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Stage Manager

Education and Training: Bachelor’s preferred
Average Salary: $30,000-$40,000 per year
Job Outlook: Fair

A stage manager is a person typically experienced in many aspects of theater who is primarily responsible for the organizational aspects of putting on a show, whether in the theater or on a television set. Before the production, the stage manager is responsible for coordinating the setup of the theater as well as the rehearsals. One of his or her primary duties is ensuring that rehearsals run smoothly and well and that the timing for lights, sound, and set changes is spot on.

The stage manager also acts as an assistant to the director and works on things like blocking and line cues with the actors and actresses in the show. It is usually the stage manager’s job to schedule rehearsals and to communicate with the cast and crew about any changes.

During the show, the stage manager will “call” the performance, which means reminding the crew of when to change lights, sounds, and set, and communicating otherwise with the backstage crew. The stage manager also ensures that actors and actresses are where they need to be during the show so that things run smoothly.

Education and Training Requirements

Educational requirements for a stage manager will vary, depending on where the hiring is taking place. Small local theaters may hire college students who have some stage experience to become stage managers. Larger organizations, though, normally prefer stage managers with bachelor’s degrees in drama or related fields. Some stage managers in high-end productions even have master’s degrees in fine arts centered on the performing arts.

Much of the training for a stage manager can be done on the job, particularly as a stage manager works his or her way up the ranks of the behind-the-scenes production crew for a play.

Getting the Job

Many stage managers have volunteer experience in their roles at the high school or college level, and this can be a great way to build up your resume to get a stage management position. Jobs can be found in the trade newspaper “Backstage.” Most stage managers put together a prompt book example that includes blocking notes and lighting and sound queues written in, as this helps demonstrate their experience and abilities at stage management.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Jobs in theater in general are expected to grow at an average rate, but competition is always keen for these jobs. Turnover rate does tend to be high, leaving some older jobs open, because many people get burned out on the long hours and low pay that often accompanies any job in the theater.

Many jobs may be available, depending on the economy, at touring productions, repertory theaters, theme parks, and resorts, and most of these jobs are available in larger metropolitan areas.

Many stage managers go on to develop a career as a director, since they are learning from the director throughout their stage management experiences. Some stage managers leave theater altogether, taking their organizational and people management skills into entirely new industries.

Working Conditions and Environment

The hours for a stage manager are often long, and he or she may be the first to come and the last to leave a production. The environment can be stressful, particularly leading up to a major production. Stage management in the television industry may be slightly less stressful, and the hours may be a bit more regular.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for a stage manager is about $30,000 to $40,000 per year, paid, normally, in an hourly wage. Stage managers can make anywhere from $26,000 to $49,000, depending on where they work and for whom they are working. Television stage managers typically make more than stage managers for live productions.

Stage managers are only likely to get benefits if they are hired full-time with a production company, which is not often the case. Many are like actors, freelancing their skills in one production after another. In this case, paid vacation time and benefits are not at all common.

Where to Go for More Information

Actors’ Equity Association
165 W 46th St.
New York, NY 10036
(212) 869-8530

Producers Guild of America
8530 Wiltshire Blvd., Ste. 450
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Stage Managers’ Association

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts