And so it begins – Pre-production and preparation

Tomorrow is the first day of rehearsals, but work started long before now. 

The roles are cast and the Director has developed his vision. Using this vision as a jumping off point, the Designer has conceptualised the set and costumes which, during the rehearsal period, will gain substance from off the page, to be walked in, on and through. The Production Manager has staffed the majority of the crew roles and the Stage Manager has been following well-established systems and routines to ensure rehearsals will run smoothly from the first morning. 

The time that a Stage Manager has to prepare (known as pre-production) can vary from company to company. In this case we have one week. 

In that time I will:

  • Meet or speak with each member of the creative team (Director, Writer, Designer, Composer, Choreographer, Lighting and Sound Designers, Accent Coach etc.)
  • Meet or speak with all of the company departments (Scenery Workshop, Wardrobe, Wigs, Publicity, Marketing, Finance, Company Management, Development or Sponsorship, Education etc.)
  • Prepare a schedule for week one (and a daily call sheet) detailing what the Director wants to work on in the room, wardrobe fittings, publicity calls and marketing calls (I’ll have more to say about scheduling in a future post)
  • Prepare templates for all show-related documents (more to come in a future post)
  • Set up the rehearsal room
  • Mark-up the set on the floor (more details in a future post)
  • Source rehearsal props and costumes
  • Prepare welcome packs for the cast, containing useful information
  • Copy and bind scripts
  • Contact each cast member to tell them about the first day

Tasks vary depending on the organisational structure of a company and the composition of the stage management team. In some cases, a Company Manager will take on some of these duties, however in smaller organisations, it’a a job for stage management. 

The first day of rehearsals can be a nervous one, and the Stage Manager’s role is equal parts logistical and pastoral. Ultimately, my goal is to make sure everything is in place to make it as comfortable, smooth and stress-free as possible for everyone. That includes having a hot kettle and some fancy biscuits ready when they arrive. 

It’s only now that the real work can begin. The Show’s heart beats a faint rhythm and it takes its first tentative breath.