Recently, we attended a webinar on the history of stage management documentation. The presenters went through centuries of call books and we got to see how stage managers as far back as 1870, were wrangling cast and crew. These documents showed us that while we may have the internet and more voting rights, Stage Managers have basically done things the same way. We have sign-in sheets, and ground plans with blocking, some of our handwriting is good, others questionable, and we’re willing to bet we know some lines better than the actors, just like they did.
The history of these documents told me that we aren’t so far from our SM ancestors and that we have been pretty close to perfect since the 1800s. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Stage Manager’s joining the union. On February 16th, 1920 the Actor’s Equity Association carried a motion that changed the contractual language to include Stage Managers and Assistant Stage Managers. Ensuring rights for these positions that were previously not recognized. Looking back 100 years can seem unimportant, seeing as stage managers have sixty things to do this minute alone, luckily for our busy selves, each month has been given a theme. A perfect way to break down a year of celebration, and reminiscing.
May’s theme is awards and recognition, something stage managers don’t get often. Most of the stage manager’s I have worked with and met enjoy the fact that the recognition they get is in the form of nothing going wrong during a show. I was told once the best stage managers are the ones who don’t want to be on stage. Not being seen is an unspoken tenant of the stage manager’s handbook. However, 100 years ago a stage manager advocated for the rights of stage managers, allowing us to be seen and recognized appropriately. Take pride in the few times you get called up in the light for a job well done.
Take a look at some older prompt books!
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.