Part II A Crash Course in American Stage Management History

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

The term “Director” was introduced in the late 1800’s, although scholars continue to debate who was the ‘first’ American modern director, I attribute it to Augustus Daly. Augustus Daly (among others), changed the production process in theater. Daly expected more out of his actors, requiring attendance at all rehearsals, beginning the rehearsal process several weeks or months in advance and for several hours at a time. Prior to this, rehearsals for specific productions were sporadic, and totaled a few hours spanning over several weeks. He fined actors for lateness, absenteeism, and forgotten lines or blocking. Overall, he regimented the rehearsal process.

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The Martydom of St. Apollonia by Jean Fouquet. A Late 1400’s Painting that featured, on the right hand-side of the painting, a monk (prompter) feeding lines and actions to the "actors" onstage.
The Martydom of St. Apollonia by Jean Fouquet. A Late 1400’s Painting that featured, on the right hand-side of the painting, a monk (prompter) feeding lines and actions to the "actors" onstage.

A Crash-Course in American Stage Management History

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

Before the second Industrial Revolution in the late nineteenth century, the prompter performed the duties commonly associated with the contemporary stage manager. Why do I say that? Because the prompter notated all blocking movements in the promptbook along with any special effect cues, scenic changes, and call boy cues. The promptbook served as a collection of paperwork that represented a production. Sound familiar? It stands to reason, that the historical bearer of such a book would be the predecessor to today’s SM.

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Welcome to the New Stage Management History Blog

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

After posting two articles on SD’s SM Kit blog curated by David J. McGraw, I am incredibly excited to join the Stage Directions’ family, with my very own blog, SM History.  Check back often, as I’ll be posting information about the projects that I’m working on and other fun facts that I find along the way. But before we get to the historical stuff… let me introduce myself, my journey, and what information you can look forward to.

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