SMs from your school, notecards, worksheet, stage management binder (if you have one), YouTube clips, page from a script (preferably with stage directions), whiteboard or butcher paper (something you can write on)
Students will demonstrate their understanding of basic stage management skills and responsibilities by participating in small group/whole class discussions (including a Q&A), and completing a stage management worksheet.
Hand students the SM worksheet- they should work on completing it throughout the class period. Ask what they already know about stage management- what does a stage manager do? Write these things on a piece of butcher paper or a whiteboard that can be added to throughout the class. This will be a visual reminder of how much a SM is responsible for throughout class.
Next, talk about necessary stage management skills. Take a minute and talk to a partner or in small groups about what you think it means to be a great stage manager. What skills does that require? After students have discussed for a minute or two ask them to come back together and start sharing some answers as a class. Ask a student to volunteer to be the scribe as they take down some of these stage management skills.
After you’ve compiled a list and discussed some of the qualities the students have shared make sure to reiterate that in large part these are life-long skills. They’re skills learned and perfected over time, and not all at once. Often it’s hard to train someone to actually be a SM if they don’t have the right personality type for it- it won’t be a symbiotic relationship. Throughout the rest of our focus on collaboration, organization, communication, and skill/attention to detail as these do a nice job at summarizing those life-long skills requisite for stage management. So be thinking about both how you can foster these skills in your own lives, and how you’re already practicing these principles in other areas of technical theatre and design. This is especially important if you think you’d like to stage manage in the future.
Activity 1 (20-25 minutes): Tell the students that now that we have a starter list of some things we think a stage manager is responsible for we’re going to watch a clip of a professional stage manager. Think about what skills and tasks she mentions that are necessary for stage managers. Are these similar to or different from our list? Play Introduction to Stage Management clip from “OCLPhase2” on YouTube. After the clip finishes ask students about what they noticed. What else do we need to add to our list regarding SM roles and responsibilities? What SM skills did she mention that were similar to our list? Are there any we need to add?
Let’s get one more perspective from another professional production. What similarities and differences do you notice between the clips? Is stage management always exactly the same? How might it change from each production? Play “Wicked Stage Management” clip from “OfficialWICKED” on YouTube. After the clip finishes ask students to get together with a partner or in small groups to discuss what they noticed in this clip, as well as the questions just posed. Restate them in order to remind students what they should be discussing. After they’ve been discussing for a few minutes (monitor their discussions to make sure they’re staying on task and staying engaged) ask them to come back together as a class and share. Are there any other roles/responsibilities we should add?
Activity 2 (20-25 minutes): Pass out a notecard to each student. Please welcome the guest speakers for today’s class- you should pick between 1-3 students from the school who have stage managed in the past if possible. Have each student introduce themselves and say what they have stage managed before- they could also be in the process of stage managing. Ask each student to come up with 3 questions that they have about stage managing either in general or at this particular school. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn from their peers and to see what they can do in order to become stage managers themselves.
After you’ve given the students around 3 minutes to write down their questions turn the time over to the SMs. Ask them to give a little bit of an overview to their stage management experience. What was it like? What are some of the responsibilities? What are the difficult parts of the job, as well as the rewarding parts? What does it take to be an SM at this school? After each SM has spoken allow the students a few minutes to ask some of their questions. Many students may feel shy or hesitant to ask the questions written on their cards. If this isn’t an issue then questioning can proceed like normal. If it is then gather all the notecards up and begin asking some of the questions the students have written down. You can either say who asked the question or not- the important thing is that the great questions the students have written down are getting asked. *Reminder: students should be filling out their worksheets through this entire process. Add to the list of responsibilities if necessary, and thank the guests for coming.
Activity 3 (20 minutes): Pass around the Stage Management binder if you have one- it should be complete with examples of all the different necessary forms stage managers need for a show. This gives students a great idea of the type of work/documents necessary, as well as all the many ways to complete them.
Play short portion of “Stage manager calls ‘cues’ for ‘HAIRSPRAY.’” clip from SanDiegoREP on YouTube. Ask students what their reactions are to this. Calling a show is very fast paced and stressful at times. What SM skills are necessary to do this? Reinforce that this is just one part of being an SM, and that there isn’t one right way to do this.
Next, talk about how to take down blocking. Note that you can either draw a diagram that includes the stage you’re performing with, or just write the movements in the script. Draw an example of each of these. With a diagram you’d draw the stage, make markers for characters/set pieces and track their movement with arrows throughout the page. (Briefly discuss the changing technology/apps becoming available for this process.) If you just write blocking in the script you’d simply write things like “move DL” next to the corresponding cue line. This will be determined by your preference and/or the preference of your director.
Hand students a copy from a page in any script- this will be easiest if there are already stage directions printed in the script. Give students page 4 from the One Act we’re currently working on: Wiley and the Hairy Man. There are several stage directions throughout this page that indicate actor movement throughout the stage. Students should draw a diagram of the stage as well as how they might take down the blocking. (This will be done on the worksheet.)
Last, briefly introduce the importance of an SM kit. What types of things might be in your SM kit.
Wrap up/Assessment (1 minute): If students haven’t finished the worksheet they may take it home and finish completing it. Let’s take one last second to review our list and see all than an SM does.
Next time you see a show remember to think about and appreciate all that the SM and crew do to make a show run seamlessly. The show couldn’t happen without them.
At the end of class your SM list may look something like this:
Collaborate with all department heads
Be an organizational machine as you make the following documents:
○ Contact sheet
○ Rehearsal schedule
○ Email lists
○ Conflict calendar
○ Production calendar
○ Daily Reports
○ Properties List (keep updated)
○ Set Design communicated to all staff (keep updated)
○ Furniture and Set Decoration list (keep updated)
○ Costume plot (keep updated)
○ Set dates for production meetings.
Prepare your Stage Manager kit which might include:
○ Paper clips
○ Safety pins
○ Small sewing kit
Prepare your prompt book.
Know the script like the back of your hand.
Be the timekeeper.
Know that you may be on book.
Pull props or rehearsal props.
Spike the stage.
Let the team know when something isn’t possible or correct.
Delegate humbly- don’t be afraid of doing the hard stuff or grunt work.
Send out the rehearsal report.
Keep the production meetings running.
Make sure everything and everyone’s safe and ready.
Alert Call times.
Deal with late actors/crew members.
Go through headset protocol.
Work with the house manager.
Call the show.
Mediate between all departments.
Mediate between actors.
Keep integrity of the show in tact.
Type up a show report.
Be a likable leader.
Have the director’s best interests at heart.
Know your crew well enough to anticipate problems.
Be a drill sergeant and a cheerleader.
Apologize when you make a mistake and keep going.