Manager needs to be an all-rounder

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 June, 1993, 12:00am

''REMIND those who work the secrets of the thunder barrels to do what is assigned to them by following their instruction slips and let them not forget to stop when God says: 'Crease and let tranquillity reign'.'' This direction appears in the prompt script of the stage manager of The Mystery of the Passion , which was first performed in 1501 and required four mornings and four afternoons to perform.

This historical document tells us that stage management existed even 500 years ago and took on the responsibility of looking after the technical aspects of the production during the show.

Other than anticipating every important sound cue, light cue, scene change, costume change, actor's entrance, preparation of properties and off-stage effects, the stage manager has the important and dynamic role of ensuring that everything will happen according to schedule, executed properly and smoothly.

His (or often her) key role is to communicate the artistic intention of the director to the designer and the workshop construction people and creatively suggest possible solutions.

To take an example of a possible situation that may arise: the director requires an actor wearing a wig to do a somersault.

The stage manager needs to spot this problem early in rehearsal, so that the director, the designer and the stage manager can decide whether the wig should have a special fixture to accommodate this action, or the actor will grow his own hair in order todo the action, or the action will be modified.

I have sympathy for those directors who only discover such problems in the technical rehearsals. They must have either no stage manager, or they have a very bad one.

The construction professionals will also welcome an efficient stage manager who acts as a bridge between the rehearsal room and the workshop, who will tell them before it is too late that a staircase has been cut, a pocket is needed on a particular dress, etc.

The designers who are not present at rehearsals as often as the stage managers, will need to know that, for example, the monologue position has been changed, the sofa has moved a few metres upstage, mood music of three minutes is needed for the love scene etc.

If you have ever been an actor and have had to wait for half an hour before a rehearsal can start because there has never been a complete cast, you will know how valuable the stage manager can be in reading the parts of the missing actors.

Also a stage manager will mark up the floor of a rehearsal room so that the cast knows where the walls, doors and windows of the set will be. This will prevent the actors from accidentally walking through walls, or jumping out of windows when they are onthe stage with the scenery around them.

Professional actors can tell you stories of how many times they are saved by the stage manager when they forget to bring in an important props on stage or feel sick backstage.

If you have a pleasant personality, are quick thinking and would like a dynamic job, and most important of all, enjoy working in the theatre, you should consider a career in stage management.

Ms Lee is Head of Stage Management at the APA