The role of the stage manager

The stage manager is responsible for the show from the Technical Rehearsal till the end of the show and move out.

The stage manager is responsible for the safety of the cast and crew on the stage and acting area, and for the smooth running of the show.

A properly prepared show is when the stage manager becomes unavailable, someone else can come in and successfully run the show.


  1. The Stage Manager has overall control.
  2. The Deputy Stage Manager(DSM) runs the corner and cues cast entries, lighting and sound.
  3. Assistant stage managers do the other work, moving set etc & general dogs body.
  4. There is a props team who’s responsibility is to a) collect props and deliver them to the theatre. b) Manage them during the show.

A person can do many roles, for example as well as stage manager, the person can have the key to the theatre, (being first in and last out), make the coffee for rehearsal, look after the props and be DSM. In the same way the lighting person can also be the sound person. This document focuses on stage manager role.

The stage manager’s work is in different phases

Before rehearsals

Attend the play read through and look out for technical challenges. For example

  • Use of special effects. Discuss with the director and ensure there is budget allocated for these.
  • A lot of set – is there space backstage for it all?
  • Is it outside?

Early rehearsals

The director has planned what the production will be like, what each scene will look like and any set, set dressing, and costumes.

  • Review the overall production with the director, the lighting person, and the sound person; how the stage will be used, any restrictions on usage, entrances/exits/sight lines. Can it be lit? Some set designers have a model of the stage, and a model of the set, to help the set builder and the Director.
  • Is anything flown?
  • Go through each scene. Draw a plan of what happens, where (for example all action is USR in front of a flat), and any effects. Checks size of working area. Check set does not block the lights.
  • Review any set changes, who brings things on and off
  • Review safety; are flats safe, are there any liquids used, is there set at different heights?
  • Review the set with the set designer. How will the set be secured. Does a flat need braces and weights, or is it free standing. Can movable set be taken on and off the stage (or it is too long/heavy) is it robust enough?
  • If anything is flown, review set with lighting team to make sure lights will not be hit during the flying. Work out which bars to be used for set, lights, and borders.

Later rehearsals

  1. Mark up rehearsal floor where stage and flats/furniture will be. Make sure cast do not walk through “solid” objects.
  2. Check entrances and exits etc (how does person get backstage to come on there)
  3. Mark up “the book”; what big props are used, which cast takes things on and off. What crew is needed for the changes.
  4. Review any set dressing. Does any furniture need to be moved during the production? Can it be physically moved? How much space does it need off stage.
  5. How much space is needed backstage for the props table?
  6. Arrange crew, invite crew to rehearsals. Get backup person to operate lighting/sound just in case….
  7. Go through “the book” and put cast calls in.
  8. If DSM cueing sound and lighting, mark up the calls – “standby LX 12 , LX 12 go”
  9. Mark up the book to start/end show.
    1. Audience calls (including interval),
    2. Call beginners, standby lighting and sound
    3. Wait for FOH
    4. House lights down etc
    5. Tell Lighting and sound we have clearance.
    6. Start the show ( tabs out, or lights up)
    7. End of show (tabs in)
    8. Wait for cast to get off stage
    9. House lights up
  10. Write up safety assessment and agree it with the director, agree actions to minimise risk.

Move in

You need an initial plan, for example

  1. The lighting crew may need the first hour to set the over-stage bars.
  2. Fly any scenery
  3. Assemble the set – once the set is up the bars may not be able to come down to working height
  4. Set can be “moved in” to the back of the stage and assembled, while lighting bars are being set up
  5. The lighting team may need a couple of hours to focus the over stage lights once the set is up – in blackout.
  6. Avoid double carry’s ( move it to there, then back to here, then back to over there).
  7. “No plan survives contact with the enemy”, so be flexible,
  • Ensure the set build is done safely.
  • Ensure the set is secure and safe (no poles at head height)
  • Arrange off stage area eg for props table(s), quick changes
  • Arrange space for any set dressing.
  • Mark up entrances and exits to the stage. Make sure there are treads
  • Mark stage with tape for where portable set/dressing goes
  • Arrange blacks/drapes/masking
  • Get infrastructure set up – video to the dressing room, SM to LM intercom, torches, spare torch (and spare batteries)

The technical rehearsal

The tech is not for the director to coach the cast (which sometimes happens). It is the start of the transition of responsibilities from Director to Stage manager

You need headset/communications from Stage Manager to Director, Lighting and additional crew, such as follow spot operators.

You/other people need patience, as it can take several minutes to reset a scene before rerunning it.

  • The “tech” is the one rehearsal the crew have.
  • Let the cast explore the set
  • The SM prepares a plan, for example start the production 3 times. Cut any action where there is nothing technical. Input from Director, Lighting and Sound team for cues/action than need to be run.
  • Run all set changes, all lighting and sound cues, and unusual action such as fight scenes, and interaction with the set or dressing (can the cast get through the door in costume?).
  • Run all cast entrances and exits. May cut scenes if there is nothing technical happening.
  • Agree processes with FOH; hand over, Fire alarm or other disasters (who phones fire brigade)
  • If cast are miked up do sounds checks

Dress rehearsal

Run the show as if it was a real performance.

Calls to the audience can be skipped

Run the show

Before each performance

  1. The stage is set as expected
  2. Lighting and sound have done their checks
  3. Run the production
  4. Reset ready for next day.

After the show

Have plan and nominated leader for set to be taken down(safely) – keep cast off the stage! Nominate people to be in charge of; set, lighting, and carrying the set out to the van.

Ensure stage cleared, lighting and sound equipment cleared away.

Leave stage as you originally found it (remove your marks, and paint it if needed).

Buy crew drinks!

Write show report. What went well, what could be improved.