Stage managers coordinate all aspects of a theatre production or event, including actors, technical staff, props, scenery and costumes. They make sure technicians and performers alike are in the right place at the right time and ready to meet their cues.
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').
People management and organisational skills are important, as are keeping calm under pressure and thinking on your feet. The stage manager needs an understanding of both the artistic and technical elements of a performance and makes sure it is delivered how the director wants.
As a stage manager, you might:
- set up rehearsals and arrange costume fittings
- 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
- deal with any emergencies that might come up during rehearsals or the show itself
- source props, furniture and set dressings and manage the props budget
- prepare and keep the prompt book for the show up to date. This contains all the show's cues and technical requirements.
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.
The hours can be long, and with touring companies you may spend long periods away from home.
How do I get into stage management?
Practical experience is very important. At school/college, helping with drama, dance or music events can be useful, or consider getting involved with your local theatre.
Choosing subjects such as A level performing arts or music can be helpful. The ability to read a musical score is important for opera and ballet, and often useful in musical theatre.
At college, relevant courses include:
- BTEC Level 3 qualifications in theatre production and live events
- BTEC Level 3 qualifications in production arts.
It may be possible to train through an Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeship in technical theatre, lighting, sound and stage.
You can use the UCAS website to find relevant higher education courses, such as:
- stage management
- theatre arts
- theatre production
- technical theatre
On the Federation of Drama Schools website you can find accredited drama schools that offer courses in stage management.
What can I earn?
A stage manager may earn around £20-40,000. Freelancers can earn more and are often paid per production.