Some people dream of making it big on stage, but others dream of a career behind the curtain. From planning scene changes to plotting lighting and organising sound cues, without a stage manager the performances you see on stage wouldn’t be possible.

Stage managers have a massive responsibility. They’re in charge of organising all of the behind-the-scenes aspects of a stage performance and will oversee all departments- from wardrobe, makeup, props, lighting, set design, sound and front-of-house. They’ll need to give cues to technical crew and performers throughout the show and make sure that all props and scenery are where they should be at all times.

It’s certainly no easy career, but with perseverance and dedication it can be a rewarding one. If you have your sights set on a stage management role, we’ve put together a few hints and tips on what you can do to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

Your experience

Stage management isn’t just a job you can walk straight into after finishing school or graduating university. Before you get your first management role, you’ll need to have a lot of experience as a stagehand or assistant stage manager and a breadth of understanding across all the departments you’ll be involved in.

If you’re just starting out you can volunteer at your local community theatre. Or if you’re still in education, make the most of every opportunity you can to help out back stage at performances or events. Some schools and colleges will let experienced students take charge of running things back stage so it’s a great opportunity to experience stage managing on a small scale, and a valuable addition to your CV.

Your qualifications

Once you’ve built up your experience in a community venue or local professional theatre, there are plenty of routes you can take into a career in stage management. The most popular choice is to undertake a degree or diploma level qualification in a related subject like performing arts production, technical theatre or practical theatre. Alternatively, any Drama UK courses are recognised within the professional theatre industry.

There are a range of apprenticeships available too, where you’ll be offered practical on-the-job training to prepare you for work in the industry. For more information on the qualifications you’ll need, take a look at the Apprenticeships website, UCAS or Drama UK to see the wide range of courses available.

Your qualities

Since stage management can often be a stressful job, it needs to be something you’re dedicated to and passionate about. You’ll need to have first-rate organisational skills as well as being a strong leader with an ability to keep calm in highly-pressured situations.

Most companies will also expect their stage manager to have experience working to current health and safety regulations, as well as a working knowledge of a variety of stage lighting, sound systems and set design aspects. You’ll need strong IT skills and an analytical mind too, for working out set and lighting logistics and managing budgets.

It goes without saying that an interest in theatre and performance is a must too. But more than anything you’ll need to be patient, understanding and approachable- a ‘people person’ with clear communication skills. Everyone will rely on you and look to you if anything goes wrong, so you’ll need to be able to act with the right level of tact, urgency and confidence to put things right and make sure the show goes on night after night.

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