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I Was a Westend Stage Manager - Ask Me Anything

85 replies

TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 19:42

Title says it all really!

Did the rounds of a few big Westend musicals as well as working for the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House for a time. Worked with some big names too....gave it all up a couple years ago to start my family.

Anyone wants to know the ins and outs of working in theatre....ask me anything!

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iwishi · 21/09/2019 19:47

Some celebs you've met and what are they like to wok with? Would love to know about Michael Ball

DailyMailcanfuckthefuckoff · 21/09/2019 19:55

Wow, how interesting! It's not something I've ever had professional contact with, but I do love a good theatre production. A few, if I may...

  • Did you have any set disasters / things to cover up from the audience? (Things breaking or in the wrong place/lost, arguments between cast, production problems...)
  • How often (say, per week) would the same actors do a show? (Like, 5 days on / 2 off, or...?)
  • Did any of the actors date each other and did this lead to any backstage rifts?
  • Did you take any souvenirs during your time there? (Asking because I SOOOOO would have done)
  • Also what @ iwishi said; I love a good celeb story Grin
boatyardblues · 21/09/2019 19:57

I’m interested to know how reliable an indicator having a good (or bad) public image is of real life character/behaviour? Are there some national treasures who are absolutely vile in real life?

ilovethatshow · 21/09/2019 20:07

Will you go back or change career?

5LeafClover · 21/09/2019 20:15

Was there much socializing with the crew and/or cast in a show? What were your usual hours? How did you get your first job?

choppolata · 21/09/2019 20:21

Ooh fabulous. Is there a divide between 'show people' and TV stars?

SouthWestmom · 21/09/2019 21:09

What was morale like for a bad review? We saw and loved the man from La Mancha recently which was panned by the critics but online audiences loved it.

mnahmnah · 21/09/2019 21:11

Sorry, but i’m to go straight for which celebs were the best and worst?! And the worst behaviour you’ve encountered

ThomasRichard · 21/09/2019 21:13

Which show is your favourite to watch?

TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 21:20

@iwishi favourite by far was Joanna Lumley! Few years ago now but she was honestly just the sweetest person ever. I remember bringing my mum round to Stage Door after the show to meet her...she held out her hand simply said 'oh darling it's just wonderful to meet you!!!' My mum was totally gaga after that and told all her friends how her and Joanna were totally best friends now Grin

Honestly have never worked with Michael Ball so can't say from personal experience. Only thing I've jokingly heard is that he always needs two dressing for him and one for his ego Hmm

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TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 21:27


I personally didn't experience that many (thankfully)....but the one that sticks in my head is doing Panto one year the dragon (Sleeping Beauty) broke down in the middle of the scene. Head slumped forward, wings dropped. I had to run on stage in front of a schools audience (500+ rowdy kids!!!) and say that the dragon was feeling a bit poorly, so we were gonna take him backstage for a cough drop and a lemsip. Lucky it was a quick fix and the show was up again in 15 minutes....I've never been more terrified in my life though!

Generally unless it's written into their contract or they're off because of genuine illness, everyone will do 8 shows a week. Sometimes in shows like Phantom and Mamma Mia you'll have the main roles covered by something called an alternate, and they might do one or two a week covering. This is usually specified on posters outside the theatre.

Actors always date each other. ALWAYS. And yes it always cause rifts but 95% of the time they can remain professional on stage.

I've taken one or two props in my time - only when a show is closing though and they're all going in to storage until it either tours or opens again. My favourite is a pair of Dartington Crystal champagne glasses Grin

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TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 21:30

@boatyardblues there is one 'National treasure' who I have heard is absolutely vile...too scared to mention on here though so sorry to be boring! I'd say generally though the celebs I've worked with have all been very personable. I suppose you can never be too careful...entertainment is an incredibly small world and unless you've got status it's a silly idea to make life hard for those around you. They remember...we're here to help, not hinder.

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TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 21:31

@ilovethatshow I'd like to think so! You never truly leave the 'theatah'....I still stay in contact with all my friends so who knows.

