Author Topic: JOB DESCRIPTION: Assistant Directors vs. Stage Managers  (Read 11747 times)

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Has anybody worked with an Assistant Director on a show?  

How do SM responsibilities change when you have and AD in a show?

Does it affect your relationship with the director? (since SM's are usually the director's right hand man/woman) Does it change the relationship for the better or worse?

Has anyone ever addressed the differences between the 2? It seems like I've looked but haven't found much useful info.

I can't quite figure out what to say to the director about this:
The director at my school (the guy who directs the fall play...I'm not stage managing, but a friend is...I'm the production stage manager (I work with the teacher who does the musical)) calls his SM the assistant director, and his  Assistant stage manager the stage manager. (he's a teacher volunteering to direct, so he really doesn't know much about theatre) He asked me exactly what a stage manager is/does. I've been thinking about how to answer him, and  how to say diplomatically that there is no difference (in the way he works) between his Assistant director and SM responsibilities. I hoping to figure out a way to get him to switch over to my way of thinking, (calling the SM the SM) and if he wants an AD, to use his AD for directing stuff only, and to let his SM do the SM stuff.

The problem is, I've never worked in a situation with an AD, and I don't know exactly how that would work. In my opinion, the the AD would strictly do what her/his title says, assistant DIRECT, (he/she would be the directors right hand man for artistic decisions,) but the SM is still the stage MANAGER, and they still manage the actors and the technical happennings for the show.
^ Any suggestions will be appreciated
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2009, 11:02 pm by PSMKay »


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« Reply #1 on: Oct 14, 2005, 07:40 am »
It totally depends on how the ad is part of the team.

I have worked on shows where the AD is just there to get coffee, get sandwhich, pick up dry cleaning, etc.  Other times, the AD is more like a second director. Currently, I work at a theater witha resident AD, who works along side the director, handles text changes, takes blocking for u/s rehearsals and possible remount, offers suggestions to the director, directs the u/s cast and maintains the show artistically during the run.  It's great - I love have someone else during the run to help maintain it.  It rarely gets in my way or make my job harder, unless the AD starts to try to do my job.

I often feel that you kind of feel out of the relaitonship as you go along, observe how the AD is used by the Director; but also feel free to ask up front how the director works with an Assistant.  

(I have also worked as an Assistant Director, and I had very little interaction with the SM, other then during tech, I would go off with the SM and give calling notes - but mostly that was because of my SM experience, and this was a novice SM)

In the end, the AD is just another member of the team, like the Dramaturg, Choreographer, Fight Director, Music Director, etc, etc, that you juggle and work with - my big note is to work out that relationship with the AD up front.
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Assistant Directors vs. Stage Managers
« Reply #2 on: Oct 16, 2005, 05:18 pm »
I'm glad you posted this question I was wondering the same thing


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Assistant Directors vs. Stage Managers
« Reply #3 on: Oct 17, 2005, 01:53 pm »
You will definitely have to talk to your director because every situation is different.  At the last theatre I worked the AD was responsible for preparing and maintaining the understudies as well as assist the director during the rehearsal process.  They would also take notes after the show was open, but the notes would go through the SM.  Not every AD was up to the task however, so it is still the SM's responsibility for maintaining the show and running put-in rehearsals.  But I have also seen the AD function as a second director - taking over rehearsal whenever needed or running seperate rehearsals.  Or, you get the coffee and pencil sharpening variety.  Your director will know how much they are willing to use them.  Usually I have gotten along well with the AD, they can be a value source of information with directors who think they are keeping you in the loop, but aren't.  On the flip side, I have also had an AD try to do my job in the name of helping (resetting props, being on book - which resulted in two people feeding lines, two different versions of blocking, etc.).  As long as some ground rules are set - everything is usually fine.

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Assistant Directors vs. Stage Managers
« Reply #4 on: Oct 17, 2005, 07:24 pm »
Often the AD's I have worked with have been used as a secondary director - ie if the groups is split to work on things the AD takes one group, the director the other. The AD usually knows the directors vision and oft times has some form of creative input as well - ie "Can we try it where they do this, this and this instead of that and that?" directed to the director, who cocks his/her head and then says "Okay, we will do this, this and this instead of that and that... go", then after seeing it goes... "Nope. We will do it my way." or "Great, we will keep it like that.".

That is the role I have seen ADs in most times. Then there are, as mentioned your 'work experiance' ad's who become gophers. I HATE that. It really does go against my grain - I have my ASMs for that sort of thing  :twisted:. Seriously though, a new AD needs to learn if they are going to become good AD's (and later directors if that is their desire, some have no ambition to become more than an AD) and if they are in the corner sharpening my new box of 50 penicils (see kit thread ;-)) then they are not learning.


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Assistant Directors vs. Stage Managers
« Reply #5 on: Jan 25, 2006, 04:03 am »
I worked on 2 shows with AD's.  The first one, the AD did block & direct a few scenes from the show, which the director then had the final say as to whether something was staying that way or not.  But mostly she was the Rehearsal Stage Manager. (I had not been hired until tech week.  Yeah... talk about working my tail off to play catch up.)

The second show had a large cast and it was a musical.  The director was actually going to be starring in the same show two states away about the same time that our show was going up, so he was occasionally not able to be at a rehearsal.  The AD took over for the Director during those rehearsals.  When the Director was there, the AD would pull cast members and run scenes with them in another room or he would give input to the Director when a particular scene wasn't working artistically.

I see the difference of the SM and AD positions being semantics, more or less (as far as the rehearsal process goes).  If an actor has a question on blocking because they can't remember it or has trouble with remembering the wording of a line, they come to me.  My job is to maintain what the Director's vision is up to that point.  If they need more artistic direction (motivation, or a piece of blocking doesn't feel right to them and they want to see about changing it, for example), the actor needs to see either the AD or the Director.

Another way to explain it is that I, as an SM, give line / blocking notes.  It's more tech oriented or maintaining the director's blocking or keeping to the playwrite's script.  (ie. "You need to make sure to hit this mark in your blocking so that the special light cue that we have can be effective.")  An AD might give actual acting notes. (ie. "You want to hit this mark during your speech because you want to get as far away / as close to the other person as you can because you hate / love him.")

But this is just how I have seen it.  And I haven't SM'd a tour where I have to rehearse an understudy or a new cast member before, so it could be a different ball of wax all together then...


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