Stage Manager responsibilities

The responsibilities of the stage manager fall into three distinct segments.

  • Planning – in conjunction with the director, set designer and other HOD’s.
  • Preparation – organizing and overseeing the work of other backstage areas, maybe constructing the set, and assisting at rehearsals.
  • Performance – during the technical/dress rehearsals and performances, controlling and integrating all aspects of the production and theatre.

Planning:

Read the play thoroughly.

Discuss with the director their ideas for the production.

If there is no set designer, work with the director on planning the set. Prepare scale plans of the set, and if possible, a scale model.

Check that all necessary bookings have been made for rehearsals, performances, dressing rooms, if not your own premises.

Preparation:

Prepare the rehearsal room before the first rehearsal. Mark out the floor to scale with coloured masking tape, walls, doors, stairs etc, Provide essential furniture for rehearsal, although not necessarily what will be used during the performance.

During the rehearsals prepare a stage managers script, marking all cues for actors, properties, sound effects, lighting, sets to be changed, plus any alterations to script. Use pencil as things can change rapidly.

Ensure that all cast and crew members have a rehearsal schedule prepared by the director. If there is a production secretary or director’s assistant, this should be his/her responsibility.

In smaller societies, set construction is often the responsibility of the stage manager. The sooner the set is built, the easier it is for the director and cast to rehearse smoothly. Particularly structures like rostrum, stairs etc as they affect timing.

Because of the impact lighting has on colours, it is useful to be able to try the desired colours/gels under the required lights to gauge whether any changes are necessary. In larger societies, the set construction and painting are not necessarily the responsibility of the stage manager, but they do come under your control and you should ensure that everything is proceeding as quickly as possible and that everything is ready for the dress rehearsal.  

  • Coordinate with the production manager.

Ensure that you have sufficient stage crew to cope quickly and efficiently with any changes to scenery, rostrum, etc, and that they are aware of their tasks well before the dress rehearsal.

Have a meeting with the lighting, sound and stage crew prior to the dress rehearsal to go over all cues, their attendance in rehearsal in the latter stages of ‘runs’ can be of enormous help.

Performance:

The cast should be at the theatre an hour before curtain-up, to dress, make-up and prepare themselves for their performance. You should remind them of normal theatre rules and protocols.

Backstage personnel should have all their checks completed half an hour before the house ‘goes live’ (audience let in).

Calls – cast should have half an hour, then 15 minutes till opening calls then calls every 5 minutes, till finally, a call for ‘beginners on stage’. *’Theatre-time’ is five minutes ahead of ‘real time’ to ensure the cast have all been to the toilet etc and are on ‘stand-by’ in the wings at the advertised curtain time. Depending upon the size of the theatre or company it may be necessary to have a call person appointed.

Keep in contact with front-of-house manager and check whether there will be any delay in starting time due to queues.

Signal two minute sound call to sound, crew, lighting etc ensuring the crew is also on ‘stand-by’.

At scene changes, check and supervise that every detail of the change is correct, keeping time and noise to a minimum. It is better if you do not get involved in the physical shifting of sets, rostrum, trucks or props. If a one set production, you may not need a stage crew at all.

After Interval, co-ordinate with front-of-house before taking up the curtain again.

Be the last person to leave the theatre after each performance;
checking that everything is ready for the next performance, backstage and dressing rooms are left tidy, that the power is off and everything is secure.

If there are to be curtain calls, plus speeches, presentations, on final night, organize all the details with cast, crew and front-of-house.

After the final performance, arrange for the set to be dismantled, shifted to storage area, and that all props, lighting equipment and wardrobe items are returned.

If an inventory of sets, props, etc, is kept by the society, ensure that anything acquired for the production is added. Also ensure that any tools are returned to their correct place in readiness for the next production.