There’s no other way to stay it: performance week is hectic for any theatre program. While directors, leads, and techies are likely feeling the pressure, perhaps the most stressed of all is the stage manager leading the charge behind the scenes. As the head of your production, it’s your responsibility to ensure your stage manager is prepared and confident for opening week; we offer a few ways to get them there.
How to Prepare Your Stage Managers
Mental and Physical Elements
- Keep Open Communication: Ensuring a strong bond between you and your stage manager is key to their happiness and confidence. Make sure they know that they can come to you with anything – questions, suggestions, concerns, or complaints. Be sure that you’re both on the same page about performance week goals, the vision for the show, and other logistical nuts and bolts.
- Emphasize mental health: This goes for your entire cast and crew, but mental health should be a major emphasis for your stage manager during performance week. A lot rests on their shoulders – so make sure you’ve given them ample time to get into the right headspace. Encourage meditation, do group yoga before rehearsals, play silly icebreakers or improv games to keep morale up – anything to keep that positive vibe going.
- Emphasize physical health: While you may be harping on physical health standards for your actors and techies, these concerns should be applied to your stage manager as well. Stress the importance of enough sleep this week, and keep snacks, water, lozenges, bandaids, and just about everything else you need at the ready. And if your stage manager feels run-down or ill: LET THEM REST! Pushing cast and crew members past their limits never yields positive results.
- Prepare them for hiccups: If your stage manager is a perfectionist like many are, they will likely feel defeated if issues come up during final rehearsals or performances. Let them know that mistakes are almost always going to happen. And when those mistakes do occur, make sure you’re troubleshooting in a helpful, constructive way, not getting frustrated at your cast and crew.
- Encourage their leadership: The stage manager is a key part of the artistic team. Their responsibilities are vast, and a show can’t go on smoothly without them. Make your stage manager know they are integral to your show, and that their opinions matter. Instilling confidence in your stage manager will lead to a better performance, guaranteed.
- Create To-Do Lists: Sit down with your stage manager before performance week and create a (non-intimidating) to-do list for the week. This will keep things organized and on track, but will also make your stage manager feel accomplished and confident when steps are checked off. Keep this master list with big-picture goals, specifics, and daily checklists by your side, and your stage manager’s side, at all times. Also, encourage your stage manager to use the “Notes” app or other reminders to keep them on track.
- Ensure They Know the Show Front to Back: Before performance week begins, your stage manager should know every detail of the show you’re about to put on. Make sure they know:
- The table list of props and gear
- Scene changes and transitions
- Costume changes
- Sound and lighting cues
- Other important technical information
- Create Helpful Shortcuts: Streamline the stage manager’s process by utilizing the wide and wonderful world of technology. Things like paperwork – contact sheets, cue notes, and meeting minutes – can all be uploaded to one space to avoid carrying around papers that are easy to lose. If you have the resources, (psssst – we do!) there are best-in-class software tools for stage managers that automate many of these tasks.
- Emphasize the Schedule: Your stage manager should know the performance week schedule like the back of their hand. Communicate call times, any extra dry tech or dress rehearsals between shows, and exactly when and where you need your stage manager all week.
- Offer Supplies Galore: Things like sign-in sheets, shift plots, prompt books, extra paper, post-it notes, rehearsal/feedback minutes, highlighters, batteries, safety pins, and first aid kits should all be at a stage manager’s disposal. After all, they are often looked at to be the calm during the storm if things go wrong mid-performance. Arm them with the supplies to do just that!
On the Stage Resources
Your stage managers aren’t the only ones who need help getting ready for performance week. On The Stage is designed to help every member of a production- from your box office team to your directors, producers, actors, marketing, and especially your patrons. From ticketing software to fundraising suites, marketing assets, merchandise and so much more, On The Stage will ensure your performance week goes off without a hitch. Book a demo today to get started!
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