The Life of a Stage Manager
They say that the show must go on, but whose job is it to actually keep the show going? Meet Katie, a stage manager and a part of the Rosie River Boots community.
How would you describe your job?
It definitely depends on the gig, but I am mainly either a stage or production manager for dance, opera, and theater. I am the person you will never see onstage unless there is a problem. I start in the beginning go the production process to help with communication, scheduling, all around organization of the production, and making sure that it is all finished by the deadline. I have to know the ins and outs of the show so I can answer any and all questions that might arise. It’s a lot of paperwork and managing people from actors to technicians to designers to directors.
What does your day to day look like?
It depends on where we are in the process but most gigs we are in the rehearsal process the longest so I will dive into that section. I normally have a production meeting once a week which lasts anywhere from 30min-hour followed by a few meetings through the week to meet with the designers and technicians to check on questions that have been brought up in rehearsal that week. Then I work an average of 2 hours a day on show paperwork. An hour before rehearsal I go to the rehearsal space and set up the furniture, props table, refill water pitchers if there is liquid in the show, and look over what the plan for rehearsal is. When the director arrives, I double check that the plan for the day is still accurate and get any answers I received earlier in the day to them. In rehearsal I take down blocking (actor movements), prop tracking, line notes (when an actor gets a line wrong), costume tracking, production questions, and am a timekeeper to make sure we stay on schedule and that rehearsal ends and starts when planned. Once rehearsal is finished, I talk with the director about the plan for the next day, tear down the space, empty water pitchers, wash dishes, and send out the daily call to the actors and the rehearsal report to the production staff.
How did you end up in your job/field?
I was in high school and I took a drama class to get out of my shell a little bit. The officers for the theater troupe stood in front of the class and talked about how amazing it was. I joined the club that year, by the next year I was an officer, and by my senior year I was the president. I did mostly backstage work because I do have a case of stage freight. I found stage management specifically by working at StageWorks Theatre in Tampa, Florida where I shadowed the PSM and realized that I loved the job. I ended up going to school at Ohio University for stage management where I then learned about dance, film, and opera and that I could work for these companies that I never even dreamed of before. My stage management professor, Elynmarie Kazle helped me in growing to be the SM I am today.
What do you love most about your job?
I love watching a production from the beginning of design concepts to opening and even the changes that happen after. You don’t realize how much the production breathes and grows until you are in the inner workings, helping to create a beautiful thing that one day people will see. and have some sort of emotional response to (be it good or bad).
What is your favorite example of a well engineered or well designed thing (a building, a product, a system), and why is it your favorite?
In all honesty, google drive is by far amazing and once I started using it I never went back to regular Microsoft Office. It is so easy to share documents and make sure that a corrupted copy isn’t floating around somewhere because you just send a link to the person you need to. It makes it so easy to collaborate with my stage management staff on everything as well as share information with my company.
What’s something you think people need to fix?
It is definitely a little bit more on the way people think about artists. As much as we would love to bring you the art we love for free, that isn’t feasible. We do this because we love it, not for the money, but what we do isn’t free. Just like at your work where you do not work for free, neither do we. This is a career, and a really fun one.