Sample Stage Management Paperwork
This is page was created as reference material for the USITT 2011 Charlotte Conference Session "SM Paper Trail Rides Again: How to Document Almost Everything."
Co-presenters Laurie Kincman and Erin Joy Swank.
If you have questions, you can contact us. (Erin will share with Laurie.) We like comments, too, and have enjoyed the feedback so far from our session.
The Powerpoint slides are now available. [Download PDF]
Paperwork really varies from production to production and there is no "one way" to do your paperwork. Musicals need different paperwork from theatre, which needs different paperwork from opera, though many of the formats can be adapted across genres and productions. Please take a look at our numerous samples, see what might work for you particular production, and "make them your own." Please remember there are endless ways to create your paperwork...and if you simply need a list or cheat sheet instead of a complicated document, that's okay, too!
Please note that all "Samples" are PDFs or JPEGs of real production paperwork; usable forms are listed as "Templates."
The Pre-Production Process:
Preliminary Script Analysis [Sample]
Character Breakdown by Page [Sample 1] [Template 1] [Sample 2]
Character Breakdown by Scene [Sample]
Musical Character/Scene Breakdown - [Sample] [Template]
Music Breakdown [Sample] [Template] To keep everyone literally on the same page, from musician to actor.
Contact Information Sheets [Template]
Actor Packets for First Rehearsal - Vary by theatre's needs, but work in conjunction with company management to create local information and theatre FAQs. Also add calendars, breakdowns, etc to this packet and any financial documents (I-9s/W4s, direct deposit).
Wallet Cards [Template]
Adjust as needed to fit your production, and can either be laminated and cut apart or printed on perforated business cards (use the Word doc template that matches your paper). Double-siding can help your space limitations. Items to consider for inclusion: Stage Managers' cell and/or office, rehearsal call hotline, company manager, costume shop number, dates and times of performances, box office, local housing information
Sign-In Sheets - Format can vary depending on the application - Does the SM team check it off, or is it posted on the callboard? If posted, a separate sign-in if you have a break in the day, and decide if this is where you also want to post general notes for the day. You may also need a sign-in for stage door security separate from the callboard.
Fitting Request Sheets [Sample][Template]
This is useful for non-Equity shows; for union shows, you will probably schedule yourself to fall within correct guildelines for being adjacent to each actor's rehearsal call.
Prop List [Sample] [Template]
Depending on the theatre and the complexity of your own production, you may want to have separate prop lists and preset lists, or may be able to create them as one document from the beginning.
Paperwork for the Stage Manager - Organizing Yourself:
SM Log Book [Template]
A place to write down notes throughout the production process. The stage manager can take this home with all pertinent information to the production regarding schedules, conflicts, future fitting and meeting requests and to-dos, and leave the blocking/call scripts at the theatre. Held together with loose rings instead of an actual binder, add an extra copy of every schedule, contact sheet, etc here for easily accessible information.
Meeting Agendas - Whether simply for yourself, or to distribute to the production team, go into meetings with a list of things to discuss.
Groundplan Cheat Sheet [Sample]
The sample shows multiple scenes on one piece of paperwork. It's also helpful to have several copies of a single scene's groundplan handy, with wide margins all the way around. These can be used for preset diagrams (including the page that each change of look happens so you can jump from scene to scene quickly in rehearsal) and for assisting in capturing the blocking for large group numbers. You may also want to create blank cheat sheets of cabinets, tabletops and the like for preset diagrams as well.
Script Assignment Form [Sample] Useful if you are using rented scripts
Equity Vote Ballot [Template] Note, the rules are different for each contract of what needs to be voted on, and may have changed from the time of this document's creation. Check up on what specifically your production needs.
The Rehearsal Process:
Blocking Key [Sample 1] [Sample 2] [Template]
This "cheat sheet" is for all of the heiroglyphics a stage manager may have written during blocking (setting the actor's movements), so that someone else can interpret your book. Place it in the front of your blocking script.
You may only need the daily schedule if you have multiple shows in production at once or complex shows with multiple rehearsal rooms. Not necessarily distributed by paper except on callboards, for the SM team and director (helpful for the Equity Deputy to have a copy, too); you may think about creating a Google Site website for pesonnel to check, having a rehearsal hotline phone number and/or emailing it.
Script Changes [Sample 1] [Template 1] [Sample 2] [Template 2]
Provide enough of the script wording before and after the change so that people can find it on the page. Also write in your prompt script the date the change happens for reference. Sample 1 above inclues an Excel you can sort by page or by date depending upon your needs; just remember a new page like "43A" will throw off the sorting.
