New Year Resolutions for a Stage Manager

by David J. McGraw
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

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:

1. How Quirky Are You?
If you attended a party for stage managers (we’d all be early), how would you stand out? We dedicate so much of our time to our work; what else gives you joy? Embrace that odd trait/hobby/obsession. Yes, I am looking at you, Kerry, and your rubber ducks, mostly out of jealousy.

2. Improve Your Safety Skills
Are your CPR/First Aid certifications current? The CPR recommendations have changed over the past decade as the Red Cross has tracked which practices are most likely to both be remembered and work in the field. If you are good on first aid, how about theatrical safety courses? I attended an excellent workshop in Chicago on stage combat safety for stage managers. What about the new training in theatrical intimacy?  

3. Negotiate Your Salary at Least Once
You are worth more, you should earn more, but that will only happen if you ask for more. Only a third of stage managers reported negotiating, but of those who tried, 80% earned either more money or other desired benefits.* So the question becomes, why are you not negotiating?

4. If you Could Improve Your Work Environment, What Would You Buy?
Now ask your employer for these items. Like teachers buying items for their classrooms, stage managers often pay for supplies out of their own pockets. I am guilty of splurging to stock my SM Kit, but office supplies are not a nicety; they are a requirement of doing our jobs effectively. The only way the production manager will allocate a bigger SM budget is to demonstrate the need. Be vocal about what you need to succeed.

5. Make More Stage Manager Friends
No one really understands us like other stage managers and, let’s be honest, no one but a stage manager can really appreciate (and keep private) a good SM horror story. Are there other stage managers in your community? Use the New Year to schedule a drinks night or brunch (we shouldn’t all rely on the great traveling SM Erin Joy Swank to arrange one). Go to an AEA or SMA meeting. Are you the SM unicorn in your community? Travel and observe others at work.  

5a. Make More Non-Industry Friends
I know, I know, finding other folk who think the weekend begins Sunday night can be hard. But they give us a sense of perspective. And an appreciative audience for sharing our celebrity sightings.

6. Get Serious About Your Health
You knew this one was coming on any resolution list. As a profession,* we are known for our reliance on caffeine and very short meal breaks to get through the day and our industry is known for its social drinking. While we might log quite a few steps in a normal workday, are we getting enough exercise? The good news is that we are masters of incremental improvements. Make it a game/challenge: can you identify an achievable goal for 2-4 weeks and reach your goal by the deadline? No, this resolution won’t necessarily be fun, but neither are brush-up rehearsals, yet we all know how important they are.

7. Buy Stock in Ricola
If I had done this as a young stage manager, I would be retired by now.

Happy New Year!

*2017 Stage Manager Survey