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The SM Bag of Tricks

March 30, 2011

It’s true, the Stage Manager has been referred to as  “mom/dad,” “miracle worker,” and, of course, “god” (hence why we are the possessor of the infamous “god-mic”).  But even though we organize chaos, calm directors, translate “tech talk” to actors, and all-in-all make magic, we would be nowhere without our “bag of tricks.”

The bottomless bag of Stage Managers is often the shining light in a swirl of darkness.  Now, I haven’t been able to oblige all the requests I’ve had (i.e. “you don’t have a rubber chicken in there, do you?” – yes, I’ve been asked), but a next-to-last resort situation sometimes has been saved by the contents of this mystical bag.  An SM Kit is as personal as the style in which you take down blocking, but there are also rules… well okay, not “rules,” more like guidelines. I’m going to share with you my must-haves & suggestions to create a kit of your own.  Depending on how elaborate the project, the more things you may need.  I know these office supplies can be pricy, so don’t be afraid to ask your Production Manager if you have petty cash allowed for necessary office supplies.  A rolling backpack/briefcase/small suitcase, though not always a fashion statement, is probably the best case to use.

photo credit


  • A Basic First-Aid Kit (be sure you keep re-filling the aspirin & antacids!)
  • ICE PACKS, ICE PACKS, & ICE PACKS (you don’t want to be in a situation where you need one and don’t have one)
  • Clipboard
  • Plenty of Paper
  • Stop Watch (time breaks & runs-throughs)
  • Desk Battery-Operated Clock (I always set mine 3-5 mins late to allow for “Actor Grace Period”)
  • Highlighters in various colors
  • Pens (2 colors)
  • Pencils
  • More Pencils
  • Pencil Sharpener (I prefer to have a hand-held manual, so you don’t make noise if you have to sharpen during rehearsal)
  • Post It’s
  • Binders
  • Stapler
  • Extra staples
  • Paper Clips
  • Binder Clips
  • Maglight (mini maglights are best)
  • Batteries for your maglight
  • Your cell phone charger (what’s an SM with a dead phone?)
  • Heavy-Duty 3-hole punch
  • Scale Ruler
  • Regular Ruler
  • Tissues (non-lotion, sometimes people use them to clean their glasses)
  • Throat Drops (I prefer Ricola)
  • Instant Hand Sanitizer
  • Binder Tabs/Section Separators
  • Laptop (it’s not the 90’s, besides: it makes the job SO much easier)


  • Erasers (the kind that go on the back of pencils)
  • Erasers (the separate kind)
  • Scissors
  • Spray Sanitizer (during cold season, you want to clean that public rehearsal room if you’re in a low-budget rehearsal space or an educational setting)
  • Battery-Operated high power Pencil Sharpener (for those large casts)
  • Camera (take pictures of that set dressing, especially in a rep situation)
  • Fold up Printer (extremely convenient)
  • Extra copy of the AEA Manual of the Contract you’re working on
  • AEA Incident Report Forms
  • Prop/Costume Lending Agreement Forms
  • Safety Pins
  • Spike Tape (Usually your PM will provide this, but it’s good to have some of your own)
  • Gaff Tape (for making those clever rehearsal-props)
  • Glo-Tape (or… yes, it now exists: GLOW-GAFF!)
  • AND, my personal favorite, a Stage Manager’s best friend: The amazing, the wonderful, the all inclusive: POST-IT PEN


What have I missed?  What do you have in your SM kit?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    April 2, 2011 11:08 pm

    I read the post about the Stage Mangers kit and agree with what was posted. It all depends on the size of production and you should always ask the production if they have supplies from past productions or if they have money for you to get what you need. If your working on small productions with virtually no budget then make sure you keep all your receipts because you can write off a lot of the supplies as work expense since you are buying it for a job especially if its a 1099.

    As you work on shows your kit grows and you learn what you find you need the most. I also keep Tylenol in the kit for actors, though be careful if you are working with young actors, medicine even if its Tylenol can get tricky with minors.

    I also carry life savers hard candy and mints, its always nice to have fresh breath especially if its a long tech day!

  2. April 5, 2011 3:35 pm

    You’re so well prepared it makes my heart sing! And that post-it pen is the best thing man ever creative. Totally beats out sliced bread.

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