friendly prompt desk was long overdue, considering the increased technical demands of modern shows and the health and safety of the Deputy Stage Managers (DSM) and Showcallers using them.
Results from a Stage Management Association (SMA) survey of over 500 members in early 2019 also showed that the design of current prompt desks had started to negatively impact the health of DSMs, due to overstretching. To help find a solution, the SMA formed a Prompt Desk Working Group made up of industry professionals to help define the requirements needed and then created detailed guidelines for manufacturers. These guidelines identified that ageing equipment in theatres around the country was often situated in poor locations for operator needs, were rigid in size and were impractical and uncomfortable to use.
One venue where these problems were highlighted was The New Vic Theatre in Newcastle, a purpose-built in the round theatre, where an updated prompt desk was still necessary even after modifications to their current one. Deputy Stage Manager Kate Wilcock says,
“We are a fairly unique space and 20 years ago our original prompt desk was relocated and adapted by our in-house staff to make it more user-friendly. Over the years a cue light wing was with rocker switches, video monitors to allow the DSM to see the entrance directly beneath them and an external show relay monitor was added. As with most theatres, shows are becoming more technically demanding with larger casts, more scenic elements, and bigger lighting and sound experiences.”
Kate adds “We needed to modernise and expand our prompt desk capabilities to keep up and future proof. It was no longer a job that we could achieve with in house expertise alone. That’s where GDS came in. We contacted them looking for some guidance in what was available and what we could adapt to our needs.”
This information combined with GDS’ reputation for creating solutions that always consider user needs to inspire the creation of a new prompt desk that doesn’t compromise on form or function – Concept 2.
Kate’s prompt desk problems were echoed throughout the SMA membership, and it was clear a complete design overhaul was necessary. Using feedback from the SMA report, GDS created Concept 2 – a next-generation prompt desk that combines ergonomic low-profile design, comfort and high-quality performance all in one place. As the latest addition to the SM Console range, Concept 2 fully complies with Display Screen Equipment regulation, is lightweight and can be fully customised for the needs of the space. As well as providing the essential features of a traditional prompt desk, Concept 2 can also include a variety of professional venues communication features such as Intercom, 4K Monitors, cue and paging systems, synced clocks and timing functions, dimmable task lighting and desk storage.
Crucially with almost half of survey respondents reporting they rarely found prompt desks and seating well designed and comfortable, Concept 2 is height adjustable and width scalable, reducing the overstretching that is currently necessary when operating a desk, leading to painful muscle strain. With most members also needing to make ad-hoc adjustments to make current desk seats fit for purpose, GDS designed height-adjustable seating inspired by modern offices, to create a fully H&S compliant workstation. Concept 2’s control buttons are positioned at a reduced operating angle alleviating wrist fatigue, and monitors are installed at an improved viewing height to provide a natural line of sight for operators, removing the need to constantly turn the head which can cause neck and shoulder pain.
The capabilities of Concept 2 herald in a new era of improved safety and comfort for Stage Managers, allowing for smoother operation and ultimately better technical performance that reflects the fantastic work on stage. The customisable nature of the desk also allows for the addition of technical updates in the future, and improved monitoring allows for more accurate cueing, improving the flow of performances and increasing health and safety standards across the entire space.
SMA were particularly impressed with how Concept 2 responds to user needs, saying,
“GDS continues to be at the forefront of stage management equipment design for the world-class theatre and live events our members manage worldwide. GDS’ history of placing end-user feedback at the center of their design and manufacturing is evident in Concept 2 and is a genuine leap forward in ergonomic, flexible and user-centred design. Concept 2 is likely to prove a popular and very effective range of stage equipment and is flexible enough to continue to respond to the needs of stage management for a long time to come”.
Kate Wilcock was also pleased with Concept 2 and the impact it’s already made at the New Vic. She says,
“We contacted GDS looking to, have more space/storage, and combine all the elements we were currently using into one low-profile shell so that we could still see out of the control box on to the stage. Concept 2 has much better lighting and the width of the desk means we can comfortably keep a note pad by the book and there’s storage under the desk for paperwork too. The height of the desk is adjustable and the cue light panel is now situated in front of the user instead of having to twist to see the stage/cue line/cue light simultaneously. Concept 2 is really user-friendly, it’s great to have so much that you can personalise and it’s a far more comfortable layout than our old system”.