A Day in the Life of a Stage Manager
Opening night for a show can be an exciting but nerve racking time. Today, February 23, is the UAFS Music & Theatre Department’s opening night for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee! My name is Katelyn Sosebee, and I am the Stage Manager for this show.
What is a stage manager? A Stage Manager (SM) is responsible for the organization, coordination, communication, and technical aspects of a theatrical production. My Assistant Hollie Bruton and I make sure that rehearsals, the design elements, and the actual shows run smoothly.
I’m going to take you with me on a play by play of what opening day consists of for an SM. First thing I do in the morning is send out my daily call. This lets the actors know all the important time calls for the day: 5pm call time, 6pm mic check, 7pm start show. UAFS Theatre also has a tradition of dressing up quite formally to draw attention to the show, so I remind all the actors and crew to dress their Sunday best!
The directors and designers want the best product possible, so there are always a few more improvements being made throughout the day. I also work as a stagehand in the Breedlove Shop, so I get to help the actual construction process of the show. In these few hours before we open, we retouch paint, hang posters, and remove some rows of seats. These final adjustments allow us to put our best foot forward to audiences who will be coming to watch.
Since we all still have classes this morning and afternoon, the next pre-show steps happen later in the evening at 5pm call time. When everyone arrives at 5pm, Hollie and I make sure actors have what they need costuming wise, pre-set important props, and run through lighting and sound cues. It is important to check these things early in the evening, so there is plenty of time for fixes in case something is wrong.
At 6pm Hollie sends the actors on stage for their mic checks, and I am working with my crew who just arrived. I discuss important notes with my spotlight operators, light board operator, and sound board operator. We check our headsets and work with the House Manager to finish setting up for people to arrive at 6:30pm.
Once the house is opened, I give time calls every five minutes till actors are in places at 6:55pm. Any other night, we would start the show right at 7pm. However, opening nights are always special because important announcements, speeches, and recognitions are made to the people who helped make these productions happen. Tonight, our special speech was made by Dr. Riley where she announced that the Season of Entertainment would be renamed the Stacey Jones Season of Entertainment.
After getting an all clear from my house manager that the lobby is clear, we start the show! Stage Managers can have different jobs during a show. Hollie is in charge of the actors, props, and scene changes backstage. I am in the booth following a “call script” conducting the lighting changes, sound cues, and spotlights. I use a headset to communicate with my operators, and we sing and dance along with the actors in the down time between cues.
The show runs about an hour and fifty minutes including intermission. At the end of the show, we all go visit our friends and family who came to watch. Hollie and I start to clean and reset things for the next evening’s performance. Once the actors are out of costume and have cleaned their dressing room, Hollie and I do a walk through then release everyone for the night.
I shut down the lights and close the theatre for the night, still riding the high of an amazing opening night ready for the next.