Stage Management Guide

What Does A Stage Manager Do?


In Rehearsals

The Bible

You should be the first one to arrive at the rehearsals, only to set up though.

The most important thing to do in rehearsals is to make the bible/book this is normally a folder (the reason will become apparent). It should be made up as follows

  • The script should be photocopied onto A4 paper (one side only) and these pages should be inserted into the folder.
  • When you turn to a page in the folder you should now have the script on one side of the rings and a blank page on the other. Draw a line down the middle of this blank page.
  • Put some multipunch pockets at the end.
  • I find it help in finding scenes quickly in rehearsals to place a small piece of insulating tape on the first page of each scene and write the scene number on it. That way during the run you (or your Deputy Stage Manager) don't have to 'argue' with multi tab dividers.
  • Ques will also be marked in the book, there are two ways I am aware of, the best depends on how frequent ques are:
    • The standby is red, the go is green and they are joined with a red line
    • Each page has a red and a green line and the standby and go lines are taken off of these

And you should find that it looks something like:



During rehearsals you will need to make a note of the director's blocking, this is done in the outside half of the blank page. There are two main methods to do this

  • Draw an outline of the stage and draw/number arrows, number in the script to mark when they move.
  • Number the script and describe the move, again referring to the numbers, abbreviations can be very useful, here are just some:
XCross / Cross to
->Move To
LStage Left / Stage Left Of
RStage Right / Stage Right Of
C / CtrCentre Stage
Up / UUpstage / Upstage Of
Down / DDown Stage / Down Stage Of
@At / Set To

And incase you don't know where is where they are, remember SR and SL refer to the actor's R and L.

Back Wall
Up SRUp CtrUp SL
Ctr SRCtr (Ctr)Ctr SL
Dn SRDn CtrDn SL

Note that when performing in the round you will have to decide where SR and SL are.


Once you know what pieces of set the director wants where, this will also be stored in the book. It is an idea to keep the top part of this 'notes' column clear on pages which scenes start so you can draw the scene's preset (how it starts).

Director's Notes

During a rehearsal the director may ask you to take a note of something to remind him about / to send to other departments (a pad of paper is useful). These notes not needed later that rehearsal should be stored in one of the multi punch pockets (otherwise you will lose them!)

In The Rehearsal Period

You will be responsible for organising departmental meetings and calling rehearsals (the director may tell you what scenes he wants to rehearse when, it is then up to you to get the cast there).

You are ultimately responsible for acquiring/making the props and chasing up costume/set construction etc.

If the director can not make a rehearsal you will have to run it from the notes in the book but remember you represent the director NEVER supersede him!

Ques must be put in the book, this is what that middle column is for. Under line the que line in green with a small line extending at the go point. This line is extended into the centre column and a red line drawn about half a page up. This red line is then taken onto the script and marks the standby point. The ques name (eg LX12) should be written on both the red and green horizontal lines where it meets the vertical line.

Departmental Meetings

You will be responsible for organising the right amount of these. Remember at the start the director will want to talk to all the designers (set, costume, sound, lighting and maybe more) so as he can layout his plans for the show. (In smaller amateur productions you may well fill some/all of these positions). At the start of (and through) the design process you will want to arrange for the designers to meet to discuss their plans. The designers should do this as if you light some one in red, on a red background and they are wearing red then they are invisible.

The Bible

It's not just the director's notes which should be put in the multipunch pockets you will need quite a few lists, some of the most common I use are:

  • Cast Members (Role, Name, Contact)
  • Back Stage (Role, Name, Contact)
  • Ques (Number, Line, What Happens)
  • People (What for (eg XYZ'z Mask), Name, Contact)
  • Props (Who Uses, Description, When)

It is worth doing these on a computer as changes are easy to do and are neat.

During The Run

In the professional theatre this is where the director will disappear to do another show. From here the stage manager will be responsible for the show; running any rehearsals as necessary, fixing problems etc.

However in most amateur productions the stage manager simply becomes the problem manager and responsible for making sure things happen at the right time.

The Technical Rehearsal(s)

This rehearsal is yours and the back stage teams. The cast are your toys and you get to do what parts of the script as many times as you want.

The Dress Rehearsal(s)

This or these should be run as a performance and timings for each act taken and is normally the first time that everything comes together as a performance.

