The stage manager is responsible for the smooth and safe running of the show once it has opened. This includes resetting the stage and props before every performance, sweeping or mopping the stage if necessary, keeping the wings in order during the show, making sure the cast are in the right place at the right time, and generally dealing with any major or minor crises that may arise. All stage combat sequences need to be choreographed by a properly qualified fight director, but in the fight director’s absence during show week it is usually the stage manager who is responsible for running fight calls for any fights and stunts in the show. When appropriate, the stage management team will also be responsible for set changes.
The stage manager is also responsible for sourcing the props for the show. This involves careful study of the script, attendance at rehearsals, and discussions with the director to create a props list and then buying, hiring (usually from the OUTTS Props Store), or making the props, which in student drama can also include furniture. If the props list includes consumables such as food, cigarettes, or items which are broken on stage, the stage manager will need to arrange for these to be replaced for each show. If any props, particularly paper, are potentially flammable, the SM should flame check them. One of the most important responsibilities of the stage manager is to stop the show in the case of an emergency, such as a fire alarm, serious injury on stage, or dangerous technical fault. This is extremely rare but is an important situation to be prepared for.
For a medium to large show, there will be at least one assistant stage manager to help the stage manager with scene changes, props maintenance, and any emergencies. ASMs should be invited to attend production meetings and paper techs, so that they understand the show thoroughly, and so that they gain a fuller understanding of the stage manager’s role, since they may later go on to stage manage shows themselves.
For any show at the Playhouse and the occasional medium scale show where the technicians on stage level need to communicate via comms to the technicians in the box or at fly level, you should have a deputy stage manager. A DSM will create and maintain a prompt script, and when appropriate, a musical score, which contains all the stage, lighting, sound, and fly cues and will verbally cue each operator via comms for the duration of the show. At the Playhouse, the DSM will also run the technical rehearsal.
In Oxford theatre, a company stage manager (CSM) is responsible for managing the cast while in the space; maintaining order backstage, and ensuring that actors are where they need to be at all times. This is not a common role in Oxford, and normally the Stage Manager and/or ASMs will have these responsibilities. On productions with very large casts and/or bands, particularly in the Playhouse, some companies have introduced this role in order to take pressure off the rest of the stage management team.
The National Theatre have an extensive collection of props available to hire from their store in London. Entry Pass members (the NT’s membership scheme for 14-25 year olds) are eligible for a discount.