Managing the Magic

(Part of a series about creating a new production of “Metamorphoses” by Mary Zimmerman at Georgia Shakespeare, summer, 2013.)

Stage managers work hard.   Let me say that again.

Stage managers work hard.

If you don’t know what a stage manager is, imagine a cross between a CEO, a military tactician, and the mother of a very large family.  Add in cruise director and you’ve just about got it.

Command Central:  our stage manager's desk in the theater

Command Central:  our stage manager’s desk in the theater

The stage manager coordinates everything we do.  Everything.  He/she knows when and where every actor, prop, costume, light, and sound cue appears on stage.  From well before the first rehearsal through every step of the process, the stage manager is keeping records, writing notes, making changes, tracking people and objects, and keeping the company on schedule.  Ultimately, the stage manager is responsible for the smooth running of every single performance.

Robert Schultz, a frequent GS stage manager, in rehearsal

Robert Schultz, a frequent GS stage manager, in rehearsal

In the rehearsal hall, the stage manager (SM) is fairly quiet.  He or she is the director’s right hand.  She’s taking notes and whispering to assistant stage managers (ASMs) while the director conducts rehearsal.  Our beloved SM, Margo Khune, is the glue that holds us together while we figure out the play. Our ASMs set out rehearsal props, keep water and coffee available, and stay “on book” to help us with memorization. 

Now that we’re in the theater, the ASMs are backstage and Margo’s job is more central.  From her desk in the middle of the audience, she communicates with the stage crew, the sound and lighting designers, the technicians and the actors, working out the mechanics of every entrance, exit, and technical effect.  If that sounds like a massive undertaking, it is.  She pulls it off with calm persistence and a wit as dry as a fine martini.  A work of this magnitude would be doomed without someone like her.

Laura, one of our ASMs, wore out her shoes on the job.

Laura, one of our ASMs, wore out her shoes on the job.

It comes down to this:  if a stage manager does his job, the audience will never know he’s there.  Great stage management is the ultimate magic trick.

Margo, you are a magician.

5 thoughts on “Managing the Magic

  1. Pingback: Stage Management Handbook – when friends work together | Madeline Scribes

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