Behind The Scenes: Stage Manager
Take a look behind the theatre curtain into the roles and responsibilities of Stage Manager Briana Maxwell
Where are you from?
Can you describe some of the roles and responsibilities of a Stage Manager?
In general, a stage manager provides practical and organizational support to all members of the production throughout the production process (i.e. directors, actors, designers, and crew). Some responsibilities are (but can be adapted depending on the production’s needs): prepping the rehearsal space by taping out the ground plan of the set and having props/furniture available for the actors, scheduling and running rehearsals, creating and distributing rehearsal and performance reports that act as a communication between the director and the designers, coordinating with the ASM as to what the work of the stage crew will entail, calling cues, and overseeing the entire show at every rehearsal and each time it is performed.
What made you want to become a Stage Manager?
Originally I started in the scene shop by day and worked as an assistant director by night. There was an opening for a SM position on the production of The Night of the Iguana. It was the first show I stage managed and I’ve been doing it ever since. To me, stage managing allows you to collaborate and be a part of every aspect of a production. There is an organizational and practical component to all the steps that lead up to tech, and then an artistic component when you start to call your cues which can be based on moments and feeling out the movements of a performer. It’s ever changing and you’ll rarely approach the same challenge twice. That is what brings me back each day.
How many shows have you been a Stage Manager for?
Around 70 theatre, dance, and opera productions. I currently work as the PSM in Dance and Opera at The University of Iowa, but also have extensively worked in theatre.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a Stage Manager?
That has changed since I began stage managing. Initially my favorite part was the rehearsal process and the time in which the show, movement, and emotions were created for each character and molded into a production. Now my favorite parts are tech and dress rehearsals. It is very rewarding to watch all the elements that individuals have been working on (directing, acting, costumes, lighting, sound, scenic, props) all come together in one day. They can be long and exhausting days, but also exhilarating. I feel it is the time we all get to see what we’ve been working on for weeks come together before it is shared with the public.
What’s your least favorite part of being a Stage Manager?
Taping out a ground plan in a rehearsal hall. An extremely useful part of the rehearsal process, but crawling around on your knees is not the greatest way to spend a day.
What is it like to Stage Manage and Old Creamery Theatre production versus a production at another theatre?
I am always amazed at how quickly The Old Creamery is able to put up a production. Their rehearsals weeks are short, but intensive and productive. The commitment from everyone to the show is always there from the beginning. Also, there is a great sense of community at The Old Creamery. Ideas, support, props, and labor are given from all members of the production. Although there are specific roles that people play or are assigned to, the real mantra is that everyone gives and works, so we can put on the best show possible.
Interested in reading Briana Maxwell's bio? Click HERE.