The ultimate cog behind running a show is the stage manager. From beginning to end they keep everything and everyone in order so that each show is the best you can give. They are problem solvers and highly organised individuals, but rub them the wrong way and the wing tension could be cut with a knife. Here are 5 ways to keep your stage manager happy...
1. Learn your lines properly
That’s right, it’s not just the director who would like you to get your lines right! Your lines are, more often than not, cues for the stage manager to run the show. We are dependent on you following the script word for word so we can signal various other members of the crew, whether that’s for lighting, for scene changes or sound cues. It’s very simple. Getting the odd word wrong here and there is alright, but when you start paraphrasing lines we have no idea where you are in the script. If you cut out chunks of text (or entire scenes which has been known to happen!) the crew might not be ready for a scene change and suddenly we’re under a whole load of pressure. Expect to see hot steam fuming from our ears and some choice words coming your way in the interval.
2. Actually listen to the safety briefing
When you first enter the theatre and the stage manager is giving you the briefing on fire procedures, health and safety hazards to watch out for, and what you can and can’t do in the theatre including on the stage, it really helps if you listen...first time. If we say no water backstage, we don’t expect to then find bottles balanced precariously along ledges around the stage above rows of plugs! When you’ve been told shoes must be worn on stage, if you then head up just wearing a pair of socks you will simply be sent straight back down. If you listen the first time (even if you think you’ve already heard it or it’s boring) we won’t then have to repeat ourselves 20 times...which certainly helps us like you more...
3. If we ask you to get back in the wings, please do
We promise we’re not saying it to be mean. We want you to get on stage as much as you do, but if we ask you to get back when you’re stood in the wings, it’s usually because there’s a heavy piece of set being lugged off and you could get run over. There have been so many times when cast have nearly been squashed against walls or they’ve walked into pieces of set because they’ve forgotten about them. What we’re trying to avoid, as well as a few squashed toes, is the crew having to frantically whisper at you to ‘get out of the way’ and be perceived as being rude.
4. Use the tech rehearsal as a tech
Whilst we know you want to give your best performance, in reality you’ve probably had weeks or months of rehearsal to perfect your performance, but the stage crew only get a couple of shots. Use the tech rehearsal as a tech rehearsal. See what bits of set are around and where they’re being kept; could they impact on you using that entrance? Will you need to wait for a piece of set to come on before you do? Do you need to re-block something because the set is different from what you expected? Wait for the dress rehearsal to give your killer performance. The tech is for you as much as us, you just need to use it wisely. Stop complaining about how long things are taking.
5. Forgive our short temper
We’re nice, normal folk really. Stage managing shows can be a stressful job. Things can suddenly go wrong and we need to figure out a solution asap so the show can go on. If things take time or don’t go the way we hoped, fuses start to burn out and tempers begin to show. Just forgive us for the bad things we may shout in the tech rehearsal or in the wings. We’re just trying to keep everyone safe and the show running smoothly.
I’m sure there are many more things you can do to keep your stage manager happy, but most of all, be patient and be polite. We’re all trying to achieve the same thing; to put on a ruddy good show. So let’s work together to do that.