Author Topic: CAREER: stage management college degrees  (Read 10806 times)

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ivonne516

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CAREER: stage management college degrees
« on: May 03, 2006, 10:35 pm »
I am very curious to know how many  stage managers have college degrees on stage management?, and how many like me, had to learn by doing?  I would love to hear as many answers to these questions and details about it.
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2009, 11:35 pm by PSMKay »
Ivonne

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stage management college degrees
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2006, 11:24 pm »
I am going now for my B.A. in Theatre, and then am going to get my M.F.A. in Stage Management next year. I have mixed feelings because the job of a Stage Manager cannot be taught; it has to be learned through practice.  However, at the same time, I don't feel as though the experience I've had thus far will get me to where I want to be, which is why I'm taking the grad school plunge.  I know a variety of SM's, some have degrees and some don't, and all are just as great.
"Perhaps, therefore, Stage Managers not only need to be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds."

Mac Calder

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stage management college degrees
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2006, 11:51 pm »
I started off doing SM'ing by being thrown in the deep end, and I am good at my job (or at least I like to believe so, and I have not had complaints). That said, it has become abundantly clear that a piece of paper is required to move up beyond the shows I am doing now.

Next year I plan to do start a course in "Production" (There is no Stage Management 'course' in AU, and I do not only do SMing).

As far as competence goes, I do not believe the piece of paper is an indication. I was LD and SD for a show with a SM/PM who just came out of a Batchelor of Dramatic Arts (which has a course on Stage Management) and she was extreamly incompetent. She had no idea how to set out a prompt copy (she had script on the left (that's fine) then a sheet on the right hand side with columns for Blocking, LX, Sound etc and she wrote the cue numbers in the columns and drew the lines accross pages, which meant she was misscalling quite a few cues). That is how she was taught to do it. I think that proves the fact that a piece of paper does not mean competence. That said, however, when learning to get your piece of paper, chances are you will pick up some interesting information, and things like laws (I have had to learn them through research and investigation) and rights etc which will help to cover your backside.

ERK

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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2006, 02:06 am »
my undergrad program didn't even have a class in stage management, let alone a stage management emphasis or focus.  I ended up focusing in performance because I originally wanted to be an actress.  But I fell in love with stage managing and since we're in the same union anyway, I felt that emphasizing in performance rather than technical theatre was just fine.

Since I learned stage management by trial and error and watching professional SMs, I wanted to see what a classroom could offer (and I also wanted to be able to teach some day).  So I'm currently working on getting my Masters in Stage Management.

I agree that a piece of paper doesn't make you the best stage manager in the world.  But in my opinion, neither does experience.  There are some things in stage management that you simply can't be taught - either in textbooks or by doing.  It takes a certain flare to be a truly FANTASTIC knock-em-dead stage manager.  And so, I think people should just recognize that they have the talent and follow whatever route of training appeals to them.  Both classroom and OTJ approaches to stage management have something to offer.

I am noticing more and more that job postings are asking for MFAs.  I'm not sure how I feel about this - I mean, it's great for me, but you don't need an MFA to be a great stage manager.  It's not like being a doctor or a lawyer with a set number of things you need to learn.  But, on the flipside, there are plenty of people I know who would NOT hire someone with an MFA on their resume because they assume those people are arrogant and not as hard-working.  And I've actually seen SMs with their MFAs who are EXACTLY that.  But I've met plenty of arrogant and lazy SMs who didn't go to grad school.  So, whatever :)

MatthewShiner

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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2006, 11:13 pm »
Wait a second, let me get on my soapbox and preach the good word of education for the stage manager.

