Sunday, August 3, 2014
When people who are not in theatre ask me what I do, I have to pause for a moment and think how I am going to explain it. I don’t think there is one definition of a stage manager. Even if you were to try to define a stage manager in one sentence, it probably wouldn’t make sense to someone who isn’t involved in theatre.
Every Place Breaks Down Stage Management Differently
A Broadway show usually has a Production Stage Manager, a Stage Manager, and at least one Assistant Stage Manager. The Production Stage Manager works in the office, calling the show about once a week. The Stage Manager will call the show at least twice, but they all rotate jobs to keep things fresh for everyone. In Educational Theatre, the Production Stage Manager is usually a faculty member. The Stage Manager is usually there because they want to be, and the ASM’s could go either way. The Stage Manager has most of the responsibility, but there are still a handful of things they can’t do. Some smaller companies may only have a Stage Manager, doing all the tasks of three people. Or, they may have an ASM who is 10 years younger and has no idea what he/she is doing. Every place defines each role differently.
Every Job Is Different
From my experience, I have worked a slew of different kinds of stage management. I’ve done musicals, plays, and dance. I’ve come into the process on the first day of rehearsal, the week before tech, and opening night. Every single job you will do is different. Maybe you do two plays in a row, but one may be a Shakespeare, and one Neil Simon, each having drastically different needs. Some shows you will be the ASM with no power, and some shows you will be the Stage Manager with no power. Even with the same company, or school, every experience will require different things, and have different responsibilities.
There Are Plenty Of Things Not In the Normal Job Description
Some shows, you come in, call the show, and walk away. Some shows you lock up. Some shows you write the rehearsal report. Some shows you also help with quick changes. Or you will be the one who runs QLab from their computer. Some shows you touch the set pieces. Some shows you touch the set pieces if you want your fingers chopped off. There are plenty of times duties are just assumed for you, before you walk in the door. I called a show, and didn’t write the rehearsal report. I called the show, and organized the costumes. I’ve not called the show, but was not allowed to touch set pieces. Because each person defines what a stage manager is differently, you will be doing different things every show.
So what do I say when someone asks me what a stage manager is? I give a different answer every time, depending on what I’m doing on that current show and what paperwork I’ve done on that current day. Mostly I just say I do the “backstage side of theatre” because that is as general as you can get.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
That fact about me is not a secret. I am constantly obsessing over shows and want to know all the facts about every current show on Broadway. I have met a lot of people from, “You know Dogfight?!” or “You know 35mm?!” However, there is a stereotype that to love all things musicals and what’s going on in the Great White Way, and that is that you have to be an actor. Designers, technical directors, stage managers, most don’t really care about that kind of stuff. But there is nothing wrong with caring about it.
I’m A Human Before I’m A Stage Manager
That’s something I have to remind myself for many reasons, but this is one of them. As a person, a quality about me is that I like musicals. It doesn’t matter that I am a Stage Manager for that reason, I just enjoy listening to showtunes and talking about who is cast in what and following Book Of Mormon on Snapchat. Every Stage Manager has qualities about them that make them unique. One of mine is that I will religiously listen to the soundtrack and happily mouth along backstage for a musical. And as a trait about me as a person, I see no harm.
Why It Can Be Useful
It can come in handy to have so much knowledge. I religiously check playbill.com, broadwayworld.com, and watch the broadway.com show every week. I follow them all on Twitter, to catch the updates as soon as they are announced. I was the first of my friends to know that Newsies was closing. I learned quickly about Andrew Rannells replacing Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig. I researched more on how the Broadway community was just as outraged about the Tony’s stopping the Sound Design Awards as I was. I have watched every episode of Fly Girl, Hey Kid, Vlogger 24601, and Kiss and Tell. And now if I meet those people, I can immediately strike up a conversation at the stage door with more than just a, “You were amazing.” Making a connection with someone can really be beneficial in the long run. When I went to New York for the first time alone I felt better prepared to meet people and put myself out there.
There’s Nothing Wrong Without Not Caring Either
There are plenty of my friends that I cannot obsess over shows with. Some of my best friends don’t pay as close attention, because they are not that interested. So many of my peers couldn’t care less. And that is just their personal choice. Just because you are involved with theatre doesn’t require you to know everything about it. This knowledge is useful, but not required. Having extreme knowledge of musicals and current Broadway news doesn’t lessen your ability to be a designer, actor, director, technical director, or stage manager. You may have closed a door on an opportunity you didn’t know existed, but having that knowledge won’t make you better or worse. It is just a personality trait of you, as a person, no matter what your career field.