Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What does a Stage Manager do?

If you work in the theatre, you know that the stage manager is one of the most important people working on any production. If you aren't familiar with what goes on backstage, you may not be so familiar with this important position. Yet even in the ranks of the theatre, there is disagreement as to what the stage manager is actually hired to do.

We all know that the stage manager is there to run rehearsals and "call" the shows. He or she is usually the one running around with a stop-watch calling people who are late for the rehearsal. You will hear the cast replying "thank you places" as the stage manager calls places backstage and then returns to the booth to call the lighting, sound, scenic and other cues; coordinating the execution of the show without a hitch. The biggest part of their job is to make sure that the show maintains the vision agreed upon in rehearsal and runs to the best of its ability.

How a director uses the stage manager can be as different as the many different temperaments of the directors themselves. In some rehearsal rooms, the stage manager is completely in charge. They will be the one who starts the rehearsal and then give the floor to the director, who will then give the floor back to the stage manager at the end of the night. Other directors do everything themselves and the stage manager becomes a glorified note takers and actor wrangler.

But however the stage manager is used, they are one of the most wonderful people you will meet. They are completely selfless in a world of huge and/or fragile egos. The SM is always the first person to the rehearsal and the last person to leave. They have to hear about all the problems of the cast and coordinate their schedules. Often they can end up "mothering" the show. And while the "mothering" instinct can both be an asset and a potential weakness, their investment and care of the show for very little personal glory paints the picture of absolute dedication and devotion.

Be sure to say a nice word to your stage manager the next time you see them and thank them for all the wonderful work that they do.

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