I think you’ll be alright, people will come.

I think you’ll be alright, people will come.

As a stage manager my job often falls into two main roles. The first is undertaking the practical aspects of the show and the second is a more sensitive element, involving handling the many different personalities who need reassurance and want to know that it will be alright on the night. As a stage manager I love balancing these two and being at the centre of the activity and action.

I think stage management was always the route I would follow. I come from a theatrical family and since I was very younge my parents had a small scale touring theatre company. You could say it was the life I have always known. As a child I was super organised, often packing the car for family holidays and keeping everyone in check, so it was in inevitable that I would find a job where I got to do that and get paid for it!

So with my love of theatre and keen organisational skills I headed off to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama to undertake a degree in Stage Management and Technical Theatre. The course was brilliant, as I learnt so much and had a great time doing so. Since then I have been working as a freelance stage manager. I have loved the different challenges and experiences each production brings, from high profile venues like The Royal Opera House to schlepping round the country on long tours. I have certainly kept my work interesting.

As a stage manager, the practical side of the job remains the same with each show. Being at the centre of it all, we are there to facilitate the needs of the show and help get the ideas from the minds of the creative team to the stage. We also have the added task of keeping things ticking over during a run of performances. Though the aim is always the same, how we achieve this changes with each production. Every show has its own set of demands and challenges and you need to tailor your approach as a stage manager to accommodate this. For example, with The Events we were working with a very new piece of writing and so the rehearsal process was mainly spent developing the script and working out what the play was going to be. As the stage manager I would join in discussions but also be organising schedules, tour logistics, sourcing props, noting production meetings, developing designs ideas and keeping everyone in the loop with how the production was progressing.

From rehearsals we then go into production, where we take everything we have done in rehearsals and add in the set, lighting, sound and any other technical elements. As stage manager I have to ensure that everything runs smoothly and to time. Once the show is open I am responsible for putting the set up in each venue. This involves managing local crews, organising travel requirements, driving the van, setting up the stage each day, cueing lighting, ensuring everyone is in the right place at the right time and upholding the original intent of the creative team. (Editor’s note: and breathe) 

Ideally, stage management should be the hidden part of the show. If you don’t notice us then it means that everything has gone smoothly. The Events is slightly different as I am very visible for the entire show and even have a small scene with lines at the end of the play. This would terrify some stage managers as we are used to working in the safety of the backstage area, quietly facilitating the show and allowing it to take the credit it deserves. Personally, I think it’s great to be recognised for the work we do.

Jess Banks
Stage Manager, ATC