Stage Management Handbook
The Stage Management Handbook is a guide to how stage managing at Michigan Tech is done. This guide is very fluid and subject to constant change. These procedures and guidelines have been put together as research about what is expected of stage managers at Michigan Tech, so prospective stage managers can look at what they responsible for on a production.
- 1 Preparation
- 2 Pre-Production
- 3 Pre-Rehearsal
- 4 Rehearsal
- 5 Performances
- 6 Post Production
A stage manager's general purpose is to keep order throughout the production process. They must excel with time management, attention to detail, and specificity in regard to tasks, as well as patience, empathy and wisdom in regard to people. They act as a liaison between all production members: director, designers, carpenters, cast, crew, and administration. The stage manager also acts as an information hub; if a practical question is asked by any member of the cast or crew, the stage manager should have sufficient information available to answer it.
Visual and Performing Arts Office
Located on the 2nd floor of Walker, the VPA office is to be utilized for any administrative purposes. The stage manager may be the person designated to provide names of actors, crew, etc to the Administrative Aide or Office Assistant for use in the program and related services. Make sure the names of all personnel are given to the VPA office as soon as possible.
The stage manager checks out the "Stage Manager's Keys" and door codes from the Technical Director, and returns them to the TD at the conclusion of the show. Do not lose these keys.
The VPA office copier can be used by the stage manager for any purpose related to the production. Instructions on use of the copier will be given by the VPA office staff on request. Big jobs (like copying scripts) should be given to the office staff to do at their convenience during the work day.
The VPA office has a mailbox for the stage manager of each show. This mailbox is used for communications that don't happen in a production meeting. The stage manager should check this regularly for any new information.
For all spaces operated by the VPA department, see the Administrative Aide or Office Assistant to schedule the times you need the room. For any other Rozsa space, contact the Rozsa Production & Building Manager or the Rozsa Director.
Stage Manager’s Kit
The stage manager's kit resides in the storage area in the NE corner of McArdle Theater. The purpose of the kit and its contents is to aid the stage manager in solving any tasks, issues, or problems related to the production. If any necessary contents are used up or become lost, or to suggest an item be added to the kit, contact the Technical Director.
Common forms for every show.
McArdle is a black box theater with modular seating, located on the second floor of the Walker building. Work lights and catwalk lights are turned on/off by panels located near the two front entrances to the theater. The theater is connected by a large garage door and two side doors to a backstage area used often for storage, as well as utilized by the costume shop and art classes. The booth is reached by key from the third floor of Walker.
Walker 210 is a versatile room located on the second floor of the Walker building. It is used in a variety of ways, most often as a classroom, light lab, sound lab, and as a green room for McArdle productions. It has two dressing rooms attached, which are often used for storage along with their intended purpose.
The Rozsa Center is our largest and most complicated performance space. Seating capacity in this space is about 1,101 in its optimal configuration. The orchestra pit is modular and can be used as a standard orchestra space, stage lip, or can be brought to the house floor level and used for extra seating. An optional orchestra shell is attached on each side of the stage and is almost never used for theater performances. The Rozsa features a permanent fly system for curtains and lights as well as a somewhat modular house sound system. These are set-up, maintained, and operated by the Rozsa crew, a group composed mostly of paid students. Behind the stage are 2 large dressing rooms, a green room, and two "Star" dressing rooms. See http://www.rozsa.mtu.edu/info/techspecs.shtml for more information
First Aid Locations
The stage manager should locate and acknowledge first-aid stations throughout the areas of operation. It is critical that they are all fully stocked. Consult the Technical Director if a kit is missing components or if they are blocked by equipment or other obstructions.
- McArdle: In the shop area on the north side.
- Walker 210: Use the kit in the VPA office.
- Rozsa: On the front wall backstage left near the microphone snake ports.
The stage manager is responsible for scheduling and holding production meetings (at MTU, the Technical Director will assist in running the production meetings). While the production is active, these meetings should be held weekly. The stage manager should contact the director, designers, Technical Director, and faculty advisors, to find a time and place the meeting can be held. Production meetings are often held in Walker 210; talk to the VPA Office Assistant or Administrative Aide about room reservations. Typically, production meetings are not held during performance week.