Running The Show

The show is generally 'run' by the stage manager. Though if you are lucky enough to have a DSM (Deputy Stage Manager), as I was in Children Of Eden, it leaves you free to solve problems (a fact I was glad of!). The procedure for running of the show is as follows:

  • The cast turn up at the time given (normally the half call [35min to curtain up])
  • The backstage team turn up whenever (though in time to have everything tested and on the preset for the doors to open!
  • Everyone receives the quarter call (20min before curtain up) and the 10min (15min before)
  • Everyone receives the 10 minute call (15min before)
  • Everyone receives the 5 minute call (10min before)
  • The Beginners Call goes out at five minutes to curtain up (everyone where they are at the start)
  • The clearance should only be given by the stage manager and only after consultation with FOH (Front Of House)


The show will be qued over the cans (intercom) by the SM (or if there is one the DSM), the procedure is as follows:

  • About half a page before STAND BY LX12
  • The operator replies LX12 STANDING BY
  • On the que it is LX12 GO
  • If it is an 'invisible' que the operator replies LX12 RUNNING


LXQ12 is simply the que number and is broken up as such:

  • LX - lighting
  • SX - sound
  • FX - effects (eg pyros)
  • STAGE - back stage

The number simply meaning the 12th LX que.


Before The Performance

The stage manager has to ensure that everyone is present and everything is set properly. I find the best way to do this is to put a stage hand (normal back stager) at the cast entrance with a cast list while the others put the flats, props etc in the right place, ready to be checked by you. Remember the show does not start until you are happy for it to and the FOH manager gives the OK. An example conversation over the cans (intercom) at points before the show starts is:

  • At beginners I like to check that everyone is OK (they should have told me by now if they're not!):
    • SM: LX OK?
    • LX: LX Ready
    • SM: Sound OK?
    • SOUND: Sound Ready
    • SM: FX OK?
    • FX: Problem
    You would then solve this problem.
  • Starting:
    • SM: Standby LXQ1, FXQ1, SX1.
    • LX: LXQ1 Standing by
    • FX: FXQ1 Standing by
    • SX: SX1 Standing by
    • PAUSE
    • SM: LX1, FX1, SX1 GO
    • LX: Running (if the cue is unlikly to be noticed by the SM)
  • 'Normal Cue:
    • SM: Standby SX3
    • SX: Standing by
    • PAUSE
    • SM: SX3 GO
    • SX: Running (if the cue is unlikly to be noticed by the SM)

If the stage manager is remote from back stage then back stage should be included in the above dialog. If anyone has a problem after saying ready then tell the stage manager, even if you tell him it is cleared seconds later.


The Interval

During the interval calls are given at five minute intervals, for example in a fifteen minute interval; 10 minutes (at the start), 5 minutes, Beginners (five minutes before act 2).

Anything specific to act 1 must be put away and anything specific to act 2 got out. I use the same checking system as at the start.

After The Performance

Everything has to be put away and accounted for - you can only leave once this is done!

Thank everyone collectively and remind them of the call for tomorrow.

Do a stage managers report (it help to take notes through the performance) this details what went wrong and what action was taken or needs to be taken and should be with all departments (even those who don't feature) by first thing the next morning. This is generally ignored in the amateur theatre. Some examples of such a repost can be found at The Show Report.

After The Run

After the hard work of the play (especially by you) every one deserves a cast party. Everyone who had anything to do with the play should be invited and as most jobs it will normally fall upon the stage manager to do.


  • Work closely with the director, designer and lighting designer
  • Attend all rehearsals and keep the book
  • Take rehearsals when the director can not, remembering all the time that you are his representative
  • Oversee the building of the set, costumes and props etc
  • Run the show during the technical and dress rehearsals and during the run


And remember a few things:

  • Stage managers must keep the peace
  • If it needs doing, do it
  • Stay organised and make lists
  • Be assertive, actors don't know anything and you know everything


Final Thoughts

You are to all intent purposes the assistant director but have to take responsibility for the smooth running of the show. Just a few of the challenges this has given me are; calming down a worked up director, calming a nervous actress and having to have stern words with someone over a comment made to someone else (of course done after the show).

Remember a stage manager should able to do anything, in my time I have gone from comforting a nervous actress to re-stabilising a piece of the set in the middle of the performance. The knowledge of what a stage manager does is limited among cast members, as is best summed up by the following conversation I had with an actress: We had just done the initial blocking for each scene and she had realised that I had never gone on the stage, so she asked "Robert what do you do in the play?"
I replied "I'm the stage manager."
This had not enlightened her, as she comes back with "Yes, but what do you actually do?"