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How to become a Stage Manager

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What does a Stage Manager do?

Stage managers are the link between all the different parts of a theatre company, bringing all the elements of a performance together at the right time. They ensure that lighting, sound, props and special effects are operating properly and cued in correctly. They manage the practicalities of a production; organising rehearsals, actors, directors, designers, props and costume fittings, as well as managing the performances on stage and liaising with the front of house staff.

The stage management team consists of a stage manager, a deputy stage manager and an assistant stage manager. Stage managers work closely with the producer and director, who concentrate on the action on stage and put the production together. Deputy stage managers are usually responsible for communicating all artistic and technical notes from rehearsals, and running the performance schedule on the night. Assistant stage managers ensure that props are correctly set and scene changes run smoothly.

What's the working environment like working as a Stage Manager?

Working hours are irregular, and stage managers are often the last to leave after performances. Stage managers are expected to work weekends, evenings and bank holidays. There is also work in the day, during rehearsals or matinees.

The backstage environment can be hot, dusty or dark, although this depends on the age and size of the venue. Some stage managers work with touring companies, involving long periods travelling.

What does it take to become a Stage Manager?

To be a stage manager you should have:

  • a keen interest in all aspects of theatre
  • excellent organisational and administrative skills, with a knowledge of financial management
  • excellent communication and teamworking skills, to manage teams of technical staff and stage hands, and to liaise with technical and creative personnel
  • flexibility, the ability to multi-task and to make prompt decisions
  • tact in dealing with directors, producers and performers working under pressure
  • the ability to remain calm under stress and meet strict deadlines
  • good IT skills, for budgeting and creating lists and schedules
  • knowledge of Health and Safety legislation and procedures.

Stage Manager Career Opportunities

Stage managers that have completed accredited courses with the National Council for Drama Training are more likely to find regular work than performers.

There are opportunities with:

  • regional theatre companies in towns and cities around the country
  • commercial theatre companies operating in the West End of London or touring the country
  • national theatre companies, drama, comedy, opera and ballet in London and the provinces
  • theatre in education.
Promotion to stage manager is usually from assistant to deputy to stage manager after some years' experience. Experienced stage managers can progress to theatrical company managers or theatre producers (sometimes called theatre production managers).

There are opportunities to work wherever stage shows are presented, such as theme parks, holiday camps, corporate events, or cruise liners. Overseas work is a possibility. It may also be possible to move into stage/floor management in the television industry.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Stage Manager that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Stage Management Association
55 Farringdon Road
Tel: 020 7242 9250

Guild House
Upper St Martin’s Lane
Tel: 020 7379 6000

National Council for Drama Training
1-7 Woburn Walk
Tel: 020 7387 3650

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Dance and Drama Awards

Association of British Theatre Technicians
55 Farringdon Road
Tel: 020 7242 9200

Creative and Cultural Skills
11 Southwark St

Facts and Stats:

  • Nearly one in 10 people watch television every day in an average week. The average amount watched remains at 26 hours a week. 59 per cent of those surveyed watching between two and five hours a day.
  • Filming for an episode of Eastenders normally starts six weeks before its transmission.
  • 60 per cent of people in broadcasting work on a freelance basis. The UK has some 240 radio services. The average listener can only pick up 15, six belonging to the BBC and nine commercial ones

Courses to help you become a Stage Manager