Assistant stage managers carry out many roles to help a theatrical production run smoothly. They may be assigned any of the duties that fall under a stage manager's job description, depending on the needs of the production and the guidance of the head stage manager or director. As with all technical roles within the theatre, assistant stage managers may be required to perform duties outside their job descriptions to keep the show on track.
Assistant stage managers are generally responsible, either alone or with the stage manager's help, for setting up the rehearsal space prior to rehearsals and cleaning up the space afterward. Once the show is in production, this duty becomes preparing and cleaning the stage and backstage areas before and after technical rehearsals and shows.
Assistant stage managers are often stationed backstage during the show to relay the commands from the stage manager to the backstage crew, tell cast members when to enter the stage, and keep communications between the technical booth and backstage areas open. Assistant stage managers may be required to quickly fix costumes or props during a performance, so keeping safety pins, bandages and a roll of gaffer's (cloth) tape on hand is a good idea.
The ability to think and react quickly and remain calm in chaotic situations is essential for assistant stage managers. Clear communication skills are also key. A thorough understanding of all aspects of technical theatre is helpful because the assistant stage manager is often responsible for requesting changes from various departments, such as scenic or lighting designers. Excellent reading and comprehension skills are also required, because the assistant stage manager often is in charge of keeping track of all "notes" within the script and letting actors know when they've missed lines.
Assistant stage managers for professional theatre companies may have a bachelor of arts degree in theatrical production, or they may receive training on the job through apprenticeships, internships or volunteer work with local theatre groups, working their way up to professional productions. Many high schools also offer quality training in stage management, preparing students for professional internships or apprenticeships even if they choose not to pursue a college degree. One-on-one training with an experienced stage manager is the most crucial part of the assistant stage manager's education.
Assistant stage management is considered an entry-level position, so the pay is lower than many other theatrical production positions. The average salary reported in Palm Springs, Calif., in 2003 was £19,441, according to Salary List, and the rates have not gone up significantly since then. Professional stage managers average between £17,544 and £33,142, according to PayScale.com, and assistant stage managers can expect to be paid at the lower end of the scale. Actual salaries vary widely according to location and theatre company.