This past weekend I was the stage manager for a college production of the play, A Fine Monster You Are! Normally, I am the one on stage in the spotlight, so stepping back (literally into the back of theater), was an interesting experience. But it was one that I recommend to everyone, because you learn not only the tricks of the trade, but also more about yourself. These are the five most important things I have learned through this amazing experience
1. Stage managers are a huge part of the show
I didn’t realize how much I would be involved until the work began. From the very beginning I was searching for props left and right and helping organize the set, as well as reading through the script over and over. This took a lot of time and effort, especially since I worked with the technical director and director of the show to complete their full vision. At the same time, I had to mark all the technical cues in the script, including sound, lighting, and any special effects, that way when the show opened, any technical aspects would be sure to occur.
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2. You must trust your crew and give them a lot of credit
I lucked out and had an amazing crew for this show. The crew did a lot for this show, specifically because they created special effects by moving things backstage. They paid attention the entire show and made sure they didn’t miss any of their duties. Each crew member was assigned a specific task and through my communication with them, I gave them the go for the action. Since they did this every day the entire week of tech week, by opening night they had a solid sense of what they were doing, and I was able to trust them to know when they were needed.
3. The behind scenes actions of a show are very time consuming
I witnessed a lot going into the show with everything behind the scenes. The actors simply memorize their lines and blocking and show up to the rehearsals. However, there is a lot more including designing a set and directing an entire show. I worked closely alongside the director and technical director and learned what their jobs entail and how much time they spend on the show. Their dedication is just as important as the actors’ and the stage manager’s jobs.
4. By watching others, you become a better actor
As I sat up in the technical booth at the back of the theater each night, I watched the actors play their characters many times. It was interesting to see the different choices they made testing out different actions and inflections of words on different audiences. As an actor myself, I benefitted by learning new and different tricks of acting. For acting, there is no better way to learn more than witnessing others. But even if someone was not an actor and became a stage manager, they could still easily learn many tips about acting.
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5. Teamwork is key – and how well you handle teamwork is the most important
I am not really one to work with others; I can be very introverted, and I am not a big fan of working with groups of people. College has helped me a some with this, but stage managing has really shown me what true teamwork is like. As I mentioned before, I had to trust my stage crew. Trusting them and working with them where I was the leader, but also an equal with them, really
helped me break out of my shell more. I never realized I could work so efficiently and effectively with a team of people until I took up the role of stage manager.
I hope this encourages you to get involved in theater and learn more about the theatrical and technical aspects and yourself. Theater is one of the best choices I have made in my life and I know it inspires others daily. Good luck in your future stage-managing endeavors!
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