SMA SoP’s and advice for rehearsal and production. Lockdown across the UK. Streamed shows to go ahead under Covid rules

Since Lockdown was eased to enable live indoor theatre performance with a distanced audience, most productions have featured small casts. There are now a few larger shows in rehearsal and one at least in performance.

The Royal National Theatre have three productions scheduled for the Olivier before the end of the year. Their experience in rehearsal has highlighted some considerations which will be of interest when we return to work.

  • Briefing company members effectively is very important. In addition to emailing risk assessments, method statements and notes on procedures, RNT have posted hard copies direct to people (to their residences, not via  agents). The documents arrive and can be read in time for a Zoom conference a couple of days before rehearsal. The conference is presented by the Company Management team. The content covers protocols for attendance at rehearsal and other calls and is aimed at ensuring company members are aware of measures in place that  help maintain their health.
  • Company, production and stage management teams have set aside more time than usual to review designers’ drawings and assess covid safety matters arising.
  • The Director visits the actual rehearsal location with Company and Stage Management so that the reality of flow, distancing and welfare facilities can be seen in context.
  • The room is set out with fixed workstations for Director, DSM, etc, distanced and covid safe.
  • In the first two or three days progress is slow. Thereafter productivity improves with perhaps reaching 70 to 80% of ‘normal’ level of achievement.
  • Only essential personnel attend and the approach is to be severe with the limits but an appointment system has evolved to admit single additional and necessary persons (designer, maybe). The ‘visitor’ is provided with a specific, reserved and distanced location in the room.
  • Rehearsal Notes now include a specific section covering Covid matters.
  • It takes much longer than usual to respond to questions and requests from Directors and performers, typically because newly emerged conditions have to be taken into account before answers can be provided either by direct contact with production staff or through the Rehearsal Notes system. Experienced stage managers often have ‘standard’ answers ready to deliver. Now and for the future those routine responses have to be reassessed for covid implications.

TLD . With thanks to Gemma Tonge, Head of Company Stage Management, RNT.

Guidelines for return to theatre and live events released by SMA

The guidelines have been produced by Terry Lee Dickson, with colleagues from SMA, CITA and PMF as well as generous assistance from producers and backstage and creative colleagues.

The guidance is being issued at a “Living Document” which will be expected to have changes and amendments as circumstances change throughout its useful life. Instigated by SMA the guidance will also be published in a short form questionnaire intended as an induction guide for new company members and as an aide-memoire for notice boards

The guidance is being issued at a “Living Document” which will be expected to have changes and amendments as circumstances change throughout its useful life.

Latest ‘Living Document’  SMA Rehearsals Guidance ‘Protocols’ as PDF

Short booklet  Checklist Guidance Notes (PDF download)

Notice Board Guidance Notes (PDF download)

From Down Under:
Example of Safe Working Document

Seven Inclusivity Principles for Arts and Cultural Organisations working safely through Covid-19
Important Inclusivity Guidance (PDF)


Despite local setbacks there is some further progression to Stage Four of the government’s road-map to recovery, with the final Stage Five allowing theatres to reopen fully, without social distancing.

The government had said indoor performance pilots, which includes Andrew Lloyd Webber and LW Theatres’ pilot at the London Palladium last month, had proven to be a success, and had contributed to the decision to allow more theatres to reopen.

What are the rules for face masks or face coverings? #

Informative and popular SMA Brunch sessions are back on ZOOM!
Thursday 29 October 1300
Returning to work: no.1: Resilience
Your health and well being are your greatest asset, and yet we have all been tested during the past six months. We discuss how to maintain a perspective when life does not turn out as planned, how to prepare for changes and challenges at work and at home. In our brunches we have discussed and revealed many skills new procedures and techniques to keep our work places safe-
Now, working together as always with advice from fellow SMs and international colleagues lets make it about us – how can we make sure that we are in good shape to face a changed workplace?
SMA Zoom meeting October 29 1300
Register here :

You will be sent a link with meeting details from to join the meeting. All welcome!

Thursday 12 November
Returning to work: no.2: protecting our conditions – negotiating techniques, skills and tips.
We know that we may face new temporary terms and conditions in the COVID-era, and we all want to get back to work again, but how can we make sure that we are getting the best deal available and not being exploited ?
Working together as always with advice and tips from experienced SMs and international colleagues lets make sure that we are all skilled up to negotiate effectively and make sure our work is properly rewarded as well as rewarding!
SMA Zoom meeting October 29 1300
Register here :

You will be sent a link with meeting details from to join the meeting. All welcome!

