Author Topic: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?  (Read 5991 times)

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lilyinlalaland

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Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« on: Jul 10, 2011, 11:10 am »
Hi everyone!  I've been reading these boards for a while, but just joined today!  I'm currently a student, but since my question is most directly related to employment, I thought I should post it here.

Basically, I'm wondering if you think I've got a shot at a career, given my background, and if not, what do I have to change?  So, here goes:

I came to SM later than some, starting this past year as a freshman in college.  However, I quickly made a name for myself, and stage managed two very challenging productions, both with long rehearsal periods and large companies, and one smaller, site-specific piece.  I got many offers for the next academic year, and am currently planning to SM two plays, a very technically-complicated concert, and a large-scale dance performance.  In addition to SMing, I do some production management work and direct, and also take on some tech jobs like board-operating.  Over summers, I have interned (and continue to do so) in professional theatres in NYC in producing/administration/ASM-type roles.

BUT, my school is a liberal arts college, and I'm going to get a theatre degree, not a stage management one.  Will this prevent me from being able to have a career in SM? 

I really do want your honest opinions, everyone!  And if this is the wrong board for this, then feel free to move it to the appropriate spot.

Joshua S.

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #1 on: Jul 10, 2011, 11:22 am »
YES!  Of course you can start a career in stage management. 

A freshman in college is not too late to start stage managing.  I didn't start stage managing until my 3rd year in college (granted I spent six years in college).  Also, you don't need a degree in stage management (or even a degree in theatre) to be a good stage manager.  Sounds like you're jumping deep into the waters and have a passion for getting practical experience, which is what you need to make it in theatre.

Do some searching around the boards.  You'll find a lot of similar topics talking about peoples backgrounds and how they got into stage management.  You'll find many replies stating that people came into stage management from varied backgrounds, some with no formal education in theatre at all.

LizzG

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #2 on: Jul 10, 2011, 03:31 pm »
Agreed!  Experience is key.  It's not an easy career, but if you keep interning/working with professional companies during the summers, you'll have experience, and a network of contacts to get yourself started when you graduate.

MatthewShiner

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #3 on: Jul 10, 2011, 05:52 pm »
I am the grumpy old man of the group.

The market is saturated with young stage managers right now - it's a hard business to get a leg up in.  And remember, it's a life of freelancing, running your own business, marketing yourself, networking, always having some level of stress about your next job, gig, career move . . . It's a life of 60 hour weeks, 6 days a week.  A career where family and personal relationships are hard to balance.  A job where the compensation RARELY makes up for the amount work and dedication.  It's a crap, crap job sometimes; a lot of the time.  I have been doing it for over 20 years, and I am pretty successful at it - but it's a lot of hard work, and I still don't feel like I have the "Career" part of it down yet - I get the job part, but the career part is hard.

So, I feel like it's my job to not paint quite the rosy picture.

Can you do it, hell, yes, of course you can, we put a man on the moon.  We figured out how to make pop rocks.  We can do anything if we put our minds to it.  But this is a career about talent, skill, personality, intelligent, artistic sensibility, common sense, perseverance, stamina, endurance - which is hard enough to get one package - and then add a lot of dumb luck.



If you can do anything else for a living an be happy, then I would strongly encourage you to do so.

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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.

lilyinlalaland

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #4 on: Jul 10, 2011, 09:24 pm »
Thanks for the responses, everyone. 

Matthew, re: being able to do something else...pretty much the only other thing is directing, and that's not exactly known for it's job security and awesome perks either. 

MatthewShiner

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #5 on: Jul 10, 2011, 10:16 pm »
Wait . . . the only two things you can do to make a living is stage manage or direct???

Remember, you can do theatre on the side and making a living wage doing something MUCH easier, and make probably a heck of a lot more money.

Don't get suckered in to "living the dream"; it often turns into the nightmare.  Look into what the career and the lifestyle has to offer and see how the fits into your life view, your needs and wants . . . it's not for everyone.

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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.

lilyinlalaland

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #6 on: Jul 10, 2011, 10:37 pm »
Haha no, to be honest, there are all sorts of things I could do to make money to support SMing and directing, but as far as what could make me happy as a real career, I think SMing and directing are the two real candidates.  By which I mean, when I'm not SMing or directing for an extended period, I'm just not as happy as I am when I'm working on or gearing up for a show.  I think I'd be happier working harder/longer hours with less security if it meant getting to work on shows than I would be if the bulk of my time were spent doing other things.

