Robot on Headset

A Robot-Proof Profession

David J. McGraw

An incendiary blogpost hit the stage management circles last week questioning whether stage managers will be replaced by data transfer and cueing technologies. A number of professions have become rightfully obsolete – as much as an elevator operator sounds quaint, I shudder to think that elevators used to be so unreliable and difficult to operate. Meanwhile, I was also part of a strategic planning process in which we discussed Joseph E. Aoun’s book Robot-Proof. Robot-Proof proposes that, with the rise of artificial intelligence, we need to prepare the next generation for jobs that machines and algorithms cannot complete. Do I believe that stage management is one of those jobs? Absolutely. Aoun defines a new discipline, humanics, by which we can see how stage management cannot be replaced by a robot. Add a comment

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Questions Marks

Keep Asking Questions, The Answers of Tomorrow May Not Be the Same

David J. McGraw

While stage management doesn’t have its own conference, we are in the heart of conference season for the performing arts.  More than any other time of year, this is an opportunity for stage managers of all ages and experience levels to come together to swap stories and to learn from each other.  I cannot wait to head to Louisville for this year’s USITT conference, including portfolio reviews coordinated by Erin Joy Swank and the new micro-sessions such as the aptly-named “Lessons I Learned I Wish I Had Known Earlier” session on the Expo floor.

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It is that time, time to make your resolutions for the New Year
It is that time, time to make your resolutions for the New Year

New Year Resolutions for a Stage Manager

David J. McGraw

Whether you are packing up your promptbook to the annual Holiday Cash Cow or putting away the Secret Santa decorations from your long-running show, it is time to consider your resolutions for the New Year. While we may appear “practically perfect in every way,” we know there is room for improvement. As we ring in another year, consider the following:

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Photo: Carly O'Neill
Photo: Carly O'Neill

Are You Ready for the 6th Annual International Stage Manager Day?

David J. McGraw

I was chatting with an Australian colleague and I casually asked if the International Stage Manager’s Day had taken root on her continent.  Not only has the holiday “well and truly taken hold” in Australia, but various SM teams are trying to figure out how to top last year’s festivities.  The photo for this post is a cake made last year by a QUT Technical Production Stage Management student.  And yes, both the stop watch and the pencil are also edible.

American readers of this blog, we need to step up our game!

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Woman Exploring a Forest

Trailblazers, Then and Now

David J. McGraw

This week we celebrated the annual Del Hughes awards, a lifetime achievement award for “Excellence in the Art of Stage Management” sponsored by the Stage Managers’ Association (the American SMA, not the British version). This year’s recipients are Maxine Glorsky, Roy Harris, and Lyle Raper, as well as a special award for Achievement in Stage Management Education for Peter Sargent.  I was honored to interview Lyle Raper for the Standing in the Dark podcast.

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Where was the stage manager during an abuse of power?

From our SM Kit Blog: Where was the Stage Manager?

David J. McGraw

This post is not about the #NotInOurHouse, #MeToo, and #TimesUp movements; I wanted to write about those movements back in January but I did not feel that it was my place as a male stage manager when it was others’ turn to speak. This post is not about the (at this point in time) allegations of bullying surrounding the suicide of Jeffrey Loeffelholz; I am not connected to Chicago and one of their former stage managers has spoken about the atmosphere surrounding that production to the blog Justice for Jeffrey. But the unmaskings of abusive behavior by theatre leaders in the past year has produced one chilling question: where was the stage manager?

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The flooding of the Museum of Art at the University of Iowa
The flooding of the Museum of Art at the University of Iowa

When Emergencies Are Too Big for an SM Kit

David J. McGraw

I am both unlucky and lucky when it comes to natural disasters. I am unlucky in the frequency of show-related disasters, but lucky in that there have been no serious injuries. There was the Opening Night tornado that transformed my station wagon into a convertible. Or the Valentine’s Day when an overnight fire in the venue’s ventilation system was caught by the cleaning crew but if I never see another bottle of Febreze, it will be too soon.

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2017 SM Survey Results!

David J. McGraw

The 2017 Stage Manager Survey Report is now available. My assistant and I tried to let the data speak for itself, noting only the trends and potential contributing factors. But we know that, by distilling the data into a report, we also prioritized some of the information and de-emphasized or omitted other information.

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Bob Crachit and his son, Tiny Tim from Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol
Bob Crachit and his son, Tiny Tim from Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol

I Hate to Admit It, but I Miss Tiny Tim

David J. McGraw

Like counting the rings of a tree trunk, you can often determine an SM’s age by asking how many Christmas Carols/Nutcrackers they have managed. Unlike other theatrical and dance classics, these shows are cash cows with a very limited lifespan, so managing these holiday chestnuts usually means packed schedules with lots of overtime. I remember feeling a sense of comradery with the old “time to make the donuts” commercials every time Marley or a toy soldier hit the stage.

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Backstage at the SM Survey

Every two years, a national study begins in early November: The Stage Manager Survey. This 3-week survey has evolved over the past decade into the largest study of stage managers in the United States and, quite possibly, the world. At just five days into the 2017 survey, we have already surpassed the participation count of the 2013 but are still hunting the record turnout of 2015. So let’s look behind the scenes into the survey.

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