Yes, yes, stage management is something that is best learned by doing, but what do you think you are doing in grad school?  Um, stage managing that's what.  Plus, lots of time to discuss your work, be surrounded by like minded stage managers, working on shows much larger then you would be out in the real world, in a safe environment.  It also gave me some specializations in dance that I would not have had in the real world - no one would have hired me for the scope of dance productions I was assigned.  And, I was working with a support staff of a major regional theatre.  Again, before grad school, working small, non-equity gigs - grad school huge shows.  But like any grad school, you only improve what goes in, and how much improvement is based on how much work you put in.  Many people can be a B- stage manager, go to grad school, and come out a B+ stage manager - which may be good enough.

As far as being arrogant and lazy . . . hmm, maybe arrogant, but working 80 hours a week, 52 weeks a year would not peg me as lazy.

Having the MFA is just one more guarantee that I know what I am doing.  When people look at a resume, they are looking for some sort of guarantee that you are going to be a success at their theatre.  Trust me, I am pouring over resumes right now looking for one to pop out and scream, I AM RIGHT FOR YOU.  Things I look for - 1) SM experience at a major, top tier regional theatre, 2) The fact you have been hired at the same place more then once, 3) proven track record of working in an established producing organization (as opposed to just being a freelancing swooping in), 4) worked with people I know, 5)formal training.

There are a lot of people who don't put an emphasis on the formal training, but I do - because I know what I got out of my formal education.  BUT, it's not a make or break point; it's just one more thing that can help me like I know this person will do a good job.

There are a lot of people who do do this job, starting off as an intern, moving up to ASM, and then finally to SM . . . but I think a MFA level can help make you a strong SM, and help you move up faster.

Finally, a grad school education may not help you get jobs, but may help you deal with the jobs you get better.
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

ChaCha

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stage management college degrees
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2006, 01:22 pm »
Hi all,
 I did a 3 year SMT course which - as Matthew also mentioned as a plus of formal training- gave me an unusual range of experience in different genres as we worked on everything from musicals and modern dance to opera, film and multimedia performance, as well as loads of regular theatre. The school had performance streams in all these areas and we did classes every morning for 4 weeks; week 5 was production week; and week 6 we did classes in the morning and shows at night. So each student worked on at least 6 shows a year.

This diversity of 'hands on' experience has allowed me to have an enormously satisfying career in a range of disciplines. 10 years after I graduated I had a strange year where I called my first professional ballet for the state company, as well as my first ever circus...but I knew I would be able to cope not only because of my years of professional practice but because 10 years before we talked about how to do this/did this in training.

Another plus for me of doing the course was that the connections I made there enabled me to get my first job (opera - I hadn't ever called one but we studied score reading), which of course led to other things...

Personally I always prefer to have ASMs who have a similar training to mine as I KNOW what they are going to know how to do, and that expectations of the job should be similar to mine.

A downside is that because my institution allowed specialisation (SMT, LX, SD, design, Set construction, costume, etc) from day 1, as an SM student i didnt get hands on experience in a production context in the various tech areas. We did CLASSES in all of them, but it didnt leave me particularly capable of going on tour and relighting a show as well as stage managing (for example). Though maybe that was just cause Im not that technically minded!

The experience was very intense and really weeded out people who wouldnt have the temperament /desire to last in the industry. It was also just good training in people skills/time management/life management.

Having said all that if you can get yourself a job without the training, more power to you! I from an academic family who automatically look around for the right course to achieve anything... I'm currently fighting off the notion that I should be doing an arts management course to help me move on after my wonderful years of roaming stage management fun.

BTW -MC
Quote
There is no Stage Management 'course' in AU, and I do not only do SMing)
.

 Actually, in Australia you can do a 3 year course majoring in Stage Management from day 1 of first year at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts attached to Edith Cowan University.

ChaCha
ChaCha

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stage management college degrees
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2006, 12:28 pm »
So there you have it, two completely differing opinions on the same subject. Both legit, both from working Stage Managers.

So much of our business is about personal style and choices - much can be learned from both quadrants. I think knowledge is golden, wherever it comes from. Stay open to growth and continue to learn from every opportunity, however it presents itself.
Ordo ab chao

NickySM

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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2006, 03:23 pm »
Hey Everyone..

