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The Role of the Stage Manager


A good director knows how to delegate. She can't micro-manage everything. In the movie business, first and second assistant directors help to keep a film production running smoothly. What about a theatrical director? To whom does she look?

Enter: the Stage Manager

Now, the role of the stage manager varies from one show to the next. Sometimes he is solely focused on the backstage activities of the crew. Sometimes he is up in the booth, running lights and sound if the budget is extra low. Sometimes he is wrangling actors. And sometimes he is doing all of the above, all at the same time.

Jeff Griffith worked as a stage manager for one of the scariest shows to appear on the Los Angeles stage, Woman in Black. I asked him a few questions about what it was like to work on such a technically challenging show.

What duties did you perform as Stage Manager?

"I organized and supported the rehearsal process. If actors are running late, they call the SM (Stage Manager). If they aren't there when they're supposed to be, the SM calls them. Anything that's not related to the rehearsal moving forward efficiently should be addressed by the SM--though it's good to know your director well enough to be able to determine when it is off course."

What technical challenges did you face in a show like Woman in Black?

"In this case, we had a very unusual and large amount of light cues. The show I'd run previously had about 90 light cues for it's full 2:45 run. Woman in Black had 115 by intermission. I think it totalled at 230 or more."

Sounds complicated.

"Some sequences took me weeks to get good at and feel comfortable with. I will say that with this particular show, the tech crew really was an intricate part of the production. Almost like we were another character."

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