Handbook - Staging

Whereas the production management mainly takes place before the run, the Stage Manager comes to the fore in production week. Once we are in the theatre the Stage Manager, not the Director is in charge.To do the job to the full, however, he or she must know the play intimately and this means attending many rehearsals, keeping notes of the actors' moves, the positioning of furniture and props and the timing of sound and lighting cues.

 During Technical and Dress Rehearsals and the public performances the Stage Manager will normally be assisted by one or more Assistant Stage Managers (ASMs). The Stage manager will normally remain at his or her desk (downstage left) and perform some of the tasks below, delegating the rest to the ASMs:

  • Ensure that the furniture is correctly positioned and properties are in place (on or beside the stage)
  • Ensure that actors have their personal props
  • Broadcast time and audience warnings and instructions to cast, crew and front of House staff
  • Ensure that all cast and crew are present for entrances
  • Cue the lighting and sound specialists.
  • Open and close the curtains
  • Provide backstage effects (door knocks etc.)

Often the Stage Manager will manage the Get-in on Sunday Morning though this may be done by a production assistant. This task includes arranging for the acquisition of paint and any building materials necessary, and organising the construction, painting and dressing of the set. The Set Designer will also have input to this task, and it will require several Set Constructors (ie any willing member of the society) to build, shift and paint.

Similarly at the end of the run the Stage Manager may organise the breaking of the set on Saturday night (the Strike).

If the production involves weapons, the Stage Manager may wish to appoint one of the ASMs as Armourer to ensure their safe use and storage.

LIGHTING SPECIALIST

Early in rehearsals the Lighting Specialist will have designed a basic lighting plot with the Director and he or she will then attend several later rehearsals to become familiar with the play and the cues. At the Get-in the Lighting Specialist will take several hours to point and focus the lights, add coloured gels and program the computer to create the ambience and effects required. During the Tech and Dress Rehearsals and the public performances the Lighting Specialist will run the lighting computer, reacting to cues provided either by the actors' lines and/or the Stage Manager's warnings. At the Strike the Lighting Specialist must dismantle and put away any temporary equipment which they have installed.
 
The university's rules require that anybody working at height (which will almost always include at least one of the lighting specialists) must have an appropriate PASMA qualification.

SOUND SPECIALIST

Also early in rehearsals the Sound Specialist will have agreed the necessary music and sound effects with the Director and will have obtained the necessary recordings. He or she will then attend several later rehearsals to become familiar with the play and the cues. It is often helpful (although not essential) for the actors if sound effects (perhaps only approximate ones) can be played during rehearsals. At the Get-in the Sound Specialist may need to finalise recordings and will then experiment with the music and effects to ascertain the correct sound levels in the theatre. During the Tech and Dress Rehearsals and the public performances the Sound Specialist will run the sound desk, reacting to cues provided either by the actors' lines and/or the stage manager's warnings.