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Tips for First Time Student Stage Managers

We all know the value of a great stage manager, and it’s important to give students the opportunity to take on this vital role. However, if your student stage manager has never done the job before, they might be nervous or unsure of themselves, or they might not know what to do. know what to do. The following tips will come in handy when you’re training your student stage managers, and will help ease your students’ worries. 

1. Stage managers conduct themselves as leaders.

The stage manager is a key part of the artistic team. They have many responsibilities (here are just some of the things a stage manager does) and they work side by side with teachers. They must act in a mature, trustworthy, and dependable manner, while not going overboard or bossing others around. 

This may be some students’ first foray into the world of leadership, which can be intimidating. It’s hard to balance leadership and friendship. Even if your student stage manager has never been in a leadership position before, the ideal student for this role will possess qualities that will help them succeed, which they will develop while completing their tasks.

2. Stage managers must be prepared for (just about) anything.

At the minimum, stage managers should always have in their possession the show’s prompt book (here is how you prepare a stage manager’s prompt book), extra paper, post-it notes, at least two different coloured highlighters, and lots of pencils. If the show is a musical, they should have access to rehearsal music tracks, if the show has them.

Many stage managers have a full-on emergency kit that includes items like batteries, a flashlight, clear nail polish, a stopwatch, and safety pins. It may not be necessary for your student stage manager to possess an entire kit, but they should know where to find these items in your rehearsal and performance spaces. They should also know what to do if an emergency arises, such as locating a first aid kit. On that note…

3. Stage managers are the people “in the know.”

Stage managers are the ones who keep rehearsals running smoothly and on time. They record blocking, keep track of attendance, convey messages to and from the cast and crew, and know who is supposed to be where, at what time, and for how long.

Encourage your stage managers to take lots of notes (both rehearsal blocking notes and important information such as plans for upcoming rehearsals). Keep them in the loop by copying them on emails and having them attend artistic staff meetings. Encourage your other students to go to the stage manager with questions first, before going straight to you. This will empower your stage manager while freeing you up to do other things that only you can do.

4. It’s okay for the stage manager to ask for help.

Yes, the student stage manager has many responsibilities, but they are still students. They’re still learning. So while they are expected to be responsible and act as leaders, they will still need guidance and support. Having at least one great assistant stage manager will take some pressure off the stage manager. Always be available to answer questions when your student stage manager asks – and keep an eye out to give help if they don’t ask. Know when to let your student figure things out themselves and when to step in and assist. Remind your student stage manager that they are part of the team, and team members support each other.

Click here for a free printable tip sheet for your student stage managers.
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How to Prepare a Stage Manager’s Prompt Book
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