Do you need to interview a stage manager for a class project or assignment?

Please try the following steps:

Search your city or surrounding cities for an opera, dance, or theatre company.
If you are able to find one, visit their website and look for a “Contact Us” or “Staff” webpage.
Look for a Production Manager, Production Stage Manager, or Resident Stage Manager staff member to email.
Send an email introducing yourself and detailing why you are contacting them and that you would like to contact one of the company’s stage managers for an interview. He/she will likely pass you off to someone on staff who would be happy to answer your question.

Does your city or surrounding cities not have a resident opera, dance, or theatre company?
Please try the following steps:

Search for local performing arts center, arenas, or other venues that present touring or visiting productions.
Lookup their calendar of upcoming performances and choose a few that visit during your semester.
Search for the touring production’s website and follow the steps above to find an appropriate person to contact for an interview.

Any tips for getting work?

SMs who work the most consistently in theater, other than the top echelon of PSMs and SMs in NYC, are those who work in regional theaters. Many of those theaters have SMs who’ve been with them for 5, 10, 20, 30 years or more!!! If there’s a region you’d love to live in (move to), suss out the theaters there and seek entry-level positions (production assistant, intern). If you have the chops, and management recognizes that, you can quickly work your way into a regular position (without undoing someone else’s career, a la Eve Harrington).

Regarding the NYC “nut to crack,” there are SO many ways to get into the network – the SMA being prime among them. But there are galas and benefits and workshops and readings galore that you can find entry work on, and thereby get to know the movers and shakers of those galas and benefits etc. etc. And they can get to know you. BC/EFA alone puts on 4 huge benefits every year, among them Broadway Bares and the Easter Bonnet competition. Each “employs” (pro bono) dozens of stage managers, at all levels of their careers. And you’ll be helping them to raise the millions of dollars that is generated each year for their amazing causes.

If NYC is your Xanadu, reach out also to the various general managers’ offices, both for-profit and not-for-profit (like Manhattan Theater Club and Roundabout). They put together readings, workshops, backers auditions, etc. to present works that they are considering mounting in full productions sometime in the future. They can always use entry-level help (lots of go-fer tasks) by which, once again, you get to know each other.

How do I avoid burnout while working multiple jobs?

The first couple years after graduation are the hardest. It is not easy. Everyone’s journey is different and no there is no real answer. Which is the same not just for graduates in theatre.

My first year out of college I worked part time and stage managed at night as well. It’s tough and I was exhausted but I wanted to stage manage and kept going. Search for the next job that will pay more, then you work less at your retail job and then the next job perhaps you won’t have to work the 2nd job at all. There are jobs out there that pay, especially in opera. So send your resume out to all the opera companies as they are staffing their seasons as we speak. This means you will be traveling to those companies for a few weeks at a time. If you can’t make more money for a few months look at your personal finances and what you can do to cut back there if you can.

This is the nature of the business and you have to be prepared for this as even after you make a living you could go a couple months with out a show and you have to be ready for that.

I know lots of people that did it for a few years and realized this is not for them. Its not how they want to live their life and that is perfectly fine too.

How do I maintain a professional portfolio?

As a professional stage manager I have rarely used a portfolio. Much of my work is based on the network I have built through interactions with colleagues. I have on occasion created a one inch binder that contains sample paperwork (contact sheet, scene breakdown, props list, flow/shift chart, etc) as well as examples of specific calling sequences written into script pages. Realistically, however, some of that information only a fellow stage manager is going to know what they are looking at. If I had the opportunity to work as an ASM or PA with a new PSM I might give them an example of some of the work I have done on past shows. Otherwise I would only use a portfolio for application to graduate schools.

When I am hiring ASMs to work with me I usually ask them questions about situations they have been in in the past and how they reacted to/solved the problem. While I am interested in the quality of paperwork that an assistant is able to create I am more concerned with their ability to deal with people.

Beyond preparing a basic paperwork portfolio I think you will be best served in an interview by preparing a couple of anecdotes. Think of a time when you were frustrated: why were you, how did you react in the short term, what was the long term solution to the frustration? Think of a time in which you faced a technical challenge: what was the challenge, what caused the challenge, how were you able to help fix the problem, how were you able to help prevent the problem from reoccurring. These are just two example of questions I might ask in an interview. I not only want to know what occurred in a specific situation but also why it happened, how you reacted, and what the short and long-term solutions were. I am looking for your thought process as much as a story about the actual situation.

