Author Topic: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)  (Read 17403 times)

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MatthewShiner

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Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« on: Jun 23, 2008, 08:28 pm »
I used to think Stage Management was a younger person's job - the hours, the stamina, the amount of bulls**t you have to deal with - then I got older.  Now I see the benefits of age in this position.

Recently when talking to a young stage manager who is just starting their career, I realized that there is an odd sort of built obstacle in this career - starting out young, with less experience in your back pocket, I think I had to work HARDER at being a good stage manager (I am not saying it's easier now, I just think with my experience there are things that come easier to me.). Stage Management in my 30's is easier then stage managing then my 20's (and I am working on much more complex shows).

I think that a lot of young stage managers may get burnt out in the career before they get to a point where they are making a nice living wage and where the job comes easier based on experience.

I was wondering if there was any 30+ stage managers who maybe able to throw out some advice how they made it through those years. 

For me personally, it was those years where I went to grad school . . . I had been stage managing for about 5 - 6 years professionally, but non union (You know those 150 to 500 a week jobs . . . no union protection, summer stock type jobs).  It was nice to spend three years where I didn't have to look for a job, and I was able to concentrate on improving my skills.  It also helped jump start my career and put in touch with a lot of networking - that helped me break out out of the circles I was in. Since grad school I have kept working and am now I working at a very nice level.

What was your success story to get through those late 20's.  What advice would you provide to help people out of that mid-career stall?
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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.

DeeCap

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #1 on: Jun 24, 2008, 11:16 am »
I am 30++ (though I still get carded!) and was an active stage manager in my 20's and 30's. Although my career is on pause while I go to grad school, I plan on re-entering it as soon as I graduate.
It isn't easier, but things that would have made me explode in my 20's now just make me shrug my shoulders.

I was pretty lucky, as my parents lived commuting distance to NYC and a wide variety of theatres. They also didn't mind that I lived at home while doing it.

My advice: don't give up. Have a circle of friends that you can vent to. Every day try to make strides toward advancing your career. Don't be afraid to shift directions if you need to. It's not like there is one path to take towards working as a full-time stage manager.

adrianej

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #2 on: Jun 25, 2008, 04:44 am »
      I'm 16. I stage manage at a local community theatre as well as my high school. It is really hard sometimes in community theatre. I always work with actors who are older and see me as a kid. They often think it is some sort of "playing dress up" deal. Usually by tech week, I have earned their respect. That is really rewarding and definitely worth all my work.
      Although the teens in community theatre are the hardest. Since they are my age, they don't EVER listen. They have no respect for me or my work.....Often they don't even have respect for the director or the venue... They blow off everything I say. It is really frustrating.

MatthewShiner

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #3 on: Jun 25, 2008, 08:24 am »
They have no respect for me or my work.....Often they don't even have respect for the director or the venue... They blow off everything I say. It is really frustrating.

Although this may be a specific problem at your age in community theatre, you will find this attitude all the way up to professional theatre.  On my current project there are actors who have no respect for the director, venue, production or fellow actors.

Just because people are paid, doesn't mean they act professional.
« Last Edit: Jun 25, 2008, 08:44 am by MatthewShiner »
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sarahbear42

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #4 on: Jun 25, 2008, 12:52 pm »
Absolutely true. I thought in college it was just because the actors were also in college, but at my current theater I work with some actors, and even directors and designers, who have decades in the professional world and still can be SO disrespectful.

(I would say "unprofessional," but I hate throwing that word around... people always use it when what they mean is 'not doing things how I want them done.')

chops

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #5 on: Jun 25, 2008, 01:07 pm »

Just because people are paid, doesn't mean they act professional.

I think that this is true in every field I have ever worked in.  However I have learned that if you always keep your professionalism people will respect your way of conducting business even if they don't respect you. 

And the hard to work with artist does not stop at the collage or community theatre level.  Some stage manager or handler jobs become the act of allowing the artist to be "creative" and do what they do best.  Sometimes the artist can't comprehend the simplest things such as deciding what kind of bread they want on a sandwich.  This results in you ordering five sandwiches for one person and then they end up eating off the vegie tray all day and never touch the sandwiches.  It may seem trivial and annoying.  Especially after four months on tour.  However when they step up on stage and make a couple thousand people happy for an hour or two you realize that they just might know what they are doing.  But it is a very fluid relationship.  You wouldn't be there without them and they wouldn't be able to do what they do without you.  If you can make everyone understand this then you become a team.  Just remember that a good team is built off of respect and not freindship.  You may become friends later but start with the working relationship.  And start that out by showing everyone that you work with a lot of respect.  This includes the janitor because he has the keys to the theatre and will let you back in at night when you locked your keys inside. 
Peace,

Chops

KMC

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #6 on: Jun 25, 2008, 01:11 pm »
(I would say "unprofessional," but I hate throwing that word around... people always use it when what they mean is 'not doing things how I want them done.')

Agreed 110%, this word is thrown around far far far far too much, especially in academia.
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

sievep

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #7 on: Jun 29, 2008, 09:44 am »
Being smack in my late 20s, I second Matthew's call for advice.  I have certainly encountered the doldrums Matthew speaks of and wonder about how to get through it.
"This lovely light, it lights not me" - Orson Welles

centaura

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #8 on: Jun 29, 2008, 01:32 pm »
Whenever I get a year older, I wonder why folks have a problem with the idea of aging.  I have found that the older I am, the easier it is to get respect.  When I was in my twenties and on tour, it was harder than heck to walk into a venue with grizzled old IA hands and get then to listen to me about what I needed for my show.  I would have to spend extra time explaining every reasoning behind what I wanted before they would do anything.  I had to prove to them that there was a string of logic behind what I was asking for, they wouldn't just take my word as the person in charge of the tour.  I'm in my mid-30's now, and while I'm off the road, I still find that I'm having an easier time working with roadies because I'm older.  They're accepting the things I'm saying without the long explanations of logic.  I don't know if I have any advice to 20-somethings about getting respect - I had to resort to brute physical strength sometimes.  I found that if the guys saw me lifting heavy things off the back of my truck, they took me more seriously that day.  If for whatever reason I didn't unload the truck on a given day, I would notice that I was working harder to be believed that day.  Other than that, I had to know my show twice as well, so I could logic away any questions or concerns that locals had.

