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The ptg stage manager’s handbook adapted from “The Stage Manager’s Handbook: Eldred Theatre, Case Western Reserve University, Fourth Edition”

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Adapted from “The Stage Manager’s Handbook: Eldred Theatre, Case Western Reserve University, Fourth Edition”

Compiled by Matthew Eckstein

For more information, please see the following books:

Stage Management, by Lawrence Stern
The Stage Management Handbook, by Daniel Ionazi
The Back Stage Guide to Stage Management, by Thomas Kelly

Defining a Stage Manager
The Stage Manager is the individual who accepts active, not passive, responsibility for the smooth running of rehearsals and performances both onstage and backstage. “Beyond me, the buck does not pass!” You are the communications hub for the production, making sure that everybody involved knows what they need to know, when they need to know it. Because everyone will be coming to you for answers to their questions, you need to know everything there is to know about the production, or at least how to find the information. The Stage Manager’s duties are really two-fold.

  1. Until Opening Night, he or she makes the director’s life as easy as possible. He/She must be the director’s right hand at every step, and make life as easy for the leader of the creative team as he can, reflecting his approach to the play, spotting trouble before it develops and staying well ahead of the cast and the director in bringing people, furniture, and props to the ready.

  1. As of Opening, he/she runs the entire backstage, maintaining the performance to the exact pattern the director has set in rehearsals.

The Essential Qualities of a Good Stage Manager
• Good Stage Managers should always assume responsibility.

• Good Stage Managers keep their cool.

• Good Stage Managers keep their mouths shut and their eyes open.

• Good Stage Managers are always prepared for anything.

• Good Stage Managers are considerate, have a sense of humor, are organized, efficient, punctual and dependable.

Following in this manual are procedures and methods, which have evolved over the years in producing theater on Eldred’s black box stage. Helpful forms are located in the Appendix at the end of this manual.

There are a couple of points that are difficult to list or catalogue. Perhaps the most important one for a new Stage Manager to realize and to come to grips with is the position of authority and control that has been vested in you. The Stage Manager speaks for the director of the production and frequently speaks as a representative of the organization itself. The Stage Manager must assume this responsibility with humility and finesse. You must always be tactful, diplomatic and polite. Frequently, situations arise due to stress and work that will tax you to the nth degree of your patience. It is up to you to act the professional. Saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ will get you further than barking or sulking. It is up to you to make the process work.
Don’t feel totally out on a limb, or on the edge of a cliff. There are people ready to help you out, including the executive board, and especially the technical director (vice president). Don’t feel like you will be considered a poor stage manager for asking questions. If you don’t ask, the other members of the production team will not know how to help you. Remember, theater is a collaborative art, a team effort.

Pre-Production Checklist
1. Acquire a Script
2. Read the Script

    • First Reading – read to get an understanding of the plot, characters, and theme(s).

    • Second Reading – underline any special effects, set problems, light and sound cues. Make list of props to discuss with director.

    • Re-Read script until totally familiar with it.

    • If the director does not complete a scene breakdown, make a French scene breakdown to create a rehearsal structure. Give copy to director.

3. Audition Process

  • If appropriate – The Stage Manager would run the audition process. Check with your director to see if they would appreciate the help.

  • If applicable, see Appendix

4. Pass Out Scripts

  • Number all scripts for tracking purposes.

  • Pass out scripts to the director and designer(s) and to cast members.

  • Record the name of the person assigned to each script (include telephone # and email).

5. Make a Prompt Book

  • On the inside cover of the binder, place your name, address, telephone number and the following note:

“If Found Please Return Immediately To: Players Theatre Group, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Ave. Cleveland, OH 44106”

  • A detailed outline for making a prompt script is found in Appendix

  • Make a master calendar of all days between the first production meeting and strike, see Appendix for examples of a master calendar.

  • Make a contact sheet, which is a list of all production staff, actors, and crew – Include names, email addresses, and telephone numbers. See Appendix for an example.

  • Include a list of all emergency procedures and numbers at the front of the prompt book.

6. Acquire Access

  • The director should acquire a key, however building security is everyone’s responsibility. As a PTG production, you have access to the black box theatre and its tech booth.

  • If required, get the PTG booth lock box key from the technical director.

