Dateline: 16th June, 2011
Stage Management Awards 2011
The Stage Management Association (SMA) made the presentation of this year's awards at the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) Theatre show on Wednesday 15th June at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London.
It is not often that stage management get public credit so those awards, which were first presented in 1988, are a rare opportunity to acknowledge the huge contribution that stage management make to the success of each and every show. Currently sponsored by The Stage, one prize goes to an individual member of stage management and another to the stage management team on a particular production.
A further prize, for a student stage manager, is new this year and sponsored by Global Design Solutions and the occasion also sees the presentation of the SMA Golden Headset, which acknowledges the lifetime contribution of an individual to the field of stage management.
The Award Ceremony was opened by Catherine Comerford, Managing Director of The Stage, and the award Shortlists were announced by Barbara Eifler, Executive Director of the SMA, who is one of the selection panel.
Oliviers and Tonys and other awards for actors, shows, directors, designers and others whose contribution to a show can be seen on stage by the audience can be judged for their effectiveness by professionals and punters who attend the show. It is much more difficult to assess the contribution of stage management. Most people will only be aware of a stage manager's work if something goes wrong, a mistimed cue or a missing prop - and perhaps non-professionals might not even be aware of that part of the job! How therefore are these awards decided? Well, not by a panel who have been to see every eligible show for sure!
In fact the selection panel have quite a difficult job and, according to Eifler this year they had the longest meeting ever before they came to their decisions. I asked her how in fact they made their judgements.
They rely upon the recommendations of the people who have experienced the work of stage management first hand. Anyone can nominate people for these prizes, fellow actors, directors, managements, designers and other technicians - this year there were two nominations from audience members.
Those submitting nominations are expected to give their reasons and the amount of support a nominee is given both in what is said of their work and in the number of supporters will naturally influence decisions. The selection panel are all familiar with what stage management do and are well equipped to understand what demands a particular production would make, what challenges it would pose and will often go back to those proposing nominations to ask for more information or elucidation. They will always be looking out for people who have achieved something extraordinary.
The full shortlists are given below - and these, of course, are already selections from many more nominations.
Director Lindsey Posner, who has directed for the Royal Court, the RSC and many other theatres (his most recent show Simon Gray's Butley with Dominic West and Paul McGann at the Duchess Theatre) was there to make the presentations. He spoke first of his reliance on stage management in his own career, and especially on DSMs for rehearsal scheduling, and how the person running a show can and should make a difference. It demands someone with the same sort of sensitivity as the actor for, in cueing for instance, they must respond to the differences that the actors bring to every performance. Full of admiration for stage management he did remember one negative experience with an unnamed production in the Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court. On his weekly or more frequent visits to check on the production there was always something that went wrong. When he asked the stage manager what the problem was he got the reply, "Don't worry. It's only me." It's the exception that makes the rule.
The Individual Award went to Company Stage Manager Steph Curtis for her work on Kneehigh's The Red Shoes.
The Team Award was presented to those working on Charged, presented by Clean Break at the Soho theatre, consisting of Claire Essex, Sarah Tryfan and Rebecca Cattrell.
The Student Award was presented by Matt Lloyd, Managing Director of its sponsor Global Design Solutions, to Charlotte Archer of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
This was followed by the announcement of the posthumous presentation of the 2011 SMA Golden Headset to Bob Stanton. Richard Pilbrow, theatre consultant, lighting designer, founder of Theatre Projects and himself a former SM, presented a valedictory to the man whom he described as his "life long mentor". Robert Stanton got him his first job when it was his good fortune that commercial television had just started and stage managers were handing in their notice to go into television, some as directors, and there were suddenly vacancies in the West End. Richard, still at drama school had been told that by the time he was 40 he might land a West End job, now Stanton offered him one starting 10am next day on The Teahouse of the August Moon!
Bob Stanton had begun his career in the 1930s when he worked with Basil Dean, of whom he claimed to have been terrified, and went on to become a leading West end stage manager - My Fair Lady followed Teahouse. He ran the stage management course at LAMDA and became administrator of that drama school where probably 1200 people must have passed through his stage management course.
Richard, incidentally, has a new book out, launched at the ABTT Show: A Theatre Project which he subtitles 'A Backstage Adventure and describes as an autobiographical tale - which includes the story of the company Theatre Projects. .
If you would like to nominate an individual or a team for the 2012 awards forms can be obtained from email@example.com or by calling 020 7403 7999. Nominations can be made at any time.
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