Stage Manager Skills: Definition, Examples And Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A stage manager is a theatre professional who ensures a seamless production operation. This includes overseeing all technical elements of production while managing people, solving problems and tackling any unexpected challenges. Stage managers require a variety of soft and hard skills, and knowing about them can help you develop and use those skills more consciously in your stage management career. In this article, we discuss all the necessary stage manager skills, guide you on how to improve them, provide practical tips and show you how to highlight them in essential job documents.

What Are Stage Manager Skills?

Stage manager skills are technical and transferable abilities that enable professionals to coordinate with producers, directors, cast and crew members before and during a theatrical production to ensure high-quality stage performance. This can involve creating a rehearsal schedule, collaborating with staff to plan costumes and set designs, managing a production budget and giving signals to actors when it is their time to go on stage. To perform all of their duties, a stage manager needs a special set of skills essential for managing a theatre production.

Related: How To Become A Set Designer (With Duties And Career Tips)

7 Important Skills For A Stage Manager

Here are the crucial abilities required to become an excellent stage manager, along with explanations of how they can help in your career:

1. Organisation

A stage manager coordinates all the production elements such as organising rehearsal schedules, planning budgets, creating prompt scripts, arranging the set changes, lighting cues and actors' movements, remembering the rehearsal and call times and keeping the contact information of the crew and cast members. This requires organisation skills throughout the production schedule to avoid any errors or last-minute panics.

2. Communication

Stage managers liaise with all theatre departments, including the directors, crew and cast members. They collate information, explain concepts and make plans with the stage crew, direct the performers and create schedules and budgets with the theatre staff. This role requires extensive collaboration for which excellent communication skills are a necessity.

Related: Collaboration Skills: Definition, Benefits And Examples

3. Management

A stage manager delegates responsibility to various members of the production staff, sets team goals, designs plans, makes essential production decisions, solves problems, motivates team members, provides honest feedback and resolves conflicts. This role requires management skills by definition, as it involves leading and managing people and ensuring everyone has what they require to perform their best during the shows. Here are some key management skills:

  • Strategy and development

  • Decision making

  • Problem-solving

  • Negotiation

  • Delegation

  • Leadership

  • Team building

  • Motivation

Related: How To Develop Effective People Management Skills

4. Versatility

Stage managers are knowledgeable in all aspects of the theatre. They can think like a lighting designer, director, actor, make up artist and prop handler all at once, which helps them recognise and solve problems throughout the rehearsal process for all aspects of production work. Having the versatility of knowledge and practical experience also makes it easier to call technical cues and work with each theatre department to create a better show overall.

5. Multitasking

A stage manager oversees the production planning, manages the cast and crew, follows directors, supports actors, arranges costume fittings, coordinates sound and light, manages props, furniture and set, runs rehearsals and handles countless other tasks. They need strong multitasking skills to handle different activities at once, save time and ensure quality performance.

6. Technical proficiency

Stage managers use certain software programs to create schedules, budgets and scripts. They also supervise the light and sound design, stage layout and other technical aspects of production and rehearsals. They need a variety of technical knowledge to manage the stage crew and solve any technical problems on the spot. If you have extensive technical skills, you can be independent of any reliance on others' expertise or judgement and can handle the responsibilities of a stage manager efficiently.

7. Attention to detail

A great stage manager can look at a stage set-up and figure out what is missing or incorrect, be it the set, lighting or props, and make it perfect by correcting any fine errors. They oversee every operation and ensure every piece of equipment is working. They keep track of the most minute details, including any errors on the performer's part. With exceptional attention to detail skills, stage managers can quickly notice issues and get them fixed to deliver quality performance.

Read more: Attention To Detail: Definition, Examples And Tips

How To Improve Your Skills As A Stage Manager

Follow these steps to improve your existing skills and become a better stage manager:

1. Gain theatre experience

To be able to manage a theatre production efficiently, it is important to know how a theatre runs. Your theatre experience can come from a variety of sources, including theatre classes, internship opportunities and backstage work experience. Ideally, it is better if a stage manager has worked in a variety of theatre positions to understand all components of a play's production.

2. Start networking

When you try to network with influential and talented people, you can learn a lot of skills and pick up subtle techniques that you cannot learn from a book or a class. It is a great opportunity to exercise your communication skills and settle into the theatre community of your area or state. Besides, networking can also help you land more jobs and contribute to your career development.

3. Practise working under pressure

The more you work in a theatre or any other high-pressure environment, the better your chances of managing stress and remaining calm under all circumstances. This is a crucial requirement to be able to exercise any of your other skills. If you remain impassive, you can better focus your skills and energy on what has to get done at the moment.

4. Widen your perspective

Letting go of your own perceptions can help you open up to alternative points of view. After adequate self-assessment, you can try to imagine the mindset of your colleagues. Use whatever you know about them, including their work history, their strengths and weaknesses, to better understand their standpoint and the reason an issue is arising. This practice can help you address issues before they develop fully and manage people better.

5. Work with experienced stage managers

If you work as an assistant stage manager or even work in the vicinity of an experienced stage manager, you can get direct access to observing how a skilled stage manager works. You can pick up on their work style, ethics and other tips and tricks. You can even ask them for advice on how to use people skills and technical abilities while also organising everything and foreseeing any problems.

Related: Management Skills: Definition And Examples

Tips For Using Your Stage-Managing Abilities In The Workplace

Here are some practical tips you can follow for a successful career as a stage manager:

  • Set up meetings. Hold production and design meetings as required, ideally before the production begins, so that you are aware of the producer's and director's expectations and can plan accordingly.

  • Utilise others' expertise. While you may know a significant amount on a certain subject, someone else may know more. Use their knowledge and experience to make the theatre production even better.

  • Get to know your crew better. Knowing people's personalities, attitudes, habits and skill levels can not only help you delegate tasks but also anticipate problems.

  • Find the right colleagues. Look for people who complement your skills and help you become a better stage manager, and keep working with them.

  • Respond to the challenges of the present show. Instead of trying things that worked on previous shows, try something new that makes sense for the current production. You may use new techniques or create an entirely new system.

  • Prepare for emergencies. Have proper safety protocols in place for every kind of mishap that can happen during production, from inappropriate behaviour to fire, injuries and other safety hazards.

  • Seek support. Acknowledge when you need support and ask others to help you out when you are struggling.

How To Highlight Your Stage Manager Skills

To ensure you get through each stage of the application and selection process, here are some examples of how to highlight your skills as a stage manager in your resume, cover letter and interview answers:

For resume

Here is a sample resume skill section for a stage manager:

Organisation: time management, scheduling, planning
Management: delegation, leadership, problem solving

For cover letter

Here is a segment of a sample cover letter for a stage manager:

'I have a solid background in providing comprehensive creative support and leadership for high-level theatre productions. My inherent passion for stage production and coordination and my skills of communication and organisation helped me spearhead all aspects of theatrical productions for 42 shows comprising up to 50 cast members with the prestigious Rangleela Theatre Company. I believe I can significantly benefit your organisation through my professional experience in show production and stage management, along with my talents in creative project coordination and team collaboration.'

For interviews

Here is a sample answer to interview questions you may face regarding your skills as a stage manager:

'As an experienced stage manager, some of my greatest skills include my ability to organise and coordinate various aspects of theatrical productions along with my talent in leading and managing people. I am also adept at solving any production problems spontaneously. In my five years of working as a stage manager, my previous employers have repeatedly praised my ability to manage the production budget efficiently and run the production schedules on time.'

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