Backstage and Beyond - Company Stage Manager
Welcome to Backstage and Beyond, a series of interview in which we talk to theatre industry professionals to find out more about their jobs. Everyone knows what an actor does, but it takes a lot more than just the people on stage to make a show. Please join us as we quiz people in all sorts of cool theatre jobs on their work, what it involves, and how you could do the same. Our next guest works as a company stage manager at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.
Can you explain to us what exactly your job involves?
My job varies quite a lot depending on where I am working. Most stage managers are freelance, as I am, and we therefore can work in many different theatres, sometimes up to three or four a year depending on how long a show is running for. My job title is usually company manager or company stage manager. If I am company manager that is generally on a bigger production, usually a musical, with a big cast and lots of technical staff and musicians to look after. In that case I will also have a stage manager who specifically looks after the running of the show on the deck, as it were. The company manager is in charge of a team which includes the stage manager, deputy stage manager and any assistant stage managers. My main job is to liaise between all departments to ensure the smooth running of rehearsals, technical rehearsals, and then the show. I will be involved in the recruitment of the stage management team. I also ensure everybody gets paid by completing the payroll spreadsheets and making sure that the timesheets for each person are kept up to date. And I am the first port of call for actors and technical staff, for any needs that they may have.
How did you come to work as a company stage manager?
I went to drama school and did a two year technical theatre course. I do know of people who did some work experience, or who worked as crew on productions and got into it that way.
What does your daily schedule look like?
When I am in the rehearsal period of a production, my day starts at around 9 AM. The rehearsal time for actors is usually from 10 AM until 6 PM, so my team and I are in at least half an hour beforehand to make sure that we have everything set up and ready for the director and actors to rehearse. Once the rehearsals have started, I spend the day sourcing props and furniture for the production with the assistant stage manager. I also look after all the scheduling, so I will book in any costume fittings, dialect training or fight training that’s needed for the production. Sometimes we rehearse in the evenings, and nearer the end of the rehearsal period we’re often in on Saturdays too. On a typical day my day would end about an hour after rehearsals finish, but this varies and if we are very busy it can end a lot later than that!
When the production is up and running we are on ‘show call’, so our day starts two or three hours before the start of a performance and ends about half an hour after the show has finished. However, as company manager I will be on call throughout the day to everyone involved in the production, to sort out any issues that may come up. This includes things like company welfare, ticketing issues and payroll. The amount I do in the daytime varies from production to production.
What are the best parts and the worst parts of your work?
One of the best things is also one of the worst things: because I am freelance, the venues and type of jobs I do are very varied. That means I don’t always know what I am going to be doing in the future, which is exciting and keeps things interesting. However, it can also be a bit scary as there can be gaps between jobs. It doesn’t always quite work out that one finishes and the next one starts straight away!
What advice would you give to young people who are interested in going into your line of work?
I think it is really great to get on to a technical theatre course! This way you will learn all about each and every department in the theatre world, and you get to try out different jobs and see if it is for you.
What do you enjoy about working at the Almeida?
I love working here, the intimate space is one of the very best venues to watch theatre. The Almeida also attracts amazing, talented actors and directors to work with, so you get to collaborate on shows of a very high caliber.
What do you hope theatre in London is going to be like in the future?
I hope that theatre continues to thrive and be diverse, and that it becomes accessible to more people.