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Stage Management

Stage Manager - Emily Grimes

As stage manager I over-see all the practical aspects of a show. I make sure that the sets are built and ready, that the props are sourced and ready, that costume fittings happen and that the director has everything she needs. I am one of the few people who will be present at all three stages of the production, pre-production, rehearsal and performance. I become the eyes and ears of the director, making sure the show happens correctly.

On this production I head a team of three: me, the deputy stage manager (DSM) and the assistant stage manager (ASM). The DSM ensures the company has everything it needs in rehearsal and notes the mechanics of the performance in the prompt book, often prompting actors when they forget lines. The ASM’s role is to go out and find all the things we need for the production, she sources the props, and adapts ones we may already have. As a team, during a show, all three of us have to go onstage to take care of the set changes. At the Globe we can’t bring the lights down to change a set, scene changes are impossible to disguise, so they become part of the performance. In this show our costumes are overalls, we are meant to be decorators. This is quite an artistic part of our job. If you get a scene change right it looks beautiful and goes unnoticed, but if you get it wrong everyone knows about it.

Managing the Globe stage

Stage management at the Globe is different from stage management at an ordinary theatre, particularly for the deputy stage manager who would be responsible for light and sound cues in a normal show. The rehearsal process here is similar to any other theatre, but when you’re actually in performance it is completely different because there are no lights or sound cues. For the stage manager it isn’t that different, the job is somewhat simpler, in that you just don’t have to worry about a lighting or a sound designer, however the challenges you face are different from those in a conventional theatre, for example you have to contend with the weather, and the audience. At last year’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing the audience was so excited at the start of the show that they wouldn’t quieten down and we couldn’t begin the play. In the end we had to use drums to signal the beginning of the play. This is not a problem a stage manager would experience in an ordinary theatre as we would just bring the lights down and the audience would hush.

At the Globe stage management will get involved with potentially tricky entrances and exits that happen around the outside of the building, if actors are coming through the yard. It’s not really our responsibility to make sure the actors are ready to go on stage, and at the Globe we’ve got no way of calling them. In a normal theatre you have a prompt caller and you would be able to get in contact with them an actor via a microphone and a tannoy to ensure they were ready, but usually actors are more than capable of getting on to the stage and doing their job by themselves.

The prompt book

The prompt book is like the Bible of the show.

It contains cast information, set plans, cue sheets and information from wardrobe, all of which has been gathered together over the rehearsal period. It has a copy of the script and marked on the script is the blocking of the show. Blocking is the movements and positions of the actors on the stage. This blocking map means that should something happen to one of the actors and an understudy had to go on they can fit into the production easily. The prompt book also has all the technical cues. For example when Claudio refuses Hero at the altar, the flower garlands fall out of the attic, we have a cue point for that technical moment. Although it’s called a prompt book we don’t actually use it to prompt the actors in performance. We generally don’t prompt actors at all at the Globe. The prompt book serves as a record of the show which can be very useful for future revivals.