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Stage Management at HW

By Sophia ’23

Hi! My name is Sophia , and I’m a student stage manager. Today, I want to tell you about our AMAZING theater program, and what my job specifically is! A stage manager’s job is essentially to be the director of everything except the actors. You’re in charge of coordinating the show and rehearsals, and making sure everything runs smoothly. 

During the rehearsal process, I attend around three out of the five rehearsals we have every week. I write down the blocking, choreography, where everyone is, and essentially everything that happens. I have a massive binder that I’ve color coordinated with different colors for different notes (erasable pens of course, I’m not a monster) – pink for line changes, light blue for blocking, dark green for choreography, orange for set, dark blue for props, and, well, you get the idea. To some that may sound boring, but I honestly love the organization and planning that goes into preparing for the shows. I also stand in when people are absent. I’ve stood in for different people in different scenes and dances, and by now know basically the entire show. Standing in is helpful for the choreographers to block the dance, because they know where the other people will be and don’t have to imagine a blank space. 

I love all parts of being a stage manager, but I’ve definitely saved the most fun (and most stressful) part for last – calling the show. During the actual show itself, it’s all on you. You decide what happens when, from the first cue (house lights to half) to the very last (house lights up after the curtain call). The stage manager is on a headset with the students running the light board, sound board, and backstage, and they call what happens when. The stage manager reads through a (very heavily marked) script, and directs everyone when to change the lights, make a sound cue go, or move a set piece. I love being  a stage manager, but it definitely gets stressful – sometimes you’re calling up to 10 cues each on specific words on the same page of the script! Additionally, if anything goes wrong, you’re on call to fix the problem right away. If a prop is missing, you better have a solution. If a costume breaks? You’re on it. This goes for before the show and during – you’re the de facto “something’s going wrong and someone needs to fix it” person, and I absolutely love that role. During one show I stage managed, an actress lost her shoe during a number, and someone on the tech team had to go on and grab it during a blackout! 

Lastly, to wrap up, I want to share some of the most important skills I’ve learned from being a stage manager, and why I love it. It’s taught me about problem solving, and being able to make split-second decisions to fix problems. It’s taught me how to lead a team, and direct my peers. It’s taught me about teamwork, working together, depending on others, holding each other accountable, and supporting those around me. Yes, it’s taught me leadership skills, but it’s also quite simply a fun activity – I love the backstage energy before a show, everyone freaking out about something and trying to stay calm to fix the last minute problem, getting to celebrate with the cast after a show, and getting to see my peers react to the shows we’ve worked so hard on. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend getting involved with theater (or stage management!) at Harvard-Westlake.

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Tags: , , Last modified: January 18, 2022