Musical theatre workshops and productions

Hiring a stage manager…

I am in the process of hiring a stage manager for a workshop production of GRACE & THE ISLAND OF MISFITS.  This workshop will be produced in February 2019 – seven months away – and I have to hire a stage manager now….a bit unbelievable to me.

First, you may be saying….remind me what a stage manager is and what they do.  In union shows, a stage manager is part of the actors’ union – Actor’s Equity Association.   That union handles contracts, negotiations and basic standards for actors and stage managers.   Even though the stage manager is technically an actor’s “boss” they come from the same union.

A stage manager works with the director and helps run the rehearsal process, is in charge of the technical rehearsals, and calls the cues for the performances.  Many times there are assistant stage managers who help the stage manager.  And sometimes there are multiple stage managers who work on a show.  Then the one in charge is called the Production Stage Manager.  (I once did a show with a Production Stage Manager, 4 stage managers and 4 assistant stage managers!)

Now, it is my job to hire the staff for my productions and workshops.  I start with a director and ask them “who do you want to work with?” Then I hire the staff.  Sometimes, the director will say, “I can work with anyone.” Then it is up to me.

When I interview a stage manager, I always say the same thing.  First, I remind them that they work for me and that I want to be kept in the loop for any problem or development.  Second, I tell that that it is their job to solve problems and not just tell me about them.  Third, I tell them that my shows start on time. Unless there is a theatre emergency, my shows must start on time (and most of the time they do!)

A good stage manager is not noticed by the audience at all.  They silently carry out their tasks of managing the actors and other back stage crew as well as coordinating the performance with the front of house staff.

My best experience with a stage manager happened recently.  The woman was very professional during the rehearsal process.  And at technical rehearsals she was extremely quiet and reserved.  Then during performances she was unbelievable.  She solved problems before they became serious and she worked really well with all of the staff. After the run, I received compliments about her performance from almost everyone.

What a joy that was.  Let’s try that again!

Larry Little

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