8 Things To Look For In The Perfect Stage Manager

Who here "casts" their stage manager? If you aren't, you should be. This role is vital, vital I say, to your production. And requires some careful consideration.

Determining who my stage manager will be for a show is just as important as casting the lead roles. Maybe more so. I'm going to walk you through the process of 'hiring' your stage manager so you're show is as successful and efficient as possible!

SCOPE YOUR OPTIONS

This student needs to be the full package: smart, authoritative, clever, loyal and hardworking. For the most part, I recruit my stage managers from the Tech Crew, but on a few random occasions, my ideal stage manager has come from outside the theatre world. 

I know. That may seem blasphemous to the tech kids that already make up my team. But when a gem of a kid comes along, you scoop them up! So keep your eyes peeled everywhere. My last (and probably best ever) stage manager was the captain of the baseball team before I recruited him. 

Here are qualities you should look for:

Top of their class

The stage manager is your right hand, the highest authority under the director and the first line of defense in a production. This is one of the very last people you want to lose. Find a student that has a vested interest in their grades. I look to the leadership of Student Council or our UIL Club. These kids typically have their goals set high, work hard for their grades and will never worry about the Pass/Fail rule. 

Backbone

You will need a student who is willing to "tell on" others. Not that you want a tattletale, but you need someone who isn't afraid to call someone out for wrong doing. When something goes wrong backstage, someone is late to rehearsal or some other such problem, your stage manager should be more than willing to either take care of these problems or report them to you.

Personality

You, as a director, will be around this kid a lot! Find someone you like. Someone who you can joke with, spend long nights of rehearsal next to, discuss fun and difficult topics with the same ease. There may come a fabulously efficient StuCo president with a knack for organization, but if they can't crack a joke, I don't take them on as my stage manager. 

Authority

You'll need a student that can command respect. Students should straighten up at the sight of the stage manager the same way they do at the sight of the director. 

Organization

I am a mess by some standards. While my classroom makes total sense to me, some think I need a Hoarders nomination as soon as they see the heaps of scripts and costumes. This is where my dream stage manager takes over. They need to be able to keep up with paperwork, piles of fabric, the shelves upon shelves of props, without breaking under the responsibility. 

Loyalty

This plays into the backbone point I made above. You need a kid willing to stay true to you. This student will need to be the type that comes straight to you with a problem. No filter, no fuss. You need a kid you can trust to take care of things and keep you sane. 

Level-headed

Drama is my middle name. Not drama like theatre. Drama like drama. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed and stressed, even if the situation doesn't call for it. This is where you need a sensible, calm SM. So many times, in the middle of a freak out, I would hear "don't worry, Ms. J," and it would be fixed. Find a stage manager who can take problems in stride, not lose it like the rest of us drama queens!

Smart

This is an obvious one, right? Some of the shining examples I can give about having a "smart" stage manager are really simple, but important. 5 minutes before a show, we lost electrical power backstage for our computers that projected onto our scrims. If I had heard about this minutes before contest, I would've probably had a panic attack right there. My SM was smart enough to NOT tell me what was going on and handle it himself. Eight minutes into the show, when the projections were supposed to start, they were up and running without a hitch. This SM thankfully packed an extra extension cord and rigged it all up himself without panicking any of the crew. 

How to Recruit them

This position of stage manager is sadly overlooked time and time again. People think its just someone who wrangles props or keeps scripts up to date. But it's so much more than that.

I make it extremely clear among my theatre department that the title of Stage Manager is a powerful one. This small campaign to add prestige and authority to the SM title helps in the long run. Kids should fear and respect whoever takes this role. 

Make this nomination a big deal. They need to know they are important, rare and vital to a production. This boost in pride helps ensure the role is taken seriously. I would suggest announcing it to your department. This will help the SM and other students realize just how important this job is. 

Equip them well

This kid will be your right hand, your shadow, your secretary, your support and your gatekeeper. Make sure they have all the necessary equipment (tactile and otherwise) to get the job done right. 

We wrote an entire post here on how to best prepare your stage manager for your show. Read the blog post and download our free Stage Manager Guide to make your coveted SM as efficient as possible. 

Want more advice from a director who's been around the block?

Sign up for our email troupe to get the latest tips, tricks and stores. 

Name *
Name