7. Meet With the Director

        • Ask about the rehearsal process.

        • Ask about the rehearsal schedule.

        • Find out if the director needs special props, costume pieces, etc. for rehearsals.

        • Find out about any other special requirements for the production

8. First Production Meeting

    • You should organize and run this meeting.

    • Take note of ideas brought forth by the director and designer(s). For Example:

      • Special props needed for rehearsals

      • Work deadlines

      • Special costume and set problems

      • A special sound cue tape

      • Complete telephone numbers and email addresses of staff

Rehearsal Process Checklist
Before the First Rehearsal

    • Set up your stage manager’s kit (see appendix for a suggested list of included items)

    • Copy scaled floor plans for the prompt script (available from the PTG website).

    • Arrange and write a property list. Review with director, scenic designer, and prop crew. See Appendix for property list form.

    • Check whether the director wants open or closed rehearsals.

    • Know the materials: script, set, costumes, props, and schedule. Be prepared to answer questions. Do not be snotty or sarcastic. Answer calmly and honestly.

    • Be prepared to review lines or scenes, should the director be delayed, if requested to do so by the director.

    • Inform the production staff of run-throughs, so that they can plan to attend. Each crew member is required to attend at least one of these run throughs.

At the First Rehearsal

      • Give tour of the theater. Make sure the cast and crew know the layout of the building.

      • Inform cast, crew, and staff of rules and regulations as noted in Appendix

      • Establish regulations of tardiness or conflicts. Stress the importance of notifying you early of any possible difficulties: classes, sickness, and possible tardiness. It would be appropriate at the first read-through to hand out a conflict sheet for the production. See Appendix. It is better to know beforehand so that you can suggest possible alternatives to the director for rehearsal. You can help solve potential problems before they arise if you are informed.

      • Hand out contact sheets to cast, crew, and production staff.

      • Establish a method of prompting. Are lines to be letter perfect? When are corrections to be made? How are prompts called for? See Prompt Report Form in Appendix.


        • Arrive at least a half-hour before call.

        • Make sure all areas that are to be used are open before cast/crew arrive.

        • Ask directors if they want breaks of 5 minutes for every 55 minutes of rehearsal or 10 minutes for every 80 minutes of rehearsal (as noted in Actors’ Equity Rules). 1

        • Keep staff informed of progress of production.

During Rehearsal

    • Notate all blocking given by the director to the actors. Your blocking will serve as the ‘official’ blocking until changed or altered by the director. Use the copied floor plan to show positions of actors and movement patterns. Notate in the script the line (word or phrase) where the movement begins and place corresponding moves on the floors plan. Mark all changes to the blocking in the prompt script. Keep your blocking current.

    • Use copied floor plans to show positions of actors and movement patterns.

    • Notate in the script the line (word, phrase) where the movement begins and place corresponding notes on the floor plan.

    • Mark all changes in the script and make sure blocking is ‘set’.

    • Make sure building is secure during rehearsal times.

    • Keep a list of all possible changes, ideas, or comments that the director makes, so as to inform the staff members concerned. For example:

Post Rehearsal

  • Complete a rehearsal report and make sure the affected personnel receive a copy (in written form) the first thing next morning (personally or by email). See Appendix for copy of Rehearsal Report Form.

  • Copy all notes for your records.

  • Secure the building

  • Clear away and store all props from the rehearsal area.

  • Refer to Appendix for Security Guidelines.

Photo Call

    • In conjunction with the director, technical director, inquire about the procedure for photo call.

    • Establish set-up shots with director.

    • This session can be long and tedious. The SM should keep the process moving as quickly as possible. Help the photographer; communicate needs to cast, crew, and staff.

Tech Week Checklist
Prior to Level Set

  • Meet with director and lighting designer to establish cues, see Appendix for cue sheet.

  • Meet with director and sound designer to establish sound cues, see Appendix for cue sheet.

    • Meet with the technical director and sound crew to learn how to set up, turn on/off, and all other operations of sound/communication systems.

    • Check that all headsets and communication systems are operational.

    • Make sure light and sound operators (if applicable) are ready to start at scheduled time.

    • Invite and encourage PTG executive board members to attend.

    • Discuss any scene shifts with the technical director and the director

    • Establish a shift plot with the assigned crew.