As a stage manager, I have also found my best portfolio to be my collection of professional connections. Make sure that you have brushed up on who you worked with for the productions on your resume. You never know who knows who in this industry. A perspective employer may say, “Ah, you have worked at XYZ Theater, have you worked with such-and-such designer/technician/manager?” As always, truthful is best. And, as my mother always said, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. Even if it seems that the interviewer may agree with your point of view, there is no benefit in making them believe that you speak poorly of others after you have worked with them.

When in doubt regarding a portfolio, ask is the interviewer would like to see examples of your paperwork or calling script. And always bring an extra copy of your resume to an interview.

I majored in something other than stage management, how do I get started?

My first suggestion is to buy the best books out there – by Peter Lawrence, Thomas Kelly, Linda Apperson and others – and study them. Contact stage managers in theaters near you and ask if you can shadow them while they work – attending rehearsals, tech rehearsals, performances. That way you’ll get a good flavor of what might be involved, although every single situation is different. Then, if you still feel that SMing is what you want to do, get in touch with theaters in your area – most likely prospects would be non-Equity theaters and community/local theaters. Tell them (usually a production manager or general manager) where you are in your quest and what you’re looking to achieve. Ask for a job as a Production Assistant or SM intern. You probably won’t be paid, but your enthusiasm will make it worth their while and the experience will make it worth your while.

Once you have a few shows under your belt, create a great resume using those credits and the skills you learned in your previous career which are relevant to stage managing. You’ll know what those are after you’ve gone through the books I recommended and talked to other stage managers.

This is the route I took over 30 years ago. I made many mistakes along the way, but I learned from each one of them (although I kept making new ones!).

I want to major in stage management after high school

The reality is that no college guarantees you a job after school in any field/major.

It also depends of what genre you want to get into, like opera, dance, or broadway.

You should start looking at the universities that you can afford and want to go to. Then look at their programs and what their graduates are doing as they are your first network and connections. If they are doing the kind of job you want, then it is a good indication their program can lead you to where you want to go.

Visit as many as you can start to make your choices based on the above questions.

Answer: Written by Elynmarie Kazle

There are a number of stage management programs out there. Its not comprehensive, but Broadway World has this list of schools offering stage manager degrees: http://www.broadwayworld.com/studentfield/Stage-Management

As for high chance of getting a job, that is not predictable. It depends on you, your experieces and your ability to go after the goal you select. It does help to understand your skill set, your personal style and your own personality very well before you go out into the working world of production.

I would say, however, that those schools that offer either overseas experiences and/or direct internships in professional situations greatly improve your chance of success. It is important to ask those questions if they are not listed on the school website. It also does not hurt to do an internship (inbetween) your last school and entry into these programs. It will help you to find out more about yourself so that you can select the best program.

What colleges do you recommend?

It depends on where you are located and what you are looking for in a program. Some colleges like Penn State and many of the SUNY schools are definitely NY focused. Some of the schools with strong music programs such as Indiana University, Eastern Michigan and CCM (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) provide a lot of musical theatre managemt experience. And other programs such as those at CalArts and Ohio University in Athens, have strong playwrighting programs so you can gain a lot of experience with managing new work. Carnegie Mellon and NCSA are also very good. Chicago is a great town for doing the college/working professionally at the same time.

Strongest recommendation, definitely make sure there is an actual stage management program and curriculum. Visit and meet with a student currently enrolled; and if an undergraduate and you are checking out a place with a graduate SM program, make sure there are ample opportunities for undergrads and not all process courses are taught by grad students. Also check out their internship connections and placement record.

What elective courses should I take in college?

I think that any class dealing with people management and learning about personalities is extremely helpful (like sociology and psychology) Perhaps look in the school of communications – really learning how to interact with people and any chance you get to speak in front of people is great, to help you gain confidence.

Within the theatre you can look to voice classes and directing classes.

Answer: Written by Rich Costabile

Another area that’s so important to our job is the 2nd word in our title – manager. Any business course that deals with the basics of management and beyond will be immensely helpful. You can augment this by reading business columns in newspapers and magazines, like “The Corner Office” in the NY Times, which deal with management and employee interrelationship situations.

