Telling stories with imagination.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Metta likes... Stage Managers

I'm going to start this post with a declaration of interest - my background is Stage Management, and I still retain a very Stage Management-y view on theatre. That said, this is written thinking about all the Stage Managers who have helped smooth the creative process for our shows.

To the audience, Stage Managers are invisible. In many ways, that's the whole point. However, once you know what to look for, you can identify their presence. Last week I saw Kneehigh's Umbrellas of Cherborg, and the smooth set changes which took place were impressive in just how little you noticed them. Props and furniture were moved on and off a piece of set with deft and silent skill, never drawing attention from the action and effecting a magical change.

Their presence can be felt from the start. When the show starts the immaculate stage will usually show no sign of what's to come - whether it be the snow on the cobbles of Cherborg or the blood that sloshed the stage in Theatre of the Damned's Grand Guignol. That's why Stage Managers arrive earlier and leave later than everyone else.

They are skilled at noticing and fixing things before anyone else has even identified a problem; spotting the labels that are about the falling off beer crates, rather than fixing ones which already have.

Once a show is open and the creative team are no longer in every night, it's the Stage Manager's responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly, to solve any on the spot problems and, for some Metta shows, stop the cast eating the food meant for the audience. That last one can require a certain amount of cunning...

Throughout both rehearsal and performance the Stage Manager is often the one who will have the best idea of exactly what needs to be done. During rehearsals when a show is constantly changing and developing as it finds its feet, the SM is the one who’ll be keeping track of and identifying all the practical implications. Updating props lists as bits get added or cut, making notes for costume designers when someone decides to produce things from their pocket and ensuring that everything still fits together, despite multitudinous changes.

So, thank you Stage Managers of the world for all the last minute dashes to Primark to replace that vital piece of costume that's mysteriously gone missing, the ingenious solutions and that unique ability to know exactly what is going on in the rehearsal room or performance at any given moment. We couldn’t do it without you!

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