A Day in the Life of a Circus Stage Manager

 

A Day in the Life of a Circus Stage Manager

A Day in the Life of a Circus Stage Manager | brokeGIRLrich

As if I weren’t ill adjusted to normal life enough from my days at sea, once I left ships, I joined the circus. The days honestly all started to blur into one of two types over the following weeks and months I was out with them. Except travel days. We lived on a train and train runs were glorious. The views were spectacular and there was never such a good reason to be lazy, stay in your PJs all day and watch TV. I miss them like you wouldn’t believe! So here’s a glimpse at my average day with the circus.  

Start of Each Week 

9:00 AM – Wake up. Depending on the number of times I hit the snooze button, I am in a varied state of put togetherness. When you’re around the exact same people 24/7, you really don’t always care what you look like.

10:00 AM – Arrive at work. Double check all the dressing rooms have the correct number of tables and chairs. Fix them if they do not. This usually set my tone for the entire day and was a good measurement of how helpful each arena would turn out to be.

11:30 AM – Make sure the weekly preshow schedule is correct. Print copies for people who need it. Make sure the animal walk volunteer schedule is set. Post both schedules on the callboard. Check emails and paperwork.

1:00 PM – Attend weekly cast and crew meeting.

2:00 PM – Get ready for rehearsal.

Hanging out with my favorite animal in the show backstage!

Hanging out with my favorite animal in the show backstage!

3:00 PM – Rehearsal – for me, this meant trying to make sure no one got run over by a horse backstage. Despite the fact that we’d been doing the exact same thing for 10 months. 10 months, people! Sometimes I’d play a little Candy Crush then too, but only during the tiger act, which wasn’t very interesting to me and always made me congested. Who else out there knows if they’re allergic to tigers?

5:30 PM – Dinner. We actually had a food truck onsite that traveled with us every week called the pie car. Here’s a brief video about how the pie car worked. The filming of this was considered a PR event, so overseeing that was part of my job too (fortunately not at dinner time on opening day ;o).

6:00 PM – Start prepping for preshow.

6:30 PM – Preshow starts – an exciting event where lots of performers who don’t speak any English and don’t particularly like children are forced to interact in close proximity with them.

7:30 PM – Show starts. This is actually the easiest part of the day.

10:00 PM – Pack up and head back to the train. If there’s nothing happening early tomorrow morning and the weather’s good – hang out, barbeque and drink a lot.

Heavy Public Relations (PR) Day

3:00 AM – Yes, that says AM. Get picked up at train to go to the arena for early morning PR.

3:30 AM – Unlock all the costume storage, turn on the music in the arena and make sure the floor is set with all the scenic pieces for all of the TV shots that are about to occur.

Early Morning PR - clowning around at 4:00 AM. Seriously, who is awake and watching the morning shows at this hour? Whoever you are, I always hated you.

Early Morning PR – clowning around at 4:00 AM. Seriously, who is awake and watching the morning shows at this hour? Whoever you are, I always hated you.

4:00 AM – TV crews start to arrive. Start trying to keep performers from eating while they’re in costume, while feeling really guilty, because it is 4 frickin’ AM, am I really not going to let you drink that coffee?

9:00 AM – Wrap up filming. Get all the performers involved sent back to the train.

9:30 AM – Conference call with whatever city is 3 weeks ahead of the current one to discuss all their PR plans.

10:30 AM – Get picked up from the arena, go to the train, pick up a few performers and go to a radio or TV station for a live, on-air PR.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 5.06.10 PM

12:00 PM – Go to a local construction site to team up with Habitat for Humanity and help build a house. Clowns will juggle. Dancers will dance. Children of all ages will be delighted. All of the performers and I will try not to collapse from exhaustion.

2:00 PM – Return to arena for everyone to get out of their costumes.

2:15 PM – Head back to train.

2:30 PM – Collapse into unconsciousness.

You can kind of see my tiny sliver of bed through the door. That was my happy unconscious place.

You can kind of see my tiny sliver of bed through the door. That was my happy unconscious place.

5:30 PM – Drive back to the arena.

6:00 PM – Start prepping for preshow.

6:30 PM – Preshow starts.

At preshow, you can jump rope with your favorite performers! Except you don't really know they're your favorite yet because you haven't seen the show.

At preshow, you can jump rope with your favorite performers! Except you don’t really know they’re your favorite yet because you haven’t seen the show.

7:30 PM – Show starts.

10:00 PM – Pack up and head back to the train. If there’s nothing happening early tomorrow morning and the weather’s good – hang out, barbeque and drink a lot.

Travel Days – Best Day of the Week 

12:00 AM – 12:00 AM – You are trapped on a moving train. No one can bother you. It’s the best sleep ever.

Sigh. Train runs. I MISS YOU!!

Sigh. Train runs. I MISS YOU!!

On the plus side, I was just the PR supervisor, so heavy PR days were not the norm for me – maybe twice a month. The poor Event Coordinator had it worse because my Heavy PR day was pretty much her normal day.

Also, fun fact, the job titles in the circus are all different than in the theatrical world. So while my job duties were that of a stage manager, the person who was actually called a stage manager was the technical director – the person in charge of overseeing all technical aspects of the show. Our stage management team were called production managers. The person who performed the duties of a typical production manager was called the operations manager…. and so on and so forth to no end of confusion to someone entering the world for the first time.

24 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a Circus Stage Manager

    • I’m definitely pretty much a much at traveling. It’s more like – I’m ok without sleep for a few days, but year of it being a chronic thing makes me really not ok. So it was time to get off the road for a while.

    • Definitely the cruise ship. And I loved being rocked to sleep. My bed on the train was a mess. It was lumpy and probably 20 years old and so small that my boyfriend and I couldn’t even lay comfortably on it next to each other even though it claimed to be full-sized. Definitely not. Although I will say that the movement of the train when it was rolling was almost as awesome as the rocking of the ship to knock you out.

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