So even though Christmas is upon us, it doesn’t feel very Christmassy. The city is smoky, stressed and tired. Our PM is absent, and our firefighters are exhausted. But I wanted to finish the year on a positive note. So I am writing a love letter to Stage Managers.
Most of you will never meet a Stage Manager. They arrive at the theatre long before all of us to prepare for the show. They leave long after the crowds and creatives having cleaned up all the mess, made sure the costumes are all cleaned ready for the next show, and at Griffin they set the alarms and lock up as they leave. They are mixed in with the late night travellers of the city.
You may not know it when you watch, but the Stage Manager is the heart of every show. They conduct the rhythms and tempos of every moment, and their performance is intricately bound up with that of the performers you see in front of you. They are often the best assistant directors you will find, the smartest dramaturgs, great psychologists, logistics experts, planning geniuses, and the discrete keepers of all our secrets. We always ask way too much of them—that is the nature of the job.
Our thanks to them are never enough—you know that moment at the end when in between the actors’ bows, they all gesture to the back of the theatre or into the wings? They are thanking the Stage Manager for their performance that night. When you see five performers on stage, there are really six. At larger theatres, there are bigger backstage teams supporting the Stage Manager, but at Griffin there is just one person holding the whole enterprise together.
We have a fabulous Stage Manager holding the Family Values rehearsal process together over Christmas. I don’t know how he is going to find time to do his Christmas shopping and keep everything on track, but he is a legend so I have complete confidence in him. I would name him but Stage Managers are notoriously private people and I think he would be horrified to be dragged out on to the digital stage.
Instead, I would like to thank him by thanking his whole profession—all the Stage Managers around the world who are working through Christmas this year. Thank you for all the work you are doing, likely at the expense of your own families, to keep the theatre family happy at this time of year. Thank you for all the work you have done this year, and apologies in advance for all the ridiculous things we are going to ask of you in 2020.
So raise a glass with me to the Stage Managers, as we toast 2019 and look forward to next year when we celebrate 50 Years of the Stables.