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Stage Management History

Stage Directions’ blog following Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier’s research on Stage Management History.

  • Defining Stage Management

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | January 13, 2020With 2020 heralded as the Year of the Stage Manager (see YSM2020: 100 Years of Being Explicit for more details), each month has been given a theme to encourage the generation of new stage management content. January’s subject for YSM2020 is “What is Stage Management?” and contemporary stage managers have wonderfully flocked to social media […] Read More...
  • YSM2020 – 100 Years of Being Explicit

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | January 2, 2020Happy New Year! In case you haven’t heard, 2020 is the year of the stage manager with the intent to celebrate and educate! Why 2020? Because 100 years ago, on February 16, 1920, the executive council of Actor’s Equity Association carried a motion that changed the contractual language to include Stage Managers and Assistant Stage […] Read More...
  • Finding Stage Management History

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | June 12, 2019Students often ask, “So where do you find resources for stage management history?” Usually this question is paired with an explanation of a final project or paper they are working on and are reaching out to me in hopes that I can point them in the right direction. Read More...
  • History of College Stage Management Courses? Not Yet!

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | May 8, 2019To college, or not to college? While some colleges and universities offer BFA degrees focused on stage management, many do not. Ask anyone in the stage management field and many will have a particular opinion on higher education – Should you choose a school with a BFA in stage management, allowing you built-in access to mentors, stage management courses, and a support network? Or do you go to a smaller program where you may not receive much of a stage management education in a classroom setting, but as the only stage manager in the theatre department, you end up graduating with 10 or more shows under your belt? OR, do you skip college and apply straight away for every apprenticeship and internship a high school graduate can get, maximizing on the networking opportunities that jumping straight into the field may open for you? Read More...
  • Historical SM Calling Technology: Telephone Switchboards

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | August 30, 2018Over the course of 75 years, as cueing technology was continuously updated, it drastically altered how a show was called and how the audience perceived the performance. As noted in my article on bells and whistles, the prompter performed an aural role in the production, one that was noticed and acknowledged by audience members. With the invention of the speaking tube, and cue lights, the prompter’s role became increasingly quieter and more remote, gradually disappearing from the audience’s experience. Once electricity was installed in theaters, the telephone system followed shortly behind. Read More...
  • Historical SM Calling Technology: Cue Lights

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | August 21, 2018“It will surprise many people to learn that this electric light has been brought so wholly under control as to be available for all the purposes for which light is required in a theatre.” - Electric Lights at The Bijou. Boston Daily Globe. Dec. 17, 1882. pg. 7. Read More...
  • Historical Calling Technology: The Speaking Tube

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | July 18, 2018Before the mid-nineteenth century, prompters used aural methods to “call” the show. Prompters used bells, whistles, flags and call boys to signal a change in lights, scenery, or to cue a special effect. (See my earlier article on Calling Technology for more information on the different calling methods.) Over the next half century, calling procedures changed significantly. The audience heard and associated the bells and whistles as part of the performance, however, with new technology the prompter’s calling duties transformed into a silent, invisible activity. The first step towards imperceptible cueing was the speaking tube. Read More...
  • Historical Calling Technology: Bells, Whistles, Flags, and Call Boys

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | April 10, 2018Tracking technological developments over time might be my favorite subtopic within the scope of stage management history. Calling technology predictably changed over time, however, it also affected how audiences related to backstage life. Before Clear-Coms and lightweight headsets, there were telephone switchboards and before that, there were cue lights. But let me tell you a little secret: before electricity, calling the show had an aural impact on the performance. Read More...
  • Stage Management Grievances in 1942

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | February 28, 2018Stage Managers Ban Together to Fight for AEA Stage Management Contract On December 18th, 1941 and January 15th, 1942, a delegation of stage managers met with the “Committee to Consider Stage Managers’ Memo to Council” (yes, this was the committee’s official name), which was a special Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) committee specifically formed to consider their requests. Read More...
  • Murder Onstage: An Early 20th Century Actress Kills Her Stage Manager Before an Audience

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | February 7, 2018During a performance at the Chattanooga Opera House on Friday, September 22nd, 1899, Julia Morrison, the leading actress of the traveling show, Mr. Plaster of Paris, exited the stage in the middle of her Act II scene with Frank Leiden, leading man and stage manager.[1]  She seized the loaded revolver she kept between her breasts, reentered the scene, and shot Leiden three times, killing him. Fifteen hundred audience members looked on in shock until a call for a surgeon roused them. Morrison was immediately taken under custody by the local police and sent to the nearby jail to await the outcome of the coroner’s inquest. A few weeks later, the grand jury indicted her, and her trial was set for January 1900. By the beginning of her trial, Julia Morrison had become a household name and the event was covered across the nation, making headlines. Read More...
  • Women in Stage Management: Revolutionizing History with Inclusion

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | December 19, 2017Since I started compiling research on the history of the stage manager, I have run into at least 10 different claims for the “First Female Stage Manager.” In a 1987 obituary, the Los Angeles Times credited Phyllis Seaton as being “Broadway’s 1st Women Stage Manager” (around 1940’s), The Washington Post interviewed Maude T. Howell about her role as an American stage manager in 1928, and Maud Gill wrote her See the Players autobiography which includes a chapter about her experiences as Stage Manager in 1920’s London. Even before this, in the 1860’s we have Laura Keene stage managing her own theatre, Charlotte Cushman stage managing at the Walnut Street Theatre in 1842-1844, and Charlotte Charke takes up the prompting mantle in England in 1754. Read More...
  • Part II A Crash Course in American Stage Management History

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier | Stage Management History | December 13, 2017The 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. Read More...
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