So your local theatre company has decided to host the WODL Festival and have asked you to be the Festival Stage Manager. If you are like some people, panic sets in as you have never done such a task before, and you think will you'll let everyone down; or you graciously accept with pride, as you feel you can handle it, and it will be fun.
Well I am in the second group of people. The Festival Stage Manager is a fun position. Yes there are a lot of responsibilities. But, overall the tasks you will be required to perform, carry out, and report back on, are much like you would perform if you were stage managing a production for your own local theatre company. Let's just see what some of the tasks you will be responsible for are (the list is by no means complete).
You need to first gather together a team. The Festival Stage Manager's job is really too big of a job for just one person now, as the days at Festival will be very long--yet not action packed. There's no need to go into sleep deprivation at Festival. What I have found works best, is a team of at least two other individuals who think and work much like yourself and who you can trust to carry out the Festival Stage Manger's duties much like you would. They should also be as knowledgeable about your facility and equipment as you are. This way, you can divide the various jobs amongst you and not get into burn-out. At Festival you can divide the day between you such that no one becomes sleep deprived and you can all partake in the other activities at Festival.
Next up, get together a floor plan of the stage, a listing of all the equipment your company has that can be used by the incoming groups. Create the list of house rules with regards to: the load-in, the construction phase, the technical rehearsal, when the auditorium must be vacated, the production run itself, the deconstruction phase, and the load-out. And, most importantly, create the safety guidelines/rules that you expect, and demand to be, followed by everyone. Remember only to concern yourself with items that relate to the staging of a production--don't get involved with food prep, after glow parties etc. Many of these jobs need to be done for the October WODL meeting that will be held at your theatre. This will be the first time many of the "In-Festival" companies will get to see your facilities and ask questions (which you can, hopefully, answer).
Over the next couple of months, you can ensure that your facility and stage are a safe work environment. Perhaps it's time to declutter some of the spaces Festival will be occupying. After all, do you really need all those costumes, set pieces, and props that are residing in your green room/dressing rooms? The ones no one knew where to put, or you ran out of storage space. Those items that haven't been used in over 10 years (and not likely to ever be used again) and no one will part with them. With a little effort, over time you can declutter your facility for Festival, and in the process create for yourselves much better work environment. And, who knows maybe even create some storage space.
For the February WODL meeting that is in your theatre (i.e. that all important one where the in-Festival entrants are announced) you and your team MUST be there with all your house rules and regulations in place, accurate drawings of your facilities, accurate equipment listings, the all-important move in time, and your complete set of safety guidelines. You must also be prepared to give tours of your facility to the finalist groups and be prepared to answer any questions they may have. Don't be afraid to describe any constraints that the incoming participants may encounter (e.g. no wing space on stage right). The more your incoming participants know about the facility, the better they are able to plan and execute their move in. It would be wise to also include a lighting plot of your house hang and how you want the lighting rig to be restored after the end of every Festival production.
After this meeting you have about 4 weeks left. Time for those final inspections, hang the house plot, and do the final clean. Ahh, but this is also the time to get the directions to the hardware stores, lumber stores, drug stores, and beer/liquor stores closest to the theatre and closest to the Festival hotel. Remember no matter how good a group is at planning etc. they will inevitably forget something and having this information is important during the week of Festival.
So you're all set, ready and able to start and welcome your first incoming group. This is when the fun and the learning process begins. Remember that you and your team are there only as observers and to be resource personnel if needed; you're not there to actually do the work of remounting a production but rather to facilitate this process. You are also there to ensure the safety of all the incoming people who know nothing about your facility.
First-off introduce yourself to the incoming Stage Manager and crew and welcome them to your facility. See if they have any immediate concerns or questions. Let them know how you and your team will be operating through the day, and then let them begin. Ensure that all of your house rules are being followed. If there are infractions of your safety rules (especially those that could endanger lives or have a risk of serious or severe injury), remember you MUST stop the work and remind them of what is expected before allowing the work to continue. You don't want any injuries!! By now you will have had the chance to begin "scoring" your new group for determining who will win the Festival Stage Manager's Award. Keep track of time. and if they appear to be going off schedule, talk to the production Stage Manager. Remember they have a show that runs at 8pm finished or not and no one wants to "not be ready".
Throughout the day you will see things done in ways you expect and ways you don't, and you get to see if the work abouts will work. You will get to see how your newcomers overcome some obstacles. Who knows, maybe some of these practices will become part of your productions. Remind the production company that someone from your team will be with them in the booth to assist, if needed, and to ensure that nothing unforeseen by the production crew occurs. You will also have the opportunity to meet, converse, and become friends with many, many new people; this is the part of Festival that I think is the most fun--making new friends and hearing about others accomplishments and agonies of productions over time. Finally at the end of the night you and/or your team will oversee the load-out and final clean-up by the now outgoing production.
The first one is done, only 4 more to go!! If you have done this all correctly you will not have spent the entire day in your theatre but will have spread the job of overseeing the incoming production over your team. Remember load-in is usually around 7 am (this means you're there before that) and the load-out may not finish until after midnight (and you'll be there for a bit longer to close up and ensure nothing was left behind). Don't make the mistake of trying to be there all the time-you will just succeed in becoming sleep deprived and not enjoying Festival at all. Remember you have a team with you and they are just as important to the success of Festival as you are. Work as a team.
Well five nights later Festival begins to wrap up for another year. Let the Awards Chair know who you and your team felt was the most deserving of the Festival Stage Manager's Award so that the engraving can be completed. And, oh don't forget to have bought your ball ticket as you and your team give the award not the Festival adjudicator, or the Festival Chair, or anyone else on the Festival Committee. One of your final tasks is to have fun at the Ball--you can do the final report back to your Festival committee later.
So although the job of Festival Stage Manager sounds daunting and formidable it really isn't. In particular, if you have created a good team to have worked and shared all the tasks with, you and your team will have been able to take in much of what Festival has to offer, not be too sleep deprived and have had a really fun time!!