Gwenan Bain: Top Tips From A Stage Manager

11 April 2023

Stage manager Gwenan Bain, who is working with our Young Company, shares her top tips about starting out as a stage manager for theatre.

TARA THEATRE: How would you describe the role of the stage manager?

I see a large part of the Stage Manager role as being a point of communication between people and departments, both inside the room and out. Facilitation is also a big part of it for me, I love working with the creative team to realise their vision, and making sure everyone is comfortable and working safely. In general, I’d say your focus will be on the logistical elements of a production, although you will often find yourself having to think creatively to find solutions or make a particular prop.

TARA THEATRE: How did you first get into stage management?

My first job as a Stage Manager was in 2018. I had been working as a Director and AD and was asked if I would consider stage managing a new writing night at the Waterloo East Theatre. I loved the experience from start to finish and since then have worked on a variety of productions in and outside of London. I sort of fell into it, and once I realised how much I enjoyed it I then started to seek out more work, especially in new writing which has always been my favourite kind of show to work on. I find I am constantly learning with every job I do. No process is the same, which is definitely one of the things I enjoy most about this work.

TARA THEATRE: Who does the stage manager work most closely with during a production?

In my experience, you work pretty closely with all members of the team, but particularly the creatives and cast in the room. I find the relationship with the Director and Designer to be a very important one as you need to have an understanding of the design concept and feel of the show when sourcing and/or making props. You will likely also be communicating changes happening in the rehearsal room to those who aren’t in so often like the Lighting and Sound Designers. If you are working within a stage management team you will definitely work most closely with the others in it, which is something I find a really joyful part of the process.

TARA THEATRE: What are the top 3 skills that a good stage manager should have?

I think they would be organisation, problem solving, and the ability to be calm under pressure!

TARA THEATRE: What are some steps early career stage managers can take to improve their skills?

I really think that shadowing is the best tool when learning about stage management. Not only to find out more about the job but to immerse yourself in a variety of different processes, and to get used to the working environment. When I started as a Stage Manager I operated a lot of the shows I worked on, and the knowledge that gave me about the way that lighting and sound is programmed and the terminology used by Designers and Technicians has been endlessly useful to me. I think it’s really important for an SM to have a bit of an understanding of what the other roles on the show look like. A lot of the job is working with people towards a common goal, and understanding different processes is a key part of that.

TARA THEATRE: What are some of the ways you can get in stage management in the theatre industry?

Again, if you are looking to get into stage management I would personally recommend shadowing as many people as possible to get an idea of what the role entails. There are different positions within stage management and you may find one that you enjoy more than others, and you will also find that the nature of the job will change show to show. There are also courses in stage management which can help you build skills and your CV, but having not had personal experience of those myself I will always advocate for practical and hands-on learning.

TARA THEATRE: In what ways are you making your practice more sustainable?

There’s typically a lot of waste that happens during a show process and there are definitely things you can do to lessen this. I would say generally it’s about planning ahead. If you’re sourcing props, start early enough that you don’t have to get them from Amazon and can get them as locally as possible. Also, plan what is going to happen to your set and props ahead of your get out if you’re not storing them for future use. We need much more re-using and re-purposing to happen in theatre! There are some great sites like Set and Prop Exchange where, if you give yourself enough time, you can source a lot of things second hand, and it’s always worth asking around before buying something new if you’re looking for a specific item. I’ve found social media to be really helpful for this, and also contacting theatres who may have items left in storage that they are willing to lend.

TARA THEATRE: What is one thing you wish you knew when you were making your first steps into a stage management career?

That it’s okay not to have all the answers all the time. This is a pressure I definitely felt for a good long time, as people often turn to SM’s for the solution to a problem. But I’ve realised now that if you’re not sure on something what’s more important is good communication and having the conversation.


Gwenan Bain (she/they) is a Welsh Director and Stage Manager based in London. Stage Manager credits include: Cookie Jar (The Space Theatre); Dissociated (Etcetera Theatre); Cuttings Little Echoes (The Hope Theatre); Illusions of Liberty (Applecart Arts) & As We Unravel (The Bread and Roses Theatre). As an ASM: Claus the Musical (The Lowry Theatre, Manchester).

Directing credits include The Wolves (The Space Theatre); Somewhere to Belong (touring); Existential Fish & Dread & Maisie (The Bread and Roses Theatre). Assistant Director credits include Claus the Musical (The Lowry Theatre, Manchester); Romeo & Juliet (4* The Guardian); The Wolves (Mountview, dir. Dan Herd); It Tastes Like Home & The Buzz (The Bread and Roses Theatre).


The Tara Theatre Young Company will perform their original devised show on 18-22 April. Find out more and book below.