How To Host Your Own Social Event

Many of our members don’t know how easy it is to put together an SMA sponsored Social Event (a.k.a. SMA SM GO EVENTS) in their area. Below are some simple guidelines and info on how to go about hosting your own social event.

The SMA will pay for light appetizers only (no alcohol). The Host can then submit a receipt, attached to this event report form to the Treasurer by email ( for reimbursement (if you are having a social event in NYC, there are some places who give discounts if you show you Equity card).

SMA SM GO EVENTS: (social networking, food and drink gathering, an SM walks into a bar event, bowling, lasertag, brunch, bagels etc… any social gathering to get SM’s together, snacks provided)
Up to 10 persons $8 per person
Up to 50 persons $100 total
Over 50 persons or for special events such as Award Ceremonies or Holiday Events, check with the Treasurer (

Here are some tips on how to organize your event:

  1. Find a place that is good for large groups and call them to see if you can make a reservation.
  2. Pick a day/time (usually Sunday or Monday nights, 6:00/7:00pm-10:00/11:00pm).
  3. Contact the SMA Secretaries ( about posting the event on the website/social media sites and emailing the membership. Must provide contact information (will be emailed to membership, but not posted in public places). Always include location (i.e. city) of the event in the subject of the email and make sure it is highlighted in the body of the message/announcement.
  4. RSVP date is usually the day or two before the event so you can give the location a count of how many you are expecting.
  5. Have an awesome time!

We encourage photos of your event to post on the SMA website and a little blurb about how it went. Please send these to

Inside Look: Syracuse Stage SM Apprenticeship

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Syracuse Stage – Syracuse, NY

Stage Management Apprentice 2013-2014

By Paula R. Clarkson

Syracuse Stage is a LORT C Regional Theatre located in Syracuse, NY. The season spans from about August-May, typically including six shows of incredible variety. Two people are hired for the Stage Management Apprenticeship position, who typically alternate shows, so one of you is in rehearsal while the other is in performance. The theatre also operates extremely closely with the Syracuse University Drama Department with many of those students interning on shows and, in some cases, even cast.

Being an Equity house, all rehearsals and performances are subject to the Equity rulebook, which is very helpful to learn for someone hoping to join the union. We rehearsed 6 days a week, usually in a 10:00am-6:00pm type of schedule. A week of tech would lead into a brief Preview period, and then the show would open. Runs were usually about a month, with seven shows a week as standard, including Student Matinees and specialty performances for the hearing and vision impaired.

I originally found Syracuse Stage while hunting for a large regional LORT theatre that had a good diversity to its season. Personally, I enjoy everything from new musicals to Shakespeare, but would prefer not to do the same genre month after month. Syracuse Stage seemed to have a real emphasis on doing works that were not only entertaining, but could really challenge their audiences and enrich their community. On top of that, I was excited about the connection to Syracuse University. This partnership was one of the very few that I came across, and since I knew I wanted to teach one day, it really seemed like the ideal opportunity.

The interview process was a pleasure. Even if I had not ended up with the job, I would still look back on that conversation very fondly. Stuart, the PSM at Syracuse Stage, was warm, funny and truly wanted to get to know me as a person. I didn’t feel like any of the questions he asked me were a test and he genuinely seemed to appreciate my interest in his theatre. I had been lucky enough to have a few different interviews but after speaking with Stuart, there wasn’t anywhere I wanted to be more. He was open about his timeline for interviewing others and I heard back about getting the position within the timeframe that he communicated. I was thrilled.

The position itself did not disappoint. A lot of season-long internships or apprenticeships that I’d looked at put you in a Production Assistant type of role, where you are assisting the SM and ASM. But as great as some of them looked, I felt confident that I wanted to go somewhere where I would have more responsibility than making coffee and doing line notes. At Syracuse Stage, it is only the PSM and the Apprentice throughout rehearsals. I did all the backstage tracking for the shows I worked, including props, costumes, live flame, everything. I created the backstage crew tracks, and oversaw the crew when they were added at tech. All the shows were different, really giving me the chance to grow and work on different skill sets. As I’d hoped, some shows had SM Interns from the University, so I was learning, while also teaching others. It was a lot of responsibility but never unfulfilling. Stuart, who is also a professor for the Syracuse University Drama Department, is an excellent teacher. Even in the throes of a 10 out of 12, he made himself available for questions or help if I needed it.

The perks of Syracuse Stage were also arguably the best of anywhere that I applied. While they do not offer housing, I was paid enough to pay my rent and utilities with under half of what I made a month – about two paychecks. That left the next two paychecks free for me to use for whatever other means I needed to. Being a college town, it was not hard to find a cheap place near the theater to live. There are also buses in and out of Syracuse to Boston, Ithaca, New York City, and tons of other places. I had a car, but there is a public transportation system that I know works just fine for those who do not have a way to get around on their own.