Acting is also a really important thing to have some experience with. You’ll be dealing with many hundreds of actors each year, if you’re lucky enough to be employed, and you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be an actor unless you’ve experienced it yourself. It’ll make you a MUCH more effective and valuable stage manager – and you might even have some fun!

What is Ask A Stage Manager?

A lot of people have questions about what we do, who we are, how to be a part of the community, or even how to pursue a career in stage management.

Pose your questions with this system and you’ll reach some of the SMA’s most seasoned stage managers who will try to help you find an answer to your question.

Can I be a stage manager and still have a family?

Everything about a career in theater is a huge challenge, not least finding a patient, loving, understanding partner in life. Many have, and many thought they had but it didn’t work out.

I know a number of theatrical couples with children. In some of the couples, both are in theater. Other couples, only one – the other is a “civilian” who works outside of our industry. The successful ones communicate well and are willing to jump in when the spouse hits a crunch time, whether in theater, business, academia – wherever. We don’t have a monopoly on long hours and lots of travel. What we do have is the constant search for employment and the uncertainty that brings.

I know several very successful stage manager couples as well as stage manager and other couples and they have worked in the biz, settled down (after a fashion) raised great kids, put them through college.

I would think that you might ask, on your tour of your preferred school if some of those folks exist in the departments or theatre schools you are considering. Of course, there is a time when you are building your career that you need to pay attention to it more than at any other time, when you are initially networking, making contacts so to speak. You need to be ready to do a little relocating, perhaps on the roading, traveling so that you can solidify your work ethic, your rep and your skills so that when you do start that family and settle on a location, there are business and friends who will refer you to the jobs you can take to make both work.

How do I call cues?

I don’t think there is a “right way” to call cues. For me it certainly depends on the situation that I am in. However, I can give you a couple of pointers and an example of my typical calling sequence.

Tips:

1) When you say GO commit to it. An operator does not know what to do if the word is drawn out into multiple syllables. Additionally, an operator should be taking your GO on the G. The more lag there is in executing a cue the more difficult it becomes to call them in a consistent and timely manner.

2) When in doubt get a confirmation. Sometimes I have the luxury of being able to see if a light cue is running from the monitor attached to the console. When I can’t see a cue running or have doubts as to whether anything is changing on stage, I ask the operator. “We are in lights 34, correct?” “Lights 34 is running, correct?” I always make it a yes/no confirmation. I don’t need a story, just the answer.

3) I prefer to use Warning then Stand-by then GO as my sequence. Some people reverse the order of Warning and Stand-by. As long as your crew is clear on what is expected of them at each step, you could say Red, Yellow, and Green (not that I recommend this) with the same result. Clarity is more important than wording.

Advice:

For me, I use warning when I know that a crew person may be otherwise occupied and need additional time to prepare for a cuing sequence. For example, if an ASM needs to move from one side of the stage to the other in order to cue an actors entrance I may give them a warning so that I know they are crossing. Or if a fly operator needs to move from the rail to a special piece of rigging I may give them a warning to that they have time to transition to a different location.

Stand-by is give about 15 seconds before the cue is called. I try to group stand-bys into cuing sequences so that I am not Calling a standby for one department while another is already standing-by. Sometimes this means that one department will be standing-by for a bit longer than another so that I call one group of stand-bys and then one group of GOs. Additionally, I always use the same order for departments when giving a group of stand-bys. I use: Lights, Sound, Deck, Rail, Projections, Effects. I there are no stand-bys for a particular department I leave them out of the call. This way operators always know what they are listening to and their stand-by is not thrown in as an after thought. Stand-bys are always something that I edit and refine during tech (and previews if I have any). I do not change them once I have opened.

For my GOs, I tend to pace myself in such a way that I have the same length wait between the cue number and GO every time. This will take some practice. I know some people mark in their book when they should start speaking the cue as well as the point at which the GO is called. You should do what works best for you. I try to be as consistent as possible so that my operators know what to expect. At no time should I be tricking them up with oddly times cues. Yes, sometimes a performer will jump a line or change the pace of their action in a way that effects your cuing. However, those moments should be the exceptions and not the rule.

So, ideally, when I call a cue sequence it sounds something like this:

Warning Rail on swing.

Standby Lights 7 through 9, Sound 15, and Rail on Swing.

Lights 7..GO.

Lights 8 and Sound 15..GO.

Lights 9 and Rail on Swing..GO.