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Insider tips and tricks for an aspiring stage manager?

I'm about to got to college to study theater and I am so excited! Right now, I'm setting my sights on being a stage manager, and it is a career that strikes me as having little tricks and things that can help me be more effective. I would love to know some for my future managing adventures! :)

#theatre #stagemanaging #theater #management #arts #drama #tips #tricks


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Jessie’s Answer

Hey Jai!

The last answer was so great and very helpful. I definitely would recommend doing everything listed because it's always very important to understand your actors and to help them in any way you can provide.

But I would also like to point out that it's also very important to know your tech too. Being in school was the best time I had learning theatre practices because, at least at my school, there was so much we had to collaborate on. It's doesn't matter what field you're in or what you're interested in, take some time in school and learn a little about EVERYTHING. Stage Managers run the show. They are the point on everything so it's important that they know about everything.

Take a basic sewing class, learn how to hang lighting equipment, help build a set, help a sound tech put mics on actors for a show, even do Wardrobe and dress and actor, the list goes on.

Being in charge of a show and working a show are two very different things and as someone who works in a Union, with all different kinds of trades around me, respect is the most important part of a successful show. Knowing what the jobs are like for someone who isn't a Stage Manager is just going to help you out.

You also can't expect things from people when you don't know what to expect. There are things that may take ten seconds to fix and your pleasantly surprised. But there are also things that can't be fixed in the moment and you can't expect them to, which comes from knowing a little about what's happening.

There's a lot to theatre and I'm not saying that you have to know everything. But I find that most problems that can arise with stage managers usually come when they don't know enough about what they're in charge of. I know that's vague but College is made for learning so take advantage of the fact that you're there to learn, and you're paying for it, and learn about everything you possibly can. It'll only make you better

I hope this helps you out.

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Joshua’s Answer

Hi there Jai!


While working as an actor, I was fortunate enough to work with two wonderful stage managers. One of them ended up being a best friend and she now works as the Company Manager for the Houston Ballet! In fact, I am having her come to the college I work to speak on Stage Management. Here are some things I learned from her.


1 - "Please" can go a long way. I've had many stage managers who would give calls just by shouting it out authoritatively. But my friend would always add "please" at the end. For example, "Five minutes, please" or "Places, please" or "Quiet, please". It seems like such a small thing but many actors with whom I worked noticed and appreciated it. And it doesn't need to be overtly nice.


2 - Technical Rehearsals can be stressful for everyone involved. One of my personal pet peeves is when the board operators are working on cues and the stage manager doesn't effectively communicate when to continue on with a scene. And thus, yelling ensues. Again, my friend had a very simple system. First, she would say, "Hold, please". Then when the designers/operators were finished working, she would say, "Ok, let's take it from your line 'blah, blah, blah', please. WITH YOU." Those two words, "with you" would tell me, when I'm ready to start (sometimes I might lose my place and need to find it) I could continue the scene where she indicated. And because she was consistent, if I didn't hear "with you", I knew to wait until she said it. Other stage managers would leave out "with you" and were inconsistent how they communicated when to start. They would say "Continue from line 'blah, blah, blah'" and then nothing else. So I would start where they indicated and they would yell "Not yet!!" Other times at the same technical, they would tell me where to begin and I would wait, but a few seconds later they would impatiently say, "GOOO!!" Whatever phrase you use, be consistent.


3 - Learn how to read music. Before my friend became the Company Manager at the Ballet, she was a Production Stage Manager there. And the way they call shows is using the sheet music. So if you can't read it, there is no way you can get hired. Yes, you may prefer to work at a theatre, but the Ballet was salary and other theatres were per contract and didn't pay that great. So don't completely disregard other stage management opportunities.


4 - Learn your local union rules. I noticed you were in the UK and I don't recall at the moment if there is an equivalent union to our Actor's Equity. Everyone can write on their resume what shows they've done or that they are well organized. But few can say that they are familiar with union rules.


Hopefully that will give you some help. Good luck on your journey!


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