Stage Management Skills: Definition and Examples
Updated June 24, 2022
A stage manager is a theater professional who ensures a production operates correctly. They oversee all technical elements of production including rehearsals, stage sets and equipment. Stage managers need a variety of hard and soft skills to complete all of their production tasks. In this article, we list some common stage management skills, ways you can improve them and how you can highlight them when applying for a job.
Read more: 26 Jobs for Theater Majors To Pursue
What are stage management skills?
Stage management skills are the skills professionals use when managing a theater production. A theater stage manager is a leader who plans and supervises all practical aspects of a production. They work with a director to ensure a performance runs correctly. Their duties can involve creating a rehearsal schedule, collaborating with staff to plan costumes and set designs, managing a production budget and giving signals to actors that it's their time to go on stage. To perform all of their duties, a stage manager needs a special set of skills.
Examples of stage management skills
Here are some important skills a stage manager can use to succeed in their role:
Communication is one of the most important skills for stage managers. Stage managers collaborate with directors, cast and crew during a theater production. They need to explain concepts, plans and strategies with the stage crew. They also need to give directions to the performers and communicate with the theater staff to create schedules and budgets. Stage managers can use strong communication skills to express these complex ideas clearly and effectively.
Read more: Communication Skills for Career Success
A stage manager oversees all practical aspects of a theatrical production. They need strong organizational skills to ensure a play runs smoothly. They organize rehearsal schedules, plan budgets and create a prompt script that details the movements and changes during a production. For example, they organize and plan the set changes, lighting cues and actors' movements.
Attention to detail
Similar to organizational skills, strong attention to detail can help a stage manager plan the details of a play. They give cues to the performers and other crew members such as the lighting team and the stagehands who control props. They need strong attention to detail to ensure they time each cue correctly.
Read more: Attention to Detail: Definition and Examples
A stage manager oversees many groups of people at once. They may need to explain concepts multiple times, practice certain movements and rehearse scenes repeatedly. Patience can help a stage manager rehearse and review a performance many times.
Empathy can help stage managers connect with their crew members and build positive relationships. Actors and crew members might face challenges during a production. A stage manager can use empathy to understand these challenges and show compassion to their crew. This can lead to more effective leadership.
Stage managers can use confidence to present information effectively. They can use confidence to give directions to multiple groups of people, present information to others and negotiate budgets. Confidence can also help stage managers make important decisions during a performance.
When planning a play, stage managers use problem-solving skills to overcome challenges and reach productive solutions. For example, if they run into a challenge involving the budget, they can use problem-solving skills to analyze the situation, brainstorm solutions and choose an effective strategy.
Computer and technical skills
Stage managers may use computer or technology skills when managing a production. They might create schedules, budgets or scripts using certain software programs. They also need a variety of technical knowledge to manage the stage crew. They need to know about lighting, design and stage layouts to direct a team.
Successful stage managers use leadership skills to motivate and inspire their crew members. Leadership skills involve maintaining a positive idea, fostering teamwork and being dependable. For example, they might inspire the cast during a long rehearsal or providing positive feedback to a crew member.
Read more: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples
Stage managers need strong management skills, including delegation, conflict resolution and vision. This can help them divide tasks fairly, recognize growth and create positive teams. They can also use management skills to create team goals and design plans.
Read more: 21 Skills of a Good Manager
How to improve stage management skills
Consider following these tips to help you develop your stage management skills:
1. Take theater classes
A theater class can help you develop technical skills and knowledge. Consider exploring your local colleges and theaters to see what classes are available near you. Some locations offer courses in acting, lighting, set design and stage management.
2. Gain backstage experience
One of the most important things a stage manager can do to develop skills is gain theater experience. This can help you develop theater knowledge, technical skills and communication skills. Consider exploring local schools, theaters and playhouses to find productions near you.
3. Explore internship experience
Some companies offer internships in the entertainment or theater industries. Through an internship, aspiring stage managers can develop technical skills, organizational skills and relationship-building skills.
4. Consider additional education
Some stage managers develop skills through their education. This is usually optional for most stage management roles, but a degree in stage management could help you refine your management and technical skills. Stage managers may pursue a bachelor's in stage management or theater management. Some stage managers also pursue a Master's of Fine Arts (MFA) in stage management or a related field.
5. Work in a variety of theater positions
Stage managers must understand all components of a play's production. They need to direct the cast, design team and production crew. Consider volunteering or working in multiple theater positions to develop a broad skill set. Gaining experience as an actor, stagehand or lighting operator could help you grow your stage management skills.
Stage management skills in the workplace
Many stage managers work in the entertainment industry, but you can use stage management skills in many positions. Here are some ways you can demonstrate your stage management skills in the workplace:
Lead teams effectively: You can use stage management skills to lead, inspire and motivate groups of professionals.
Communicate with various audiences: You can use effective communication skills to express ideas with different groups of people.
Create purposeful plans: You can use your strong organizational skills to create new budgets, schedules and strategies.
Find creative solutions: You can use problem-solving skills to create alternative solutions to challenges.
How to highlight stage management skills
There are several ways you highlight your stage management skills when applying for new roles. Here are three ways you can show your skills:
Stage management skills for a resume
You can highlight your stage management skills on your resume by listing your relevant hard and soft skills. Consider reviewing the job listing to learn what skills the employer is looking for. You can add a skill section for technical stage skills. For example, you can list the technical production skills you have, such as lighting, set design, prop management or budgeting. You can also list experience with certain software or stage equipment here.
Stage managers also need a variety of soft skills to lead their teams effectively. You can list your soft skills, including organizational skills, leadership, management and communication.
Stage management skills for a cover letter
In your cover letter, you can provide more details and examples related to the skills you show in your resume. For example, if you list that you have excellent leadership skills, you can use the cover letter to provide an example of a time you served as a leader. In your cover letter, you can also describe your relevant management and theater experience.
Stage management skills for an interview
An interview is a great opportunity to demonstrate your confidence and communication skills. You can show your other skills, such as organization or leadership skills, by preparing specific examples. For example, if an interviewer asks you about one of your individual strengths, you can use an example of a time you managed a successful production to showcase your skills.
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