Stage manager

 18 October 2012

Stage managers physically coordinate theatre. They make sure the various parts of a show, from props to set changes, are in the right place at the right time.

As a stage manager, you're in charge of making sure that every physical part of the show.
As a stage manager, you're in charge of making sure that every physical part of the show.

What is the job like? 

Stage managers are often part of a team. Depending on the size of the theatre company or event you work with, there may be several people involved, such as: 

  • a stage manager (the 'SM')
  • a deputy stage manager (the 'DSM')
  • an assistant stage manager (the 'ASM').

Stage management teams are responsible for every aspect of stage productions. As a stage manager, you're in charge of making sure that every physical part of the show, including props, scenery, and furniture, is in the right place, at the right time.

The stage manager makes sure that technical staff and performers alike are ready to meet their cues.

People management and a broad, strong knowledge of theatre are both important. The stage manager makes sure everyone is in the correct place, both on and off the stage, and that technical staff and performers alike are ready to meet their cues. 

As a stage manager, you might: 

  • work with the director and designers to make sure that their ideas are achievable in a practical space
  • set up rehearsals
  • supervise the 'get in' and 'get out', when a touring show unloads and sets up all its technical equipment, and then packs it away again after the show
  • make sure, when a show goes on tour to a variety of venues, that every performance is kept in line with the vision of the director’s original production
  • deal with any emergencies that might come up during rehearsals or the show itself
  • let the director know how the first performances go, and suggest staging changes that might help iron out any hitches
  • prepare and keep the prompt script (or ‘Book’) for the show up to date. This contains all the show's cues and technical requirements.

Either as a deputy or main stage manager, you might also have some additional duties outside of staging, such as:

  • helping to coordinate publicity for the show with marketing staff
  • ensuring a dialogue with the front-of-house and theatre managers, especially if the production is a visiting touring show. 

Touring theatre companies and larger theatres usually use freelance stage management staff. In these jobs, you are self-employed, and will work on different shows as they come along.

The theatre venues who receive touring companies ('receiving theatres') normally also have a resident technical stage manager, who might work together with the visiting stage management team to oversee the lighting, sound and other technical work. 

How do I get into stage management? 

Practical experience is very important. Try volunteering on local, school or amateur shows to give you an idea of what the work is like.

At school, getting involved with performing arts events and choosing subjects such as GCSE drama can also be useful. The ability to read a musical score is often important for opera and ballet, and often useful in musical theatre.

At a higher level, there are courses and diplomas in stage management, such as:

  • BTEC Level 4 HNC or Level 5 HND Diploma in Performing Arts (Production)
  • degrees in stage management, theatre practice and technical theatre 

However, you may need to demonstrate some experience to qualify. 

The Stage Management Association offers resources for stage managers and students who are interested in getting into stage management.


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