Going into college, I knew that, although my heart lies onstage, I wanted to try everything that I could that involved theatre. My department is perfect for this: all performance focuses must audition for every show starting your first semester, and no matter your focus, you must be active in at least one production each year. We are required to submit crew forms stating what technical elements you are interested in, and they assign you positions based on those roles.
My first semester, during my review with the technical theatre faculty, I mentioned that I wanted to try my hand at stage management. The next semester, I was Assistant Stage Manager for our production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. It was the single most enlightening theatrical experience I have had thus far.
Stage management is a lot of work. Rehearsal reports, production meetings, daily rounds, props tracking, taping the stage, being the middleman of communication between directors, actors, and designers, writing line notes, tracking blocking - to name a few responsibilities. Stage managers are the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave. It is not a job for the faint of heart. I was in rehearsal six days a week, Sunday-Friday, from 6 pm to around 11 pm for two months, not including tech week and performances. I was also the go-to understudy in this production because my department doesn’t have understudies. I went on for an actor during the first dress rehearsal, and oversaw the backstage area, with help from my co-ASM.
After trying my hand in stage management, I understand the other half of the actor/stage management relationship more than I ever have before. How stage managers can juggle all of this still amazes me, even having been a part of the process. Stage management is the glue of the show. They hold together every single piece, from beginning to end. They stitch a show together. I would not trade my stage management experience for anything and will likely do it again. The knowledge I have gained on all the inner workings of a show makes me appreciate every aspect in a way I didn’t before. I strongly recommend that each actor try stage management if they get the chance. It will inform your acting experience so much more.