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An Incomplete List Of Things I’ve Learned In My 1st Year As A Freelance Stage Manager

By Caroline DAngelo

As a freelance stage manager living in New York, I have learned a few things in the past year. Here is my incomplete list of knowledge I have acquired in this time.

1. Work begets work.
2. Excellent begets excellence.
3. You’ll spend a lot more money during tech: you eat out, you buy more coffee, and you generally have too much to do to try to also save money doing it.
4. Pay for the uber home during tech…
5. …budget for the uber home during tech.
6. Find something else that is fulfilling—a faith community; a book club; a regularly scheduled game night. Make it a priority.
7. Find a good therapist.
8. If you’re having issues with a member of your team, don’t assume you’re the only one having those issues. Talk about it! Chances are it isn’t an isolated incident.

9. Talking and checking in with your team isn’t optional.

10. Use your status as a new freelancer to take people out for coffee and ask a lot of questions; people want to help.
11. Let people help.
12. Always send the thank you email.
13. Don’t be afraid to let folks know you’re looking for work.
14. It’s okay if every show isn’t artistically fulfilling.
15. …and that’s why outside fulfilment is so important.
16. Some things are more important than theatre.
17. Decide what’s important enough.
18. Fail boldly.
19. Fail well.
20. Admit mistakes and don’t make them again.
21. Rejection is an opportunity for growth.
22. Be willing to learn from rejection.
23. There are certain things that are very clearly not your job. It’s okay to say so, and to stand up for yourself.

24. Negotiate. But negotiate with the company’s capabilities in mind.

25. It’s okay to turn down a job.
26. Don’t apply for any job you aren’t willing to take.
27. Ask if you will have an Assistant Stage Manager.
28. Have an Assistant Stage Manager.
29. Don’t work for free.
30. Don’t put down your own money for a show, unless you’ve already confirmed you’ll be reimbursed.
31. Save your receipts.
32. Save your contracts.
33. If you negotiate something, don’t rely on good faith. Get it in writing.
34. When touring, negotiate single-room accommodations. The alone time is incredibly important in order to recoup and manage others!

35. No one you work with is unimportant.

36. Connections often come in the most unexpected places.
37. You are allowed to say no.
38. You are allowed to get overwhelmed.
39. You don’t have to hold being overwhelmed alone.
40. Learn what you need to do in order to not feel so overwhelmed.
41. Delegate.
42. Delegate.
43. Delegate!
44. Be aware of what your identity brings to a rehearsal room.
45. Be aware of what your team brings into a rehearsal room.
46. If a director is abusive, speak up!
47. The care goes one way.
48. Don’t make your survival job any more than that: survival.

49. As I learned when I took a general manager out for coffee: if there isn’t a ladder to climb, make one.

50. ..if you can’t build a ladder, make a jungle gym.

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