As a stage manager, you don’t have a personality you have a job title, stage manager. This means you are the person who can get stuff done. You can get it done quickly, correctly and by pissing off the fewest amount of people. It’s a tough job but one of the most rewarding ones I have ever had. Now, to be clear, I quit the first stage management job I had. I found it ridiculous that actors couldn’t remember their own blocking, or rehearsal schedule, or props. And it was strange to me that a director couldn’t just put together and distribute a rehearsal schedule and report of what happened there. So I quit. After missing one rehearsal of “West Side Story” at the Jewish Community Center in Tenafly, NJ I got a call from about 5 of the cast members, one of whom I had a massive crush on, all begging me to come back. Saying that things didn’t get done without me. That they needed me to do the show. That was it. I was hooked.
I did more stage managing in college. I yelled back across Boston Common to people (some of whom now on Broadway) what their rehearsal call times were when I saw them between classes at Emerson. It was here that I learned that stage managing was much more than taking good notes (though that is a HUGE part). Stage managing was being the conduit for the directors, designers, actors and producers to honor their amazing vision in a way that was safe and repeatable night after night. It was never being on the side of an individual and instead always being on the side of the production. Stage managing meant making sure everyone on the show had all the information they needed in a way that let them know they were appreciated and respected. It meant making people feel safe and expressed. (Not the easiest job when your actors were literally hanging on chains from the lighting grid.)
After my car accident when I was no longer able to stage manage I started working in finance. To my complete shock I used every single skill I had learned as a stage manager. Only now the client is the director and the producer and it’s my job to help them find the designers (now financial vendors) and keep everyone in the conversation so that when clients get to opening night (retirement) everything works.
There are a few differences. Now instead of a production binder I deliver to my clients a personal financial website – but it serves the exact same purpose: transparency and tracking. There is no audience, which, let’s be honest, makes the whole thing earlier. I still have people reviewing my work and passing judgement on a daily basis. And sometimes it’s not clear if it is good work or luck that makes my strategy work.
I have not stage managed a show in nearly five years. But I am still a stage manager. I just have a different job title now.