Similar Titles

Technical Director, Production Coordinator, Production Supervisor, Event Manager, Production Stage Coordinator, Show Caller, Production Assistant, Production Administrator, Stage Supervisor, Stage Operations Manager, Stage Producer

Job Description

In the world of theater and live productions, two roles are indispensable to the successful performance of all shows—the Stage Manager and the Production Manager! 

Stage Managers (SMs) serve as the technical linchpins during rehearsals and live performances. They make sure actors hit their marks and assist directors with technical tasks, overseeing the real-time aspects of the performance. They’re also the communication bridge between the cast and crew. 

Production Managers (PMs) focus on broader elements of a production, such as budgeting, scheduling, logistics, hiring designers, and coordinating with technical departments. PMs make sure the whole production “lines up” so the cast and crew can bring the director’s vision to life. 

SMs and PMs are integral to live productions, ensuring shows go off without a hitch! In some cases, their roles may overlap or even be rolled into one, depending on the size and scope of the show. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working in a fast-paced creative environment 
  • Helping keep cast and crew working together in harmony
  • Ensuring live performances remain a vital part of the entertainment industry, helping to keep the arts alive—and actors and crew employed!
2022 Employment
2032 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Stage and Production Managers work full days, with nights and weekend work common. While working on the particular show they are employed by, they put in a lot of overtime. But once a show has completed its run, they could face downtime and must find other projects to work on. 

Typical Duties

Stage Manager (SM)

  • Perform pre-production tasks, such as reviewing union rules, making a contact sheet, and reviewing the dimensions of the performance space
  • Schedule and oversee rehearsals to ensure all elements run smoothly
  • Use a prompt script to take detailed notes for blocking (i.e., where actors move on stage, lighting and sound cues, etc.), track props, and work with directors
  • Calls cues for lighting, sound, and other technical aspects, so all elements come together as rehearsed
  • Act as a central point of communication between the director, cast, and crew
  • Relay important information; ensure everyone is “on the same page”
  • Monitor performer and crew safety; perform safety checks
  • Coordinate for the creation of costumes, wigs, and props
  • Conduct pre-show warmups and manage backstage activities
  • Check out Stage Management Resource for a comprehensive list of duties

Production Manager (PM)

  • Create and maintain production budgets
  • Ensure productions are “financially feasible”
  • Schedule technical rehearsals; build schedules for set creation/load-ins/outs
  • Interview and hire technical team members 
  • Coordinate between departments (such as lighting, sound, costumes, and set)
  • Respond to issues; ensure departments have the resources they need
  • Manage venue logistics, such as checking if sets will fit in the venue space and liaising with venue staff
  • Prepare technical elements to be ready for the Stage Manager during rehearsals and performances
  • Procure applicable equipment for the times needed

Both the Stage Manager and Production Manager roles involve management and coordination. The SM primarily runs rehearsals and performances. The PM is in charge of broader production elements, ensuring resources, people, and schedules align to make the production possible. Depending on the size of the production, there may only be one person doing essentially both jobs! 

Additional Responsibilities

  • Review scripts. Discuss ideas and potential problems with the directors, cast, and crew 
  • Ensure the director’s creative vision is understood and captured
  • Help find suitable venues
  • Go over anticipated technical or logistical difficulties such as physical hazards requiring stunt coordination
  • Stay engaged with all departments to make sure everyone is working cohesively   
  • Approve set or stage designs, as applicable 
  • Go over budgets and financial considerations before production starts. Ensure productions stay on schedule and within budget
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Ability to motivate others 
  • Active listening
  • Calm under pressure
  • Collaborative 
  • Conceptualization skills
  • Confidence 
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Creativity
  • Decisiveness
  • Detail-oriented
  • Flexibility
  • Intuitive
  • Leadership 
  • Patience
  • Persistence 
  • Persuasiveness 
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Team-building
  • Visual and written storytelling