I found a community of artists at Syracuse Stage that I have rarely found elsewhere. Not only was everyone unbelievably dedicated to putting on high quality shows, but they really support and like each other. It was extremely rare for me to not spend my day off with the friends I had made from work. Having been out of the program for 6 months now, I am still in constant contact with the people I met and I expect them to be friends of mine throughout my life and career.

Writing this reminds me of how much I miss being there and working with all those amazing people. I am currently finishing my first semester at the Yale School of Drama focusing in Stage Management and I know that I would not be here without the year I spent with Syracuse Stage. It taught me an immeasurable amount about regional theatre, challenged me to take risks, helped me gain confidence and solidified my decision that Stage Management was what I wanted to do with my life.

I would recommend the Apprenticeship to anyone who is ready to take the next step in terms of responsibility on an SM team, is interested in regional theatre, and truly wants to be involved in art that is relevant and thought provoking.

A Stage Manager’s China Experience by Anthony Bullock

Wuzhen Theatre Festival venue

Wuzhen Theatre Festival venue“So who wants to go to China in two weeks?” This was what the Production Manager, David York, said as he walked into the stage management office at McCarter Theatre. I of course, sheepishly raised my hand.  The journey was to The Wuzhen Theatre Festival in China with The Goodman Theatre’s production of “The White Snake” by Mary Zimmerman.

One of The Goodman’s stage managers had to pull out of going to China so they were looking for a replacement. Last season I was lucky enough to be the ASM on “The White Snake” while it was here at McCarter and from the raise of my hand, the ball was set into motion for me to get to China.

As I hadn’t worked on the show in over a year I started watching the archival recording to help familiarize myself back with the show. I had received the run sheets from the PSM at The Goodman, Joe Drummond, and tried to really hone back in on the backstage running of the show. “The White Snake” is a huge ensemble piece, with tons of quick changes and many handoffs of props and scenic elements. Studying and re-learning the show would be a key element to the success of putting the show up in China.

I didn’t get to meet The Goodman production staff until we all landed in the town of Wuzhen. We were lucky enough that two of the crew members who had run the show before at The Goodman were able to join us in China. The rest of the crew was from Taiwan and mainland China, and most spoke very limited English. To run the show we need 11 crew members backstage, and only 5 of those were from The Goodman. I had to completely rework the run sheets, despite my earlier preparations, to give certain run crew tracks to certain members.

What shouldn’t have been such a shock to us all is that theatre is theatre no matter where you are. Our local run crew was beyond amazing! There aren’t words to describe, despite the language barrier, how much they understood and cared about the show in such a brief timeline. We only had a scheduled day and a half of tech for our 4 shows. To be able to fully let them work and follow along with such passion played a tremendous part in letting me help out on the tragedy that struck.

During the last 5 minutes of our final dress before a performance that night, one of the lead actresses tripped in the aisle of the house and broke her wrist. She was rushed to the hospital and it was quickly determined that we would not preform that night. In China, they have what is called “keeping face” and to cancel a show, both culturally and financially, is a huge detriment to the festival. The company of actors, along with Mary, brainstormed a possible solution so we could still perform our other shows that week.

What transpired was another actress, Emily Knapp, in the ensemble would take the role of the injured actress and the other ensemble women would fill in the other roles. By chance, Mary Zimmerman’s assistant had also previously been an actor in the piece here at McCarter so he got put into the show as well. We rehearsed through the entire show that night with the new acting tracks and then did a final run through the next morning.

During these rehearsals I was in constant communication with Emily who was stepping up to the part and really working with her to focus on what is onstage and not worry about the backstage traffic. When she wasn’t on stage I was going over her lines with her and reminding her of quick changes. I was able to devote this time to her due to the amazing local crew who also stepped up even more after what had happened and really embraced the ensemble nature of the show.

We finally opened the show to a great big house and even added a performance to help the festival in the loss of the original performance. Watching everyone really care and the passion people put into this show was my biggest takeaway from the experience. No matter where you are, theatre is theatre. Here is something I posted right after the opening night performance and I feel it really captures my experience:

“Tonight was beyond full of reasons why I love what I do. Joining with other artists and technicians from half way across the world to create a passion we share. Celebrating our differences while incorporating them to make each moment be beyond our birthplaces, but about the thing we love the most. I am beyond honored to be working with this brilliant company, both from the USA, China, and Taiwan, who strive and push for nothing but greatness, not from each other, but within ourselves. This is why it is called “theatre magic”, to grow, to see, and to live… ‪#‎whitesnakechina2014

Highlights from the SMA Webinar on Mentoring

The following report contains highlights from the SMA Webinar on Mentoring that took place January 12, 2015 7pm-8pm EST

Panelists:Mandy Berry – Professional Production/Stage Manager & Vice Chair, Stage Managers’ Association (SMA), Ryan Kirk – President, Tinc Productions & Chief Executive Officer/Founder, Propared

Moderator: Eric deLima Rubb – Marketing/Creative Director, Propared & Blue Man, Blue Man Group

Participants:90 RSVPs from SMA & Propared email database & members.