MatthewShiner

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #7 on: Jul 10, 2011, 11:16 pm »
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.

dallas10086

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #8 on: Jul 13, 2011, 11:29 pm »
I'll interject with this "Lily": when you are on your deathbed, which regret will you have? That you spent all your time in SM? That you only spent half your time in SM? That you didn't SM at all and went into another field? Yes, there's the article Matthew suggested which makes valid points, and there are plenty of others that will tell you to do what makes you happy. But 'happy' is temporary - doing what you love, making a ton of money even though you hate your job, etc. can all make you 'happy' - and regrets have a nasty way of sticking with you. It's deeply personal - two people can make the same decision and one may regret it while to the other it was a positive life-altering experience.

The answer to the most basic part of your question - is it possible to have a career in stage management with a degree in theatre? Yes. Others have done it, so it is in the realm of possibility. But just like any career you may choose, make an informed decision by seeking the advice and knowledge who have gone down the road you're looking to travel.

MatthewShiner

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #9 on: Jul 14, 2011, 12:24 am »
I know that dallas10086 is playing a little devil's advocate, but I am pretty sure on my deathbed I am going to wish I partied a hell of a lot more, and worked a hell of a lot less . . . and that my friends is sort of the reality of stage management - we struggle to work at this gig full time, and then you get the work, and all you want to do is nap.
I want to keep pounding the negative side to this job as a full time career path. 

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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.

dallas10086

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #10 on: Jul 16, 2011, 10:52 am »
I know that dallas10086 is playing a little devil's advocate, but I am pretty sure on my deathbed I am going to wish I partied a hell of a lot more, and worked a hell of a lot less . . . and that my friends is sort of the reality of stage management - we struggle to work at this gig full time, and then you get the work, and all you want to do is nap.
I want to keep pounding the negative side to this job as a full time career path. 
Party more, work less? I passed on my chance to marry rich...Keep pounding Matthew, keep pounding!  ;D

And today of all days, I really do want a nap and little else.

lilyinlalaland

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #11 on: Jul 18, 2011, 12:02 am »
Thanks for the replies and discussion, guys.  I think when I say stage managing makes me "happy" I'm not quite articulating what I mean...I think fulfilled is more appropriate, and that's a fulfillment that comes from doing a job well and being able to take pride in the results...and for me, these do translate into a happiness that I don't think I could or would want to give up. 

On the other hand, I know that everyone has to eat, and that stage management is a career.  I don't have any delusions that it's a dream job, I just know that, for me, I'd rather work longer days doing something that fulfills me (that I'm good at) than shorter days doing something else (that I'm good at) that doesn't.

hbelden

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #12 on: Jul 18, 2011, 07:28 pm »
If I were starting out, knowing what I know now, I would do much more research about the realities of the market in my area.  Instead, I basically took a leap of faith; but I also stumbled into stage management while I was actually trying to be an actor.  After two or three shows, I realized I was really good at this and have been very fortunate in my job opportunities.

If I had a time capsule that worked in reverse and could offer advice to my younger self, I would recommend getting to know many of the theatres as a stagehand, or carpenter, or electrician, or wardrobe; some smaller jobs that are easier to get and require less of you than stage management.  If you make it a point to bounce around to all the different theatres in your area in these entry-level positions, not only will you gain extremely valuable knowledge of all the areas of theatre but you will also get to know the people who are in the scene at the moment.  You'll be able to evaluate for yourself whether there are enough jobs in your market to support an additional stage manager, while doing jobs that are easier to handle while keeping a day job. 

Then you'll be able to make the decision as to whether to choose a career in stage management based on experience and facts, rather than an internal evaluation of your desires and skill set.

I was lucky; but I don't recommend relying on luck to anyone else.
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Maribeth

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Re: Honest Opinion: Can I Make This Happen?
« Reply #13 on: Jul 18, 2011, 08:25 pm »
Nice point, Heath. If I were talking to my younger self, I think I would have done a lot more research into the practical side of freelancing. I would have worked harder to find a way to have health insurance when first starting out. I would have applied to PA positions at larger theatres. I would have worked more on understanding income taxes as someone who is self-employed.

To address your original question- I don't think your future as a stage manager has very much to do with if you came to it in high school, or college, or later. I think it has more to do with how your approach your career in the moment- how you go after jobs, how you use the experience you have to get jobs, and how you use each experience to make yourself a better stage manager, whether it's a good experience or a bad one.

I think the point being made here is good- it's easy to say, "I want to be a stage manager, and I'm going to be one no matter what", without having been through the experience. But be sure to keep the other priorities of your life in balance. I know a lot of great SMs who are my age (late twenties) and are moving out of the field to have families, because it is really, really hard to do both.