I recently finished being an assistant stage manager for Opera Boston's production of Cardillac. Which is weird, because I didn't study stage management in school.
Well, that's not true. I took a class in STAGE MANAGEMENT while I was at Emerson, mostly because I needed more credits for my secondary emphasis in directing, but there were only two directing classes. I took playwrighting and stage management to fill in the blanks.
Though the class was mostly freshmen who had a DESIRE to stage manage, I sat in the back with Jon Ryan, mostly being actors, and seniors, and trying to learn sometimes.
I actually thought it might be cool to be a stage managing actor, a multi-class player, like a guitarist who's also a samurai. That way I could do what I like and am good at most of the time, and then sometimes manage stages.
I ended up doing a bit of this and that, and I was paid most of the time. Often I'd look at my paychecks, mind-boggled, thinking, "I'm getting paid for this?"
I guess as a rule no one gets paid for something they deeply enjoy doing. The responsibilities of the stage manager are so confusing that I assume there's a lot to cut through before you get to whatever you could call "joy". The things a stage manager does from the start of production to the end of the last performance are so wide-ranging; from formalities like reminders and paperwork that are at times convenient or excessive, to being the font of knowledge and pillar of communication that supports the entire crew through the show.
They have to deal with designers, actors, EVERYBODY reports to the stage manager, and the stage manager is at some point a part of all of their god damn problems.
It takes a very particular person to fill the role of a stage manager. Someone who can stay calm, organized, and friendly while everything around them is trying its best to make them crazy and enraged. I may not be especially organized, but my zen-like patience has seen me through every managerial role I've played.
The stage manager for this last job was very encouraging, told me that I had a good personality for this kind of job, that I could certainly find work in summer stock. And I realized it was probably true.
Does the six-string samurai have to choose between his guitar and his katana?