The Care and Feeding of your Stage Management Apprentice

I sit on the National Stage Management Committee where we are having an ongoing conversation about the apprenticeships and how we can improve them. Last night, during our conference call, Allan Teichman (CAEA Council president) sent around a list he’d written as an article for the Equity News some years ago. Below is a revised & updated version of his original article.

  • Get them involved; they are there to learn through doing.
  • Remember that their job is not regulated by the agreement; ensure that they are working reasonable hours and handling reasonable tasks.
  • They may be making a fraction of your fee, or even next to nothing, but don’t let them feel like cheap labour.
  • Give respect and you’ll get respect.
  • Even the most inexperienced apprentice can, with guidance, create a props list from the ground up.
  • Where they go wrong, constructively let them know how and why and which way improvement lies.
  • If there is no ASM, make the apprentice feel like one; most will rise to the challenge.
  • Take them to lunch some day.
  • You make the coffee sometime, and let them take a stab at some of your work.
  • Don¹t abandon your apprentice after a rehearsal or performance.
  • When they look like they are confused, take a moment to explain.
  • Take a moment to explain anyway.
  • Help them reset props, start laundry or do dishes; it doesn’t take long and gives them a chance to ask questions.
  • If you want to expect responsibility, you must first confer responsibility.
  • Make them part of a team, not part of a chain.
  • Listen to the their suggestions, and if you disagree, explain why.
  • Train someone who will one day be able to competently stand in your stead.
  • Remember what your apprenticeship was like and make theirs better.
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About Lois

I am a Vancouver-based Stage Manager and frequent theatre goer. After graduating from Trinity Western University I spent two seasons as the resident stage manager at Pacific Theatre. Now I am working as a freelancer with various companies in Vancouver.

3 Comments

  1. Great advice! I was treated similarly when I was learning to stage manage, and not being treated as inferior to the SM really helps build your confidence. I’m writing about theatre too, though much less technical: https://ghostlightbway.wordpress.com/

  2. How do you feel about unpaid internships? I am a recent college grad pursuing stage management and have done several internships. I believe that internships that offer nothing but experience limit their applicants. Only those fortunate enough to not need the financial support, and still be able to afford housing and food for the duration of the internship are applying. I know not everyone has a budget to pay their interns well, but do you not agree that companies should at least make sure their interns are able to feed themselves and have a place to sleep? I’m just curious how others feel.

  3. Hey Courtney!

    I am not a fan of unpaid internships about 90% of the time. Apprentices/Interns need to afford transportation, housing, etc and this need for a fee is especially important when a project is a full-time professional production. The 10% of projects where I am more okay with unpaid internships are situations where the majority of the cast is also unpaid and it is on a part time schedule so that team members are still able to hold jobs or on projects where everyone is doing it for a cut of the box office so everyone is in the exact same place. One of the things that the Canadian National Stage Management Committee did was survey everyone who has held an equity apprentice position in the past 5 years and ask them how much they were paid – were they given an honorarium, an hourly rate, a weekly rate, bus tickets, etc. It was fascinating to see the wide range in responses. It is something that I am personally seeking to improve wherever I can, asking the awkward questions of my employers about compensation for the apprentices so that the apprentices don’t have to be put in those awkward positions.

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