Line Notes [Sample 1] [Template 1] [Sample 2]
Sample 1 takes some time to compile, but uses less paper (and if the same line notes are repeated, copy-and-paste for the future). Sample 2 is handy for notice of just a couple lines, especially if you have some pre-cut strips ready at the SM desk. See Blocking Key Sample 1 for some examples of how to record line notes in your script.
Run Order [Sample 1] [Sample 2] When you approach runthroughs, post this list on the walls of the rehearsal to remind everyone what's next. If tracked music, you can include timings. (Keep these handy for tech/run too.)
The Tech Process:
SM Load In Checklist [Sample]
Preset List [Sample 1] [Sample 2] [Picture Diagram Sample] [SM Preshow Checklist]
It is recommended that you either have checklists built into the paperwork or place them in sheet protectors that you can write on for inventory then clean between shows. Photos of specific presets can be helpful documentation.
Shift Plot [Sample] [Template]
If you need individual run sheets for different departments, you can create separate worksheets in the same Excel doc, linking the cells to the individual sheets. Thus, stage management can update the main sheet and it automatically transfers to the individual crew sheets. Conversely, here are some additional samples of individual department run sheets: [Deck Electrician] [SL Props] [SR SM]
Running Info Sheet [Sample] [Template]
A theatre version of opera's "who/what/where" paperwork (see below). This is a running list of everything that happens during a performance, with the script page, approximate run time, where it takes place, and who is involved. While it's often "too much information" for anyone other than stage management, you can cut and paste from it to create individual lists for departments. Also works as the running paperwork for productions with only 1 or 2 crew members total backstage.
SIDEBAR: To assist with gathering the runtimes, as well as calculate rehearsal breaks, we highly recommend the MegaWatch free application. [download here]
Because of its complexity, the opera genre tends to have some of the most in-depth stage management paperwork, which can be adapted to other genres (see the Running Info Sheet above). Here are a few samples:
Who/What/Where - [Sample 1] [Sample 2] a very detailed list of everything that happens in an opera performance. During prep week, rough timings are taken by the stage manager from opera recordings, often in 30 second intervals, and every entrance or exit is marked by the page/stanza/measure of music it occurs as well. (ASMs are usually cueing all of this backstage.)
Prop Inventory - [Sample] Opera props are often a combination of rental items and things pulled by the local company.
ASM Run Script - [Sample] ASMs in opera run off a script rather than run paperwork, giving entrance cues to most of the singers. In this sample, true cues (entrances, tracking notes) are in the green dots, exits (to be aware of) are in pink, entrances are in orange. Thirty second timings are in yellow, treble and bass clef are highlighted to help follow along. Stage managers may also place markings for 4 minutes (places calls) and 2 minutes ("Are they backstage yet or do we need to make a second places call?") before singers enter.
Prop Run Paperwork [Sample]
Deck (Carpentry and Rail) Run Paperwork [Sample]
Deck Electrician Run Paperwork [Sample]
Wardrobe Run Paperwork [Opera Wardrobe]
Due to large casts and consideration of voice types, color-coded nametags are often made up for the Chorus and Supernumeraries with their name, voicetype, and occasionally the individual roles they have.
Multiple Cast List - [Sample] Many dance productions are likely to be double or triple cast.
Entrance/Exit List - [Sample 1] [Sample 2]an overview of where each group of performers enters and exits. Note the use of multiple Excel sheets for the first sample, the second is all in chronological order.
Stage Manager's Calling Cues
Calling from Dance Counts [Calling from Dancer Counts] [Calling from Lyrics/Dance Count Combination]
Calling from Computer - [Sample 1] [Sample 2] Sometimes you can simply call the cues off a computer grid using track timings and movements rather than music or a traditional script.
Shoe Grid - [Sample] Placed in the hallway for dancers to know what to wear for the day
Live Event Paperwork [Sample]A simple grid with what each department needs to do for a live multimedia event with little to no rehearsal.
Other Paperwork to Create - The following really depend on your own production, to create as is appropriate for your venue, but the stage manager may need to create: dressing room assignment lists, dressing room door tags, directional signs in the venue (to the stage, to wardrobe, etc.), stage door sign in for Security, callboard sign-in (daily or multiple days), spike/glow tape plots
Running the Show:
Calling/Cue Script [Sample]
Cue Light and Headset Location Plot [Sample]