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The Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

BARN MEMBERS' MANUAL

Stage Management at the Barn – Rough Guide

Introduction

Like all theatres every production requires a Stage Manager (SM) to be responsible for the management of each performance to ensure the smooth running of the shows and that the requirements of the production are delivered to the audience.

The role carries a high degree of responsibility and authority but can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the theatre.

The Barn currently has a season of 9 productions on the Main Stage and 3 or 4 in the Studio each requiring a Stage Manager together with support staff. The Barn is fundamentally a venue where members enjoy both amateur drama with all that goes with it and a place for social interaction, in short members belong for fun.

However, it is a fact of life that the plays have to be produced to effectively ‘professional’ standards, satisfy required health and safety regulations and also to create a profit (which is one reason why we do all these productions) in order to maintain the building and the club, which means the Barn has to produce productions of a good standard to encourage and maintain audiences. An essential element of achieving this quality is the standard of stage management.

This guide has been created to help all those who stage-manage or have an interest in stage management at the Barn Theatre. The purpose is to provide some essential help and guidance both into the techniques of stage management and what is required in the role at the Barn with a clear aim of continual improvement of the stage management skills. The guide can be applied to any theatre even though each theatre is unique and can exhibit a variety of different features; the principles however are the same. The guide does not cover every eventuality that may be encountered, one of the joys of stage management is the unexpected ‘challenge’, but if there are any concerns or unanswered questions, please contact the Stage Director in the first instance.

Stage Management

The Stage Manager has the following responsibilities:

  • Managing rehearsals.
  • Managing shows.
  • Ensure the stage is a safe place for actors and crew.
  • Providing an environment that will nurture the creative process.
  • Serving as the communication hub between the director, technical staff, actors and front of house.

Because the job requires you to be so multifaceted, it is both challenging and extremely rewarding.

Although a stage manager is not expected to do everything, he/she is responsible for making sure that everything gets done.

The Role

Stage managing is a unique job. While the Stage Manager may not be a designer, director, or actor (although they can be), they play a leading role and are an intricate part of the creative process. Being a part of the coming together of such an intensely collaborative effort, even in the smallest production, can be a truly amazing experience.

At the Barn

The Barn is fundamentally no different from any other theatre in the way it produces shows. However, every theatre has its own individual characteristics and features, sometimes unique; the Barn is no exception. To gain a good understanding of how we expect productions to be staged, read the Barn Theatre Main Stage and Studio Production Rough Guides in conjunction with these notes.

The Barn produces plays on both the Main Stage and in the Studio. Although both are different in configuration and capability, the principles of Stage Management are the same, so this guide applies to both.

The director of a play at the Barn usually chooses the Stage Manager either by personal choice or by accepting a volunteer. To be accepted, there should be some evidence of stage management experience, preferably at the Barn, although this is not necessarily a reason for exclusion. The Stage Director can veto the director’s choice if the chosen person is considered unsuitable. Note: It is a Barn rule that Stage Managers are not allowed to manage consecutive productions.

At the Barn, the Stage Manager (SM) is expected to carry out the following:

