Working as a Stage Manager: Everything You Need to Know About a Career in Stage Management

Thinking of starting a career in stage management? Looking to take on your first Deputy Stage Manager role? Here’s a comprehensive guide to what you need to know about a career in stage management. Stage managers play a crucial role in bringing a director's vision to life. In this blog post, we'll explore the various roles within stage management, the experience and skills needed, and the technologies that modern stage managers rely on. 

Roles in Stage Management

When beginning a career in stage management, you typically start as an Assistant Stage Manager (ASM), progress to Deputy Stage Manager (DSM), and eventually advance to Stage Manager (SM) or Company Stage Manager (CSM). After 10-15 years, many stage managers transition to roles like production managers, administrators, directors, or other industry-related positions. There's also the option to move into television, film, or events, though most prefer live arts. 

Assistant Stage Manager (ASM)

The Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) supports the DSM by attending rehearsals, handling communications, and stepping in as needed. They assist the director and artists with various tasks, manage props and furniture, and sometimes operate technical equipment. Additionally, an ASM typically learns the prompt book to cover for the DSM when necessary. The ASM's duties are diverse, all aimed at facilitating the best possible conditions for the production. 

Deputy Stage Manager (DSM)

The Deputy Stage Manager (DSM) oversees the entire stage management process, ensuring the production runs efficiently and effectively. They are responsible for complex technical operations, often including the integration and operation of sound systems from the prompt desk. The DSM plays a central role in preventing issues that could negatively impact the production and ensures it is executed to its full potential. 

Stage Manager (SM)

The Stage Manager (SM) is the primary coordinator who oversees all aspects of the production. They work closely with the director, designers, and cast to ensure the production stays on schedule. Responsibilities include scheduling rehearsals, taking notes during rehearsals, calling cues during performances, and maintaining the prompt book. The SM is essentially the hub of communication, ensuring everyone is on the same page and that the director's vision is accurately implemented. 

Essential Skills for Stage Managers

Communication Skills 

Excellent communication skills are crucial for relaying information accurately between the director, cast, and crew. Clear and concise communication ensures everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, which is vital for a successful production. 


Keeping track of schedules, props, and cues requires meticulous organisational skills. A well-organised stage manager can manage the numerous details of a production and ensure nothing is overlooked. 

Calm Under Pressure

Live theatre is unpredictable, and a good stage manager remains calm and decisive in the face of unexpected challenges. Whether it's a technical malfunction or an actor missing their cue, the stage manager must handle it with composure. 

Technical Knowledge 

Understanding lighting, sound, and stage machinery is crucial for coordinating technical elements. A stage manager with a strong technical background can effectively communicate with the technical crew and ensure all technical aspects are executed correctly. 

Problem-Solving Abilities 

Quick thinking and the ability to troubleshoot issues on the fly are essential. A stage manager must be able to think on their feet and come up with solutions to problems that arise during rehearsals and performances. Many stage managers start as DSMs or interns in smaller productions, gradually building their skills and moving up to more significant roles. 

Tools and Technologies in Stage Management

Stage Management Desks 

Stage Electrics are well-known in the theatre world for designing and building stage management desks for theatres, educational institutions, professional venues, and touring shows worldwide. Designed to meet the specific needs of different venues and tours, these desks are easily updated with new technologies using core components that ensure top performance. 

Key features include:

  • Timing: Illuminated digital clock and stopwatch with GPS, MSF, and network time synchronisation options.
  • Task Lighting: Dimmable LED console lights and adjustable gooseneck lighting for accurate script reading.
  • Communications: Standard wired, two-channel communication master station with optional emergency battery backup and local paging link. Compatible with various intercom systems.
  • Cue Lights: Flexible 16-channel cue light system with large tactile buttons, supporting up to 36 outstations per channel with a standard 3-pin XLR cable setup.

The Stage Electrics stage management desks are a must-have for any Stage Manager, check out more information here.


‘The Book’


‘The Book’ in theatrical terms refers to the prompt book, a comprehensive document used by the stage management team. It contains all the details necessary for the smooth running of a production, including:

  • The script with annotated cues for lighting, sound, and set changes.
  • Blocking notes indicating where actors should be positioned on stage during each scene.
  • Detailed schedules and contact information for the cast and crew.
  • Notes on props, costumes, and special effects.

The prompt book is essential for coordinating all technical and logistical aspects of a performance, ensuring everything happens at the right time and in the correct sequence. 

Cue and Communication Systems

Cue and communication systems are integral components of a stage manager's toolkit, enabling seamless coordination and execution of performances. Cue systems allow stage managers to precisely time lighting, sound, and actor cues, ensuring smooth transitions and maintaining the production's rhythm. Meanwhile, communication systems facilitate clear and efficient coordination with actors, crew members, and technical staff, enabling instructions to be relayed effectively and issues to be addressed promptly.

Check out a selection of cue and communication systems in our Online Store here.

Prompt Book Software 

Digital tools like Stage Write or OnStage help create and manage the prompt book, containing all the cues, blocking, and technical notes for a production. These tools make it easier to organise and update the prompt book, ensuring all information is current and accessible. Scheduling Tools Software like Google Calendar, Trello, or production-specific tools like ShowTool SM help stage managers keep track of rehearsal schedules and deadlines. These tools provide an organised way to manage the numerous tasks and timelines involved in a production. 

How to Get into Stage Management

  • Gain experience through school productions and amateur dramatics.
  • Enquire about opportunities at your local theatre.
  • Reach out to a local Stage Manager for guidance and mentorship.
  • Network both online and in person with Stage Managers. Attend events such as ABTT and Theatres Trust to network in person, as well as joining online communities to network

You can find an in-depth career guide as well as a list of drama schools that offer Stage Management courses on the Stage Management Association here, where you can also find a multitude of helpful resources, a jobs board and industry news.


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