Love Your Stage Manager

They all work together, and if they find the right harmony, the production looks effortless.

But the lynchpin of your production is also the least applauded: 
Your Stage Manager. The SM wears black, she juggles fifty tasks at once, she knows where every single object is at any given moment, and she never gets an ounce of credit. Even the orchestra pit and lighting booth receive part of the ovation, but the SM is hidden away, in the theatre’s darkest nooks, murmuring her cues into a headset. Even if the house manager gets a warm “thank you” from audiences as they shuffle out the door, the SM usually gets a free drink from the director at the after-party. Maybe.

People who like stage managing tend to really like stage managing. They’re usually tough, sharp, incredibly well-organized, left-brained personality types who could just as easily work as a corporate Vice President. They are not, as a rule, the kinds of people who need lots of attention, who enjoy goofing around and lapping up personal drama. Because of their hard work and precision, they can seem cold and distant. But that’s usually because they’re thinking of the million tasks ahead. Give ‘em space. They’re on your side.

Show after show, I see an SM languishing in the shadows. They are 
generally the most serious of the bunch, and the quieter she becomes, the less the cast remembers she’s there. If the SM has to talk with you, it’s probably because you’re doing something wrong – saying a line incorrectly, fiddling with the prop-table, ticking off the director for being late. That’s her job, after all, to manage the stage, and you are part of that stage.

Still, your SM is a person, and she deserves lots of room and respect – and please take care, at the end of the show, to express special thanks. It’s so easy to focus on what’s happening onstage that the cast (and sometimes even the crew) can forget how much toil goes on backstage. The director may receive a bouquet of flowers; the actors get to bow; the crew has the satisfaction of sets well-lit and costumes well-sewn; but the SM is alone, and she could use a pat on the back. If she does a good job, keeps everyone in line, and does this in a cool, professional manner, take care to remember her on opening night.


Comments

Caroline
# Caroline
Monday, July 25, 2011 2:48 AM
As I stage manager -- I appreciate your insight and completely agree with your assessment. :-)

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