Now, I know this maybe a touchy subject, and some people may not choose to talk about it or whatever, but i'm just deciding where i'm going to go in my life, and deciding on a college and all of that, and I was curious to know what a round-about salary for a working Broadway Stage Manager is??? Either on tour or stationed at a specific theater?  Does anyone think it matters on your education, or your skill? And possibly would someone hire you over someone else if you were a college grad in the field??? If you don't choose to talk about it, that's fine with me, but i'd appreciate some feedback if possible, Thanks!

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stage management college degrees
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2006, 06:33 pm »
Quote
and I was curious to know what a round-about salary for a working Broadway Stage Manager is??? Either on tour or stationed at a specific theater?


Please, please, please do some digging around this website before you ask questions we've already answered.  On Equity's website, within the Document Library, and under Agreements are all the various Equity contracts out there, each with different salary rates.  You can download these by visiting http://www.actorsequity.org/library/library.asp?cat=3. The Broadway and Touring contracts fall under the "Production" contract.  Keep in mind, that the cost of living is much higher in New York, so though those salaries seem exorbitantly higher than others, it also costs more to live there.  And those jobs are hard to come by.  
Erin

Kestrel_Childers

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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2006, 01:10 am »
I've done both.  I spent about 5 years doing SM-ing for community theatres and working towards a degree in psychology before I realized taking a degree in stage management was even possibe.  I knew I still had lots to learn and I obviously couldn't learn it all from books or on my own, so I decided to maybe try taking a degree in something I actually enjoyed.

It's definitely something you can't learn in the classroom, you have to learn while doing it and hopefully you get the chance to work under someone who has experience, it's the best way as opposed to learning by running a show yourself. You'll still learn lots, but you always learn new/better/bad ways of doing things working with others.  

So I'm glad that my BFA program was partially hands on with show assignments.  I don't think either going to school or learning by doing is better than the other, just depends what type of learner you are, cause school isn't for everyone.

Tigerrr

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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2006, 11:35 am »
"So I'm glad that my BFA program was partially hands on with show assignments.  I don't think either going to school or learning by doing is better than the other"

Hey! I know you :) (Kestrel and I did the same program a year apart)

Anyway, I have to agree.  I did the same.   I think a combination of school and OTJ training is the best kind.  Prior to the BFA, I did 8 years of community and Fringe theatre, and even an Equity Co-Op or two.  Then I think being a bit older when I went to school I finally had the maturity to get as much out of it as I could.

The other thing about school was that it gave me a "tool box" of skills.  I can reach in and pull out the "tools" I need for the different jobs I do.  For instance, this week I'm doing a ballet (with 80+ kids!) for which there is no score.  I learned how to sort of create one while I was in school and, while I'm not doing it *exactly* as my prof taught, it sure as heck is helping me to get through this show.

I have to agree with a previous poster that school didn't give me the tech experience I feel I'm lacking.  So, even though I'm on my way to becoming Equity, I still volunteer as a technician at a community theatre here.  Sure, I don't have tons of time to devote, but every once and a while I'll do a call and learn something new.

Finally, here in Canada, there aren't very many college programs that focus specifically on Stage Management.  Most of them are tech/PM programs with a class or two in SM.   So the issue of having a degree or not doesn't really play out here.  

In fact, one thing I've found is a wary-ness (sp?) of my degree.  Sometimes people think I'm going to be an arrogant know-it-all because of my little piece of paper and are reluctant to hire me as an apprentice. I was asked that question in an interview a little while ago - something along the lines of "with all this experience, how do you think you'd feel to be kind of demoted to an assistant position".  Yes, she used the word "demoted".  I was taken aback and told her that the jobs of the SM and the ASM are two entirely different positions and one is not "better" than the other; they just have a different focus.  She said she looks forward to working with me next season :)

samthestagemanager

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Re: stage management college degrees
« Reply #11 on: Jul 03, 2006, 01:48 am »
Right now I am 2 years into my undergrad degree in theatre. My dept. doesn't offer a concentration in stage management; my concentration is simply design/ tech. I feel that I have learned an incredible amount just by experience. I find that in every situation where i stage manage I learn something new and I gain new strengths. I still would like to pursue my MFA in stage management once I graduate; I feel that I have more to learn and would like to achieve a graduate degree.

