5 Reasons Performers Owe Stage Management Their Lives

Anyone who has ever set foot onto a stage, under the securely clamped bright lights, has been protected by a team of guardian angels – the Stage Management team. Whether or not we realise or recognise it, Stage Management is just as vital, if not more so, to a performance as the performers. Here is a little list to show how amazing our back-stage comrades really are:

#1 When you have literally NO IDEA where you are supposed to be at any given time, the magic of the impeccably kept score/script by stage management holds all the answers. With a thousand colour-coded page markers, incredibly detailed notes, and sketches of everything from choreography to blocking, they’ve got your back. A quick whisper to your management buddies and a few flicks of some pages later, you’ll be back on track, knowing all your cues, without your director ever knowing how clueless you were

#2 They somehow manage to keep back-stage as organised as possible, even when people continue to refuse to leave the prop table alone. Whether it’s throwing you a prop from said table so you can run back on stage, helping to tie/pin you into a different costume in the 5 second changing time you have, or gluing an unfortunate part of the set together in the interval, they always keep everything running smoothly. You can count on them to be standing on the side-lines ready to tackle any problem that might occur, as well as keeping you right so you can shine on stage. Not to mention, the kind, yet stern, reminders to SHUT UP WHILE YOU ARE BACK STAGE! (Better to receive a warning from stage management than a rant from your director. Really, they are doing you a huge favour.)

#3 Stage management are expected to know how to do EVERYTHING. They need to know how to mark up the stage, where every single piece of set goes and when it moves, how to put parts of the set together, where each performer needs to be at all times, what each performer needs at all times, what side of the stage people, props and costumes need to be, and so much more. The director wants another petal drop? Guess who has to plan for that? There’s a big platform as part of the set? Guess who has to do the risk assessment so us idiots don’t break any bones?

And for any job they aren’t already doing, they are in charge of co-ordinating the people that are. The get-in and get-out are both organised by stage management.  While performers take to the stage and do their thing, lighting, sound and everyone else working back-stage are all communicating via their cans to keep the show running smoothly.

As well as all of these practical jobs, stage management have the less glamorous chore of paperwork. This includes writing rehearsal reports to keep those involved in the production in the loop. Not everyone involved in a production is in the rehearsal room, so it’s down to the stage manager to pass on to the rest of the team what’s going on and all changes and developments that occur. Ever thought rehearsals were exhausting enough? Imagine having to go home and write a report about what happened!

On top of all of these diverse tasks that they are miraculously able to complete, state management are expected to know all of the characters, while we only focus on our own. By the beginning of production week, you can guarantee stage management are more prepared for what you have to do than you are! They will know the production inside-out, from a completely different perspective to the performers, which is so important for keeping the show running the way it should.

#4 While us lot are enjoying that after-show buzz from a successful run, getting ready to go for some drinks - whether it be at an after-show party or a posh reception - our poor, lovely stage-managers still have to focus on the huge task at hand: the get-out. The set that you’ve been traipsing over for the past few nights needs to be carefully taken down, possibly cleaned and then taken out of the venue. After all of this, it is finally ready to be transported back to storage alongside all the attentively packed-up props you’ve been leaving in the wrong place all weekend. So, the next time you’re sipping a glass of prosecco to celebrate a final curtain call, spare a thought for stage management who have to sweep up the mess of the confetti cannons you just danced through, all before they can treat themselves to a glass of something special.

#5 Lastly, I may have just been incredibly lucky, but I have never worked with a stage manager that hasn’t gone above and beyond to look after me as a performer – they have all been wonderfully kind and lovely people. From making you a cup of tea, to giving you a cream egg when you’re sick because they somehow know that’s your favourite; from getting you a bottle of water for back stage and drawing a star on the cap next to your name, to getting you a birthday card even though you didn’t tell them it was your birthday. Stage management can even be there to offer you general life advice and words of wisdom at the time you need them most.

To every stage manager I have ever worked with, thank you. Thank you for always giving me a 5-minute call for performances, and for the end of rehearsal breaks, too! Thank you for always keeping everything organised and calm during the chaos of production week. Thank you for knowing when and where I need a very specific piece of costume and also for knowing that I’m not capable of getting said costume on by myself. Thank you for knowing I’ve forgotten something before I even have a chance to notice. Thank you for all of your generosity and for always going the extra mile. Thank you for putting up with terribly melodramatic performers who don’t always remember to say thank you to you in the moment. Thank you for being the unsung stars of our little performance world.

Know that every round of applause has been equally earned by you, the people we literally could not do it without.


All Images from Google Images.