During my years of submersion in the Southwestern University Theatre Department, I noticed a void in the production process. There was no singular resource for students and guest artists new to the University.
Through no fault of their own, students and guests were handicapped until they surpassed the average learning curve of two full semesters. Those who sought more knowledge had to pick up on guidelines and established etiquette through word of mouth. This was not an efficient method of harnessing talent, and repeatedly led to mistakes that could have been prevented simply by making common knowledge accessible.
This is the culmination of a yearlong Honors Capstone Project focused on Production Stage Management. The role of Production Stage Manager (PSM) is difficult to define. Some theaters use the title to differentiate between their calling stage manager and their backstage managers. For the purposes of this project, a PSM is a stage manager who works on multiple shows and organizes a season or festival as a whole.
The research for this guide consisted of several parts. The first was field experience as the PSM for the 2010-2011 season. I organized fall and spring auditions, attended production meetings for all six shows, assembled a production calendar, and was the Stage Manager for both THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER and INTO THE WOODS. I took notes of frequently asked questions, distribution of responsibilities, call times, and deadlines. I researched official guidelines for actors, stage managers, and designers set forth by two major unions, the Actors Equity Association (AEA) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). I also conducted interviews with several students and faculty members about their roles within the department. Finally, I found several similar guides to examine structure, layout, and tone.
I gave two public presentations of this project. The first was at the Student Works Symposium, and the second was for my Capstone Committee and interested students. The guide itself was read and vetted not just by the committee but also by students and outside professionals.
This guide is not meant to restrict or confine the artistic process. It is not a formula or recipe. This document contains general guidelines intended to lay a foundation. It is a starting point for the creation and modification necessary to adapt to each unique theatre production. By its very nature, theatre is in constant metamorphosis. There is no perfect process for creating art--each piece must be evaluated individually to achieve the best results. The guidelines presented are intended to streamline and empower creativity, not inhibit it. When approaching a new piece, it is important to remember that there are certain principles that stand above arbitrary rules and regulations—respect for one another, love of discovery, and the willingness to lose oneself in the creation of beauty.
“I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own.”
-Michel de Montaigne