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said that these pilots are underway with the London Symphony Orchestra and more, to inform the guidance theatres will need to follow on reopening.

This announcement marks step four of the culture secretary’s previously announced roadmap to getting theatres and arts venues back open, just a week after announcing that outdoor performances would be allowed to take place.

Update: Friday 10 July : Outdoor concerts, plays and opera get government go-ahead

Open-air gigs, festivals and theatre shows can resume in England from this weekend, as long as they have “a limited and socially distanced audience”, the government has said.

Outdoor performances can go ahead from Saturday, 11 July.

A number of small indoor test events will also take place to help plan how and when venues can begin to reopen.

Those pilot performances will also be socially distanced, and guidelines for indoor venues have been published.

The test events will feature the London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s Church, as well as performances at the London Palladium and Butlin’s holiday parks.

“This is an important milestone for our performing artists, who have been waiting patiently in the wings since March,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said.

“Of course we won’t see crowds flooding into their venues, but from 11 July our theatres, operas, dance and music shows can start putting on outdoor performances to socially distant audiences.

“That means theatregoers can experience a live play for the first time in months at places like the stunning Minack Theatre in Cornwall, and music lovers can attend Glyndebourne this summer.”

Capacities will be reduced and the venues will be asked to use electronic ticketing in order to keep a record of visitor details in case they are needed by the test and trace system, he said.

The announcement means 11 July will mark the start of stage three of the government’s roadmap for reopening the live entertainment industry.

There are no dates for stages four and five – indoor performances with a limited audience, and indoor performances with a fuller audience. However the government has said dance studios can reopen from 25 July.

New guidelines for future performances in England have also been published, with recommendations including:

  • Reduced capacities and cast and orchestra sizes to allow social distancing
  • Performers, conductors and musicians to be socially distanced, possibly back-to-back or side-to-side, rather than face-to-face
  • Singers and wind and brass players to have added social distancing – 3m is suggested – and screens could be used
  • Singing and brass and wind playing in groups or in front of an audience limited to professionals only
  • Increased deep cleaning of auditoriums

Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said the guidance was “welcome”, but urged the government to provide more clarity regarding indoor performances.

The government has also commissioned a scientific study on the risks associated with singing and brass instruments.

And Mr Dowden said planning rules would be changed to prevent empty venues from being demolished or redeveloped.

New Guidelines for future performances

Update Monday 6th July : The government has unveiled a £1.57bn support package to help protect the futures of UK theatres, galleries, museums and other cultural venues.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Breakfast new grants and loans aim to preserve “crown jewels” in the UK’s art sector as well as local venues.

It follows several weeks of pressure, with industry leaders warning that many venues were on the brink of collapse.

Independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will also be eligible.

Guidance for a phased return of the performing arts, starting with performances behind closed doors and rehearsals, is expected to be published by the government shortly.

Mr Dowden said the package is all “new money” and has two broad aims – to preserve “crown jewel” venues like the Royal Albert Hall and national galleries, while also helping local institutions across the UK.

He said institutions applying for the new grants and loans through industry bodies would have to prove how they contribute to wider economic growth.

More information can be found here

Previously Announced

A five-stage “roadmap” intended to help the performing arts sector start to rebuild after the coronavirus lockdown has been unveiled by the government.

The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden outlined his roadmap for the performing arts at the latest meeting of the government’s Cultural Renewal taskforce on Thursday 25th June.

The “phased return” will initially let performances take place outdoors, with indoors performances to follow later.

Mr Dowden said he wanted “to raise the curtain on live performances” as soon as possible.

But there is no mention of additional funding, which several venues have said is key to their continued survival.

Nor is a specific time frame given, though a DCMS spokesperson said the first two stages could take place immediately.

The taskforce, set up in May, includes representatives from Arts Council England, English National Ballet and the Ambassador Theatre Group among its members.

