Places, Please: The Stage Manager Life

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April 21, 2017 | By Amelia Driscoll

Places, Please: The Stage Manager Life

Keep Calm and Carry On. The phrase is plastered on t-shirts, pillows and coffee mugs, but it’s tattooed onto the heart of every stage manager—keep calm and keep things going. I’ve heard it said that a stage manager, in addition to being a manager, is a friend, a parent, a therapist, a paramedic, a mediator, a police officer, a secretary and, in general, a knower of a little bit of everything. I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description.

There’s never a typical day, which is part of what makes it so exciting. A rehearsal day could look something like this:

  1. Set up piano/speakers, sweep, tape out the stage, set up chairs, set up tables for stage management team and director, set up rehearsal props & rehearsal costumes
  1. Meet with director to discuss the plan for the evening and to check in. Meet actors as they arrive and let them what they need to do first
  1. Call any late actors
  1. Write down the actors blocking, be on book if the actors call for line, track all props, and set up props for whatever scene the director would like to work on
  1. Actors leave. Check back in with the director—ask any questions you have and get the schedule for the next rehearsal
  1. Clean up everything that was set up for rehearsal and lock up the building
  1. Type up the daily schedule and send to the actors, type up the rehearsal report and send to the production team, type up line notes and send to the actors, update run sheets, checklists, and props tracking sheets, send any additional E-mails that may need to be sent out (i.e. Dear Actor, you left your script at the theatre—don’t spend forever looking for it. I have it.)
  1. Eat dinner (likely after midnight)
  1. Sleep (This one is optional, but it’s nice to include)

Auditions, pre-rehearsal week, tech week, and shows are whole other beasts with a slew of different responsibilities. Keep calm, keep on.

A few times, someone has asked me about making a career out of stage management or theatre. My response is usually something like this: If there is anything else you can do that will make you happy, do that.

It’s hard. I’ve never questioned if this is the path I should take, but it is worth warning those considering hiking it not to wear flip-flops. Stability, a steady income and a typical 9-5 work week do not get packed into your day bag. You have to be okay with being alone, with constant change, and with missing holidays, birthdays and weddings.

It may not seem worth it, but for those that find that it is there are moments when you feel more alive and more in tune with humanity than you ever thought possible. When you watch an actor suddenly let go of fear after trying for weeks to become vulnerable enough to step into their character fully or when you hear cheers from the audience as a light cue you called brightens the stage at the perfect emotional moment; when you feel the rush of solving problems in split seconds and every time you become part of a family that will only last a brief period in your life.

Is there anything else you can do that will make you this happy? Not a chance.

*The featured image above is a select page from the stage manager’s prompt book from Peter and the Starcatcher.

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