Author Topic: What can students do to get into a SM job faster and stay in it longer?  (Read 3234 times)

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Caroline Naveen

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So it seems like a ton of people are going to college to be Stage Managers....What can high school senior Stage Manager wannabe's do to get an edge in the professional world? What can we do before, during and after college to get into a job faster and stay in a job longer? I searched for topics similar to this and could not seem to find one so I'm sorry if this is a repeat question...

Jessie_K

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Work on as many shows as you can during college, apply for internships.

Caroline Naveen

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Okay thanks! I suppose what I'm trying to ask is there any internships in particular departments that could help me learn what I  need to know, because a stage manager has to be pretty well rounded right? I've already had a sort of unofficial internship at a local professional theatre since late 2011, and because of that have learned a ton. But is it better to have a lot of internships at one theatre, or a lot at a bunch of different theatres? I'd like to say thank you so much to every single person on these forums for posting such in depth information on everything I feel like I'm finally learning something just in reading the threads when I come home from rehearsal and then I'm like oh that's what they meant! :) I can't thank ya'll enough!

Jessie_K

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Obviously internships in stage management are important.  To get a more well-rounded experience, try company management or assistant directing or any technical discipline.  Learning basic lighting, carpentry and sewing always useful.  You might use those skills as an SM or open up your job potential.  It is hard to make money early in your SM career, being able to take side gigs doing other theatre jobs will help you stay afloat.

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ejsmith3130

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As someone who exited college with a well rounded theatre education, I have found that it is somewhat of a help and a hinderance. I did not go through an SM specific degree program so I had less Stage Management credits on my resume compared to many other recent graduates. I think that it is very important if you already know you want to stage manage to dabble in other areas of theatre (particularly sound, lighting, props and costuming for basic running knowledge that will serve you well) but to not divert too much of your time there, sacrificing your stage management time.

I personally didn't take the advice above. I did anything and everything in theatre including acting, directing, designing, every run crew, house and stage management. I love it. Stage Management was my favorite, and when I left school it is what I had done the most of, but I still went through a period of time where I felt unfocused and not sure of what I wanted to pursue. I had all of these skills and wanted to do it all. Stage management has won out (for now) and I love it. I don't personally plan on being a stage manager for my whole career- this is the first step for me, and I have a bigger plan. This is all based on 20/20 hindsight of course and everyone's path is different.

Had I wanted to start working earlier and gotten paying jobs faster, I would have specialized and taken every opportunity to work and network with other stage managers. SUMMER STOCK every year while you are in college. This keeps you career focused and connected while in school. When you graduate you have hopefully made several contacts and can have professional references for jobs. It also helps you realize what types of theatre you like to stage manage- try dance, opera, and everything else.

I know this is a little jumbled, but if you set your mind to it and really hone your skills (practical and people) you will have a great start. Goals are important, and don't forget to think about your big picture. 

EFMcMullen

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I agree with Jesse_K and going out and getting internships.  Learn from working professionals.  You are not only learning from those that are making a career out if this, you are also networking.  A lot of this career sustainability is based on your ability to make connections and network.  I would say over 75% of jobs I've ever gotten have been because of who I know.  I am also a true believer of interning at the best theaters possible.  The larger the organization, the more people you are going to meet and work with, the better your résumé. Use your time in college to do everything, but I would focus your internships towards stage management if that is where you think you want to be. If you can figure out how to walk out of college debt free (or with very little debt) all the better.  Starting out in this industry is tough and worrying about student loan debt will not make it easier. 

I also wanted to comment on "to get into a job faster and stay in a job longer". Just a reminder, theater is not like being an accountant. Yes, some people are lucky enough to land seasonal jobs or a long running tour or show, but most of theater is freelancing, especially when you are just starting out.  Your job, even when you have one, is trying to land your next job. 