Measurements and Fittings
The stage manager is responsible for coordinating costume measurements and fittings between the costume shop and cast. The Costume Shop Manager will hand you a list of times which are available for fittings and how long the fittings will be and ask the cast to each sign up for a time. If there is a conflict, it will be taken care of by the cast member and the Costume Shop Manager.
Production Wiki Pages
Put cast list, crew list and performance dates on the wiki page which will be created for each show. This page is mainly for archival purposes and providing the Administrative Aides with names for the programs.
Create two e-mail lists. One list will be for the actors, the other for the designers/crew. The stage manager, assistant stage manager, and director should be on both lists. The actual name of this list is up to you, but use common sense. Relate the list names to their purpose, and try to make them easy to remember.
Request your lists using the form on the page http://majordomo.mtu.edu/
See list guidelines at http://www.it.mtu.edu/dcs/eml/eml-96.htm
Calendars and Schedules
Make certain a weekly schedule of rehearsals is made; if it's not being done by someone else, it's the stage manager's job to create it. Make the schedule as detailed as possible and e-mail it out to both production mailing lists and post a hard copy on the call board. A detailed schedule should be created for production week as well; make sure this schedule gets e-mailed to all members of the design team and production crew.
It is also helpful to have a monthly calendar created that encompasses the entire production schedule.
Ordered and maintained by VPA office staff. There should be a sufficient number of copies for yourself, the director, designers, run crew, and one extra copy along with the copies for the actors. Be sure to observe copyright laws, though it is generally acceptable to make copies that will need to be written on. Note that some scripts, especially those for musicals, cannot be written on in pen and all pencil must be erased before they are returned. Scripts that have to be returned should be treated with care.
Read and analyze the script thoroughly. Look for problem spots for actors (accents, difficult pronunciations, entrances/exits, stunts, etc.), design and technical requirements (light, sound, set, props, costumes, etc.), scene changes, and anything else you may need to be aware of in advance.
The prompt book is created by you for the show run and contains all the necessary information. The book should be detailed enough that it could be understood and the show run by any stage manager unfamiliar with the show. It should contain:
- Script with all cues (light, sound, set, etc.) notated for show run
- Set/Property presets
- Blocking Notes
- Score (if applicable)
- Cast list/Contact sheet/Emergency contact info
- Calendars and schedules
- Rehearsal/Production Reports
- Any other forms/information relevant to the run of the show
Preparing the Rehearsal Space
Update the call board with important information pertaining to the production, including cast lists, calendars, and schedules. This will inform those involved with the show of when and where they will need to be ahead of time.
Once a ground plan is received from the set designer, tape the outline of all set pieces according to the ground plan using a scale ruler, tape measure, and colored spike tape. Also, mark places on the set where movable set pieces are placed by taping the spot they are placed, or the corners of the set piece where it is placed. This helps to give the actors and director an idea of the space they have to work with.
Until actual set pieces are available for use, acquire items such as tables, chairs, or any needed rehearsal prop from wherever you can borrow them from.
Auditions and Readings
Production fact sheet: basic facts for the actors, possibly including character descriptions and places the script can be obtained. Develop this sheet with the help of the director.
Suggested readings sheet: sections that actors trying out for particular parts may want to become familiar with prior to audition.
Tentative rehearsal schedule: if not fully laid out in a calendar, coordinate with the director on when rehearsals might take place.
Form distribution: a set of useful forms are included at the end of this guide.
Program list: a list of cast members' names and roles in order or appearance should be prepared for the program once all cast has been chosen. Provide this list to the Administrative Aide in the VPA office.
Cast & Crew list: should also be provided to the Administrative Aide in the VPA office for comp. tickets.
Make sure all actors receive a script, and know not to write in pen on or highlight any script that must be returned.
Number scripts and document which actors have been issued which scripts for study.
First Cast Meeting
Distribute rehearsal schedule, cast list, company rules, and any other necessary items.
Coordinate costume fittings with costume designer.
Coordinating with Director
Meet with the director often and know what he/she expects of you. If you don't know, ask. The stage manager will often collaborate with the director on scheduling rehearsals.
