As Stage Managers, we’re used to not getting any of the spotlight. Heck, I think we prefer it that way, the thought of having to be onstage has given me a sweaty brow! However, FUN FACT ALERT: 2020 is the ‘Year of the Stage Manager’. Who’d have thought SMs would get an entire year! Of course, the irony of it being the same year of a global pandemic is certainly not lost. While the majority of focus, sensibly, is on the global health crisis, we want to continue our little chat on Stage Management.
I’ve always been in awe of those who choose to chase their dreams and pursue a career in something they truly love. It wasn’t until I came on as a full time staff member at RLT that I had a job I truly felt passionate about. While I’ve enjoyed previous jobs, there is a little less excitement surrounding making copies and taking meeting minutes. During our research phase, we ran across this article, titled ‘Brilliance and Authenticity: Stage Manager Ross Jackson’.
Ross Jackson has a long list of credits and, rightfully so, is considered a top-rank stage manager. Please feel free to read the article in its entirety. It’s fascinating to read about his path into stage management, unconventional. I love a good unconventional story!
I’d like to focus on a specific section, Championing Conversation. Jackson is quoted as saying, “I think my job as a Stage Manager is not to manage personalities, but instead, to facilitate conversations.” Brilliantly said! I found myself re-reading this quote several times and finding significance in each word, separately.
When you put it all together, I think it summarizes the true meaning of Stage Management. I’ve been in more than one production meeting or rehearsal with mentions of difficult actors or production team members. There’s always talk of how to manage that individual, or keep them in line. Which is fair enough, right? It is certainly much easier to try and suppress someone with a strong personality, try to get them to move with the ‘herd’. I’ll be honest, I’ve absolutely done it.
However, some artists can’t be tamed. Like, Miley Cyrus. GET IT!?! Moving on. So, what if we shift the focus of an interaction, from managing a personality into a facilitation of conversation? If you think about it, Stage Managers really are the core of communication in a production. SMs attend all rehearsals/production meetings, take vigorous notes, relay updates/changes to all members of a production, keep track of all details, etc. Not to mention, I’ve always found that a Stage Manager’s ability to listen is far more important than their ability to talk.
For my next SM gig, whatever it might be, I’m challenging myself to embrace this concept. While I do consider myself a good communicator, there is certainly room for improvement. Will it be with less sarcasm? Doubtful. BUT it will be with a more individualized approach and, certainly, a lot more tact. A little less talk and a lot more listening. That’s how the saying goes, no?
Did you also know, we are Celebrating the halfway point of the International Stage Managers Day?! Well we are, every year since 2013, October 10th has seen stage managers around the world getting the hard earned recognition they deserve. This is an important day to thank a Stage Manager and maybe even hit your light for them. Oftentimes, we all push aside these days as superfluous, and move along with work. But, today I urge those SM’s reading this to take today and the actual International Stage Manager’s day and reflect and recognize all the work you do.
October 10th was chosen as the perfect day to recognize these great managers because they score a 10 out of 10, full marks, they win dancing with the stars. Maybe that last one isn’t true, but British SM’s started this holiday and chose this day for the perfection that Stage Manager’s strive for and achieve. This day will be even more celebrated this year as it is the 100th Anniversary of the Stage Manager joining the union.
As you read Victoria’s words above, think about the International Stage Manager’s Day, the Year of the Stage Manager, and pat yourself on the back. Stage Managers across the world have created a community committed to excellence, and if you’re like us, you should be excited to be a part of it.
Assistant Technical Director
About the authors:
Victoria Blanford is the Operations Manager of Reno Little Theater. Prior to coming on as a staff member, Victoria volunteered as a Stage Manager and crew member for several seasons. She doesn’t share food, but does share the following joke… she just thought of… right now: What did the Stage Manager say when her hands were full? HOLD PLEASE
Tiff Bream is the Assistant Technical Director of Reno Little Theater. Having served as the Production Stage Manager for GLM and RLT once upon a time, Tiff would like to know if that is your prop. It doesn’t look like your prop, you should put it down.
Victoria is the one with the mustache. Tiff is also the one with the mustache. Who is who? MYSTERY.