And finally I would say, don't let the end all be all be New York.  An internship at a large regional theater outside NY is probably better for your career than doing unpaid store front theater in NY. There is a lot of amazing theater, opera, ballet, etc across this country in places where the cost of living is less.  Don't let location limit you when you are starting out.  Once you have a solid résumé you are much more marketable in larger markets

VilleSM

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I have JUST finished my grad school program and have JUST gone through the interview process with some very large, respectable Theatres across the US, despite only having about 8 SM credits on my resume. Most of them commented that they were impressed with the following:

1) Working with more than one non-educational theatre setting. I've done a bit of summer stock, a few community theatre productions, and a little bit of semi-professional work. It shows that you're dedicated to the field and that you're not applying on a whim.
2) Having another job to support yourself. Starting out, it isn't easy to support yourself through theatre alone. By showing that you're capable of holding down a second job, it shows dedication and perseverance.
3) Related work and classes: Apart from SMing, my primary job for the past two years has been as a set assistant in a small theatre company. There, I've worked on construction, painting, lights, sound, and video elements, as well as some props work. But I've also had classes in directing, costumes & makeup, and acting, AND I have a few PR and design credits on my resume, too. These show that you're willing to learn whatever it takes to become the best SM you can, and each thing you learn enables you to communicate effectively with departments in rehearsal reports and in person. You can't help solve a problem if you don't know how to articulate it, and if you aren't able to help brainstorm possible solutions. [That being said, you also have to know when to not "butt in." SMs sometimes have to take the backseat and let the conversation happen around them.]
4) A strong cover letter. Even if your resume isn't that impressive, they might take a look at your cover letter.
5) Strong letters of reference. I know you can't assure that they ARE going to be strong, but picking the right people as references is very important. And it might be different depending on the job and the location of the job.

Hope this helps!
"The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life." - Oscar Wilde

On_Headset

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Work.

Work everywhere. Work anywhere. Work on everything. Work on student shows. Work on "real" shows. Work on shows that you and three friends put on in the basement of a bar. (And if you don't have those sorts of friends, find them.)

The SMs who stand out aren't the ones with good grades (little secret: nobody cares what grades you got]) or even the ones who graduated from fantastic schools (the proportion of SMs with BFAs, let alone BFAs specialized in stage management, is very low compared to most professions), but the ones who have kept themselves busy. Even if you aren't working prestigious gigs, work.

Check out the attached chart, which shows the amount of resources you'll have as a stage manager over time. In high school you have relatively few; as soon as you start university, the quality and the volume will increase significantly. (At least, it will at a half-decent school.) Well-maintained facilities, new and well-maintained equipment, all sorts of experts and mentors to assist you, the first "real" show budget you'll experience, etc.

Just as importantly, your BFA resources will increase over time. As you move towards fourth year, you'll start working in more advanced venues, have more access to faculty members, be trusted to work with the newest, shiniest and most complicated equipment, and so on.

Then you graduate, and--for most students--you land pretty damn hard.

If you're a real eager beaver who positioned themselves very well (internships with prestigious companies, summerstock work, etc.), you might not have this experience: you might jump straight to apprenticing somewhere fancy and wonderful and never look back.

You might also go a route like working cruise ships or tourist shows, which will spare you the worst of this phenomenon.

But if you're like most BFA students, after you graduate, you leave this land of milk and honey (state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, amazing instructors, decently-sized budgets...), and find yourself pulling together shows in church basements with no resources and a budget of "How many coins can we pull out of the director's couch."

It's possible to claw yourself out of there. But it's easier if you have practice, and it's easier if you have the sort of experience needed to hook yourself into more prestigious and better-paying gigs. You get both that practice and that experience by doing it while you're still a student, and this will spare you the hardest, lowest and most difficult part of that trough.

Conversely, if your entire work background consists of your one annual show in the mainspace with only the finest equipment and personnel, and now you suddenly have to dye costumes in your parents' bathtub and your "venue" is a disused massage parlor in a dingy strip mall and--indignity of indignities--they expect you (YOU! The Stage Manager!) to fold the programmes by hand, that's when you have a nervous breakdown and leave the profession at age 25.

But, at bare minimum, if you reach that stage of your career with zero experience or expertise in handling these situations, it's going to be harder, it's going to take longer, and you're more likely to fail. Get the practice now, when the stakes are fairly low and the benefits are fairly high, and you'll thank yourself later.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 10:22 am by On_Headset »

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