    • You may want to schedule a shift rehearsal to familiarize crew with the correct methods for set-ups, shifts, and storage. Explain to the company where they can and cannot be during shifts.

    • Have necessary tools available when needed. i.e. c-wrenches, flashlights, and storage.

First Technical Rehearsal

      • Post a Sign In Sheet (Shown in Appendix F), and make sure everyone is aware of it.

      • Set up a stage time and crew call – allow time for familiarization with set/set-up.

      • Make sure that the ASM and crews are prepared.

      • Prepare backstage and set with luminous tape or guide lights.2

      • Have crew heads check that all systems are operational: sound, lights, work-lights, walkie talkies (if you are using them), and any scenic technology

      • Run a cue-to-cue, a rehearsal in which all cues are run, with only the action immediately before and after each cue. Stop and correct problems before going on. Make sure everyone involved understands what the problem was, what the solution is and then run it again. Don’t gloss over mistakes.

      • Be open to possible solutions from the designers, TD or the director if you draw a blank. Everyone is out to make this the best production possible.

      • Know where potential dangers lie and be knowledgeable about safety procedures. Know emergency escape routes and procedures.

      • Meet with PTG executive board to inform them of running time, intermissions, and any unusual situations with the show (strobe lights, smoking, etc).

      • Establish call for the remainder of the tech rehearsals and the run of the show.

      • Post and distribute lists of calls to all cast, crew, and staff.

      • **Hold a production meeting following the rehearsal with the director and designers**

First Dress Rehearsal

        • Establish calls, pre-sets, and quick changes with the costumer designer and crew head.

        • Make sure stage has been swept and damp mopped before the first dress rehearsal.

        • Complete a check of all systems, pre-sets, and scenery with the ASM. See production checklist example in Appendix

        • Run show as close as possible to performance conditions. Alert your cast, crew, and the director to this. By second dress, the flow of the show should not be stopped – for any reason other than a major catastrophe. Using all of your tact and charm, inform the director that any notes he/she might have will be solved at the end of the rehearsal. This might necessitate working problems at the end of the rehearsal. At this point in the production process, it is essential that all members of the company get a feel for the show in performance.

        • Watch the show, check promptbook against stage action, be aware of what is going on.

        • Make sure all calls are clear to the cast, crew, and staff. Announce and post next call.

  • **Hold a production meeting following the rehearsal with the director and designers**

        • Give any technical/run notes you may have to the cast and crew.

        • Fill out daily rehearsal/performance reports.

        • Check with crew heads and ASM for problems or notes.

        • Have all equipment stored, light board and sound system turned off.

        • Have all crew heads check with you before they leave.

        • Make sure all lights are turned off.

        • Lock up all areas of the theater building.

Production Checklist
Working with House Management and Publicity

    • Fill out program copy work sheet, see form in Appendix and give it to the PTG Secretary

    • Ask director if he/she would like to write a program note, and send it to the PTG Secretary

    • If working on a straight play, hand in synopsis of scenes including any location or time changes to PTG Secretary

    • If working on a musical, hand in a synopsis of scenes and musical numbers.


      • Arrive 30 minutes prior to the earliest call.

      • Follow checklist procedure used for tech and dress rehearsals.

      • Check with house manager on your way into the theater.

      • Check the sign in sheet to make sure everyone is present, make calls to late actors.

      • Contact the House Manager to give OK to open the house, and before curtain.

      • Give company calls as follows:

  • Half-hour before curtain time – “The House is Open”

  • 15 minutes to curtain

  • 5 minutes to curtain

  • Places

    • At hour call or actor call, collect valuables from each actor. Place in individualized baggies (large size) with name, then store in the booth.

    • Make sure actors are in place prior to curtain.


    • Call the show as it is written in the prompt script.

    • Fill out daily stage manager’s report.

    • During intermissions, check with the house manager before calling places.


      • Remind the company of all calls for the following day.

      • Follow clean-up, check-out, lock-up procedures established earlier in this manual.

Closing Checklist

    • All cast and crew are required to strike.

    • Clean up your areas and take down the sign-in sheet and all information from the Call Boards.

    • The black box should be painted black, props and costumes returned to their home, and the space should look nicer than you found it. PTG has more extensive policies regarding strike that are described in the director’s packet.
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