Author Topic: ARTICLE: In Defense of Stage Managers  (Read 5435 times)

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BayAreaSM

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ARTICLE: In Defense of Stage Managers
« on: Jan 14, 2013, 02:28 am »
I checked around I don't think this article has been posted yet. We've had the debate several times before about whether or not the SM is an artist. Here is an article from the December 2012 issue of Equity News.

Quote
In Defense of Stage Managers

(Editor’s note: On November 5, 2012, the Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres along with the Central Stage Manager Committee hosted a Chicago Stage Manager Pizza Night. The event was a celebration of the hard work and dedication of local Stage Managers. Steppenwolf’s Production Manager Al Franklin welcomed the participants and shared the following letter that he had drafted in response to a statement made to a student by an unnamed designer who had claimed that stage managers are not artists, but rather only service persons who have no artistic value in the mounting of and calling of a show. The argument, by the designer, was that stage managers are told what to do— given cues, assignments, desk work, cue placement—and therefore do not artistically contribute to the productions; that calling a show is not an art; and that the stage manager is not an artist and should not ever think of him or herself as such. Mr. Franklin’s response follows.)

To say a stage manager is not a collaborative theatre artist because he/she is told what to do is akin to saying an actor isn’t an artist because they’re given their lines by the playwright and told by the director where and how to move.

It’s true that stage managers have to make use of certain technical skills to do their job. But that’s no different than the technical skills required by a designer. Virtually all theatre artists need certain technical skills, and virtually all theatre artists are given specific direction. But to name the direction given to a designer as “collaboration” while naming the direction given to a stage manager as something else is just semantics. I disagree with anyone who doesn’t recognize their stage manager as a fellow artistic collaborator.

A stage manager starts out setting the tone in the rehearsal room. They are involved intimately with every person throughout the rehearsal period. In the tech process they begin to take over the reins, assuming the role of leadership. Within the confines of the writer’s script, time available and the performance space, they incorporate the desires of the director, the actors, the producers, each of the designers, the choreographer, the musical director, and all the other collaborators. Additionally, they are managing the specific actions of the board operators and everyone running the show as well as maintaining communications with the front of house staff.

Once the show opens, the stage manager runs the show as the director’s representative. They keep the actors on track by giving performance notes and make sure the technical elements are maintained. I’d compare a stage manager running a show to a conductor conducting an orchestra. They both listen intently and use their experience and intuition to feel the moment when the show will benefit the greatest by calling the next cue. It’s a subtle art and not simply a mechanical process of saying the word “go” when the actor utters a specific word. Then, when the show closes, it’s the stage manager who compiles the records so that anyone can follow the map they’ve left behind to remount the same production.

Stage Managers use the knowledge and understanding of a director’s vision to develop a strong sense of the show and how it flows from scene to scene. Directors and designers who collaborate with the stage manager to develop the best show possible are the ones who benefit the most. The stage manager must have, more than any other member of the team, a full understanding of the show, each actor, each set piece, each lighting and sound cue and how each component individually and collectively moves through its individual moment. The stage manager’s artistic ability and integrity are what, ultimately, transform the show from its pieces into that magical whole.

nick_tochelli

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Re: ARTICLE: In Defense of Stage Managers
« Reply #1 on: Jan 14, 2013, 07:25 am »
My first professional experience was with a director who had that kid's 'tude.

loebtmc

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Re: ARTICLE: In Defense of Stage Managers
« Reply #2 on: Jan 14, 2013, 10:49 am »
posted to my FB SM friends. Thanks for the article!

I have worked with directors and designers like that. Other than one time, I just kept my head down and kept moving. They are losing a valuable resource by making that judgment. Most of these are either young designers, or directors/designers who have only worked with young/student SMs. It's sad, because not only do we have to be able to understand and implement in order to maintain their vision after opening - which is based in creativity, but also we can make their lives so much easier......

Not even counting solving crises mid-show mostly without stopping and, in some cases, without even actors knowing there had been one. 
« Last Edit: Jan 14, 2013, 10:53 am by loebtmc »

Liz113

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Re: ARTICLE: In Defense of Stage Managers
« Reply #3 on: Jan 14, 2013, 04:11 pm »
This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing! Something I have to explain to many student actors who thought they were more important than they were.

amandajoSM

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Re: ARTICLE: In Defense of Stage Managers
« Reply #4 on: Oct 09, 2013, 01:53 am »
I work with a dozen other SMs on a weekly basis, so I'll have to print this to share. Thank you so much for posting!   :D

DeeCap

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Re: ARTICLE: In Defense of Stage Managers
« Reply #5 on: Oct 09, 2013, 01:15 pm »
Great post!

I once worked with a technical director who said a stage manager is a "glorified babysitter" to a group of board members....