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No I’m not crazy, I’m just a Stage Manager!

July 18, 2011

Stage Managing is a compilation of acquired skills such as patience, script analysis, organization, obsessive compulsive disorder, physical strength, extreme attention to detail, and being able to answer ANY related question that begins with “What if…”

I’ve been asked numerous times: “Wait a minute, wait a minute, there are people out there who WANT to be stage managers?!  WHY would anyone want to do that?”

So, true, there’s no Tony for Best Stage Managed Production.  True, it’s the only tech position required to be at all rehearsals and all performances.  True, SMs are responsible/in charge of almost everything to do with the show once it opens.  True, 99% of common-folk [non-Thespians] have absolutely NO IDEA what a Stage Manager even is, and 60% of non-SM-Thespians don’t fully understand what the job entails. True: you are commonly and respectfully referred to as GOD.

One of my favorite SM quotes that says it all: “Perhaps, therefore, ideal stage managers not only need to be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds.” [source]

Yes, there are sadistic individuals like myself who thrive off of being a Stage Manager.  I may curse the designers who obviously haven’t read any rehearsal reports [and sometimes, not even the script!!!], I may secretly want to gouge actors eyes out when they can’t memorize their damned lines or are inconsistent in their blocking, I may want to assassinate board ops who can’t respond to a “standby,” and I may threaten to strangle the director during tech if s/he doesn’t stop screaming in my ear when I’m trying to call a scene.

But…when a quick change problem can be solved with delayed calling of tech cues, when an “impossible” scene change can be done in record time while carefully choreographed, when an actor finally doesn’t trip over their “trouble line” – or when they simply say “thank you,” when a director is beaming on opening night, and – admittedly – when a board op misses a called cue because they “didn’t hear” the standby, I love my job.

There is nothing more powerful, humbling, and satisfying than to be in the back of a theatre after a successful show, eavesdropping on the audience while they wonder just who it is the actors and director are congratulating on Opening Night.  Unnoticed, and in charge of more than the avid Theatre Goer could ever know, perhaps that is why Stage Managers are called GOD.  It’s not an easy job, but perhaps one of the most rewarding…and we don’t have to deal with that “in the spotlight” stuff.  I wear Black, therefore I’m invisible and a force to be reckoned with.  Not everyone’s in this game to make a name for themselves: I bet you can name over 10 directors, 10 actors, 10 playwrights, and maybe 5 designers you haven’t worked with…how many stage managers you’ve never worked with can you name?  Remember that the next time you are tempted to give attitude to your SM, and respect the unique and difficult job they do.  Remember to say “thank you” when you steal their pencils, it’s always appreciated.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. California Triple-Threat permalink
    July 25, 2011 1:33 pm

    I’m thankful for stage managers– thankful that they can do what I can’t, and still make me and other performers look good at what we can do! You are to be commended. I’m glad you seem to love your job so much. I know its not easy!

  2. Bri Levantino permalink
    June 26, 2013 11:57 am

    This made me absolutely proud to be a stage manager! During a show I say never again will I stage manage but then afterwards I go looking for more shows to work with, more actors to yell at, more directors to keep calm, more sleepless nights, and more board operators to drive crazy. As much as I love acting it seems being an SM is my true calling. I don’t care how much I say I hate it, I not so secretly love being head stage manager!

  3. Bernita permalink
    August 17, 2013 5:15 pm

    Thank you for this. I think this should be read by every student actor and by someone who thinks they want to be stage manager. Not everyone is cut out to be a stage manager, and I am proud to say that I have been one for many,many years, having decided on this profession at age 13! This made me smile.

  4. August 18, 2013 9:00 am

    This was an interesting read! Can’t say it’s the best job in the world but when you know where to find your happy moments, it’s worthwhile.

  5. Jane permalink
    August 18, 2013 6:32 pm

    Thank you for this! It really sums up being a stage manager and the many things that we have to deal with but also how rewarding it can also be. I’ve been doing it for 11 years and although there are some days I wish I did something different, I wouldn’t change my job for the world. I really do love it!

  6. August 23, 2013 3:31 pm

    I’m not a stage manager – but my daughter is and she loves it! Actually she missed being a SM right now. You’re right. Not many people realize what a SM does or how a show couldn’t function without one. But, your article does bring out “the best” of what stage managers are and what they do. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Treva permalink
    April 20, 2014 4:03 pm

    As someone who is about to graduate (in less than a week!) from college with a BFA in Stage Management, reading this gave me such inspiration. And took the words right out of my mouth.
    After just finishing a very rough couple of days SMing some performances for young directors and receiving no thank you, I felt a bit hopeless about my future career and how I don’t want to feel like I’m working a forever thankless job.
    But then I realized…
    even if it is thankless, it is IMPORTANT. And they may not realize it now, they will. Someone will. And when that day happens, it will be the most rewarding feeling.
    So here I go, an almost college graduate off into the world!

    Thank you for your words. And for your work.

  8. Raxel permalink
    January 17, 2015 10:16 am

    Can anyone recommend a good school/college.path for becoming a stage manager? My daughter is graduating high school this year and that’s what she wants to do. Thanks.

    • January 19, 2015 7:00 pm

      She should attend a school that has a Theatre program where classes in stage management are taught. I am in CA and UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge each offer such classes.

    • January 19, 2015 7:02 pm

      UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge offer classes in Stage Management at the undergraduate level.

    • The Practical Artist permalink
      January 19, 2015 7:21 pm

      Internships! In addition to a good college education, Internships are enormously valuable. I can trace back nearly every professional job back to an internship at a Summer Stock theatre I had during college.

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