A day in the life of… a stage manager

Lucy Coupe gives her perspective on why stage managing is the perfect extra-curricular activity

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There are times when one questions their decision to be on the crew of an Oxford show. Dragging a chaise longue through the midnight February drizzle after your final show, whilst the slightly inebriated cast steam past you riding a trolley and carrying two chairs and a candlestick between them, is one of them.

As a Stage Manager, dressed head to toe in black, you live in the wings, the shadow of the theatre (like the Phantom, but more tone-deaf and a little less angry). You grace the stage in darkness alone and, while the cast go out to meet their adoring fans after the curtain has fallen, you drag the half-broken chairs back into their place and slip out quietly into the night.

Likely to be spotted traipsing the streets with an armful of scythes and a couple of litres of lemonade, a stage manager must abandon all sense of decency and accept that they will spend the next few days whispering, sweating, or carrying unreasonably heavy beds.

You will start show week unknown to the cast, too late to the party to understand the in-jokes and left with only your headset for company until, just before opening night, you will be called upon to locate the most critical prop which has mysteriously vanished and, on finding it, become the backstage hero no one knew they needed.

Should you want speed up this infiltration of the inner circle, here are a few tried and tested techniques to charm the thesps:

1. Frequently arrive at the theatre brandishing copious amounts of food. Bonus points if it is homemade.

2. Offer your house as the location for the after party. (Then apologise to your naïve housemates after a group of half-naked actors climb into the bath at 4AM).

3. Run a tight ship, by all means, but on the last night, turn a blind eye to mischief. Has that cranberry juice turned into red wine? You don’t know, you had nothing to do with it, and you definitely didn’t hide the bottles in the girls’ dressing room.

Follow these steps and you will have gained twenty Facebook friends, a bottle of wine, the title of ‘superwoman’, and an overload of gratitude by the end of the week. You will sleep for a few days, obsessively scour eBay for antique binoculars before realising it’s all over, and confess that you wish you could do it all again.

Then remember you’ve signed up for another show in two weeks, open up Amazon, and get searching for all the fake blood you can possibly find.

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