What does a Company Manager actually do? #askingforafriend
— Nick Gingell (@nickgingell) May 23, 2017
A company manager has the hardest job of all. They look after the actors. Yes, they spend their hours stroking performers, laughing at theatrical anecdotes and whipping understudies who don’t know their lines. It is a very demanding job, which takes over every second of their lives. Managing anyone is hard work, but managing actors is even harder.
And not only do they have the responsibility of keeping the actors in line, they, as the name suggests, support the whole company. They are the ‘go to’ person for everyone in a show. If there is a problem, the company manager (or CM, if you want to sound savvy), sorts it out. They sort holiday dates, book rehearsal rooms, buy chocolate biscuits and, most importantly, makes sure everyone gets paid.
A good company manager will be highly skilled in diplomacy. They deal with situations where actors have tantrums, directors lose their cool and crew members refuse to wear ‘blacks’.
You know you’re in trouble if you ever get called into a company manager’s office. It is rather like visiting the headmaster’s office, and indeed that is the best description of a CM.
Many times backstage in theatres you will see young actors sitting outside the company manager’s door trembling, dribbling and crying before they are called inside to feel the brutal force of the company manager’s whip.
The clever actor will treat the CM with respect. Although company mangers will show signs of being your friend, they never truly are. You have to remember that although they will joke with you in the theatre, and possibly even buy you shots in Soho, they first and foremost work for the producers and managers of the show.
Every day they will report to the leaders of the rebel alliance, and pass on any information relating to bad behaviour and naughtiness that has occurred that day.
That’s an important thing to remember – anything you say to them will be swiftly relayed back to the management. So be on your best behaviour at all times, and if you think you’ve upset them quickly pop to the nearest off licence and purchase a nice bottle of gin (company managers love a gin – it is the best thing to drink backstage without creating suspicion).
So how do you become a company manager? Well, the usual route is by working your way up through the backstage positions. After a few years of being blamed for everything as an assistant stage manager, you will one day be allowed to ‘call the show’ and get promoted to a deputy stage manager.
Then, after a decade or so of making sure the set and crew are working correctly, you may get the chance to get your own executive broom cupboard backstage and call yourself a company manager.
It is a hard slog, no one can deny that, and one that is all encompassing. But if you have the right attitude, positive demeanour and don’t get put off by the prospect of disciplining an entire cast of excitable RADA graduates, then a career as a CM could be for you, dear.
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