Stage managers are facing “unstable” working conditions over the pantomime season that threaten their futures in the industry, the body that represents them has warned.
According to the Stage Management Association, its members are reporting a number of recurring issues – including reduced pay year on year for panto jobs, and contracts that are wrapping expenses, such as travel and accommodation, into an overall fee.
The organisation has also warned that overtime is being included as part of contract buyouts, but that any overtime requirements should be specified, to make it clear what is expected of its members.
SMA executive director Andy Rowley said: “Christmas is the time theatres make their money, which gives them licence to do other things over the year. The key point is, stage managers would argue it’s the same for them.”
He added: “This is the time of year they are typically doing 12 shows a week, sometimes three shows a day, and are working pretty hard. If they are not earning overtime, and they are subsidising their own accommodation, that is making our members’ lives less sustainable in the long term.”
Rowley said many pantomimes were produced under non-industry contracts by companies that “surface during the Christmas period and do very little else”, adding that they “probably feel no pressure to join a trade association”.
He also warned that stage managers were being paid for their work in lump sums, rather than the weekly pay that is normally expected, and said this was “creating cash flow issues for members”.
The SMA is now collating evidence from its members, which it hopes it will be able to use in future discussions.
“If we really want our theatres to be sustainable, we need to make sure our jobs are sustainable. These issues are creating unstable conditions and threaten the sustainability of some of our members across the year,” Rowley said.