I had started this list back in 2016, when something had gone wrong during a show (I believe an actor did some new blocking where he grabbed onto a part of the set and said piece broke off and so the actor did the rest of the scene with this big piece of lumber in his hand....very funny, luckily no one got hurt, but it prompted me to write down the phrase: "A good stage manager asks which parts of the set are weight bearing and which are NOT." From then on, I just kept a list of short, simple phrases that have helped me grow and maintain my stage management practices. Said list is below, and it is incomplete. It will be edited and changed. There are some things that, although I believe will always be true, could one day need to be rewritten. And that's ok. When I began this list I was not AEA, working 2 jobs, and didn't really have a goal in mind beyond flailing my arms and saying "I don't know I just want to stage manage!!!!".
Take what is useful, and leave the rest.
A Good Stage Manager...
1. Asks what parts of the set are weight bearing and which are NOT.
2. Knows where the shoe glue is.
3. Tries their hardest to know everything the ASM knows, and accepts that this is nearly impossible.
4. Puts the safety of their actors first. If it's not safe, we don't do it and everyone and their artistic vision can suck it. :)))
5. Gauges an actors comfort level. They may be good actors but not good liars.
6. Overchecks - it's better than underchecking.
7. If you haven't done it yourself don't assume it's easy.
8. Assumes the cues are flighty and need to be caught, not called.
9. In dealing with child actors, understands that you're dealing with 50% child and 50% parent.
10. Someone is gluten free. Someone is vegan. Know who they are. Provide options and don't be a little bitch about it.
11. Stick to your guns. Accept defeat with grace. Keep the goals in mind.
12. Put everything on a priority list. Accept that the bottom 3 things may not happen, at least without help.
12A. Ask for and accept help. It is not a sign of weakness.
13. Allow actors to be your allies. Allow actors to have inside jokes with you. End one email with "love".
14. Don't let anyone disrespect you. Shut that shit down.
15. Sound always gets the short end. Acknowledge it.
16. Keep in mind that your crew all have the same goal as you, they just have to go about it a different way.
17. Know everyone's names. Smiles when greeting everyone.
Recently, I was hired to call a dance show. Their normal stage manager wasn't available and they just needed someone to come in for one day of tech followed by one day of dress/performance. A quick little gig for good pay - similar to many of the corporate/festival gigs that pop up outside of the traditional theater scene. These are gigs I always try to say yes to. They are always a little weird and you don't know what to expect - but that's what I like about them. I'm often working with people who flat out don't know what a stage manager does, and so the presumption that they know what I need from them isn't there. This not only makes me very proactive at these gigs but also forces me to assess how my position relates to others.
Of course, no two gigs are the same, and each one comes with the fun task of figuring out how they function. If it's a reoccurring event I find and rely on anyone who has institutional knowledge. Asking what worked and what didn't work is a great conversation to have if possible.
I knew this gig would be particularly fun when I realized that the owner of the company was the same person who hired me and was acting as the production manager, event manager, and everything in between. I had an overall great time and below are some fun things I learned along the way -
I've had a small break from the rehearsal room for a little while - after a month long vacation in NYC and an intense film gig prior to that - tomorrow I'll be back at my theater in prep for my biggest show yet. Stay tuned - I'll be posting updates/notes on prep week, first rehearsal, and all the things I'm learning as I work on my first LORT A contract (ASM).
I've prepped for prep by -
1. Restocking my stationary/notebooks.
2. Packing a tote bag full of snacks/a backup dinner. I know I'm only there a few days this week, but time flies and next thing I know I'll be in rehearsal and constantly starving.
3. Already had some lovely communication with my SM. She is a fountain of institutional knowledge as she has been with the company for many many years. Excited to learn from her and share that knowledge here.
What goes in a Stage Managers kit? Those items are listed below, but also, a quick discussion about who supplies what for this kit and why.
Recently, my cast attended an 80 minute long workshop on oppression, led by the Community Programs Manager at the theater. It was great to witness and incredibly powerful for our cast to experience. I've seen EDI training similar to this become more and more common in theater across the nation. Theater is no exception to the problems so highlighted in Hollywood right now, which was actually proceeded by the Not In Our House movement led by the theater community in Chicago. The recent issue concerning yellowface at the MUNY sparked national attention and many theaters have spoken out. Representation is a huge issue onscreen and onstage, along with providing access to communities that normally are not so welcome in our audiences. But theater is making strides, in more areas than one. I am proud and hopeful.