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What I’ve Learned While Moonlighting as a Stage Manager

I’m not a Stage Manager by trade, but since September I’ve been pretending to be one. I’ve been the Assistant Stage Manager for a show that opens tomorrow. It’s the first professional show I’ve worked on and has been intense and tiring and rewarding and fun. Most of all thought, it’s taught me a whole hoard of lessons I really needed to learn.

  1. If you take yourself seriously, this is NOT the profession for you.
  2. Not everything is your job.
  3. You get in the way if you try to make everything your job.
  4. If someone needs something from you, they will ask. If they do not, it’s not your fault if you don’t know. You are not expected to read people’s minds.
  5. People will annoy you. You will need to control your face muscles.
  6. Bad decisions will be made. You are not liable to make them better. If they are truly bad, they will die.
  7. Hushing a room full of actors is satisfying. Only do it when it needs to be done, otherwise it loses its effectiveness.
  8. Deciding to have a good time is all it takes to have a good time.
  9. Make sure there is at least one person who is nice to you in a room. You can guarantee this by being nice to other people first.
  10. Professionalism is important, but kindness is more important. No one will want to work with you professionally if you’re a pain to be around.
  11. The importance of an all-female creative team is paramount. No room feels quite as generative and exciting and collected as a room full of passionate women.
  12. Don’t worry. You’re gonna be ok.

Some messages to my actor self, based on my experience as ASM:

  1. When you try to be good, you will inevitably be boring instead.
  2. Tech isn’t about you. It’s not the time to make your dramatic acting choices.
  3. “Never take yourself that seriously.”
  4. Remember what tech was like this time: relaxed, focused, laughing ONLY WHEN IT WAS APPROPRIATE.
  6. When they ask you to hold, that means stay right where you Damn are.
  7. If you want to make the whole thing so faster, do only what you are told to do.
  8. Be nice. Be kind. Be helpful. Be quiet.

Every day I am reminded that cross-discipline work is the best way to learn. I learn about being an actor when I am directing, I learn about directing when I am stage managing, etc. I want to learn it all and do it all (not at the same time). I won’t half-ass two things, I will whole-ass one thing. And I will move on to the next project with all the things I’ve learned in this one. But first I’ll get a few hours of sleep.


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