Technical Skills
Stage Manager

  • Script analysis for technical cues
  • Understanding of stage directions and terminology; knowledge of prompt books, rehearsal techniques and processes
  • Mastery of cue-calling techniques
  • Proficiency in using communication headsets and paging systems
  • Ability to read and interpret lighting plots, sound plots, and set designs
  • Knowledge of various stage management software (e.g., QLab, Stage Write)
  • Familiarity with health and safety protocols for theatre; basic first-aid training

Production Manager:

  • Understanding of technical riders and implications
  • Ability to read ground plans, lighting plots, and technical schematics
  • Knowledge of budgeting and financial tracking
  • Familiarity with venue specifications/requirements
  • Expertise in scheduling and timeline management
  • Knowledge of various technical disciplines (lighting, sound, rigging, etc.)
  • Understanding of contract negotiations and hiring processes
  • Familiarity with health and safety regulations, including risk assessments
  • Knowledge of equipment sourcing, rental, and purchasing
  • Understanding of production workflows from pre-production to post-production
Different Types of Organizations
  • Theatrical companies
  • Broadway and Off-Broadway productions
  • Opera companies
  • Concert venues
  • Television studios
  • Film sets
  • Theme parks
  • Educational institutions (school and university productions)
  • Sporting events
  • Award ceremonies and gala events
Expectations and Sacrifices

Without Stage Managers, live performances would be in chaos every time the curtain rises! Their tasks are intricate and demand an impressive level of coordination and multitasking with production teams, directors, and tech crews. 

Live theater (or theatre, if you prefer) and other live events can be unpredictable, but SMs must ensure each performance goes off without a hitch. Hours can run long, especially during tech week, with a flurry of rehearsals and last-minute changes. They may also have to deal with frustrated actors or technical problems. 

Most shows have limited runs, so Stage Managers may have to juggle multiple projects to maintain a consistent income. The same goes for Production Managers, without whom productions would crumble! Their jobs involve a complex mesh of organizational and logistical challenges. 

PMs are deeply embedded in the pre-production phase, ensuring that everything from sets to sound equipment is ready for showtime. Again, hours can go long, with department meetings, budget reviews, and logistical or equipment issues. 

Current Trends

With the surge in high-budget streaming platforms, live productions and theatrical performances have seen a renaissance in their presentation. Brilliantly written plays, outstanding production designs, and good pay have enticed renowned actors who, in earlier times, might have stuck to film or TV deals. 

Producers are bringing on more Stage Managers and Production Managers to ensure shows run seamlessly and to bridge the gap between the vision of directors and the practical execution on stage.

From Broadway to touring productions, cruise ship performances, and exclusive live events, there's been an uptick in the quality and number of theatrical presentations. As cinema chains strive to pull audiences back, it seems the allure of live theatre is getting stronger. With their expertise now in greater demand, SMs and PMs are also playing pivotal roles in large festivals, corporate events, and specialized performances. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Stage Managers and Production Managers likely had a flair for live productions early on. School involvement might have included plays or event coordination. They often emerge as reliable, diligent leaders in group tasks or school events, showing they can juggle many tasks and oversee broader projects.

Most demonstrate a blend of precision and practicality, excelling in roles that require communication and multitasking. They were likely inquisitive learners who were both creative and good with logistics and small details!