erin

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Re: stage management college degrees
« Reply #12 on: Jul 03, 2006, 02:34 am »
I SM'ed in undergrad but didn't focus on it.   I also built and painted scenery (for work/study funds), ran followspots, hung and focused lights, and did pretty much whatever theatre monkeying needed doing. There was one Stage Management class1 offered senior year, and i took it, but by then i'd already SM'ed more than half a dozen shows because i was around and overly responsible.  Before that class I learned from reading the one book in the library (Stern) and on the fly from Director's requests and guidance.  Up until a few months before graduation i was on a Lit PhD track (English major) and the Theatre major was just a bonus resulting from all the of the Theatre classes i had taken for fun. (And because i enjoyed picking up additional majors.)

I guess i learned just enough to seriously consider learning more...so i dumped the dissertation and went to  grad school for an MFA in Stage Management.



1 The class was mostly a review of what i'd picked up along the way, but i was introduced to several new books (Schneider and Ionazzi) and lots of fun blocking notation systems  ;)

erin

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Re: stage management college degrees
« Reply #13 on: Jul 03, 2006, 03:05 am »
Forgot to mention the rude awakening that was the first professional gig after undergrad and before grad school.  What i learned at college was only the teeniest sliver of what a "real" SM does.  I had no *idea* what i had been neglecting and was incredibly embarrassed to have pitched myself as someone with experience and accomplishment.   Having two plaques advertising my "Excellence in Stage Management" was utterly worthless outside of that particular educational environment.

So yes, it is incredibly annoying to run into overly cocky graduates who think that all their work in college qualifies them as experienced SMs'.  The quality and breadth of educational programs runs such a spectrum....an interest in continuing that learning is key.

There are staples that every SM needs to know, and that is where educational theatre really shines.   The the MFA program i got a LOT of experience paired with supervision and feedback that don't exist in a working environment.   A program that brings in many different instructors with current working experience in a variety of formats in invaluable preparation for tackling new projects outside your comfort zone.

So a degree doesn't mean someone is is exceptionally good, but it does certainly indicate a commitment to the job!

BalletPSM

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Re: stage management college degrees
« Reply #14 on: Jul 03, 2006, 12:52 pm »
The nice thing about educational theatre is that shows are typically set up as learning experiences -- so a rehearsal period might be 6 or 7 weeks instead of only 4; a build period might be 4-5 weeks instead of only 2-3, etc.  You have more time to figure things out and learn things.  Shows are designed to be learning processes, not just a final product.  In this way going to school for theatre is helpful.  You really get a chance to go through the process slowly and understand why you're doing what you're doing. 

On the other hand, many colleges do things very differently than in the "real world."  For example, my school insisted I sit in the booth to call a show -- after I had already worked as an ASM for the ballet company several times and sat with the SM backstage.  After patiently explaining that I would prefer to sit backstage, that we had the FOH cam already set up and that this is the way I would be doing it in a professional setting I was told, "No.  The SM's place is in the booth."  Hmm.

In any kind of theatrical degree (except for something like theatre history) it is important that the bulk of your learning has been experiential learning -- if everything you've done involved is sitting in a classroom with no practical work, your degree won't be as useful as if you'd spent the four years actually working in the theatre instead of going to school.  I don't think it so much a matter of "I have a piece of paper," its more a matter of what you did during the years you spent earning that piece of paper - sitting in a classroom, or sitting backstage (or in the booth...wherever your school puts you).
Stage managing is getting to do everything your mom told you not to do - read in the dark, sit too close to the TV, and play with the light switches!

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