So You Wanna Be A Stage Manager?
I've spent some time this afternoon working on my resume. It has been collecting dust on my desktop these past four years while I had the great fortune to work on "Rock of Ages". A long-running gig like that does not come along everyday and I am so grateful for the stars aligning and allowing me that experience, especially during this time in my life when I've been starting my family. Stage management, and theater in general, has little in the form of job security, so I feel very lucky to have had that steady work for as long as I did.
Looking for work as a stage manager is the weirdest. It really does not get any easier, even almost twenty years into this career. There are no job listings anywhere, no "hiring" signs on stage doors, no agents calling us with job openings. Its all word of mouth, networking and being in the right place at the right time. I've really only gotten a handful of jobs by sending out blind resumes alone (which is a little depressing as I am about to do that very thing this week). Being on the road since 2006 and then engrossed in family life since being back in New York since 2011, I sort of feel like I don't know anyone anymore. It feels a little like starting out all over again.
I moved to New York in 2002 and knew maybe three people working in theater here. One of them was a stage manager named Nancy Harrington, who gave me my first New York job (and Broadway show) working as a sub on "The Full Monty". I will be ever grateful to Nancy as that job got the ball rolling for me. I sent a lot of resumes out blindly in those days and basically said "yes" to working on every single project I could - from benefits to unpaid showcases to production assistant work. I tried to meet as many people working in the business as possible.
Things haven't changed too much in the years since, in terms of how the business works. Stage management is still very much a field that uses apprenticeship to educate and train aspiring stage managers, and networking is still the primary way to get a job once you have some training under your belt.
There are however a couple of really awesome resources now available right here in New York for young stage managers. The first is the Broadway Stage Management Symposium which will be held here in May. My friend Matt Stern (who coincidentally I worked with on "The Full Monty") is putting this event together and he reached out to tell me all about it last week. The Symposium will take place over two days and will be a series of lectures and seminars given by Broadway's most experienced stage managers. Topics will include note-taking and organization, running rehearsals and tech, paperwork, technology for stage managers, databases, safety, career advice, managing creative artists, leadership and more. Along with Q&A sessions, and networking events, participants will also attend a Broadway show and then meet the stage manager of that show afterward and have the opportunity to ask questions. I told Matt the other day that I wished something like this had been available when I was just getting out of school, but honestly, I kind of still want to attend now! This is shaping up to be a fantastic event and the list of stage managers already involved is really impressive. For more information check out the Symposium's website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other great resource here in New York is Broadway Basics. These are intensive one-day stage management workshops that are held a number of times every year, taught by my friend Christy Ney and her colleague from "Wicked", Marybeth Abel. These are small, focused classes taught by two of Broadway's best. Another resource I wish had been around when I first moved here! You can find the Broadway Basics website here or email them for more information at email@example.com.
I've had a couple of young stage managers contact me recently asking for advice on how to break into the business, and after telling them about these new opportunities here in town, I thought I should write about them here as well, to help get the word out. I can't stress enough how great it is for young people wanting to become stage managers to have these resources available.
To read more about my journey of becoming a stage manager, check out this post here.
And now I'm off to finish updating my resume. Wish me luck!