  • Coordinate the work of all the technical departments involved with the production.
  • Prepare the ‘Prompt Book’ marked up for actors’ entrances and scene changes, lighting, sound, and effects cues to ensure the orderly running of the show. The SM will use the ‘Prompt Book’ to run each performance.
  • A typical Prompt Book will consist of the script (provided by the director) on one page with cues and blocking information on the facing page. There are variations on this, so it is down to personal choice on how to layout the Prompt Book.
  • Choose Assistant Stage Managers and stage crew. The number required depends on each production, but it is essential that there is at least one supporting the SM. This is because the SM will need support ‘on the other side of the stage’ and to delegate tasks while they maintain overall control of the show.
  • Be responsible for ensuring that members of the crew work safely (the stage can be a dangerous place) and that both cast and crew are aware of emergency procedures. It is important that the SM takes time to formally advise everybody involved with the production (cast and crew) what the emergency procedures are.
  • Know where all the fire extinguishers/fire blankets are positioned and how to use them.
  • Know where the First Aid box and accident book are kept.
  • Be familiar with the facilities and limitations of the Barn Stage and Studio. The SM’s input at the design stage may be important if settings involve scenery movements or other stage mechanics/effects.
  • Ensure that the set design is fully understood, in particular, what special effects are required. The SM must ensure that all special effects are designed and operated safely. If in any doubt, advice from others must be sought.
  • The SM would be responsible for negotiating with the Stage Director for any special requirements on stage and for seeing that particular facilities are available.
  • Once on stage, the Stage Director will provide a set of keys to the SM, which allows access to Workshop, Props, Furniture, Wardrobe, Lighting Box, and emergency door padlocks. Note the Workshop is also on a coded lock, the code will be provided.
  • Access to the theatre during rehearsals and especially during the show is via the Stage Door at the rear of the theatre. This is a coded lock; details of the code will be provided.
  • Access to the Studio is through the Clubroom or via the external on the ramp. This is a coded lock; details of the code will be provided.
  • The SM is responsible for the safe operation of all special effects irrespective of who initiates/operates them. He will be expected to produce Risk Assessments if required which the Stage Director must approve.
  • SMs will be expected to manage all backstage staff and be responsible for all cast and crew discipline.
  • The SM should attend as many rehearsals as possible. It cannot be emphasised enough how extremely important it is that the SM attends as many rehearsals as possible with particular attention to the early rehearsals where the play is being formulated. This is to ensure that not only a full understanding of the play is gained but also to be in a position to work with the director and actors in staging the show.
  • If required, the SM should set out the rehearsal room to temporarily mark the position of entrances etc.
  • At the completion of rehearsal, the SM is responsible for ensuring the room is left clean and tidy with all props/furniture stored away.
  • During the set construction period, it is the responsibility of the SM (working with the Set Building and Set Dressing Teams) to ensure that the set meets not only the production requirements but is also constructed safely and is ‘fit for purpose’. ‘Walking the set’ before use by the actors is essential.
  • Responsible for hanging front tabs, curtains, and masking as required.
  • Each production will require a Risk Assessment to be produced. This is the responsibility of the Stage Manager, to be submitted to the Stage Director no later than one week before the first night. Ask the Stage Director if guidance is needed. (See Reference 5).
  • From the beginning of the Dress Rehearsal (normally the one before opening night), the SM is fully in charge ‘behind the curtain’ of the running of the show every night.
  • Before the start of each night’s run, the SM must arrive in advance of all cast and crew to ensure the theatre and stage/Studio are prepared and that all is functioning correctly. The SM must ensure that the relevant operator checks Lighting and Sound in good time before curtain up, usually no later than 30 mins before. There is a Stage Manager’s Check List at the SM station.
  • The Barn has the following communication systems:
    • Main Stage
      • A hand-held microphone talk-back to the Green Room/Dressing Rooms/Props Corridor.
      • Headphones with microphone that allows communication with the stage area and the Control Box.
      • Stage relay which is heard in the Dressing Rooms and Green Room.
      • A CCTV system which relays images of the stage to Dressing Rooms, Green Room, Props Corridor and both Stage Left and Right.
    • Studio
      • A walkie-talkie system to enable communication with the lighting box or other areas required (there are 4 walkie-talkies).
  • At the end of each show, the SM is responsible for ensuring the stage is prepared for the next performance, all wing spaces and corridors are tidy, emergency doors secure, the lights and power turned off and the stage door secured shut.
  • At the end of the production, the SM is responsible for ensuring the Get Out is carried out and completed by mid-day on the day following the last performance (normally a Sunday morning), all cast and crew to be present and given instructions as to what to do. At the end of the Get Out, the stage, wings, corridors, dressing rooms, Green Room, Kitchen and Room 1 must be clear, clean and tidy. The stage floor and walls must be painted back to black, and the cyclorama back to white (unless directed otherwise by the Stage Director). The Stage Director, Workshop Manager and others will support the Get Out but it is the Stage Manager who is responsible for ensuring the Get Out is carried out correctly
  • At the end of the Get Out, the Stage Manager’s Keys are to be returned to the Stage Director
  • Any difficulties or problems experienced during the run of the production are to be communicated to the Stage Director.

Reference Documents

The following documents should be read in conjunction with this Guide:

  1. Main Stage Production Rough Guide
  2. Studio Production Rough Guide
  3. Stage Managers Check List
  4. Child Protection Policy and Guide
  5. Barn Risk Assessment for the TheatreEmergency Procedures

Created by Robert Gill
Last update:
24th May 2024

 

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