Assistant Stage Manager
Before you can be passed the stage manager’s god mic, you will first have to toil in his shadow as an assistant. An assistant stage manager combines the roles of personal assistant, technician, and drudge, with the intent to learn the trade and make the connections necessary to advancement
The ASM reports directly to the stage manager, and is an ancillary assigned to aid in any way necessary to facilitate the smooth run of rehearsals and performances. This means that the specific responsibilities will depend solely on the needs of the production and staff. The assistant stage manager is primarily tasked with taking notes on blocking and cues during rehearsal, but will also be called upon to run errands, make copies of scripts, and wrangle the cast back from their dinner break. There is little downtime; as soon as the ASM finishes one task, the costumer will arrive in need of a human mannequin, or the carpenter will call for all hands on deck to move a massive set piece. The assistant stage manager is a catchall, a go-to person who answers all calls for help. During the run of the show, the ASM is assigned a specific track that may include performing pre-show checks and setting props or costumes. In the event that the stage manager must be absent, this person will fill in to call the show. In rare cases, he or she may be thrown out onstage in the place of an absent actor.
Skills & Education
Experience is necessary to learn how to properly annotate a script and document cues, and basic knowledge of lighting, audio, and carpentry is valuable. A college degree in theatrical design or live show production is recommended, but not required. It’s most important that this person has a thorough knowledge of the production process and is flexible, organized, and comfortable with multitasking. Some acting chops wouldn’t hurt either; it’s a painful experience to watch an untrained ASM suffer through a portrayal of the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father in a case of emergency understudy casting.
What to Expect
You should not be a silent bystander, but an active and outgoing participant during rehearsal and performance. If you see that the running crew needs an extra hand getting the set onstage, run to help. Paging back a curtain or always having a spare pencil for the forgetful actor are small favors that earn big points. The more you prove yourself proactive, accommodating, and prepared, the more jobs you’ll be offered. However, it is important to know your role. Take care not to overstep your bounds; respect the authority of the stage manager and director. No one likes an assistant stage manager who tries to throw his or her weight around. In most cases, the ASM will have very little authority over cast and crew unless formally standing in for the SM. The Actors Equity Association offers a candidate membership program for stage managers in training to gain credits toward membership as a professional SM within the union. Candidates must complete 50 weeks of creditable work with a participating signatory theater.
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