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sauvignonblancplz · 21/09/2019 21:33

How do you get into working in the theatre? Production, stage management?

tabbycat985 · 21/09/2019 21:40

Were you a performing arts student turned SM or did you always want to work production?

TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 21:41

@5LeafClover post show drinks are a must and usually have a good turnout. Walk into any Covent Garden pub around 10:15pm and you'll find the casts and backstage staff of every other show.

I went to drama school and did a degree in Stage Management...did some work experience in my third year and made a good impression, they hired me straight after graduation for their next show. After that it's all about keeping a good name for yourself and collecting contacts. You can't just know your have to know people too unfortunately. I must have been alright at it as I managed 11 years!

Hours depend greatly on the type of show. Westend will be show call at 6:15 (or earlier for a matinee) and finishing around 10:30. During cast change you'll also be there during the day to rehearse the new cast in, but luckily that only takes up a few weeks every year. Those weeks are tough!
For touring shows the rehearsals will be Monday to Friday 9-5/6 with an occasional Saturday for 4-7 weeks, then whilst on tour the schedules can vary, but generally Monday at the theatre for 9am to get everything in and tech, then show call after that.
For short running shows it'll follow the same rehearsal pattern as touring, but it'll be followed by a tech week. These can be hard going for backstage staff, starting very early and finishing in the wee small hours. I remember once for a touring show finishing at 4am, then getting a Hilton hotel room for 3 hours before I was called next day at 7am to continue focusing lights. I was not up to the task that day!

We do it because we love it!

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TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 21:56

@choppolata this honestly depends on the show. I've done shows with big names where they've always joined in on a Saturday night drinks, then I've also done shows with names that are big in the theatre world but not really much more than that....who deemed themselves too important to join the rift raff! Generally though we're all in it together and tend to get along

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5LeafClover · 21/09/2019 21:58

Thank you. That's so interesting....I love finding out about this world, Carrie hope Fletcher's YouTube channel is my guilty pleasure. More questions if you can bear it...

What was the daytime routine if you're working on a show. Do people do other jobs at the same time or is the pay enough to not need to? Do you need an agent? Is it like acting where periods of resting are expected and it's difficult to get your break?

TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 21:58

@Noeuf generally bad reviews are to be taken as water off a ducks back. My first west end show was a limited run over Christmas which sold out a week after opening...however the critics all absolutely hated it! Audiences begged to differ though and that was what the cast played for.

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TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 22:03

@ThomasRichard hilariously the show was a total flop and panned by the critics....but I absolutely adored The Lord of the Rings when it ran for a short time I'm 2009! I saw it four times....hilariously later worked with many members of the original cast, always loved awkwardly telling them I'd met them before when waiting at stage door to get their autograph after the show Blush yeah...I was that theatre kid.

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TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 22:05

@sauvignonblancplz I did the traditional way of working backstage on am dram throughout my teens, then going to university to get a degree in stage management. I know of a few people who just blagged their way in's very much who you know. You can be the best stage manager in the world, but if you're not noticed by that one production manager who recruiting the next big show then you'll drift under the radar.

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TheatreJunkie84 · 21/09/2019 22:08

@tabbycat985 always been a stage manager! It's rare for an actor to turn SM in any short amount of time...though I do know of a fair amount of stage crew and dressers who are also actors. Not to say their jobs are any less valuable, but in most cases it's a shorter amount of training so easy to transfer.

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whattodo2019 · 21/09/2019 22:10

Any tips if getting reduced priced tickets to shows!

Loveislandaddict · 21/09/2019 22:11

Saw Michael Ball in concert earlier this year. Superb concert.

Do West End stars get paid well? How about the chorus?

Did you see any chorus people which you knew would become huge?

Comefromaway · 21/09/2019 22:17

I’d love to think of an interesting question but can’t.

I used to work for regional touring theatre as a Chaperone & my Dd was a panto juvie so have been backstage many times. I don’t envy the job of the SM.

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