Being a stage manager is essentially a 'people management job'
And what do we mean by this?
A stage manager must have the temperament and ability to get along with people in both the artistic and technical sides of theatre, and to understand what they do. It is part of the attraction of the work that each new job will introduce new and different challenges.
Stage managers should be good planners and organisers, with a knack for multi-tasking, prioritising and keeping calm under pressure and in a crisis. Oh yes, and being fairly technically minded is a help!
However many famous people stage managers might work with, the work itself is not glamorous, often involving long hours and fairly boring, repetitive tasks as well as being physically demanding.
During the rehearsal period, the stage management team (often composed of 3 - a stage manager, a deputy stage manager and an assistant stage manager) acts as the lynchpin between the artistic process developing in the rehearsal room and the people physically building, sewing, assembling and making the production outside of that rehearsal room. Stage management are there to prevent ANYTHING from adversely affecting the production. Attention to detail and good communication skills are essential here.
Like a spider sitting in the middle of its web, the stage manager or team should sit at the heart of the production and be the first port of call for anything concerning the show for all those involved in creating and running it.
Once the show has opened, the stage management is responsible for the management of each evening's performance. They ensure that the production continues to run with all aspects of it kept as directed and designed. The DSM (Deputy Stage Manager) will also generally cue the show, giving calls and gos to the actors and all departments, enabling the changing of scenery, lighting and sound to be co-ordinated. The ASM will frequently be 'running the wings', i.e. running other backstage aspects, particularly props.
In a smaller scale theatre or on tour, the stage management may also be required to 'roadie'; that is to drive, load and unload trucks, put up the set and design and operate both sound and lighting.
This brief description gives an idea of the variety and responsibility of the job. The company must trust their stage management team and they must be able to cope with being the people with whom the buck stops. In a crisis, it must always be the stage management that remain cool, keep their heads and cope with it; in a confrontation situation stage management must calm, soothe and mediate.
For more information on stage management and other backstage jobs see the yellow boxes at the top of this page.
Read these blogs from a colleague in the USA - the terms they use are a little different to ours but the job's the same!