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Stage managers’ working conditions to be reviewed in effort to prevent ‘serious and chronic injury’

Stage manager's prompt desk
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Stage managers have complained of back issues and having to twist around ‘like contortionists’ to do their job at prompt desks, leading to a review of their working conditions.

Prompt desks are used by deputy stage managers to co-ordinate the show, and usually include a headset to talk to backstage and front-of-house staff, cue lights and monitors.

The review will help prevent “serious and chronic injuries”, according to Equity, which is working with the Stage Management Association and the Association of British Theatre Technicians on the issue.

SMA executive director Andy Rowley there are a number of issues with the current design.

“There are a number of questions that have been raised by members, with one telling us: ‘I’ve just finished a production and now I’m regularly going to visit an osteopath,’” he said, adding: “You’re constantly having to be a contortionist to watch the script and do everything else at the same time.”

The SMA has arranged a meeting to discuss the issues at Guild House in London on February 25, which will be attended by the manufacturers as well as representatives from Equity and the Association of British Theatre Technicians.

Members of the SMA are also invited to attend the meeting, and are asked to contact the association to register their interest.

Rowley said that the discussion might lead to further meetings and a series of suggestions to improve the design of prompt desks.

Equity official Paul Fleming said: “Equity is determined to work with the SMA, producers, and venues on all elements of health and safety for our stage management members.

“Starting a conversation about the design of prompt desks and best practice to mitigate serious and chronic injuries is a really welcome step in that conversation.”

ABTT chief executive Robin Townley said stage management desks and their layout and location in the prompt corner should “provide the DSM with the best working environment possible and allow them carry out their role without suffering from undue fatigue, physical or sensory”.

“The ABTT is very pleased to collaborate with Equity and the Stage Management Association to help ensure best practice guidance is widely available to allow manufacturers, theatre consultants and production teams to design prompt corners in the best ways possible,” he added.

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