Distance Learning

elements of a


This section will focus on elements that will enhance your production. It is planned that it will contain information on design and the foundation of building a strong, efficient backstage team. 


Jonathan Brittain, a National Theatre School graduate in the Production Design and Technical Arts Program, who did a workshop for us began his session by saying, “Your job as a stage manager is to keep the director happy.” (As a director, I was really impressed). He continued by emphasizing that the Stage Manager (the SM) and the Assistant Stage Manager(s) (the ASM) are responsible for taking care of the details that are the director’s creative vision to become a reality.


Here are some of the points that were included in his presentation. This is in no way a definitive guide, but a good overview of how to effectively use your stage manager that will give you more time to actually direct. We will add another section on how to “call” a show.


Looking for a Stage Manager

When looking for a stage manager, look for someone who has

  • Organizational skills

  • Effective communication skills

  • The ability to work well under pressure

  • Strong problem solving skills

  • The ability to think on their feet.


Ideally, you create a stage management team with a stage manager who leads the team and at least two assistant stage managers. It is helpful to have a SM who is in Grade 11 or 12 (High School) and Grade 8 (Middle School) and ASMs who are in Grade 9 or 10 (High School) and Grade 6 or 7 (Middle School) so there is a continuity as students graduate or move to high school.

Some directors have used a faculty member who is interested in directing and wants to learn how a production comes together as a stage manager/assistant director.


What Does a Stage Manager Do?

  1. Creates a rehearsal script

    •  This is a photocopied version so that notes can be written directly on the script. The NTS method that was suggested was single sided so the facing page could be used for notes and blocking.

    • It was also recommended that the script be divided into rehearsal segments and separated by tabs. SMs should use pencil to record blocking as it often changes.

  2. Arrive early to each rehearsal and sets up a station with pencils, pens, highlighters, and scripts. An additional light might also be needed.

  3. Create a contact sheet for rehearsal attendance. Some directors prefer people to sign in and others prefer to have attendance called at the beginning of the rehearsal. The ASM might be responsible for this task.

  4. Create a contact sheet with information on cast and crew members. This should include cell phone number, and/or email address. Some schools establish Facebook Groups or Microsoft Teams so that information can be forwarded easily. The Stage Manager is usually one of the administrators of the group.

  5. Contact people who are not present and have not had the absence excused. Students should be informed of how the Director wants to be notified of an anticipated absence. Some directors want to be contacted directly, and others prefer that the Stage Manager be notified.

  6. Make any necessary announcements at the beginning of the rehearsals.

  7. Record the blocking in pencil for each rehearsal. AS shows evolve, final blocking is recorded in the call script (more on this later).

  8. Write a Rehearsal Report after the rehearsal is over. While many directors skip this step, it is such an effective tool. The Rehearsal Report lists the people who were not present, a description of what was covered and what was not completed. (Use Act, Scene, and page numbers) This report is submitted to the director before the next rehearsal.

  9. Serve as a liaison between members of the Production Team and the director. The Stage Manager can communicate necessary information from rehearsals to the Tech Crew and the designers.