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What does a Stage Manager actually do?!

Updated: Mar 1, 2019


As we start the second half of the tour, the company has become a well oiled machine when it comes to setting up and taking down the set for Alice in the Cuckoo's Nest. Here's a sneak peak into what the schedule of our Production Stage Manager looks like ...

As the van pulls up, I quickly jump out and head into the library. I'm on a mission to find the librarian we've been in communication with so that I can introduce myself and the company, find out where we can park, ask what time the library closes and what time we can start setting up. I convey this information back to everyone in the van and then we crack on with setting up. As the van is unloaded, the bookcases get moved and I measure out the 4m x 4m area we need as the performance space. The next step is to work out where I'll be operating the lighting and sound from, and then everything can be set up - up goes the staging, up go the lights, up go the speakers; cables are run around the space, plugged in and taped down; props are set in place; costumes are laid out. (I hasten to add that not all of these jobs are done by me! All the intricate parts of a set up were delegated out before the first performance). I get the fun game of 'hunt the plug sockets' and then everything gets plugged in and powered up. At this point the actors all start their warming up and I have the stage to myself for a few minutes. In this time I focus all the lights and set the sound levels, ensuring that the show looks and sounds the same night in, night out.

**Insert a brief pause to inhale a cup of tea (milk and sugar, in case you were interested)**

Once the lighting and sound are set, I call the actors to the stage so that we can run a fight call. A compulsory safety feature that happens before the start of every show, the actors walk through the fight scene and I make sure that everyone is happy, comfortable and safe. At this point I'll also let the company know that they have 30 minutes until the show starts and 20 minutes until the house is open.

**Another brief pause, this time to swap my 'technician hat' for my 'box office hat'**

And then we let the audience in. I take the tickets, persuade everyone that they do really want to buy a program, give directions to the performance area and answer any questions that arise.

**Now I get to sit for an hour and ten minutes and watch the show**

Well. Sort of. During the show, I operate the lighting and sound, making sure that all the changes happen at the same time in every performance. After a while I start to get muscle memory for where and when each cue happens - when that happens I can afford to watch the show a little bit. (For those of you interested, the show has 61 lighting cues and 43 sound cues!)

**Fast forward to the end of the show**

And now we pack it all down again! Power is turned off; cables are unplugged, coiled and packed; lights are taken down and packed away; speakers are packed into their boxes; the stage is taken down and folded up; the props, costumes and masks are all tidied away into their designated places. (Again, I hastened to add that it's not just me that does all of that - as with the get-in, we all have our designated jobs). Once it's all packed up, the van is then reloaded, bookcases are moved back to their original positions, librarians are said goodbye too and we drive back to wherever we happen to be staying. The journey home usually detours passed a shop because by that point we are all starving. Then it's a brief round of 'goodnight' as I fall into bed, watch an hour of television and sleep the night away.

Ready to do it all again the next day ...


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