Updated: Dec 23, 2017
We stage managers have pretty sedentary jobs. We generally sit at a table, a calling desk or stand around backstage for hours and hours. During a “normal “7 out of 8” rehearsal day, we could be sitting for most of the day and during a ‘10 out of 12′ tech day, we could easily be sitting for over 14 hours!
Stage managing can be described as a “clipboard” job, we don’t do most things, we supervise and ask others to move the props, sets, etc… We’ve all had times when we are running around the studio or theatre pushing or pulling, setting and resetting, but with some exceptions, we sit. Our job is to be on-book, doing paperwork, calling cues, sending report, making lists, etc…
Hours and hours of sitting is not very healthy. There are many articles about this, such as this from Healthline that discuss it in detail and even this Ted Talkwas done regarding the dangers of sitting.
So what is a stage manager to do? Read on for four simple tips that will help you get off your tush, stay healthy and still get the job done! And a special giveaway at the end!
1. Just stand up! Sounds simple, no? Try adding music stands to your production table. You can put your script and production bible on music stands and work seated or standing. This works when you are on-book or doing scene work and almost anytime you are in the rehearsal hall. The only time I’ve found that this doesn’t work is when I’m doing computer work. That’s when you lower the music stands and can sit and still be able to reference all your information. There are cool products like VariDesk that are amazing at transforming from seated to standing work, although a bit harder to get the producer to pay for!
It’s usually easier to add a couple of music stands to the band order or ask props to pull a couple more from storage. And if that doesn’t work, there are easy ways to raise your whole table to a standing work height. By adding PVC pipe to your table legs, you can raise the height of your table. Pick them up at your local hardware store or Home Depot and they’ll even cut them for you. Check out this article from hunker.com & video from youtube.com on PVC table extensions. If you can get a bar stool or drafting table chair, you’d be able to sit or stand too!
2. Tennis Balls! Yes, you can use tennis balls when sitting to improve your circulation when you must sit for long periods of time. Use them to massage your feet, legs and back. Here is a great article about how to use tennis balls from Tiphero.com. It was written for flying, but it’s basically the same idea: you are stuck sitting for hours, so what’s a body to do to stay healthy. When sitting in rehearsals, you can put a tennis ball by your thighs, behind your back or under your feet (with shoes on or off). I’ve also done this when calling a show. Just put two tennis balls into a sock and they won’t roll away on you if you drop them. Then place them in the small of your back, between your shoulder blades, under your thighs or roll them against any part that gets sore. If you must sit, this is a great solution. Similarly, there are other items you can purchase. If you’ve ever shadowing me calling a show, you’ll usually find one of these nearby.
3. Headset on your back! This is for you ASMs who are on deck for twelve hours or more during tech… you have a heavy belt pack on your waist pulling your hips out of alignment. Instead of wearing it on one side, wear it on the small of your back. This will keep your hips balanced and in alignment. This goes a long way to keeping your back, knees and feet from hurting after a long day of tech or running the show backstage. It may take a bit of getting used to and you’ll want to practice hitting your mic button from there. Hint: if you put piece of gaff tape or one side Velcro on the button, this will give you something tactile to feel until you get used to where the button is. However, if you are not keen on this after giving it a try, there are other options. There are shoulder straps or harnesses designed for photographers, climbers or other professions, like this These will keep the weight off your hips and transfer it to your shoulders. In lieu of a purchase, you can use an old shoulder strap from a duffel bag or suitcase or webbing or any other found item.
4. Stretch! When you can, take the time to engage your muscles. While seated, you can work your glutes, wiggle your toes, roll your ankles, activate your abs. Anything you can do to remind your body that it was designed to move. Stand up on a break and touch your toes for a few seconds. I know, we stage managers don’t really get/take breaks, but these few seconds will pay off huge dividends by the end of the day and you won’t be as uncomfortable or cranky. Here are a few articles about stretches you can do at your desk http://www.healthline.com/health/deskercise#overview1 and https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/9-office-stretches-you-can-do-at-desk
And here is the free giveaway… a cheat sheet from EXERCISE FOR LIFE of simple simple desk stretches you can do while at work! Save and print the pic below and keep it in your production book. These stretches will keep you active, your body engaged (so your mind too) and healthy. We stage managers need to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of the company and the show. It’s just one small way in which we honor ourselves and our work, by taking a few simple steps to stay healthy. #smlife #goodlife