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Hiring a stage manager? What employers must know

Stage manager Adam Burns (centre) on a boat on the Thames during the Almeida Theatre’s 12-hour, live-streamed reading of Homer’s The Odyssey last November Stage manager Adam Burns (centre) on a boat on the Thames during the Almeida Theatre’s 12-hour, live-streamed reading of Homer’s The Odyssey last November
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Preparation, contract wording, expectations…  Andy Rowley highlights key points in the SMA guidelines for producers.

• Stage managers will cue shows and can operate sound, lights and technical effects in many cases, but this depends on the show and the scope of the cues. Design, rigging and maintenance of the equipment requires specialist designers and technicians, who need to be on hand to keep the technical kit in good order and in case of emergencies.

• Good technical backup must always be available on any show to ensure smooth running. Producers should also assess the impact of these additional responsibilities on their stage management team, and ensure that their staffing levels are sufficient to prepare and run the show smoothly and cope with any unforeseen eventualities.

• Contracts should never include terms such as:

• “The fee includes all allowances, holiday pay and any penalty payments”

• “No further payment of any kind will be made under this contract”

• “It is the individual’s responsibility as well as the producer’s to ensure that the individual takes these breaks. The individual accepts that because of the nature of the work it is not always possible to take the breaks at exactly these times and on occasion they may be delayed, cut short or missed completely – when no payment can be made”

• “No expenses can be paid”

• Stage management does not expect to be asked to carry out wardrobe maintenance or running repairs; these are generally specialised jobs not covered in stage management training. On small shows, an agreement might be made for simple costume maintenance with additional compensation, but separate provision should still be made for running repairs and adjustments. Any wardrobe work should be considered as additional to contract and never compulsory for stage managers. Wardrobe maintenance work must never cause stage management to exceed their normal contracted hours.

• The rehearsal period is when a good stage management team will prove its worth. Remember to allow for stage management: preparing and clearing the rehearsal space; arranging rehearsal furniture and props; meetings with cast, creatives and the director; writing notes; prop making; research; and propping trips. This will affect the size of the team your production will require and the hours they work.

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