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Stage manager Katie Jackson: Make the company manager your friend – it’s the smart thing to do

Joni Carter is resident company manager at London's Royal Court. Photo: Anoushka Warden
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No matter what your role on a production, making friends with the company manager is one of the smartest things you can do. The company manager is the motherboard of the computer, the source of all knowledge and power (they have the petty cash).

By 8am, a good company manager will have been up and answering emails for two hours. They know what is happening, when it’s happening and where. Whether you are the director, the props supervisor, an actor or a costume assistant, you will at some point during the process have to go to the company manager for help.

From the beginning of rehearsals, they oversee more than anyone else is conscious of. They make sure the daily running of the rehearsal room is smooth. They deal with actors coming to them with parking tickets or covering the deputy stage manager on the book when their train is delayed.

They handle press requests and make sure cast members are scheduled for their radio/newspaper/TV interviews at a time that doesn’t impede the progress of the director’s work. And they’re the person ensuring the actor’s safe, and timely, return. When it gets to the running of the show, they have to change gear and take on a whole other set of responsibilities. If it’s a big show with a small team, they might have their own backstage track.

‘Whether you are the director, the props supervisor, an actor or a costume assistant, you will at some point during the process have to go to the company manager for help’

They will have to do this around emails from the producers about sales reports or sorting ticket requests from company members, that will have to be relayed back through the producer’s office to the theatre’s box office before being confirmed with the company member. They liaise with front of house every day, keeping tabs on things such as programme sales, whether more need to be ordered and when.

If touring, the role expands again. If a company member has a problem with their digs, the company manager finds them somewhere new to stay. If the lead actor is commuting from home for the week because the theatre is in the Home Counties, but their train is severely delayed, the company manager prepares front of house and the understudy. The DSM is sick in bed with food poisoning and there’s no book cover, the company manager calls the show.

With international touring, the role expands yet again (exponentially so if the cast you’re touring with has a different first language to you). Flights have to be caught by every member of the cast and crew, therefore airports have to be arrived at and group check-ins have to be supervised.

In countries with significant language barriers, company shuttles from hotels to theatres and back have to be arranged. Lost luggage has to be tracked down.

The essence of the company comes from the company manager. It is their devotion and discipline that makes everyone else’s job possible.

Company manager Joni Carter: ‘You might think famous actors don’t get nervous, but they do’

Katie Jackson is a freelance stage manager. Read more of her columns at: thestage.co.uk/author/katie-jackson

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