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July 18, 2011 tags: Rehearsal, Stage Manager, Tech by The Practical Artist
Stage Managing is a compilation of acquired skills such as patience, script analysis, organization, obsessive compulsive disorder, physical strength, extreme attention to detail, and being able to answer ANY related question that begins with “What if…”
I’ve been asked numerous times: “Wait a minute, wait a minute, there are people out there who WANT to be stage managers?! WHY would anyone want to do that?”
So, true, there’s no Tony for Best Stage Managed Production. True, it’s the only tech position required to be at all rehearsals and all performances. True, SMs are responsible/in charge of almost everything to do with the show once it opens. True, 99% of common-folk [non-Thespians] have absolutely NO IDEA what a Stage Manager even is, and 60% of non-SM-Thespians don’t fully understand what the job entails. True: you are commonly and respectfully referred to as GOD.
One of my favorite SM quotes that says it all: “Perhaps, therefore, ideal stage managers not only need to be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds.” [source]
Yes, there are sadistic individuals like myself who thrive off of being a Stage Manager. I may curse the designers who obviously haven’t read any rehearsal reports [and sometimes, not even the script!!!], I may secretly want to gouge actors eyes out when they can’t memorize their damned lines or are inconsistent in their blocking, I may want to assassinate board ops who can’t respond to a “standby,” and I may threaten to strangle the director during tech if s/he doesn’t stop screaming in my ear when I’m trying to call a scene.
But…when a quick change problem can be solved with delayed calling of tech cues, when an “impossible” scene change can be done in record time while carefully choreographed, when an actor finally doesn’t trip over their “trouble line” – or when they simply say “thank you,” when a director is beaming on opening night, and – admittedly – when a board op misses a called cue because they “didn’t hear” the standby, I love my job.
There is nothing more powerful, humbling, and satisfying than to be in the back of a theatre after a successful show, eavesdropping on the audience while they wonder just who it is the actors and director are congratulating on Opening Night. Unnoticed, and in charge of more than the avid Theatre Goer could ever know, perhaps that is why Stage Managers are called GOD. It’s not an easy job, but perhaps one of the most rewarding…and we don’t have to deal with that “in the spotlight” stuff. I wear Black, therefore I’m invisible and a force to be reckoned with. Not everyone’s in this game to make a name for themselves: I bet you can name over 10 directors, 10 actors, 10 playwrights, and maybe 5 designers you haven’t worked with…how many stage managers you’ve never worked with can you name? Remember that the next time you are tempted to give attitude to your SM, and respect the unique and difficult job they do. Remember to say “thank you” when you steal their pencils, it’s always appreciated.