Being a Stage Manager in Your 30s is So Much Better Than Being a Stage Manager in Your 20s

Being a Stage Manager in Your 30s is so Much Better Than Being a Stage Manager in Your 20s

Being a Stage Manager in Your 30s is so Much Better Than Being a Stage Manager in Your 20s | brokeGIRLrich

I’ve been hanging out with a few old friends this week and a common topic that comes up is the good old days.

Seriously, one of my oldest best friends and I complained about our knees for 20 minutes last night. That happened.

On the flip side, I’ve also befriended a young, new stage manager who reminds me of a hyperactive squirrel sometimes.

She’s very excited about everything and I’m pretty darn jaded and suspicious of everything.

For a few minutes I thought, dang, it would be nice to be that excited about this stuff again. Apparently 10 years of stage managing has worn me down a little.

Also, my hyperactive squirrel has a lot of energy. She’s all “I’ll run up and down the stairs 20,000 times to get things” and I’m like “stupid actor, you left your stuff upstairs? Go get it. Don’t forget things.”

So they like her better.

This is understandable.

I remember being the hyperactive squirrel myself and the more I thought about it, I realized it was because you have to be a hyperactive squirrel when you’re a recent college grad stage manager.

Everything takes you 10 times longer when you don’t actually know what you’re doing. Most of stage management is trial and error. Have you ever tried to explain your job to a friend? I’ve been doing this 10 years, I don’t even really try anymore.

I do it every day and don’t even know how to explain the nuances of the stuff that needs to happen to make a show happen:

You’re the show secretary. You keep notes on everything that happens and send them on to the higher ups.

You’re the show psychologist. You talk down performers who feel fat and get them to put on their skimpy costumes. You tell them they’re great. You kick their butt out onto the stage when necessary. You navigate the most insanely wide variety of personalities between performers, technicians, directors, designers and producers.

You’re the air traffic controller. You organize all the scene shifts, make sure the cues fire on time, coordinate any sound cues that occur and try to stop accidents from happening.

When you don’t stop accidents from happening, you’re the first responder paramedic or fire fighter. Those days are really delightful.

Stagehands Creed

…pretty accurate.

And when you’re 22, you have enough energy to shoot through 15 different ways of doing something wrong to find the right way to fix a problem. When you’re 31, you flip through your mental rolladex of all the ways you’ve done something wrong and find the correct answer on the first try.

Ok, maybe even now, it’s the 2nd or 3rd try, but heaven knows it’s not as difficult to figure out what’s happening as it used to be.

Also, the hyperactive squirrel has to hustle her tail off to find work and while it’s not always a slam dunk for this plodding badger of a stage manager right here, the struggle is nowhere near as real as it was 10 years ago – not to say I don’t expect periods of unemployment to crop up, but the badger network generally blows the squirrel network out of the water.

Even in emergencies, at 22 I had taken all the CPR and first aid training courses once. This is good, but having done them 5 more times means the few times I’ve needed to access that info, it’s firmly embedded.

So in this culture that promotes youth and non-achy knees, I just wanted to take a moment and appreciate that sometimes getting older does equal getting wiser.

Or at least more confident skills in faking it till you make it ;o)

Do you all find this to be true in your careers too?


*Fun Fact: I didn’t realize until I did an image search that apparently… badgers eat squirrels.

11 thoughts on “Being a Stage Manager in Your 30s is So Much Better Than Being a Stage Manager in Your 20s

  1. Oh gosh yes. I love talking to new graduate employees and seeing all their fresh faces and thinking, “How long until *you* break?” Not so meanly, exactly, but it’s weird the transition from “Oh yes, I love everything give me everything to do” to, you know, a functional employee.
    Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents recently posted…New Corporate OverlordsMy Profile

  2. I guess I can’t really attest to this yet. I’m only 24, but even still I feel that I’ve learned a lot in the 3.5 years since I graduated college. But on the flip-side, since I just started self-employment last week I feel like I’m starting all over again at having things figured out.
    Kayla @ Kat Script recently posted…Summer School 2015My Profile

    • I know that feeling. I’ve been SMing for years, but took a job that required lighting work as well last year and hadn’t done it since like college. I constantly felt like my brain was exploding. It was sort of horrible and nice at the same time.

  3. I really liked reading this post. It made me reflect and be thankful for getting older too even though I am not in my 30’s. I’ve been a physical therapist for only 2 years, but the second year is SO much better than the first. My first year I was stressed and nervous especially when seeing a new diagnosis (which was like all the time). I still have a lot to learn and things I can be better at, but like you mentioned I fake it so much better now. I’m looking forward to my 30’s and I’ve even embraced the few grey hairs I have because maybe patients will stop asking how old I am. Kneeling down though is definitely harder than it was even a year ago though. I guess we can’t have everything.
    Mrs. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets recently posted…5 Things To Start Doing Now To Save Money For ChristmasMy Profile

  4. Well, don’t forget that 20-somethings have more to prove too. It’s not just about forgetting to organize activities in the most efficient way possible, or not knowing something is needed until it’s mentioned. She has more to prove because she has fewer credentials under her belt. She *needs* to make the best impression she can, so you and/or the actors and director will speak well of her in the future.

    Why not use the hyperactivity? If an actor needs something, just get the squirrel to do it! Apparently, she’s quite willing.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…A bit of housekeepingMy Profile

    • Oh, I totally use the hyperactivity. Although I also think actors often need to be taught to keep their act together at least a little (clearly not all of them… but a lot).

      And it’s true, she totally does need to make a good impression (to be fair, you sort of always need to make a good impression, the entertainment world is tiny and word gets around) – but it’s yet another reason it’s good to be in a SM in your 30s, even if you have an off gig, you’ve got plenty of other positive experiences to back you up.

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