Sunday, August 3, 2014

You Cannot Easily Define A Stage Manager

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.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice explanation. Best wishes for the coming school year.