Stage manager Katie Jackson: So you don’t want my autograph? Suits me
I was on the tube recently with my company stage manager, heading to our respective homes after a two-show day. A few seats down was a young man, sitting with his friends, valiantly attempting the final belt in Wicked’s signature song Defying Gravity and enthusiastically praising the show.
I nudged my CSM, who had worked on Wicked for a few years, and made a comment, which the young man heard. As it was late on a Saturday night, he came over to discuss the matter further with us. When asked about his role on the show, my colleague replied that he had been part of the stage management team. The young man’s face fell, with the honesty that only a drunk person’s can, and he said sorrowfully: “Oh, I hoped you had been one of the actors.”
This is something we hear a lot as technicians, whenever someone outside the industry finds out what we do for a living. “Oh, you work in theatre? Are you an actor?” (After explaining we are not performers, we often go for as broad a job description as possible, such as “I work backstage” or “I’m a technician”.)
Some theatre workers take these comments – or assumptions – as a slight. Personally, I enjoy it, as it reinforces for me one of the most treasured benefits of the job.
The anonymity that I am afforded by being a stage manager is very valuable to me. Yes, it’s nice to have your name in a programme and, if you’re lucky, sometimes you even get a biography attached to your credit. However, I can walk out of the stage door and autograph hunters and fans will turn a blind eye to me.
Okay, so I’ve never had someone buy me a TV just because they liked a show I was in, which genuinely happened to an actor I worked with a few years ago. While I can imagine that there might be nice added benefits to that job, I am happy in the knowledge I can go home every evening and not be threatened with a barrage of abuse on Twitter for not spending long enough at the stage door signing programmes.
I can go to all the nice places, drink the nice wines, eat the nice foods and do my job in some of the top theatres in the country just like all the famous actors, comedians, writers and musicians that I work with.
It is a small price to pay to regularly see the excitement die in the eyes of teenage girls waiting at the stage door. I know their hearts were leaping as the hinges start creaking, only for me in black clothing and a scarf to emerge rather than one of the cast.
Their disappointment in my lack of stardom serves as a gentle reminder that when I leave the building I work in, I’m lucky that that’s me done for the evening.