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Jul 08

Stage Manager Survival Guide

We all flock to the theater and see amazing performances put on night after night. However, many don’t understand the even bigger spectacle happening behind the scenes. And the one running his three-ring circus backstage is the stage manager, the center of all communication during a show. While learning how to be a stage manager takes time, here are some tips to help you start working in the production field.

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork
Every stage manager spends a lot of time on Microsoft Word, often formatting all their information to fit on a single sheet of paper. When doing your paperwork for a show, make sure you do everything as early as possible. This includes rehearsal schedules, production calendars, rehearsal reports, etc.  It wouldn’t hurt to do paperwork like prop lists and sign in sheets early to save you some time while in rehearsal. There is nothing wrong with updating later on. Also, make sure your paperwork is clearly labeled and organized in a binder; this will be your “Bible” for the entire show. If for some reason you couldn’t make a performance and someone else had to step in during a show, they should be able to run it with your binder. That means constant updating and cleaning house is a must.

In Rehearsal
A stage manager has many responsibilities in the rehearsal room. One is making sure you take down blocking notes and any other notes given to you by the director. Any notes regarding design elements in the show (props, set, costumes, etc) should be recorded in the rehearsal report that gets sent to the production team after each rehearsal. Also, the stage manager is responsible for keeping time during rehearsal and calling for breaks.  This is important so the cast and crew do not go over Equity rules, which is taking a five minute break after fifty five minutes of rehearsal and ten minute breaks after eighty minutes of rehearsal. I like to use this online tool, which keeps the time for you.

Actors and Crew
During the run of a show, you are in charge of communicating information from the director to the actors. Once a show opens, you are running and calling the show, putting you in charge of the actors and crew. The relationship you set with actors during rehearsal will definitely set the tone of the run of the show. While you want to be friends with everyone, you also have to show some leadership and not afraid to set rules. It’s important to find a balance between the two in order to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. Actors and crew trust the stage managers and often go to them for help when the director is not available.

Stage management is a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of dedication. However, if you want to pursue, you will get the hang of it! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, there were many times during my first show when I messed up. You have to take responsibility and learn from your mistakes in order to be a better stage manager.

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