46 attendees.



Formal definition of Mentoring: someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.

How do you define mentoring?

Mandy:I see mentoring as an organic entity and relationship and I have had lots of mentors in various places in my career. Thinking of who has mentored me in my career- are people who I watch and see that I want to be them in 2 years, 5 years or 10 years so how do I get there and how do I get there and how do learn so much from this person.

Ryan: Felt that his career path from the bottom rung of stage management and being an electrician and working his way up and how to teach and learn and how he has done many multiple job roles.  This allows us to mentor as we go and to be mentored by others as we come up this path.

How do you practice mentoring?

Mandy:By assessing those around me, making sure my team is up to speed with those around me and who has what skills and knowledge base.

Ryan: Bringing in younger generation of employees and freelancers to jobs and doing workshops and continuing education opportunities.

How is it practiced in the corporate world?

Formal Process with in a corporate structure that make it easy to start in a position of mentee and/or intern and then you move up to your position. Which creates longevity with in a company.

Why it doesn’t work this way in the live event world?

Ryan:Lack of longevity of jobs. Very transient industry and time frame is short term. There is no “water cooler” mentality to go and share ideas and training.

Mandy: There is no department for the stage managers so how do you go to find the people you need or who you want to be.


Mandy:Working a corporate event 8 years ago and the production coordinator was a stage manager for trade shows and I was not interested in that at the time and spent 3 weeks on this job site and yet never sat down with this person to ask about his work and how to work in that type of industry and now 8 years later having done a few trade show corporate events I think back to that event and how perhaps I could been further along in my career than I am now.

Ryan:Important to show his work process from start to finish. Sharing the work flow and paper work with those around them so they see the process from start to finish.

Ryan:Learns the most from his assistant at Tinc who brings lots of new ideas to the table, as well as his youngest employee who gives an amazing perspective on the software. Letting go of hierarchy to learn from everyone.

Mandy: Being able to take advantage of whatever opportunities that are presented. After leaving Cirque I just emailed every stage manager in Vegas and I few to Vegas and watched their teams for the shows.  Assessing my contacts and realizing that I knew stage managers on Broadway so I emailed and tried to get in and shadow several shows and with in that being able to open opportunities out of my emailing my friends.

Eric: “Teaching by perspective sharing” How do we do the best job we share our ideas and ask questions and get feedback from those around us.


We are all responsible for our jobs and career paths. We control our attitudes and it is upon ourselves to take steps to move forward.

·         invite junior professionals to sit in on high level meetings

·         encourage questions

·         Set aside time to discuss the event or your process

·         remember what your real job is. It isn’t paperwork, its communication, is managing people, its leading a team and being led by others. Lift your head out of the book and look at people!

·         every connection is an opportunity to engage beyond the job site.

·         Teach as you go.

For mentees:

·         Learn from everyone you meet/work with. Not just in your industry/genre

·         Ask questions

·         Hand out business cards

·         Remember who you worked with on what job, take notes.

·         Always re-iterate in your connection making process how you know someone and through who.

·         Available resources


·         Job postings emailed to you

·         Networking opportunities

·         Operation Observations/Mentoring Opportunities

·         Ask a Stage Manager Forum

·         Articles – About other mentoring/internship opportunities, stories of other stage managers and tips of the trade

·         Drink Nights

Other networking opportunities (e.g. LinkedIn groups, unions, social media sites, etc.)

And take a look at the article in the following link about getting a mentor:

Inside Look: The Wilma Theater SM Internship

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

The Wilma Theater – Philadelphia, PA

Stage Management Fellowship 2012-13

By Leonard Luvera

When I was searching for a job, I had a checklist list of essentials that I wanted to make sure were fulfilled: first and foremost a season-long position with good pay, summers free to travel and do summer stock, housing opportunities, a city with other theaters close by (I wanted to have the option of seeing other theaters and being involved in a larger theater-based community while making professional contacts with whoever I could), and a staff and production team that was adventurous and would help me grow professionally. I found that The Wilma Theater fulfilled this criteria.

The Wilma Fellowship pays $300 a week. You have the opportunity to be housed in the actor/artist apartments for a small rent fee in exchange for completing some simple company management tasks to keep up the building: taking out weekly trash, washing and replacing linens when artists move out, restocking apartments with essentials when new artists move in, and reporting problems/damages to the production manager and operations manager. The artist housing is located just three blocks from the theater so the commute to work was very easy. Rent was cheaper than finding a similar apartment in the otherwise expensive area. The apartment is right in the middle of center city, amid great nightlife, restaurants, other theaters, and beautiful parks. Because of these benefits, I found it to be a worthwhile alternative to finding my own housing in the city.