The five stages are outlined as follows:

  • Stage One – Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)
  • Stage Two – Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)
  • Stage Three – Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience
  • Stage Four – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)
  • Stage Five – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)


Earlier Updates

Imaginative Funding is key to regeneration
SMA joins with all theatre colleagues to call for a holistic approach to funding the return to work for the whole theatre and live events sector.  As an industry we are likely to be later than many to start work again, but we are not asking for handouts but fair and measured investment in our people and industry – the cultural future of the UK. The theatre and live events sector has been for many years, and will be again world class, and provides a huge input into the national coffers, through VAT, taxes, tourism and intellectual property,  British theatre and events are shown around the world- performed and supported by British talent.  SMA and our members want now to contribute to the planning and the realisation of a future where we can once again thrill, excite and entertain the UK and the world, and continue to make a huge contribution to not just the well-being, but the financial  wealth of our country. We have seen how successful our shows have been when screened during lockdown;  the experience of performing live again is one which we, and we believe our audiences, can’t wait to participate in.  As the restrictions lift and we are able to find new ways to rehearse and perform our work, we also call on the government to approach financing our sector with the imagination, creativity and flair that we will all bring to ‘wowing’ our audiences once again with our shows and events.

At a time when we are planning for how we can return to work in theatres and live events,  SMA’s large pool of SMs is an available and fantastic resource of experience knowledge and enthusiasm.  We’d like to be able to help to harness this expertise for the good of the whole industry


Please take part in this survey :

There is a budget coming and Freelancers are urged to let the Government and Chancellor aware of issues faced by backstage workers before then

Colleagues across the theatre will be writing to the Chancellor and MPs

Please join them:
Telephone020 7270 1010 (Direct)
Switchboard020 7270 5000
Fax020 7270 4325
Personal Twitter@rishisunak

 Write to your MP  

FutureLearn is a great website offering course on all different subjects mostly for free ( although there are payable options, e.g. for the issue of completion certificates and subscriptions).

including First Aid (in collaboration with the University of Glasgow)

Some advice on writing ‘real world’ CVs

The good thing about your current theatre CV will be brevity and focus
The thing which doesn’t work so well is that it relies on the reader understanding the world (and jargon and language) of stage management and theatre to decipher your career moves
Keep the brevity but explain more about the skills which underpin your successful career to date.
As you will have a lot of short credits and gaps, try grouping your experience into subject areas (making it look a bit more like the corporate careers they will be used to seeing)
EG :
Theatre Plays and shows (reverse chron. order)
Live Events:  (reverse chron. order)
Musicals and Festivals:  (reverse chron. order)
Other work: (sparingly is appropriate)
We would suggest that – like the Freelist- you include your most recent three jobs just before these lists as well.

Some of the following depends on whether you are applying for a change of role but not a new career, or for a corporate job with career prospects:
They will most likely expect a personal statement and will need all relevant qualifications (including relevant CPD training)  and relevant skills listed accurately as appropriate.
You will be expected to ‘sell yourself’ and your skills for their job much harder than you probably need to do for SM jobs.
You will have a lot of credits, so in the categories choose the credits which you can use to indicate your suitability for the job you are applying for
‘ principal contracts include….’ 
If you have swapped between DSM/SM/CSM jobs, a word of two about why you made those choices (and that this is quite normal in an SM career) may be needed to stop a move from CSM to DSM looking like a demotion to corporate readers and appearing negative.

Rather than just listing jobs:
You should concentrate a bit more on the relationships that you built with people and companies to gain the jobs, highlighting companies which you returned to a number of times, directors and producers that you worked with more than once, etc.   Also highlight the skills that you employed to make the project work with the credit- e.g.  examples of good people management, calm successful management of stressful or pressured situations, unusual challenges and how they were met – but please be succinct. Make a point quickly and snappily and move on.

Awards and good results sell- try to include indications of success and achievement (e.g. ‘subsequently transferred to West End’; ‘the largest musical made at Derby Playhouse’; ‘Played to near capacity houses for the whole run’
‘The Stage Regional show of 2019’ ; ‘Chosen as the show to open the newly refurbished XYZ theatre’; ‘In that year my team was nominated for the SMA Stage Management Team Award’).  This may seem uncomfortable, but appropriate indicators of success are quite usual in CVs other than theatre.

You may find some of this useful:
The advice here may be a bit basic but it is pretty good:

Please SMA know if there are specific questions that you would like us to address

Spring Cueline : our latest edition is full of articles to inform, educate and entertain you and available for members to read now, with online training information and links, advice on box sets to catch up on, features and interviews with SMs, and even a great cookie recipe to try! Click on the link, download, set your PDF viewer to Two Page View and dive in!

Students: have you read Standing By -SMA’s new quarterly online bulletin for students which is in student members’ email inboxes now?

Also for students: If you’re a UK Stage Management drama school student, the SM students at @The_GSA have set up a group for mutual support and sharing of resources at this time and would love you to join: