Creative Stars Update: Stage Management Workshop at Royal Exchange, 24 August 2011

As part of our Creative Stars participant development, we took the group to an stage management workshop at Royal Exchange. Here’s Mike’s post about it all.

If 100 people had to list the most interesting jobs, stage management wouldn’t normally crop up in too many lists. That, and my general ignorance as to what a stage manager does, is why my initial expectations of the stage management workshop at the Royal Exchange were quite pessimistic.

But after being introduced to Lee (the Royal Exchanges company stage manager) I, along with five other members of the Creative Stars, were pleasantly surprised to find that stage management is actually a very challenging, and probably the most essential job in stage productions.

The room we were in seemed quite formal and office-like, but after a quick-fire introductory name-game to turn the formality-meter down, we were all eased into Lee’s Q&A about what stage management is and what deputy, assistant, company and regular stage managers do.

The group was later divided into two for a race… SM style!!! Each team had to create an accurate 3 metre by 3 metre square on the floor with tape (this was one of the tasks a SM would do, but on a larger scale). My team’s colour was green, the other; blue. The race of the Great Greens vs. The Battling Blues was upon us and it was probably an iconic race, and in a parallel universe, my Greens won! And that’s all you need to know…

After this epic competition (and back in this part of the space time continuum) we all watched a few short vox-pops about the industry and who SM’s, CSM’s, DSM’s and ASM’s work with, what skills are required of a SM and what challenges arise on the job. All I can say is stage management should be left to people who can deal with a surplus of simultaneous stress and pressure.

After the videos and some more questions, we went to the green room of the Royal Exchange (which is orange, ironically) and had a break before going on a tour of the whole venue. We were taken to the actors’ dressing rooms, then all the way to the wardrobe, washing area and finally the theatre of the Royal Exchange. At each stop we’d learnt more about what different members of the crew did and how they related to the stage manager during the production.

The workshop was capped off with another chat with Lee about stage management and how it’s possible to become one with only confidence and keenness. More and more courses for stage management are opening up around the country too and I would recommend them to anyone interested in theatre because, quietly, stage managers are what make that industry tick.

This workshop was very pleasant mix of fun and information which I enjoyed thoroughly, thanks to Cornerhouse, the Creative Stars, The Royal Exchange and that nice dude, Lee.

Written by Creative Star, Mike Nickson (August 2011)