The Wilma was at the top of my list because I know they produce shows that challenge the actors, the production team, and the audience. Blanka Zizka, the Artistic Director, is fantastic to work with for this reason. She tests and inspires all who work with her. Blanka focuses on the actor’s process and the show’s evolution, which is far more exciting and engaging than only working towards a perfect product. She once reminded me that theater, like life, should be about the journey, not the destination, and has an incredibly inviting and relaxed demeanor and she made me feel as much a part of the production as she was. I had heard of The Wilma’s reputation and Blanka’s artistic philosophies because I went to school in Philadelphia. She promoted principles that I learned at Temple University; ones that I had grown to believe in. How could I not want to apply to an institution like that?

The application process consisted of sending in a cover letter, resume, and three references to Anne Holmes, the Eductation Director. First round interviews are held with Anne and the Wilma’s resident stage manager, Patreshettarlini (Pat) Adams. My interview took place via Skype, but I know they also do in-person interviews as well. After applicants are whittled down, a second in-person interview is conducted. As part of my interview at the theater, I had the opportunity to meet the Wilma production staff, attend a production department meeting, and was given a tour of the building and theater spaces. Eventually, only one candidate is offered the position each year.

If I remember correctly, Pat did not prefer phone interviews because she believes face-to-face conversations are best. This was a small but very important glimpse into the Wilma culture and our future relationship; it showed me that she was not just searching for a person to work for her, but instead was interested in getting to know me,and how I would work with her and in the existing theater infrastructure.

Throughout the year, I found her radiant personality made working with her like working with a best friend; she and I grew to become close friends in addition to coworkers. Her infectious laugh, young spirit, and overall positive attitude created a thriving environment for everyone around her. She fosters a warm and inviting atmosphere for people around her to feel safe to play and grow. As a veteran of the Wilma’s history, she has seen the company grow and develop, she showed me that finding a professional family to grow with was important for her, and I soon realized that I craved the same thing.

The Wilma’s mainstage season consists of four plays, for which the SM fellow functions as the sole assistant under Pat. Throughout the three-week rehearsal process, typical duties included creating the run book, creating preset lists, tracking all props and costumes, noting entrances and exits, and being on book when needed. At times, it would have been great to have another ASM in the rehearsal room to help cover some of the responsibilities. Not because the work didn’t get done, but because splitting up tasks would have made an even more thorough and organized experience for the artists.

Though rehearsals included the typical script work and blocking, a lot of early rehearsal time was spent playing and developing characters outside of the script. This is not to say that the final product was haphazardly stitched together at the end of the rehearsal process. The show as a whole usually took its shape in the final week of rehearsal on stage and throughout tech.

For this reason, technical rehearsals can feel long and challenging. For many of the shows, tech days consist of three of four hours of dry-tech time when actors are not present (giving the designers and director the opportunity to pre-cue) followed by a meal break. Then tech resumes with actors for an additional ten hours with a second meal break in the middle. Although these days can be a formidable challenge for anyone not properly prepared, it is ultimately a smart way to tech. It gave me the time to properly assign backstage duties for the show and work out transitions, which were usually very involved and needed precise timing. Additionally, lights, sound, props, and scenic elements had the time to be perfected and actors felt safe and secure while working on the set. After a dress rehearsal and almost a week of previews and extra rehearsals, the show opens for a four-week run.

The Wilma houses the dance company BalletX, a contemporary ballet ensemble that performs two shows in the midst of the Wilma’s season. Additionally, depending on how the season is laid out, there may be a few groups that rent the theater space for events, other shows, etc. For shows like these, I had the opportunity to ASM or SM for the various groups (a great complement to the work I was already doing).

I would advise that applicants have a professional internship under his or her belt before applying. The Wilma Fellowship is not for people who have only worked in college-level theater. Rather, it is for people who are sure stage management is the path they want to be on. Although there is a collaborative nature to theater, there are many times that you need to be self-sufficient and have prior knowledge of ASMing: how to run a desk, delegate effectively to others, etc. Not having this knowledge can be detrimental to the production.

Since leaving The Wilma, I have ASMed at other Philadelphia area theaters and am currently working at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island. After I finished the fellowship, I felt completely ready for these then-terrifying “real world” jobs. I grew immensely working at the Wilma, professionally and as a person. I gained a deep respect for the craft of making theater and discovered how I as a stage manager fit into the process.  Working with a dedicated staff who cares deeply about each other and the work they produce made me proud to work in this business; I have never seen a more tight-knit family of coworkers. This fellowship was truly inspiring.

