What are some tips that will make me a better stage manager?

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Answered by: Mike, An Expert in the Theater - General Category
As a stage manager, your basic job is to keep track of what's going on backstage during the run of a show. You are the head of the cast and crew come show time, and a good stage manager can make or break a run. If you're able to keep your cool and perform effectively under the immense amount of pressure that you will experience, then the people surrounding you will perform better as well, seeing that you're able to do it.

Here are five stage managing tips I would offer to anyone.

1.) Lead by example. If you "keep your cool" around the cast and your crew, they will perform better. It's a natural, psychological quirk that humans have. With good lead comes good performance. As well as keeping your cool, you should also be respectful to your co-workers. Something that seems to slip the mind occassionally is that you are all a team, which leads me to my next point...

2.) You're a team. Everybody involved with the production has the same goal in mind: put on the best show you possibly can. It's easy to forget that and think that somebody or a group of people may be working against you, but the chances are small. Your cast and crew should be treated as your family.

3.) Plan for the worst and hope for the best. This is where Murphey's Law comes into play: everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Unfortunately, this is true. Therefore, you need to be proactive, not reactive. Plan ahead for what disasters you can foresee, and make sure that your cast and crew are prepared for anything that could go wrong. Set aside a meeting time during tech week to explain to the production of what they need to do in certain situations. Of course, not everything that could happen is something for which you have the ability to plan. Your crew also needs to be skilled at thinking and performing on the fly. This is a skill that is developed mostly through experience.

4.) Don't be a pushover. Fickle management can really put a damper on a production's potential. Even though you're being respectful and calm, you are in charge, and you should not be afraid to assert your authority. This is somewhat similar to being a "cool" parent. Your kids have the freedom to do what they want, as long as they are respectful and mind the rules you do have for them. Stage managing is the same way: your crew should be able to work freely and effectively under the restrictions and guidelines you have laid out for them.

5.) Pay attention to details. It's easy to lose track of the little things while trying to put on a show. Always keep in mind that the little details can really add to the atmosphere of a production.

There are my five best stage managing tips. Something else that really affects a production's outcome is just basic chemistry. Make sure that all elements are able to work together effectively and efficiently. Follow these basic guidelines and you should be off to a good start to being a good stage manager. Don't forget, though, that every show is different and calls for different skills and abilities. You must be flexible!

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