A Stage Manager’s Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions
The beginning of the new year is a fresh start. It can be an opportunity for new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions can help us focus on what we want to do better and/or achieve over the next twelve months. With that in mind, below are the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for stage managers. Things for us all to keep in mind throughout the year, but ways we can continue to grow and work towards being the best stage managers, leaders and people we can be
1. Be more proactive than reactive. Anticipate problems or issues and find solutions before they even become a concern. This is challenging, as we have so much on our plate to manage each day, it can be hard to see those few extra steps down the road. But if we spend a few minutes each day thinking farther along the process, any potential rough spots along the road from rehearsals through closing night can be smoothed out before anyone knows there was even a hint of an issue.
2. Be more compassionate. Try to see issues from the other person’s point of view. In this way, annoying complaints and seemingly petty concerns will be understood and solved easier and with less stress and strife. By simply understanding more, we create more trust and a better work environment.
3. Take care of yourself. We focus on taking care of others. Don’t forget to make time for yourself. Create some space to relax, spend time with friends, exercise… all of the things we usually sacrifice while working on a show. We matter too and the same way we invest in the welfare of the company, we can take care of ourselves.
4. Ask for help when you need it. You are not a super hero, as much as stage managers try to be. If you have to tape a complicated floor, ask for some extra hands. Need to change rehearsal studios, ask for help moving everything. Have a question or concern about a union issue, reach out and call. You are not alone. The theatre, producer and you have resources you can call on when needed. Even Superheros can’t always do it alone (see the Avengers or Justice League!).
5. Sleep. Of all the sacrifices we make, this is probably the worst. We need sleep to function at our best. It helps our brains and bodies. Instead of staying at the theater late to update all your paperwork or rewrite all those line notes, get some shut eye to recharge and refresh. You’ll be more efficient and effective because of it.
6. Use sick days. You are allowed to be sick too. You are human. And it’s better to take a sick day than get the cast infected too. There is also that little quirk in the AEA Production Contract where you can only get paid out 11 of your 13 sick days, so when you get that long run, you gotta take at least two sick days a year anyway! You can empower your assistants, find a sub and know that you will be covered. And if you are so valuable that you can't get sick or the show falls apart, maybe that's a good time to ask for a raise!
7. Learn a new hard skill. Those hard skills such as dance vocabulary, computer skills and reading music can be learned in a class, from a book or online. 2018 could be just the right time to add to your skill set by taking a CPR/First Aid class or learning Filemaker or First Draft. Not only is it fun, but it makes you a more valuable stage manager.
8. Cut down on the caffeine and sugary snacks. There are many of us that use coffee or diet coke for a boost or grab that snickers bar for a quick jolt of energy. However, too much can result in dehydration, headaches and more. When in tech for The Little Mermaid, Disney producer Thomas Schumacher kept nuts and dried fruit on his tech table so folks would have real energy snacks available. I’m not saying give up your go to beverage or snack, rather work towards a healthier balance. This will help us be better in the long term. And we all want long careers, right.
9. Be greener. Unfortunately, we use a lot of paper in our profession. Let’s try to find ways to cut back, reduce and/or reuse paper more. The Broadway Green Alliance has done great work on this front. See their website. One of the stage managers on Doctor Zhivago had a method for using “dirty paper.” Any paper that was printed on only one side was saved in a special pile and the daily in/out sheet was always printed on the back.
10. Remember why you love your job! It’s easy to get caught up in all the day to day minutiae of running a show. Everyone needs something and herding all those cats is challenging. If you step back a moment, you can really appreciate the wonderful and amazing job we are privileged to do. We get to work on PLAYS! No cubicles or time clocks, instead we get song and dance all day long! When working on An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, I had to pinch myself to realize that I was working with icons that I grew up admiring and dreaming about being in the theatre with.
11. BONUS CHALLENGE: Try to see a show and try NOT see the tech elements. This is a real tough one, but worth the effort. Can you get lost in a show enough to not picture calling it or timing the quick changes or re-organizing the scene shifts? Try to give yourself this gift and enjoy the theatre like you did before it was your vocation. I try and fail at this often, but when it works, it’s a very special night of theatre.
Whatever your personal resolutions are, we wish you all the best with them and wish everyone a very happy new year!