Last April, I sent in an application to be an assistant stage manager for one of Muhlenberg's mainstage productions. Little did I know that that would lead to me stage managing New Visions 1: Attention's play, The Imaginary Audience. After closing last Sunday, I can fully admit that this has been one of the best and hardest experiences of my life. I have learned a lot about stage managing, and about who I am as a person, and I thought I'd share it with you all in the hope that if you stage manage (or just want to be a person who doesn't make their best friend hate them), this article can be your go to. So here are just 4 things you learn when you stage manage.
1. You have enough going on without focusing on the minor things.
Yes, this is number one. Do you know the amount of petty, insignificant things that go through our minds every day? Right now, I'm thinking about whether or not Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes would be friends with Deadpool. Why? Probably because I just had a Marvel movie marathon. But does this matter? Absolutely not. When you are trying to put up a show, keep your actors and director happy, stay on top of homework, and eat three meals a day, these thoughts are not necessary and honestly take up a lot of time that you don't have. Even when you aren't stage managing, you don't need to be focused on minor things like whether or not a boy likes you or if your best friend is mad at you (she was but that's a different story). If you can't control something, stop worrying about it, because it'll end up working out one way or another, and the stress isn't going to help. That's not to say that Captain America wouldn't invite Wade Wilson to his wedding, but do I need to spend hours obsessing over this? Absolutely not. So if something won't drastically affect your friends, your family, your show, the presidential election, or your life in general, take a deep breathe, resolve it, and move on.
2. Staying organized is a means of survival.
One time, I went to Rome without a plane ticket home. In the past month, I have lost several hundred dollars worth of items (almost all of these items have been found, thank you for your concern). Would this have happened if I was organized? No. Staying organized saves you a lot of stress later on when you realize you can't find the item you're 100% sure you dropped off in the theater office even though it's in the scene shop. Staying organized means you get to Rome with your ticket home in your wallet and not stressing about finding an internet cafe. Staying organized means less stress and more time to do the actually important things. The more organized you are, the better your life will be.
3. The job you apply for is not necessarily the job you'll end up with, and the job you have will be much different than you expected.
I spent a lot of time complaining that I didn't have the job that I applied for, that I wasn't qualified, that I hated everything. But you know what? I learned so much as a stage manager, far more than these three points, and I'm so eternally grateful that I was given this job, even though I hadn't wanted it at first. I did so much else besides just being a stage manager: I drove my director to the hospital when her sternum decided to attack, I helped one of my actors go through sorority recruitment and end up in the house that was best for her, I designed t-shirts (they're super comfy and I wear mine constantly), I was the sounding board for so many different departments, and I got to do all of this while still stage managing a play that ended up meaning more to me than I ever thought it would. Stage managing encompasses so many different tasks, and so does every job you apply for, so take the job, learn all you can about it, and accept the job you have for the time you have it. In the end, it'll all be worth it.
4. The best friends you can ever make are stage managers.
Sure, we all have best friends who aren't stage managers. Some of mine are athletes, sorority women, actors, and so on. But stage managers are a different breed. Stage managers can read people like a book because it's their job to find out what people need and give it to them. Stage managers are good at getting to the heart of the problem because they don't have the time or, frankly, the energy, to talk about the extra stuff that we sometimes get bogged down in. Stage managers are able to stop you from panicking because their job description includes staying calm so everyone else stays calm. I've had panic attacks, crying spells, and literally hours of talking about nonsense with no idea of what I need or want. The people who helped me in every single one of these situations were stage managers. They calmed me down from my panic attacks, gave me sheep to hold onto so I had something to hold, made me laugh so I focused on what was actually happening in my life instead of things I couldn't control, organized my thoughts, and kept me grounded. Stage managers are the best people in the world, and it is a privilege to consider myself at least partially in their league.
I will probably never stage manage again in my life. I will probably never work on another theater production at Muhlenberg College. I'm not cut out to be a stage manager; everything I listed here that a stage manager is good at, I'm not, and that's okay. I'll be a great producer one day, and I'll always be there for my stage manager friends, but their skills at keeping things together are ones I don't have. But stage managing gave me at least a better handle on those skills, and stage management has given me amazing friends who I hope I get to keep forever. I'm telling you all now to stage manage if you can. If you can't handle that responsibility, assistant stage manage. If you can't deal with that time commitment, do crew. There are hundreds of Odyssey articles on why you should stage manage, so please read those, because you won't regret it. I certainly don't.