-Centaura

Nbayard

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #9 on: Jun 30, 2008, 09:30 am »
After just graduating and about to take on my first professional gig, I am constantly hearing my teacher say - some of these things just come with age or experience. 

centaura

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #10 on: Jun 30, 2008, 03:01 pm »
Quote
I am constantly hearing my teacher say - some of these things just come with age or experience.

I remember how annoying that was to hear all the time in college, and yet now I can see how true it is.  And will continue to be - I have a lot of acquaintances who are 60+ who I am sure can look at me at my current age and think of all the things they didn't know then, like I can think of the things I didn't know when I was in my teens or 20s.

-Centaura

Scott (formerly Digga)

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #11 on: Jul 03, 2008, 02:57 pm »
I just entered the last year of my 20s and have been doing this professionally for about 7 years now and joined the union before I was 25.  For a while I wasn't sure if I was too young or missing too much and maybe I still did.  But I was given an opportunity at a good LORT theatre where their Resident PSM just got burnt out in her late 20s/early 30s and decided to quit theatre after the season started.  Needing an SM and having been their SM on their non-eq children's tour, I offered my services.  I ended up with 3 shows that season and 6 of the next season before moving on.   My only regret is that I had the great Resident PSM position when I was too young.  Now that I'm getting into my 30s, I would love to get that back but as long as I keep finding work at good theatres, I'm very happy with the life I've got.  Moving to NYC has opened up whole new possibilities and I still get to work at Regional Theatres on occasion. 

As for being burnt out, I haven't felt it yet and though I've been offered positions in different careers that offer far more money, I figure I'll keep doing this as long as I enjoy it.  I can't see myself enjoying another career nearly as much as this one.  My only next goal is Grad School at some point I think but I keep putting that off as I continue to work and gain more experience.

ljh007

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #12 on: Jul 07, 2008, 08:47 am »
In my mid twenties, I learned a few things that made me a better stage manager - but more importantly, helped me get through the difficult shows more gracefully and with less stress:

- I learned I have a right to stand up for myself. It's sad that it took me so long to truly realize this. I used to do everything in service of the show - long hours, skipped meals, out of pocket expenses, doing everyone else's jobs, and jumping when producers or directors snapped their fingers. Eventually, I realized I didn't have to be the one to do it all. The show will still get on the stage, and it will still be great. Trust me - it will. Oh, and along these lines: I learned to be paid what I am worth. Don't settle for less.

- I learned not to micromanage. Because I am a perfectionist and wanted the show to be the best it could be, I ended up having a bit too many opinions about every little thing. This attention to detail got me a reputation as a high-quality SM, but I think I must have driven all the tech heads nuts! After getting out of community/semi-pro world and getting some professional shows under my belt, it was easier to sit back, relax, and respect the great work that those around me were doing - and that they did quite wonderfully without me looking over their shoulder.

- I learned I to walk away when a discussion is escalating. Tempers run hot onstage, backstage, and everywhere, especially during tech. Altercations and heated discussions are rather inevitable, but I learned to allow them only when they were essential. If there's work to be done, identify the task and then just get it done. You can talk later about why something didn't happen or about someone's sassy response. But if it's not an emergency, if it involves mostly just ego, or if it's taking your attention from other more important tasks at hand, just walk away. Take a note and deal with it later, but don't let a fight steal your attention and waste time, unless it involves safety or something that is immediately keeping the show from getting on the stage.

- I learned to do my job. Or more to the point, I learned not to stress out about how I thought everyone else should do their jobs. A director who liked to spend 1 hour each rehearsal on breathing and visualization exercises; an actor who thought the green room was his personal social club; a choreographer who liked making everyone else watch him dance more than he liked setting dances on others. I think you might have met these people too. These attitudes, egos, and inefficient practices used to make me tear my hair out. And maybe this is just one of those things that comes when you encounter it enough and can learn to let go... but one day I just let go. If they want to do or say something stupid, it's not my problem. I'll stick around, keep us on track when I can, and get a great show onstage. But I can't turn people into someone they are not or make them act the way I think they should. And that's okay. Letting go of this stress gives me more time to focus on doing the best work I can do.

So, no fancy tricks or tips from me. Just a frame of mind. (Better than losing your mind!)
« Last Edit: Jul 07, 2008, 08:57 pm by ljh007 »

hbelden

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #13 on: Jul 07, 2008, 10:50 am »
ljh: one of the best posts I've ever read on this forum.  Thanks for including all those great tips.  I vouch for each one of them!
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Jessie_K

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Re: Aging in stage management (those late 20's)
« Reply #14 on: Jul 07, 2008, 02:07 pm »
I agree with everything that ljh has said.

I wanted to throw my two cents in.  As a stage manager in the last year of my 20s, my biggest advice is to always take that next step forward.  This unfortunately might mean turning down work that does not pay enough (or whatever) and being unemployed from time to time waiting for the right job to come.  Trust yourself and your work that the right opportunity will come.  Don't pressure yourself into taking a job that is below you.  You will only resent the people you work with and be angry at yourself.

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