Stage manager

A stage manager


Stage managers coordinate and supervise the preparation and execution of the show to ensure the scenic image and the actions on stage comply with the artistic vision of the director and the artistic team.
Identify needs, monitor the technical and artistic processes during rehearsals and performances of live shows and events, according to the artistic project, the characteristics of the stage and technical, economic, human and security terms.

Here are some key responsibilities and duties of a stage manager:

  • Collaborating closely with the director, designers, actors, and crew to ensure the production runs smoothly
  • Recording the director’s decisions about blocking and notes for the actors during rehearsals
  • Keeping track of logistical and scheduling details and communicating updates to the team
  • Scheduling and running rehearsals
  • Communicating the director’s wishes to designers and craftspeople
  • Coordinating the work of the stage crew
  • Calling cues and possibly actors’ entrances during performances
  • Overseeing the entire show each time it is performed
  • Ensuring the safety of the cast and crew
  • Managing backstage operations and coordinating scene changes
  • Handling any problems or emergencies that may arise during performances

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to stage manager:

production stage manager
deputy stage manager
stage/production manager
production coordinator
production coordinator/stage manager
stage coordinator
stage supervisor

Working conditions

Stage managers work primarily in theater venues, production studios, or other performance spaces. They often work long hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays, to accommodate rehearsal and performance schedules. The work can be physically demanding, requiring the ability to stand for long periods, move heavy set pieces, and navigate backstage areas. Stage managers must be adaptable and able to handle the pressures of live performances, including unforeseen changes or emergencies. They should have strong leadership and communication skills to effectively coordinate with a diverse group of individuals, including performers, technicians, and production staff.

Minimum qualifications

Formal education requirements for stage managers can vary, but many pursue degrees or certifications in theater arts, production management, or related fields. Practical experience in theater production, stage management, or assistant stage management roles is highly valued. Stage managers should have a solid understanding of all aspects of theater production, including directing, technical elements, and stage operations. They must possess strong organizational, multitasking, and problem-solving skills. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are crucial for effectively managing and collaborating with the cast, crew, and production team.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Stage manager is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Stage manager career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to stage manager.

followspot operator
head of workshop
pyrotechnic designer
prop master/prop mistress

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of stage manager. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of stage manager with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

technical director
front of house manager
video designer
mask maker
stage director

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of stage manager.

  • Analyse the artistic concept based on stage actions: Analyse the artistic concept, form and structure of a live performance based on observation during rehearsals or improvisation. Create a structured base for the design process of a specific production.
  • Work ergonomically: Apply ergonomy principles in the organisation of the workplace while manually handling equipment and materials.
  • Understand artistic concepts: Interpret an artist’s explanation or demonstration of their artistic concepts, inceptions and processes and strive to share their vision.
  • Safeguard artistic quality of performance: Observe the show, anticipate and react to possible technical problems, ensuring optimal artistic quality.
  • Write risk assessment on performing arts production: Assess risks, propose improvements and describe measures to be taken on a production level in performing arts.
  • Analyse score: Analysing the score, form, themes and structure of a piece of music.
  • Analyse the scenography: Analyse the selection and distribution of material elements on a stage.
  • Organise stage: Making sure the scene elements like props and furniture are placed according to specifications, procuring the costumes and wigs and making sure everybody is ready in the right time and place.
  • Cue a performance: Plan the technical actions and interventions during an artistic performance. Determine when actors go on and off stage. Make sure these cues are followed to ensure a smooth running of the performance.
  • Adapt artistic plan to location: Adjust plans to other locations with regards to the artistic concept.
  • Use personal protection equipment: Make use of protection equipment according to training, instruction and manuals. Inspect the equipment and use it consistently.
  • Adapt to artists’ creative demands: Work with artists, striving to understand the creative vision and adapting to it. Make full use of your talents and skills to reach the best possible result.
  • Prevent fire in a performance environment: Take steps to prevent fire in a performance environment. Make sure the space complies with fire safety rules, with sprinklers and fire extinguishers installed where necessary. Make sure staff are aware of fire prevention measures.
  • Interact with actions on stage: Take cues from actions on the stage and interact with them. Decide on the exact timing and procedure in a live environment, in order to produce a fluid and consistent performance.
  • Use communication equipment: Set up, test and operate different types of communication equipment such as transmission equipment, digital network equipment, or telecommunications equipment.
  • Coordinate the running of a performance: Coordinate all actions and activities during a performance in order to ensure a coherent and artistically sound result, faithful to the artistic project.
  • Negotiate health and safety issues with third parties: Consult, negotiate and agree on potential risks, measures and safety procedures with third parties.
  • Translate artistic concepts to technical designs: Cooperate with the artistic team in order to facilitate the transition from the creative vision and its artistic concepts to a technical design.
  • Support a designer in the developing process: Support designers in the course of the developing process.
  • Promote health and safety: Promote the importance of a safe working environment. Coach and support staff to participate actively in the continuous development of a safe working environment.
  • Analyse a script: Break down a script by analysing the dramaturgy, form, themes and structure of a script. Conduct relevant research if necessary.
  • Work safely with mobile electrical systems under supervision: Take the necessary precautions while providing temporary power distribution for performance and art facility purposes under supervision.
  • Work with respect for own safety: Apply the safety rules according to training and instruction and based on a solid understanding of the prevention measures and risks to your own personal health and safety.
  • Interpret artistic intentions: Interpret the artistic intentions of the author.
  • React to emergency situations in a live performance environment: Assess and react to an emergency (fire, threat, accident or another calamity), alerting emergency services and taking appropriate measures to safeguard or evacuate workers, participants, visitors or audience according to the established procedures.
  • Use technical documentation: Understand and use technical documentation in the overall technical process.
  • Follow safety procedures when working at heights: Take necessary precautions and follow a set of measures that assess, prevent and tackle risks when working at a high distance from the ground. Prevent endangering people working under these structures and avoid falls from ladders, mobile scaffolding, fixed working bridges, single person lifts etc. since they may cause fatalities or major injuries.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of stage manager. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

3435 – Other artistic and cultural associate professionals

  1. Stage manager – ESCO
  2. Stage Manager | Berklee
  3. 3 Duties of a Stage Manager – TAFTA
  4. Featured image: By Campus Party Europa 2010 – Stage Manager Yana talking about the Hackdays, CC BY 2.0
Last updated on July 17, 2023

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