How Stage Managers Work

By: Diane Dannenfeldt

The stage manager is responsible for making sure that stage shows like "Wicked" go on.
The stage manager is responsible for making sure that stage shows like "Wicked" go on.
© Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Staging "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" by Bertolt Brecht was a challenge for the Seattle Theater Company. The production had hundreds of light and sound cues, dozens of costume and set changes and used 36 computer-controlled projectors. But everything was going well during tech week and into the performances.

Then, in the middle of the play one night, the very pregnant stage manager fainted in the control booth. While the wardrobe staff revived her, an assistant stage manager ran from backstage to take her chair and headset and continued giving cues from the prompt book. The stage manager left for the hospital; the show continued uninterrupted; and the audience and actors never knew the difference [source: Drew Campbell].


The show must go on, as the saying goes, and the stage manager -- or in this case, the assistant -- is the one responsible for making sure that happens. Like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, the stage manager coordinates the activity of the actors and crew during rehearsals and performances of a play. Stage managers give cues for lighting and sound, oversee rapid set changes and make sure actors are in place. And that's only part of the stage manager's job.

What else is in a stage manager's job summary? What does a stage manager need to have for every play in his essential kit? What training do aspiring stage managers need, and how can they build their resumes? Read on to find out.