2017 SM Survey Results!

by 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.

For instance, those survey participants with keen memories may recall that the survey asked about your preferred/dominant hand. The results of that question - 10% of survey participants are left-handed - did not make it into the final report. Why not? Because approximately 10% of the general public are also left-handed and we didn't want to diminish the significance of other findings by reporting non-noteworthy data.

But that particular question did generate an anonymous comment that goes to the heart of the survey:

"Some questions hardly apply, but at least you'll get a sense of how many SMs are right handed."

I am willing to take some heat for asking some "fun facts" questions among the more serious ones about work/life balance and identity discrimination. The part that bothers me is the first phrase, "Some questions hardly apply…." Stage Management is such a broad field, we each only see a sliver of the big picture. The survey is designed to ask questions that may not apply to all stage managers. The only question in the entire survey that required a response was the very first one:

"By clicking the button below, you acknowledge that your participation in the study is voluntary, you are 18 years of age or older, you have served as SM or ASM on at least 3 U.S. productions, and that you are aware that you may choose to terminate your participation in the study at any time and for any reason."

[Fun Fact: Six people clicked "I do not consent, I do not wish to participate." They were then redirected to the main www.smsurvey.info website.]

The survey has its flaws. It tends to be more theatre-focused than other arts disciplines. Many questions could use more options. The good news is that many participants provided constructive criticism on how to improve the survey. We begin each edition of the survey by reading the recommendations and complaints from the last survey to see how we can improve. We hope you will provide feedback. Looking back, it is pretty amazing that 1,775 stage managers donated their time to this project. I fully agree with another participant's comment:

"This survey made me think about my career in a different way, so thank you."

Download the report.