Education and Training Needed
  • Stage and Production Managers require at least a high school diploma. A college degree is not necessary but some do earn a bachelor’s in theater, drama, or stage management, or they attend formal training via community college courses
  • Most workers start in entry-level positions, as stagehands, technical crew members, or production assistants, then work their way up to assistant Stage or Production Manager as they gain experience in local productions 
  • Practical experience in a wide range of production types can be useful, such as working on plays, musicals, and live concert events
  • Both college and real-world work experience are also crucial for networking and making connections in the industry, which will be invaluable as you progress
Things to look for in an University
  • Consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid)
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program. Ideally, you’ll want as much hands-on practice as you can get
  • Check out the program’s faculty awards and accomplishments to see what productions they’ve worked on
  • Look closely at the school’s facilities and the equipment and software that students train on
  • Review job placement stats and details about the program’s alumni network 
Things to do in High School and College
  • Stock up on courses in art, English, communication, speaking, psychology, design, and photography
  • Volunteer for school activities where you can learn how to work effectively as a team, practice leadership skills, and manage large projects 
  • Consider signing up for confidence and resiliency courses, so you’ll be able to direct teams under stressful circumstances 
  • Join audiovisual and theater clubs to get hands-on experience
  • Participate in school and local theater productions, as well as concerts and other public events. Volunteer or look for part-time gigs 
  • Try to decide if you’d rather be a Stage Manager or Production Manager, so you can tailor your learning and work activities toward that path
  • Study books, articles, online forums, video tutorials, and behind-the-scenes documentaries (see our list of Resources > Websites)
  • Get to know the ins and outs of every major department involved, such as set design and construction, costume design, lighting and sound, props, makeup and hair, choreography, music, special effects crews, etc. 
  • Get familiar with some of the top Stage Managers and Production Managers. Read their bios for ideas and inspiration 
  • Ask a working SM or PM if they have time to do an informational interview with you or use Ask a Stage Manager
  • Launch an online portfolio to showcase your skills and work
  • Attend local productions frequently. Try to get an annual pass or student discount
  • Join professional theater-related organizations in your area to learn about trends and grow your network 
Typical Roadmap
Stage/Production Manager
How to land your 1st job
  1. You’ll have to apply for entry-level jobs and work your way up to assistant Stage Manager and Production Manager roles
  2. Many SMs and PMs start as assistants or interns
  3. Look on Craigslist for entry-level jobs with small local productions
  • Let your local theater companies know you are looking for jobs or internships! Per CNBC, “Research shows that 70% of all jobs are not published publicly on jobs sites and as much as 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections”
  • Rack up as much experience as you can in school and volunteer work before applying for a paid position
  • Join the Stage Managers’ Association or other professional organizations when you’re eligible 
  • Consider moving to where the most theatre shows (and therefore potentially the most jobs) are, such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
  • Hop on Quora and start asking job advice questions and requesting answers from working SMs and PMs
  • Ask your professors, supervisors, and peers if they’ll serve as personal references 
  • Talk with your college’s career center for help with resumes, mock interviews, and job searches 
  • Review Stage Manager resume templates to get ideas for formatting and phrasing
  • Look up common interview questions to prepare for those crucial interviews 
  • Always dress appropriately for job interview success
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Be on time and prepared every day, ready to do your best and to motivate others 
  • Continue to hone your craft while also learning more about everyone else’s roles
  • Build trust with directors, actors, and crew members by being professional, respectful, fair, and competent at your job
  • Grow your network and build strong relationships with venue personnel and suppliers
  • Knock out additional education and training that can improve your technical and creative skills
  • Work on as many different types of shows as you can to expand your portfolio of work
  • Watch and learn from more senior SMs, PMs, department leads, and crew members  
  • Request a Mentor from the Stage Managers’ Association
  • Keep tackling larger, more ambitious projects 
  • Make yourself available for local events, conferences, and workshops
  • Join professional organizations like the Stage Managers’ Association 
  • Try to win awards and other recognitions that’ll look great on your resume
Recommended Tools/Resources



  • Stage Management Basics: A Primer for Performing Arts Stage Managers, by Emily Roth, Jonathan Allender-Zivic, et al.
  • Stage Manager: The Professional Experience―Refreshed, by Larry Fazio
  • The Production Manager's Toolkit, by Cary Gillett and Jay Sheehan 
  • The Stage Manager's Toolkit: Templates and Communication Techniques to Guide Your Theatre Production from First Meeting to Final Performance, by Laurie Kincman 
Plan B

Being a Stage Manager or Production Manager isn’t as glamorous as some might think. It’s demanding, ultra-detailed-oriented work with long hours. 

Energetic people with the right combination of leadership ability, technical know-how, and organizational skills can make names for themselves in this industry. But if you’re curious about some related occupations, consider the below options! 

  • Actors    
  • Art Directors    
  • Broadcast, Sound, and Video Technicians
  • Choreographers    
  • Fashion Designers
  • Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
  • Graphic Designers
  • Photographers
  • Producers and Directors    
  • Special Effects Artists and Animators    
  • Writers and Authors


Online Courses and Tools