Top

Stage manager, theatre

Ensures that theatrical performances run smoothly and to schedule.

Job description

Stage managers are responsible for ensuring that theatrical performances run smoothly and to schedule. They organise all practical and technical aspects of rehearsals and shows and ensure that performers and crew are in the right place at the right time.

Stage managers are in charge of the physical stage area of theatres as well as the technical aspects such as lighting, sound, props and scenery. They work in collaboration with the director, and head a team of technicians and other specialists to create the correct 'mis-en-scene' and atmosphere to reproduce the source material on stage, with the aim of delivering a top quality live theatre experience.

They often maintain constant communication with the director either by in-house phone or wireless headset. It is also typical for stage managers to delegate duties to assistants, and generally manage the staff.

During the rehearsal process, stage managers will shadow the director and take notes recording lighting cues, prop usage, costume changes and entrances of the performers. On the day of the live performance, they may have to deal with both technical and human crises, so the ability to think and work under pressure is a vital characteristic for the role.

Work activities

  • Scheduling rehearsal times and making sure people arrive on time.
  • Ensuring understudies have sufficient time to learn their roles in case of an emergency.
  • Being responsible for the entrances of performers during the show.
  • Controlling the volume on the microphone or overseeing the sound technician.
  • Making sure that the curtains are opened at the proper times and closed when there is an intermission or the show is finished.
  • Checking for backstage passes and enforcing any rules and regulations necessary to clear the area of unnecessary people.
  • Making sure the theatre is operating within current health and safety regulations to ensure a safe and tidy environment.
  • Keeping abreast of the advances in technologies and techniques in the industry.

Work conditions

Travel: not a routine part of the working day for fixed theatre stage managers – however stage managers travelling with touring shows are required to travel including overseas with the production.
Working hours: usually long and unpredictable including evening, weekends and public holidays.
Location: town and city areas tend to have more positions.
Opportunities for self-employment: may be possible to work on a freelance basis.

Typical employers

  • Touring and fixed theatres.

Career development

It can be difficult for stage managers to advance their careers. They may obtain positions in larger or more prestigious theatres. In some situations it may be possible to become a theatre or studio manager, or a talent buyer. They may wish to pursue a career in a related field such as becoming a director or technician in the film industry.

Salaries

Salaries vary according to the type of venue, the geographical location, and the qualifications and duties of the individual. Generally, the larger and more prestigious a theatre is, the larger the stage manager’s salary.

Entry requirements

No formal education is required for the position of stage manager. The individual may require training in sound, lighting, electronics, depending on the position. If hoping to advance career then consideration should be given to taking some relevant courses.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Theatre studies
  • Drama studies.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.

Specific entry requirements

Relevant experience is not only desirable but more than likely will be essential. You may be required to possess a Stage Pass, a safety awareness course designed specifically for the theatre. The stage pass is becoming the industry standard in Irish theatre.

Training

Most training takes place on the job or through various practical courses.

Tips for application

Consider visiting clubs, theatres, concert halls and other venues to speak to managers to find out more about what the work involves. Take your CV in inquire about suitable vacancies or any voluntary work you could do. Take time to speak to them in person or send out letters to thank them for their time. Try volunteering in your local community with schools, churches and social arts initiatives.
The more skills you have, the better your chances will be of finding a position. Learn all you can about lighting, sound, electronics, stage techniques, and be ready to prove a real interest in the theatre.

Skills and qualities

  • A creative flair and excellent attention to detail.
  • Ability to get along with others and work quickly and creatively as part of a team.
  • Patience, stamina, physical agility.
  • Dependable and reliable.
  • Exceptional multi-tasking skills.
  • Ability to work well under pressure.
  • Ability to resolve problems creatively.
  • Ability to lead and take control in crises.