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Stage Management Dissertation Research

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Hello! I'm a final-year student at the University of Birmingham, studying on the BA Drama and Theatre Arts course.


I'm hoping to reach out to those who have experience and maybe interested and willing to give their opinions in aid of my dissertation. My research project explores the evolution of stage management into an artistic role. The dissertation looks into the roles and responsibilities of the SM department through history, and studies if, how and why the actions within the department have creative impact on the aesthetics of a production. Below is a longer description of my dissertation, as well as some insight into research so far and the direction I'd like to head in:

What spurred me in this direction was speaking to fellow students and aspiring SMs, and realising that the belief that a stage manager was purely an administrational and organisational figure was extremely prevalent.


Whilst undoubtedly the role calls for some admin-focused tasks, would props not be considered artistic or impactful on the aesthetic of a show? I imagine there's many other creative SM tasks as well, such as calling the show for DSMs etc. For some, even the communication and organisational skills of a SM are creative, and ultimately enables and furthers production aesthetics. (Kelly,2009)[1]


Al Franklin, Gail Pallin and Pauline Judd to name a few passionately express how the role of a stage manager is artistic, and in the words of Franklin, the diverse, creative skillset is 'what, ultimately, transforms the show from its pieces into that magical whole.'[2] With this, I'm hoping to attempt to compile the roles and responsibilities of the SM department, and examine how artistic the role is.


Alternatively, are there creative roles attributed to the SM department currently that shouldn't be? After looking on this forum, a particular thread caught my attention, wherein through technological evolution, the roles of the SM department are expanding into other areas of the production team (such as operating LX, sound and video). This is becoming more prevalent, with accredited SM organisations providing classes in non-traditionally SM areas. Again, I'd be interested to examine these trends and experiences/opinions of those with industry experience. (https://www.blueroom...=1)


However, I'm also interested in the evolution of stage management and if the creative roles we know today have changed and why. For example, the Greek Playwright, Medieval pageant masters and the actor-manager that appeared in Shakespearean times but rose to prominence in the 19th century. All of these roles encompassed some large aspects of the SM we know today, and are considered as inherently artistic with control over aesthetics.


I would be very interested to hear the opinions of industry professionals (not limited to just stage managers) on what you believe is or isn't surrounding this topic. If you're interested, or would like to know more, please feel free to comment on this post or email me via SXM1456@student.bham.ac.uk


Of course any other feedback is also welcome, and I'd be happy to discuss with you. Thanks in advance,


Sadie Moon



[1] Kelly, Thomas A., The Back Stage Guide to Stage Management: Traditional and New Methods for Running a Show from First Rehearsal to Last Performance, New York: Backstage, (2009)


[2] Franklin, Al, Equity News, 'In Defense of Stage Managers,' Actors' Equity Association (Dec, 2012) <https://www.actorsequity.org/news/EquityNews/Archives2010-2016/en_09_2012.pdf>

Edited by noomeidas
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