Broadway Stage Manager Spook Testani Loses Her Battle With Cancer

Andrea ‘Spook’ Testani, a well-known stage manager and member of the Broadway community, died Sunday night, due to Stage 3 colon cancer. She was home, surrounded by her family, friends and her beloved dog, Jake.  Your incredible outpouring of love, all your thoughts, energy and prayers made this painful journey much easier to bear.  Spook read every “hug”, every message, every donation and was literally overwhelmed.  Your cards, your encouragement and your generosity gave her the strength to fight.  As you can imagine, Spook was couragious and gracious every single day.  Her amazing compassion for others, her gentle kindness, the way she made everyone around her feel like her friend and yes, her determnation never waivered.

Spook recently served as the production stage manager for the 2008 all-star Broadway revival of ALL MY SONS, which featured John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson, and Katie Holmes; the beloved, Tony-winning musical THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE in 2005; MATCH with Frank Langella in 2004; and I AM MY OWN WIFE, starring Jefferson Mays, in 2003. Her other Broadway stage managing credits include FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIRE DE LUNE, THE MAN WHO HAD ALL THE LUCK, DESIGN FOR LIVING, THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, UNCLE VANYA and SIDEMAN.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Actors Fund in Testani’s honor.

Inside Look: Yale School of Drama SM Grad Degree

The following article continues this series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Yale School of Drama

MFA in Stage Management

By Nicole Marconi

The program takes three years to complete. The application/interview process is a two-step process. There is an online application that involves submitting your basic information, your educational history, your work history/resume, an essay about why you want to attend the school, three letters of recommendation, and an application fee. If the chair of the stage management department feels that you are qualified, she will bring you in to interview with her. All interviews are done in person. The class sizes are four people per class year.

The education tuition is mostly paid through loans.  The rest of the education cost is determined based on financial aid.  It determines contribution and how much you will be making based on the work-study rate. You may have to take out extra loans to help pay for the extra costs of grad school.

Housing is not provided at all. You have to figure out your own off campus housing. Yale University does have housing for graduate students, but there isn’t much available to the Drama School students.

The type of shows that you work on varies. There are Yale School of Drama shows and there are shows at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The chair of the department determines which shows you work on based on the calendar and your other production assignments. Your first year you work on certain shows, and then your shows get more advanced as you go through the program.

The average rehearsal week consists of Monday through Saturday rehearsals. Rehearsals take place after class, starting at 2:30pm and sometimes going as late as 11pm.

The average tech varies from show to show. Tech rehearsals can go anywhere from two days to five days. When working on a Yale Repertory Theatre production, the tech period is generally about five days.

The average performance period is Tuesday through Saturday. We sometimes have Wednesday matinee performances at Yale Rep. We do not have performances on Sunday or Mondays.

This program is unique because of the variety of shows that you get to work on. You get exposed to all different kinds of productions ranging from entirely student-produced works to the Yale Repertory Theatre produced shows. You are also get to work with other stage managers who are willing to mentor and help you out along the way. Having a sounding board for advice and your daily occurrences as a stage manager is one of the best things about the program. The kinds of shows that you work on are mostly new plays and classical plays. We do not get exposed to as much dance or opera. We also work on new musicals, mostly at Yale Repertory Theatre.

The courses that we took at Yale were varied. Some of them were across different departments, and others were just in ours. There were a few courses that stood out to me.  One in particular dealtwith the union, Actors’ Equity. It dealt with the rules of the various contracts and how to break them down.  Another course that I took dealt with the production contract and the various departments. It basically broke down the different departments and said how they all work together. It taught me a lot about IATSE and how the other unions work as well.  Other courses that I took involved basic costume construction, computer technology in theater, and prop construction.

The highlights of my experience were being able to meet different stage managers with different points of view on the field. I was able to talk to my teachers and classmates about things that I had been afraid to ask about before. The class structure and being in the proximity of other stage managers made it feel like a safe environment. I was able to stage manage a professional show at Yale Repertory Theatre which was one of the best experiences of my career so far. I did this in my final year (my third year) at school.

Going to graduate school has helped me out immensely. I have my Masters now so I can hopefully teach later on down the road. And the connections that I have been able to make along the way have been irreplaceable. Before I went to Yale, I discovered stage management in undergrad. I was originally a drama studies major, and stage managed shows for the department. I wanted to learn more about stage managing, so I started freelancing in New York City while going to school. Then I graduated and worked in NYC for 2 years. I did a multitude of internships, including an internship at The Public Theatre in Maine. I really learned how to be an ASM through these internships and learned a lot about myself as a stage manager.

I would recommend Yale to anyone who is looking for a very specialized program. You have to be certain that stage managing is something that you are really serious about. You should not apply to the program if you’re not sure about becoming a stage manager.

