New Year’s Resolutions for Stage Managers

I awoke to a surprise this morning…a mention in another stage manager’s blog. First, read my dear friend David McGraw’s post about New Year’s Resolutions over on the Stage Directions Stage Managers’ Kit blog. I’ll wait…..

Read it? Notice someone’s name? Ha. Yes, I have a bit of a reputation for gathering stage managers together both at home and around the country as I travel, with some sponsorship by the Stage Managers’ Association, when I actually turn in some receipts for appetizers or similar. It’s one of the things that helps me get through this crazy world/life of stage management. It also has helped me find some of my dearest friends and co-workers/teams over the years.

As for the rest of David’s post, I agree with it pretty much whole heartedly. Let’s go over each of his topics:

1. How Quirky Are You?

Well, I’m a grown woman, old enough to be the mother of many of my crew…and I’m the one who travels with a stuffed Eeyore. He goes just about everywhere with me, especially out of town, and my friends love to follow his travels by photo. (They tell me so!)

Eeyore sitting in front of the Stage Management Entrance
Eeyore at the stage door for New Harmony Theatre, Indiana

Besides Eeyore, among a group of stage managers, I’ve also been introduced several times as the river guide as well. In my past I’ve been a licensed whitewater guide, taking people on canoe and kayak trips in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Lately as I travel I’ve been trying to go paddling at least once per trip. I just finished a Christmas gig in Nevada, and was able to paddle below the Hoover Dam on a day off.

Emerald Cave on the Colorado River (Arizona side)

2. Improve Your Safety Skills

I heartily recommend having your First Aid and CPR certifications. I tend to prefer the American Heart Association classes these days, for basic training. However, if you want actual experience, rather than memorizing for a test (and more likely to forget sooner), if you have some spare cash and time, I recommend a NOLS Wilderness First Aid (WFA) class. Be aware what time of year you take it, as you will go outside for a portion of the class. Also, if you happen to be in the Denver area, stay tuned – I’m looking at putting together another First Aid class for Stage Managers once I know my upcoming schedule a little better. I also recently participated in a weekend Stage Combat Class in Quarterstaff – it totally stretched my comfort zone, in a good way.

3. Negotiate Your Salary at Least Once

Okay, this one is harder for me, especially when I know there are so many other people fighting for jobs. I have done it successfully on occasion. Moreso, I do ask for other benefits that I know are easier to grant on tighter budgets….things that will make my stay out of town that much better, or…well, I don’t want to give away too many of my secrets here. Especially if you’re a potential employer, because, really, I do want to get paid the best that you can offer. However, guaranteed WiFi (housing and work) and other company management type offerings can go a long way towards my happiness.

4. If you Could Improve Your Work Environment, What Would You Buy?

Yes, yes, yes. I’m really trying to get folks over the old thought process held that perfect Stage Managers have the best Stage Management Kits. I bought into it myself when I was in college, and had not one but two large toolboxes, and a set of wheels to roll them. These days, I travel with the things that make my world better, and expect a theatre to provide the basic necessities.

Fabric stage management kit with lots of pockets, perfect for a traveling stage manager.
My current travel-size kit, with the specifics just for me. Thank you to Margaret Kayes for the gift!

I get tired of hole punches that don’t work well, so I bring my favorite (Swingline High Capacity!), and can punch things much faster than a standard one. If there are certain tabs, I’ll probably buy those too. I even bring my own spike stick to have some extra, handy colors of spike tape in one portable location….but I’ll expect to restock it with the theatre’s supply by the end of the contract. I remember years ago reading in a stage management book that everyone should have paraffin wax in their kit for dental emergencies. Guess what? I never have…and have also never had the need. As my friend and fellow stage manager Amanda Spooner says, “Tide pens don’t make you a better Stage Manager.” Now granted, when I’m working out of town, that Tide pen can be quite handy in my housing for my own purposes – though I’m more likely to have my spray OxiClean. For more on what I take for myself, read my “Creature Comforts on the Road” post.

5. Make More Stage Manager Friends

Well, okay, did you read the original post? Here’s the link again, and a direct quote from it:

Use the New Year to schedule a drinks night or brunch (we shouldn’t all rely on the great traveling SM Erin Joy Swank to arrange one).

Ha. Yes, I do tend to make lots of stage manager friends. And I’ll always love to make more. They are my strength on down days, my celebrators of happy days, my listening ear on crazy/stressful days, and some of my dearest friends on earth. It also helps to have them around the country in different time zones and sleep schedules for any given moment for a chat.

A long brunch table of stage managers smiles at the camera.
The latest SMA gathering I held – Vegas Holiday Brunch 2018. If you look closely, Eeyore was there, too…

5a. Make More Non-Industry Friends

I’m excited to say I’m meeting up with some former river guide friends tomorrow for a New Year’s Dinner, eating at some other fellow river guide friends’ pizza place. (Colorado folks, I highly recommend Wood Paddle Pizza & Tap in Aurora, or Wing Hut from our same friends.)

6. Get Serious About Your Health

This one I do better at times and worse at times. I’m proud to say that my last Vegas gig I never ate at the restaurant downstairs, nor ordered room service. I’m still a Mountain Dew fiend, and I don’t do my Pilates as nearly often as I’d like, though I do take a mat with me. However, I try to get outside the building on tech days, and like I said, try to go enjoy nature and water when possible. I can always be better, and that’s definitely on the resolution list for 2019.

As for Number 7 – just go read David’s post again. That’s funny.

Any other resolutions you’d like to work on as a stage manager? This website is right at a year old, and I’m looking forward to writing more blog posts. My Opera SM 101 series has gotten some great response. I’ve got a couple other topics in mind, both to continue that series, but perhaps dive into Dance Stage Management, and some tricks I’ve picked up along the way. I also need to take more time for myself and other projects – including reading! – when I’m out of town, and not just collapse in housing or fret away so much time on mindless (if challenging) games on my phone. I also want to continue to learn from other stage managers, so let me know if you’ve got a blog, too! I’m also looking into taking some free online courses while I’ve got some down time. I’m particularly interested in one on Autism, since I’ve worked with more people on the spectrum in recent productions.

Wishing all of you a wonderful 2019. Let’s see what it brings each of us!