Basic Stage Manager Tools - Fix-It Shop

Read my complete Stage Managing series: "Stage Managing 101" --- "Basic SM Duties," --- "Basic SM Tools: Clothes," --- "Basic Stage Manager Tools - Fix-It Shop," --- "Basic Stage Manager Tools - Office Supplies & Extras."  Follow me on my daily blog!

 

The tools required of the job of Stage Manager fall under the categories of both the “mechanical” type: hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure, as well as more artsy “utensils”: scissors, markers, and colorful sticky notes. Though the SM doesn’t have to necessarily be a hands-on, “fix-it all” kind of person, the SM job does require a problem-solver mentality and the willingness to get his or her hands dirty from time to time. If you’re worried about your nails or your clothes, then being an SM is not for you.

 

 

 

Stage Manager Tools

Stage Manager Bag

  • If you’re serious about going into Stage Managing, invest in a quality, waterproof rolling briefcase. Just know ahead of time, it won’t stay pretty for long, so don’t fall in love with its exterior features. The briefcase is for the tools of the trade, your Bible (master script), various and sundry items listed below.

 

Hammer

  • Not just for venting frustration, a hammer is needed for a variety of reasons both at rehearsal and especially at the theatre.

 

Screwdrivers

  • The SM must be prepared for anything, so have different sizes and different kinds of screwdrivers in your bag. My favorite “screwdriver” was a gift — an 8-in-1 type of tool that has 4 sizes of flathead screwdrivers and 4 Phillips, with a flashlight in the center.

 

 

 

Flashlight

  • Having a big flashlight is always a great idea for the dark nether-regions of the backstage area or for under your table in the dark tech booth. But most stagehands prefer high-powered black flashlights that clip onto their belt.

 

Measuring Tape

  • Get a tape measure that extends at least 25 feet, but 50 or 100 feet is better. Most stages are at least 25 to 30 feet wide, if not wider, so it’s better to have a tape measure than can handle the job. If you’ve ever had to extend the tape as far as it goes, then, make a mark, and measure from that point to the end, you know the “measuring twice” adage isn’t the most convenient option.

 

Masking Tape

  • Masking Tape is good for labeling items for the production (chairs, tables, boxes, etc.) or your own supplies, writing in permanent marker over it.  
    • Example: Actors like repetition and may prefer to use a specific prop or representative set piece in rehearsal. When using homogenous items, like a folding chair, an actor may want to use the same chair every rehearsal. Put masking tape on the chair back and the actor’s character name in marker (“Hamlet”).
  • WARNING: Masking tape can take up paint and/or mess up finishes on floors. For marking the floor, use spike tape.

 

Spike Tape

  • The SM will mark out the stage perimeter on the rehearsal floor and any set elements such as door or window openings, stairs, etc. Use a permanent marker to indicate Act I (“I”) or Act II (“II”) markings, or even a specific scene, such as Act I, scene 2 (“I-2”). 
  • The Director and/or the actor may ask the SM to spike where an actor needs to stand for a certain entrance or monologue. If you have various colors of spike tape, you can color-code your marks, otherwise, just write the Act-scene and/or the actor’s character name (“Hamlet III-2”) 
  • If you cannot get spike tape in time, use painters tape until the spike tape arrives. But beware: Painters’ tape is not designed to stick for weeks at a time. It will want to come up as people walk across it. However, if left down for weeks, it will become sticky and is a mess to take up. Try to order your spike tape ahead of schedule. 
  • Note: Spike Tape is NOT the same as duct tape.

 

Drill

  • This is optional, but modern drills are smaller and often lighter than what your father probably had in the garage. Get a battery-operated flexible drill. (You just never know what you’ll have to do as SM.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
You'll notice that orange is my signature color, and even in my SM gigs, I carry that across. Since most people don't like orange, I find I am the only person with orange stuff at a rehearsal; therefore, if it's orange, it's mine. There is no confusing my things with other people's --- especially since I label all my tools and supplies as well.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Side Note:

To make sure no one ever wants to steal your tools, you might want to get everything you use in pink. I guarantee, most actors or certainly no stagehand will want to be caught with "manly" tools in a shade of pink .

 

Stay tuned for my next article on "Basic Stage Manager Tools: Office Supplies" which includes things the Stage Manager is NOT responsible for having, plus a special note, “Dear Actors,” under Tough Love.