I am currently working as a freelance stage manager, primarily in NYC. I have traveled around the Northeast, going out of town for gigs that I find interesting. Since I have graduated, I have worked at a variety of companies such as the Yale School of Drama, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, and Shakespeare and Company, just to name a few. I am currently working as the ASM on Generations at Soho Rep.

Inside Look: The Juilliard School’s SM Intern Program

The following article is the first in a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

The Juilliard School’s Professional Intern Program

Stage Management Intern- 2010-2011

By Tori Sheehan 

The application process for the Juilliard School’s Professional Intern Program was simple: an application, a small fee, a photo, three letters of recommendation, and a short essay about expectations and goals. I also went in for an interview with Helen Taynton, the woman who runs the program. I originally applied for the 2009-2010 group, but was turned down. However, Helen saw in me something I did not see in myself yet: I still had that false “king-of-the-hill” mentality that being a senior stage manager in college can give you. I was not ready for the real world yet. I needed some time to find myself and learn what I needed to work on when it came to my craft. She encouraged me to try again and when the deadline swung around again, I contacted Helen to see if I should still consider applying.

Helen has a bit of magic about her that makes you instantly feel at home, and she can read your needs exceedingly well. She can guide you to where you need to be, even if it is not this particular internship. I have come across several people who were turned down, but were pointed in the right direction by her and could not be more thankful.After a resoundingly positive phone call, I applied again, this time concentrating more on my essay about how I had grown in the past year and how I felt the program could help me grow further. I mentioned that I would be able to take one of the early August start dates and soon learned I was accepted.

There are two different start dates for the stage management interns. A few start in early August for a playwright’s festival and the rest roll in with the other interns in early September. There are nine stage management interns as well as four costumes, two wigs/makeup, three electrics, two props, two paints, and one technical director internship in production. In administration, there is one slot each for the drama division, orchestral management, vocal arts, and development/special projects for a total of 27 interns. You will find that your group will gather often and have a connection, though since there are so many stage managers, you will also have a tighter connection with them because there are nine of you crammed into one tiny office! The internship lasts through May – though depending on your final production this can be anywhere from mid to late May.

The program offers one of the highest paid internships of its kind, at $330/wk recently (when I did it, it was $295/wk, so it increases a little each year). You can also be a part of a program where they take out your transit costs (up to a point) before your taxes, which may not sound like a big deal, but it can be a ten dollar difference. There is always some discussion that you can pick up extra hours and make money as an usher but as a stage management intern, you are very unlikely to have the time to spare. You do have to find your own housing. However, you can work with the personnel at Juilliard who can point you to a few interim places while you search. The pay they give you of course does not line up with the full expense of living in NYC but it can work if you have something saved up to fill in the gaps or if you are particularly frugal. You are also on the Juilliard student health insurance, which is a bonus.

The way the program works is that you will be assigned to different departments: drama, dance, opera, and events. I went into the internship with zero opera experience and some dance experience but I was still given opportunities in all of the areas which is one of the draws of the program. You will either stage manage a smaller show, or assist on a larger one.

When you are the assistant, you are working under very experienced PSMs (many AEA or AGMA), who have been working in that particular field for many years, and can show you the ins and outs (this can come in handy for opera and dance, an experience which many universities do not give to young stage managers). There are large and small shows for each of the big three: dance, opera, and drama. Large shows involve full scale productions, whereas the smaller ones will have either fewer people or happen in their smaller spaces. For events, there are large orchestral evenings, or the recitals for the pre-college students (age 6-17) which can involve several large groups performing one after another.Smaller shows work with younger, up and coming designers, while the larger ones attract more experienced designers. Because there are internships in production, there is always a staff, so the stage manager does not usually end up running any boards. You also get credited for your position on the production, not as an intern. During my time in the program, I stage managed two productions, one small and one larger for drama, and then assisted in opera, dance, and drama for the rest of my track as well as doing a few concert events.

The duties are pretty standard: prep, rehearsal, backstage tracks or calling, attending production meetings. They try to create in each of the nine slots a track that includes calling one show, usually in dance or drama, and as an ASM on an opera you get the experience of cueing in the performers for their entrances. This is a good stepping stone from the academic atmosphere of college, where you are treated like a student, to the real world. In this program, you are expected to function as if you are not in an academic atmosphere, but the people are there to gently pull you aside and help you learn. Depending on the project, you are looking at either a five or six day rehearsal week, and generally only one of those days will be a five or six hour day. The rest will be short three or four hour rehearsals in the evening, because the performers have classes. Tech usually involves a few days in the space for spacing with most of the scenic elements, and then a few evenings of tech in costumes, followed by a ten out of twelve. Then there’s a dress rehearsal (which may be a part of the ten out of twelve) and then performances. Performance weeks tend to be truncated – maybe four performances a week and usually only one weekend. These kids have to get back to classes! (I say kids, but in the drama and opera divisions, you may find yourself working with student performers who are over 30, and in dance, as young as 16).