The stage manager should arrive at least 30 minutes before a rehearsal to open the necessary rooms and prepare the space. Know what scenes you will be rehearsing ahead of time and get the stage area ready so rehearsal can begin immediately.
Look through the set before every rehearsal for potential dangers to actors, or their costumes. This can include sharp edges, nails and screws, and debris on the floor. Make actors aware of any immediate dangers; report any fixable problems to the set designer and/or scene shop crew in person or in the rehearsal report.
Write down any important note pertaining to the production, either from the director or from your own observations.
Make sure actors are present and signed in. Note any late actors. If actors are consistently late or absent, talk to the actor about it. If it is still a consistent problem, talk to the director.
When off-book, prompt the actors with lines when necessary. You may want to note any missed lines.
Be sure actors are ready before it's time for them to rehearse, as to not break up the flow of rehearsal.
Maintain order. Actors not currently on set should be quiet. Don't be afraid to raise your voice to address a noisy group. Large problems should be discussed with the director.
Keep track of the time and keep the director informed of the time. Make sure actors are getting intermittent breaks.
Keep track of how long things take. Know how long scenes, acts, and breaks are, as well as the entire show. The stopwatch in the stage manager's kit is a valuable resource for this.
Once rehearsal ends, the stage manager is responsible for turning off the lights, and closing and locking the rehearsal space. Be sure to check the space for any forgotten scripts, personal items, trash, etc. The space should be as clean as when you got there. Remember, some rehearsal spaces serve as classrooms during the week.
Send out a rehearsal report to the crew e-mail list as the body and as a text file attachment. You may choose to send out some applicable technical notes to the actors as well. Don't send rehearsal reports to the cast, and don't send actor notes to the crew.
Take detailed blocking notes. Know where the actors are supposed to be and where they're supposed to go. You will need to come up with a shorthand system that allows you to do this quickly. These notes are a resource to inform actors who have missed rehearsal or forgotten their blocking. Be sure to have a key for your blocking notes.
Note everything that happens in rehearsal. Occasionally the director forgets or changes something, and you need to be certain that it is supposed to change.
Obtain cue lists from the sound and light designers. Make note of cues that are to be executed by crew members backstage. Keep record of sound/light/stage cues alongside the script in your prompt book, it will be necessary to make performances run smoothly.
The stage manager is in charge of making tech rehearsals run smoothly. Tech rehearsals by nature will stop and start repeatedly; make the actors aware of this. Work with the designers and crew and be aware of any changes that occur. It is common for cues to change slightly or completely during a tech rehearsal; write in pencil, make your cues movable. If a particular cue is not working smoothly, run it until it does consistently.
Dress rehearsals should be treated like a performance. Only the director should interrupt or interject.
If you haven't been doing them yet, you should be creating sign-in sheets for the cast. Include crew members on this sign-in sheet.
Create performance checklists for all crew members – Pre-show, intermission, and post-production.
Rehearse curtain calls and make sure the actors are aware of how they will be handled.
Use checklists to keep from forgetting anything.
Walk the curtain, stage, and backstage and check for anything misplaced, broken, blocking a curtain, etc.
Find out who the house manager is and coordinate with them. They need to know how long the show is, each act is, and plans for late seating. If you can't find the house manager, talk to the box office crew (just outside the theater in McArdle, or in the front lobby in the Rozsa).
Call the show. You will need to call all light, sound, and backstage cues according to your notated script. Make sure your space has a clear view of the stage, and adequate lighting to read your prompt book.
Take performance notes, continuing to time act/show lengths. Ask the house manager for an audience size.
Send out a performance report to the crew e-mail list, just like the rehearsal report. This should contain timing, attendance, and anything else of note.
As with rehearsals, the stage manager is responsible for the closing and locking of the performance space. Meet with the Technical Director or Production Manager if you are unsure of how to close the performance space. Again, be sure to glance around for personal items, trash, etc.
Know the strike plan. This should be discussed with the production manager, if not at a production meeting. A strike plan lets everyone know what is required of them for the strike.
After the production, be sure to revisit this handbook and share any new knowledge. Things change around here all the time, so it is up to us to maintain this handbook as things occur.