Stage Management - The Essential Handbook

Gail Pallin
Nick Hern Books

If ever there was a book that does exactly what the title suggests, neither more nor less, it is Stage Management - The Essential Handbook.

This is the perfect manual for someone going into the profession, written by an expert who has worked in most of the jobs described and then lectured on the subject at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh for 15 years.

Gail Pallin tries to make life as simple as possible for her readers, starting out by explaining exactly who does what behind the scenes in a theatre, from the chief executive and artistic director down through the ranks to assistant stage manager and the crew.

From there, she works through the process of staging a play in chronological order, so that readers are able to learn about preparation, starting with obtaining performing rights where necessary, setting up a rehearsal room and prompt book.

The guidance then continues through the rehearsal period, looks in great detail at the precision required when managing props and builds to the excitement of the opening night and then the run.

Throughout, she offers helpful advice, clearly derived from often painful experience and considers every kind of theatre from massive subsidised to amateur.

The advice is leavened with a little humour including cartoons, as well as lots of practical guidance in the form of diagrams, photographs and an assortment of worksheets.

In order to complete the picture, Miss Pallin goes beyond the strict remit of the book, providing a useful chapter on management theory, another on health and safety and, realistically, tries to help her readers by talking them through the job market, before leading into a chapter of case studies, which mixes her own wisdom with that of others in the business in looking at the creative processes involved.

The real strengths of this book lie in its breadth and simplicity. Rather than merely telling purchasers about the stage basics, the writer chooses to help them to understand what their potential colleagues will do and also how to deal with the mundane, non-artistic matters of theatrical life such as procuring props, managing finances and dealing with the unions.

This manual will undoubtedly prove of immense value to anybody setting out in the profession but not interested in the more obviously glamorous roles of writer, director or actor. By the time that budding stage managers have worked their way through it, they should know a great deal more about the careers that they are about to embark upon than before they started.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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