I chose this internship for many reasons. One was that it was located in New York City where I wanted to end up in my career (and be able to commute from home, saving money). Connections were another big reason – this internship has been going on for decades, and the people who were interns once are now the people hiring at major companies across the country. We had regular meetings with them discussing the business and what to do next. Financially this was one of the smartest choices to make as it paid higher than almost anything else. Many of us felt it was like going to grad school but without the price tag. Another bonus became clear afterwards: I head back regularly for some over hire hours, working events or run crew. It is some of the most reliable, flexible work to be found, and it pays well too!

Highlights of the internship, for me, include collaborating with some of the best people as part of the SM intern team, working on one of the largest stages I will be on for a long, long time, and learning, learning, learning about myself, my craft, and what it means to be a part of theatre. Your fellow interns will be your gateway to so many future jobs. And you’ll have the connections from the PSMs that you assist. Fun fact: when you have finished the program, you are a part of the Juilliard alumni, which comes with many perks. You get a card and everything.

Two years after I finished the program, I received my Equity card and now I have moved to the city to start taking advantage of all of the contacts I have made. I also spent the year after at Playwrights Horizons as one of their production assistants. I firmly believe that I can trace every job I have gotten to either my undergrad (Ithaca College) or to Juilliard. It shows you who you can be outside of school and if stage management is really where you want to be. I highly recommend it to those just out of undergrad or thinking of grad school a few years later. Juilliard provides you with a base to start from in NYC and this business in general. I would not give it up for the world.

USITT SMMP Experience – Part 2: From the Mentoree Perspective

Brittany M. McMahon wrote the following article about her experience with the USITT Stage Management Mentoring Program. You can read Tom Kelly’s account from his perspective here: I asked Brittany how she got this opportunity and she responded:

While attending USITT, I stumbled upon a booth offering an event called the Find A Fellow Mentorship Program. I discovered that as a Student or Early Career registered attendee, you could complete a worksheet to submit for a drawing to win the grand prize: A two-day all expense paid trip to mentor with an experienced professional in your field of theatrical work; if possible, a fellow of the institute. The entire program was developed to help the younger generation of up and coming professionals to realize the importance of networking. For two lucky individuals, it would also be a chance to win the grand prize. 

The worksheet was actually a collection of 6 photos from 6 USITT Fellows’ pasts. The idea was that you were to speak with a number of USITT fellows and then guess if one of the photos was the Fellow you were speaking with. If you guessed correctly, they would sign their name down on the worksheet. With all 6 signatures you could turn in the worksheet and enter the drawing. My name was picked out of the stack and thus began my great adventure to The Berkshires and studying from Thomas Kelly himself!
Here is Brittany’s account of her time in the Berkshires this summer:
            My time spent in the Berkshires with Tom Kelly can best be described as enlightening, eye opening, and ultimately an inspiring experience. During my time, I was able to enjoy countless conversations with Tom, ranging from personal experiences, to unions, developing relationships with cast/crew, scheduling, paperwork, and beyond. Over the course of two jam-packed days I was able to fully immerse myself into one of the many worlds of professional theatre and have the rare opportunity to view the processes of shows I was not intimately involved in.

On the first day I enjoyed breakfast and theatrical conversation with Tom Kelly. Our first stop was Shakespeare and Co. for a guided tour, which is offered to the general public as an educational experience. It provided me with a background of the company, as well as a view into their extensive facilities. I was able to shadow and work with the stage management team here, where I was welcome to view fight call and music rehearsals, observe the set up and preshow duties, and ultimately view the show from the booth while listening in via headset. I had the pleasure of watching first, an adaptation of Henry IV and second, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While both shows offered their own challenges and rewards, I really enjoyed the way Midsummer seamlessly adapted into the warm night and music of New Orleans in the 20’s/30’s. Being very familiar with Southern traditions after growing up in the Baton Rouge/New Orleans area, this show was a real treat.

On the second day, I was able to travel to the Berkshire Theatre Festival and meet with their production manager and his assistant, as well as receive a tour of their operations. This provided me with a view of a more traditional set up, rather than the facilities at Shakespeare & Co. being more attuned to the classical works. After our tour of BTF, I was able to spend the day immersed in the productions at the Bernstein Stage at Shakespeare & Co. This day ran much like the one before, where I was able to view the inner workings for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as well as a unique and wonderfully executed adaptation of Julius Caesar.

Overall, this was an incredibly rewarding experience that has taught me much about the professional world. I was able to make connections with real people who are working in the real world. The knowledge I’ve gained over those two days is invaluable and I have no doubt I will be utilizing it for the rest of my life.

