How to Be a Stage Manager
Being a part of a live performing art production can be very exciting and fulfilling. A stage manager is in charge of the entire production, and must know the ins and outs of every production they oversee. A stage manager must know how to do every job in the production. Strong leadership and communication skills are also important. Once you have the necessary skills, you can apply at local schools and colleges, theatres and playhouses, as well as concert halls and music venues.
Gaining Theatre Experience
Take theatre classes.Theatre classes aren’t just for budding actors. See if your local community college offers classes in touring production, stage lighting, or theatre management. You can also get a degree in stage management, theatre practice, or technical theatre. Whether you take one class or many, you’ll learn invaluable skills and tips for managing a production.
Volunteer at a theatre.To gain valuable experience, volunteer at your local high school, playhouse, or theatre. They are always looking for people to help make their production a success. They don't pay much (or none at all), so go into it with an open mind and open heart. You’ll get to be part of a production and make connections with others who have a love for theatre.
- This is a great learning opportunity for someone who is older but looking to break into stage management. Volunteering allows you to work with more experienced people and gain knowledge of the industry.
Try out every position.In order to become a stage manager, it is essential that you know how to do every job in the theatre. Work on the set, coordinate costumes, help with hair and makeup, become a prop master, assist the director, and learn how to work the rigging, stage lighting, and audio equipment.
- If you don’t have any theatre experience, try becoming a stagehand or spotlight operator first. You’ll work closely with the stage manager and learn what’s required for that role.
Getting a Stage Managing Job
Apply for an internship.Many large companies, like Disney Theatrical Group, offer internships for students. Taking a position like this can help you get your foot in the door and increase your chances of landing a job as a stage manager. Not only will you get to see amazing productions and work with professionals, there is also a chance you could get hired on permanently.
Apply at local theatres.Research theatres and playhouses in your area and visit each one. Bring your resume as well as any referrals or letters of recommendation, and inquire about stage management openings. If there are none, ask the person you speak to if they know of any openings.
See if there’s an opening at a school near you.Middle schools, high school, colleges, and universities usually have theatre departments. Visit all the schools in your area and see if they have any openings for stage managers. This would be a great position for someone who enjoys working with kids. Make sure you are prepared for your visit by dressing professionally and bringing your credentials with you.
Apply at music venues.Concert halls and other music venues, even outdoor rock and roll shows, also require stage directors. If you can’t find an opening at a theatre, try managing the stage for music productions. Many of the responsibilities, such as overseeing artists and keeping track of show times, will be similar. Plus, you’ll gain experience to add to your resume.
Network.Networking is a great way to find a job. Make connections with other people in the industry, especially from past productions you have worked on. If you show your coworkers that you are dedicated and knowledgeable, they may refer you when they hear of a stage manager position available.
- Reach out to people you already know in the industry. Ask for recommendations or referrals.
- Attend as many productions as possible. Stick around after the performance and introduce yourself to members of the cast and crew, when appropriate.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Wear black and dress conservatively.Wearing black is a must in all theaters; it keeps the crew from being too visible on the wings of the stage. Dressing conservatively is a must for all professional jobs, so be sure not to wear anything too showy or revealing -- you want to blend in, not stand out. Invest in several black tops and pants so you will always have a clean supply.
Dedicate your time.A stage manager is a very demanding job, time-wise. You need to have enough time in your schedule to be early to every single event, whether it be a meeting, rehearsal, dress rehearsal, or a performance. You’ll also need to set up for every event, as well as clean up afterwards.
Be assertive.Stage managers have a lot of people and things to keep track of. You must remain calm, cool, and collected. However, stand your ground when needed to make sure that things are progressing as they should be. Be assertive, but polite to the cast, crew, and guests.
- Express yourself directly and openly. Don’t be afraid to tell others how you feel, or how you think they are doing in their own roles. Give specific examples of ways they can improve, and be sure to praise them when they follow your advice. Be firm but still friendly.
Provide great customer service.Guests coming to see the production need to be treated well so they have the best possible experience. Though you will likely be busy with numerous other things, take guest’s requests or complaints seriously and do your best to attend to them.
- For instance, if someone complains about gum on the floor, assure them it will be taken care of immediately, and then get someone from your crew or the house management crew to clean it up if you are in a tight spot.
- If someone approaches you during a break in the performance and tells you they are unable to hear the dialogue or music, take steps to rectify the situation. Adjust the audio for that section of the theatre if others in the area are having similar trouble. You could also offer the person another seat in a different section, if possible.
Improve your leadership skills.Stage managers are in charge of the entire production, so you must be a good leader for this job. You’ll need to know how to delegate tasks and manage other people. Stage managers must be patient, calm, and level-headed, especially when things go wrong.
- To be a great leader, you need to be an active listener. When someone is speaking with you, give them your undivided attention and make eye contact. Don’t interrupt or judge them, but do try to understand where they are coming from.
- Great leaders also take responsibility for their actions. Own up to any mistakes you make, and realize that as the stage manager you will be responsible for mistakes that other people make as well. Make sure someone is able to effectively complete a task before delegating it.
Communicate clearly.You’ll need to be able to communicate well with a variety of people on the cast and crew. Not only will you be in charge of the stage crew, you’ll also have to communicate with the director, choreographer, and actors. Stage managers also schedule meetings and call times, take notes during meetings, and write up rehearsal reports.
- Speak clearly and assertively to everyone you encounter. You should also be specific when making requests to others in order to avoid confusion.
- Body language is also a part of communication. Demonstrate friendliness and approachability by using open body language, such as smiling and angling toward people who are speaking. Avoid frowning, crossing your arms, and fidgeting.
Stay organized.There are many things for a stage manager to take care of and coordinate, so you’ll need to be organized. Keep a notebook for each production to jot down rehearsal and call times, contact info for the cast and crew, blocking notations from the director, etc.
- Pay attention to the details. You’ll need to keep track of everything from the names of the understudies to the quality of the gel sheets for the stage lights.
- You can also make to-do lists, set deadlines for tasks, and multitask in order to get everything accomplished on time.
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