Whispers from the Wings

What does a stage manager do anyway?

October 8, 2013

An American in London
When an American arrives in London and hands a letter of sponsorship from the Royal Shakespeare Company to the nice man at the immigration desk, that American gets a slightly sideways look. The dialogue goes something like this:

- Are you an actor?

- No, I'm a stage manager.

- A what?

- A stage manager.

After a pause and another sideways look, the nice man stamps my passport and says to have a good time and moves me along to cross the international border.

My name is Evangeline Whitlock, and I'm the Deputy Stage Manager for Antony and Cleopatra. I'm from New York by way of California, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, and North Carolina. I'm going to be with the show for the entirety and I'm thrilled to share my personal journey along with the production's journey with you.

So back to the question– what is it that I do, exactly?

What a stage manager actually does
Think about the last show you saw. Surely there was some cool effect that helped tell the story so brilliantly you carried the image in your mind for weeks on end. Maybe it was the bodies being raised by their feet in the recent Titus Andronicus. Or the amazing projection image changes in Matilda The Musical. Or maybe it was just a very subtle lighting shift that hilighted Juliet's face just so that you could actually see the bead of sweat on her forehead.

Guess what? None of these things happen until the stage manager says the word 'go'. The crew doesn't press the button, pull the rope, or open the curtain, and the actors certainly don't start the show until their stage manager gives them the ok.

The stage manager is the unseen driving force behind the running of the show and is one of the only collaborators who stays with a production from beginning to end, from pre-production to closing night, from soup to nuts.

In three sentences, here's what I do:

• I facilitate communication between directors, choreographers, writers, designers, actors, office staff, and other collaborators, as well as run rehearsals and attend meetings.
• Once installed in the theatre, I coordinate all technical and production elements and call the cues of the show for technical rehearsals, previews, and performances.
• After official opening, other creative collaborators depart and I am responsible for maintaining the production's artistic integrity.

That's a mouthful, so I could just tell you what I tell little kids when they ask what I do: I make the magic happen.

Stay tuned to this blog for regular updates from the exciting backstage life - it's a world that is very rarely seen by the general public and I'm thrilled to give you this 'inside look' throughout the Antony and Cleopatra process. But don't worry – there are no spoilers here!

If you want to follow my journey even closer follow me on Twitter: @evangelinerose1.

by Evangeline Whitlock  |  2 comments

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Oct 9, 6:29pm

Well Written! A great description of the the "one who actually runs the show" who rarely gets the recognition deserved. Break a leg!! :))

Oct 17, 12:58pm
Catherine Prosser

Great blog concept! I have had to do a lot of explaining of backstage stuff over the last few years and when I tackle the SM role, I often say I'm the conductor backstage. The SM is the one who, with their 'baton' of standbys and cues, keeps the time, sets the rhythm, heightens the mood and makes sure all the elements of the show look and sound like a symphony, instead of a whole heap of instruments playing at roughly the same time. I'll look forward to the other posts with great interest!

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