I would like to say how thankful I am to the cast and crew of each production as well as the entirety of Shakespeare and Co. for letting me, a stranger, come into their world and view their work from the inside. I was granted access to every corner of the company including facility tours, fight calls, warm ups, and post show chats. This insider access allowed me to have a feeling of full immersion and for an instant; it allowed me to be a part of them. Thank you.

I would finally like to thank USITT for their help in making this trip a reality. Having the opportunity to view all of these productions and their different management teams, who all have different styles, ultimately helped to further reinforce that there is no one way to accomplish things as a stage manager. You have to be willing to adapt yourself to the needs of your show and ultimately to the personalities of those you are working with.

I look forward to exploring what my future holds!

With Sincerest Thanks, Brittany M. McMahon

Currently, Brittany is working as a stage management intern for the B Street Theatre in Sacramento, CA until June 2015. Working as a PA on Equity shows, running rehearsals, and of course making coffee are among her many duties. She looks forward to learning all that  she can and to eventually become an Equity stage manager. She is very excited for what the future holds with B Street and beyond!

USITT Stage Management Mentoring Experience – Part 1

Successful Mentoring experience provided by SMA Lifetime Member and Del Hughes honoree, Thomas Kelly

Thomas Kellywell known expert and author on the subject of theatrical stage management, spent two days in August with Brittany McMahon, one of the winners of the 2014 Find-A-Fellow contest. This USITT Fellows-sponsored initiative provided Ms. McMahon with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a one-on-one mentoring experience with one of the industries’ leaders. The following report from Tom provides some insight into what was an information-and interest-packed two days. This project is another strong testament to the critical work USITT’s Fellows continue to provide. Thanks to Tim Kelly, USITT Fellow for his leadership at the helm of this program.


Seldom have I had an experience turn out so well. Brittany was wonderful…she embodies the best of what I look for in a young stage manager. She was attentive to a wide variety of stage managers she met, polite, bright and personable…not in the cloying “network” type way, but honestly listening and getting what she could learn from all of us and applying it to some of her own background. The first day she spent with the stage managers and shows at the Tina Packer Playhouse Mainstage at Shakespeare & Company. The SMs were Hope Rose Kelly and Diane Healy, both of whom have been there a long time and who enjoy sharing the theatre and its workings with interested student/intern/mentees. Before the shows Brittany got to watch the stage managers run their fight and music rehearsals and then observe the half-hour backstage seeing the prep and preset and meet the actors, etc., and then be on headset for the shows (Henry IV and Midsummer Nights Dream). In the morning of that day, we did the “guided tour” which was given by the general manager of the company and included much history of the company as well as real backstage visits to rehearsals, shops, stages, and the overall facility. The second day we had a tour and opportunity to meet with the production manager and his assistant at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, shops, and backstage providing the opportunity to gain a bit of history and insight into a less classical and more “mainstream” type of theatre operation.


The rest of the day she spent at performances in the Bernstein Theatre at the Shakespeare & Company where she saw Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike, Durang’s new wonderfully funny play directed by Matthew Penn who was in attendance. Again she experienced it from the booth on headset and listened to the SM notes and thoughts on the show as well as watching the running of it. In the evening she saw a wildly inventive production of Julius Caesar, directed by Tina Packer who she got to meet, etc. The production was performed by seven actors switching roles (and, in the case of the lone female who played both Calpurnia and Portia, sexes, as she reappeared as various soldiers and servants throughout the play).


Between all these experiences, over meals and driving her around, we had ample time to discuss, listen, teach, advise, reminisce, etc., about being a stage manager and what she could look forward to in choosing it as a career. We talked about everything from cue lights to personal relationships with cast, crew, etc…unions, rules, paperwork, team building, creative scheduling, relationships, and communication with directors, management and designers and crew, etc., etc. Throughout, her questions and discussions gave me great hope that this particular in depth immersion was a great way to teach and mentor. I would love to continue being involved in future seasons. And Hope (Rose Kelly), the PSM, also liked the mentoring and sees it as a great idea for the future. We have both been active with the SMA over the years, and we agreed that this particular schedule and immersion was a fine-tuned version of what we have tried with SMA as “Operation Observation”…similarly allowing backstage access and shadowing opportunities but not nearly as much time for discussion and reflection on what has been observed.


Editors Capsule Note:   Report from Thomas Kelly and USITT about his mentoring weekend experience sponsored by the Fellows of USITT.  This summer he was matched up with Brittany McMahon, a winner of the 2014 Find A Fellow Contest. Winners of this contest have the opportunity to select a mentor and then have an all expenses paid trip to participate. Thomas Kelly is the second SMA member to do this, Chair Elynmarie Kazle participated with Kristen Sutter in December 2012.