 

Read my complete Stage Managing series: "Stage Managing 101" --- "Basic SM Duties," --- "Basic SM Tools: Clothes," --- "Basic Stage Manager Tools - Fix-It Shop," --- "Basic Stage Manager Tools - Office Supplies & Extras."  Follow me on my daily blog!


·          Stage Manager Bag

o       If you’re serious about going into Stage Managing,
invest in a quality, waterproof rolling briefcase. Just know ahead of time, it
won’t stay pretty for long, so don’t fall in love with its exterior features.
The briefcase is for the tools of the trade, your Bible (master script),
various and sundry items listed below.

·          Hammer

o       Not just for venting frustration, a hammer is needed
for a variety of reasons both at rehearsal and especially at the theatre.

·          Screwdrivers

o       The SM must be prepared for anything, so have different
sizes and different kinds of screwdrivers in your bag. My favorite
“screwdriver” was a gift — an 8-in-1 type of tool that has 4 sizes of flathead
screwdrivers and 4 Phillips, with a flashlight in the center.

·          Flashlight

o       Having a big flashlight is always a great idea for the
dark nether-regions of the backstage area or for under your table in the dark
tech booth. But most stagehands prefer high-powered black flashlights that clip
onto their belt.

·          Measuring Tape

o       Get a tape measure that extends at least 25 feet, but
50 or 100 feet is better. Most stages are at least 25 to 30 feet wide, if not
wider, so it’s better to have a tape measure than can handle the job. If you’ve
ever had to extend the tape as far as it goes, then, make a mark, and measure
from that point to the end, you know the “measuring twice” adage isn’t the most
convenient option.

·          Masking Tape

o       Masking Tape is good for labeling items for the
production (chairs, tables, boxes, etc.) or your own supplies, writing in
permanent marker over it.

§         Example: Actors like repetition and may prefer to use a
specific prop or representative set piece in rehearsal. When using homogenous
items, like a folding chair, an actor may want to use the same chair every
rehearsal. Put masking tape on the chair back and the actor’s character
name in marker. (“Bob”)

o       Warning: Masking tape can take up paint and/or mess up
finishes on floors. For marking the floor, use spike tape.

·          Spike Tape

o       The SM will mark out the stage perimeter on the
rehearsal floor and any set elements such as door or window openings, stairs,
etc. Use a permanent marker to indicate Act I (“I”) or Act II (“II”) markings,
or even a specific scene, such as Act I, scene 2 (“I-2”).

o       The Director and/or the actor may ask the SM to spike
where an actor needs to stand for a certain entrance or monologue. If you have
various colors of spike tape, you can color-code your marks, otherwise, just
write the Act-scene and/or the actor’s character name (“Bob II-3”)

o       If you cannot get spike tape in time, use painters tape
until the spike tape arrives. But beware: Painters’ tape is not designed to
stick for weeks at a time. It will want to come up as people walk across it.
However, if left down for weeks, it will become sticky and is a mess to take
up. Try to order your spike tape ahead of schedule.

o       Note: Spike Tape is NOT the same as duct tape.

 

·          Drill

This is optional, but modern drills are smaller and often lighter than what your father probably had in the garage. Get a battery-operated
flexible drill. (You just never know what you’ll have to do as SM.)

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Tags: broadway, clothes, crew, gear, hand, manager, office, sm, stage, stagehand, More…suppies, tech, technician, theatre, toolbox, tools

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Comment by Erich Friend on February 3, 2011 at 2:36pm
Comment by Rob Scott on January 31, 2011 at 10:12pm
I write my initials in Sharpie on all of my tools, and in some cases use a spray can of safety orange/yellow/green to mark a band or spot on the tool that's easily visible. It's actually difficult to find certain tools of con/de-struction in manly pink. For set build or strike days when I'm volunteering I broke down and got a construction framer's tool belt with pouches for screws but most importantly a special holster for my 18V portable impact driver. I have just had too many occasions when someone else on the build or strike would just grab mine even though I was one of the few that brought my own (the theater usually supplies a bunch of battery powered drills).

For my community theater gigs I agree that all of the tools mentioned here are used at one time or another during rehearsal and sometimes for quick fixes before a performance. The one that I would add to your list and personally consider essential (right after black gaff) for quick fixes is a heavy duty T50 staple gun with a pack each of 1/4-inch and 1/2 inch staples.

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