A close friend who is an accomplished and talented dancer, runs a Bollywood dance school called Aakriti Dance Academy in Seattle. Every year her troupe puts together a show for a good cause and donates all the money to a local charity. For the past few years, I have volunteered as the stage manager and it has been an incredible learning experience.
Role of a stage manager
A show has many moving parts like lights, music, fly, props, costumes, dancers and many more. The stage manager is responsible for the correct sequencing and coordination of all these elements, without losing a beat 🙂 The stage manager usually stands in the wings and is connected with other team members via a headset.
To ensure that all the team members are on the same page, there is usually a cues document which everyone works on together and is used by the stage manager for the final day execution. The cues document is a critical part of the show and helps correctly sequence all the moving parts. However, there are always last minute surprises and problems which the stage manager needs to be prepared for while the show is in progress! The cues document that I use looks something like this:
Practice, Practice, Practice
While the document is important, you have to run through it several times and almost need to have it memorized so that you are not furiously fumbling through the pages in the darkness during the show. We usually have at least 3 – 4 full practice sessions before the actual event to work out the kinks and keep refining the sequence and timings with the ultimate goal of having a flawless show for the audience.
What I learnt
Having played this role several time in the last few years, here are my top takeaways and learning’s from the wonderful experience:
- Learning something new is always fun
- Having a creative outlet makes you better at everything else you do
- An incredible amount of effort goes in behind every small detail in the show
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