You’ve been cast in a show, and you get to the first rehearsal. You formally meet the director, and then the stage manager. But what does the stage manager actually do? A ton, actually. Here are just a few of the many tasks they are responsible for during a production.
They take all blocking notes. Whenever the director sets something onstage with the actors, the stage manager makes notes about it, that way if the actors need someone to refer to they can refer to the stage manager who should be able to tell them if they missed something or messed something up.
The stage manager is also responsible for keeping and distributing things like contact sheets, rehearsal schedules and other important information that the cast needs to have. They also have a copy of each thing on hand at all times, in order to answer any scheduling questions or contact any cast members at any given moment.
It is also their responsibility to make sure everyone who is supposed to be at rehearsal will be there. If for whatever reason you won’t be at rehearsal, or will be late, the stage manager is the one you need to talk to-make sure you have this person on speed dial. A no-show at rehearsal puts everything behind, and stops you from getting any work in the future.
The director will often be seen giving the stage manager notes on things like costumes, props, and set pieces as reminders for the director to speak to the correct people. A good stage manager will always have a notebook and pen or pencil of some kind to make these kinds of notes with.
When the show goes up, it’s the stage manager who will make sure everything is set for the top of the show, and they will be the ones to give the actors their cues. (Thank you 15, thank you 10, thank you five, thank you places!) It’s imperative that you follow the directions and commands the stage manager gives so that everything runs smoothly.
A stage manager can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on how prepared you are for each rehearsal, and how well you take direction from them once the show goes up. After opening night, the show no longer belongs to the director; it belongs to the stage manager. It becomes their show, so you need to treat the stage manager as a second director.
Which leads me to one very, very important rule that you need in order to survive in any theatre-NEVER touch a stage manager’s book. Never, ever ever touch it. First off, it’s not yours, and second, the stage manager is basically responsible and the keeper of the show’s bible. If something happens to it, there is no show.
Have you ever been a stage manager?