Stage Management FAQ

  1. In relation to the other people working on the production, who do you end up working very closely with?
  2. You've been signed onto a play. Where do you start?
  3. How do you know to do what you do? Do you consult any resources, or do you learn as you go?
  4. Do you read the play? What do you, as stage manager, need to pull from your reading of the show?
  5. How do you map out your time when working on a show?
  6. How do you prepare for meetings? What do you bring to the meetings?
  7. What is your role during a rehearsal? How do you create the schedule and keep track of everything?
  8. How do you arrange for rehearsal space? What channels do you have to go through?
  9. Are there any differences between working in the different theatres, or between different spaces that you need to consider?
  10. What is your role during and preparing for load-in? and for strike? Any advice for dealing with strike/load in?
  11. What is your role during the run of the show? What must you do each night before the show opens, during the show, and after the curtain closes? Who helps you?

In relation to the other people working on the production, who do you end up working very closely with?

You work most closely with the stage director and in a smaller capacity the producer. Depending on the director and his/her ability to organize (which very much depends on the individual), you may need to schedule things, but you may not. Hopefully you will be working with an assistant stage manager, who you can boss around as you like.

You’ve been signed onto a play. Where do you start?

Talk to the directors! Make sure you know exactly what they expect of you. Your job really depends on the other people working on the show and can vary a lot. Find out if you're going to be the one in charge of taking care of conflicts, scheduling, finding rehearsal spaces, etc.

How do you know to do what you do? Do you consult any resources, or do you learn as you go?

Stage managing is something you can really learn on the job. Generally, the only thing you need to do is what people tell you to do. Talk to the director and producers to see what you should be doing. If it's an established group you're working with, talk to someone who has worked with that group for a while, or preferably someone who has stage managed a show for that group if you're really stuck.

Do you read the play? What do you, as stage manager, need to pull from your reading of the show?

Reading the play isn’t necessarily important. You may have to know when to call cues, but this is more about timing and not about understanding the play. It honestly doesn't matter if you have any idea what's going on until closing night, because you are not involved with the artistic decisions (though the director might choose to consult you, depending on the director).

How do you map out your time when working on a show?

Being proactive is always helpful, but you don't really have to meet any deadlines for the show. The only time constraint is being at rehearsals, which is a lot of time!

How do you prepare for meetings? What do you bring to the meetings?

Bring a pad of paper, the cast conflicts if they are printed out, the rehearsal schedule, and any notes you have taken from rehearsals that you will need to pass on to the designers.

What is your role during a rehearsal? How do you create the schedule and keep track of everything?

Make sure you know the schedule for the rehearsal - write it down. Also be sure to write down everyone's conflicts for that night. And don't forget the script! During a rehearsal you need to call actors who are late for rehearsal and take blocking notes (and other random notes for the director). Sometimes you will be asked to read lines for missing actors. You create a schedule based entirely on the casts' conflicts and the director's needs. In the ideal situation, the director will let you know exactly how much time he/she needs for each scene and such if he/she wants you to write the schedule. Generally, however, the director will prefer to write the schedule because it is pretty complicated. In this situation, your only responsibility is to make sure the director gets the cast's conflicts in order to do this.

How do you arrange for rehearsal space? What channels do you have to go through?

This depends on the group doing the show... for most houses, you need to be in the house to reserve the space. Generally you can ask anyone in the house about reserving it, preferably someone who's also involved with the show!

Are there any differences between working in the different theatres, or between different rehearsal spaces that you need to consider?

Yes. Your job the night of the show will vary depending on the theatre (for the Ag you can call the show entirely from backstage; generally in the Ex the SM is also the light op.

What is your role during and preparing for load-in? and for strike? Any advice for dealing with strike/load in?

This depends on how much you want to have to do! Generally you are not in charge of anything unless you want to be for strike or load-in, but you need to make sure everyone from the cast is there when they are supposed to be. If anyone says they have conflicts for either of these, it's important to make these known to the producers and directors as early as possible.

What is your role during the run of the show? What must you do each night before the show opens, during the show, and after the curtain closes? Who helps you?

Again, this depends on the venue. You may have to turn on the light board and help set the stage or sweep it. If necessary, you may have to call the actors if they're late for their call, and make sure that you've got your script ready to go. You will probably have random notes from previous performances such as light cues that you need to look at before the show starts. Also, make sure the props are preset if the props master is not there or does not exist. When the house is about the open, you need to be the point of contact between the house manager and everyone else so that you know exactly when the house is opening, you approve of the time, and you let everyone else know so that they are not hanging around on the stage inappropriately. When the show is about to start, you need to be in touch with the actors to let them know and sometimes the music director, as in shows where the person needs to make an entrance. Also, make sure the light op is in place before you begin, and let him/her know about any tricky cues if it's the first time for him/her to light op this show or if it has been a little while since he/she light opped.

During the show you cue the actors and call the light cues. There are sometimes other random things to do that makes it very exciting! You are also the contact point for anyone to report things that smell funny or seem odd, so you need to be able to think on your feet. Also, *always* have a pad of paper ready to take notes if light cues seem weird, actors are missing their entrances or lines and this should be fixed, etc. In case of an emergency, anyone can evacuate the theatre but you are the most capable so BE READY!

After the show, clean up and make sure the actors get out of the dressing rooms before the building closes. It is your responsibility to be the last person in the building and make sure that the appropriate lights and air conditioning are off. While you're waiting for the actors, take the time to clean up in the audience and make sure that orchestra lights are turned off (where applicable) and programs/ticket stubs are off the ground.