1st Edition

Off Headset: Essays on Stage Management Work, Life, and Career

Edited By Rafael Jaen, Christopher Sadler Copyright 2022
    236 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    236 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Off Headset is a collection of chapters containing essays by a richly diverse group of stage management professionals and educators covering the challenges stage managers face on the job, in their lives, and in their careers.

    The book starts with the intersectional history of stage managers and the actors' union. In "Part 1: Work," the contributors share a wide range of experiences, from regional theatre and Broadway to operas and cruises—and even running with the circus. The essays in "Part 2: Life" explore the relevance of stage managers claiming their identity, their resilience, and practicing self-care. Finally, in "Part 3: Career," readers receive aspirational and business advice for life in the real world: leadership, networking, unemployment, managing demanding calendars, and career planning. The book ends with a moment of pause during tech—a direct response to the absence we have been enduring throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and a tribute to a world we used to take for granted.

    Intertwining practical advice with personal anecdotes, Off Headset: Essays on Stage Management Work, Life, and Career is the perfect accompaniment to students studying stage management in a university setting and professionals working in the field.


    Rafael Jaen and Christopher Sadler

    Introduction. Intersectional History: Stage Managers’ in the Actors’ Union

    Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

    Part 1: Work

    1. The Big Picture

    Joseph Drummond

    2. Maximum Flexibility

    Tom Humes

    3. The Journey of a Thousand Steps Starts With a Dream

    Matthew Stern

    4. The "Smusedays" of Touring a Broadway Show!

    Kristi Ross-Clausen

    5. Running Away with Cirque du Soleil

    Alana Clapp

    6. Opera Stage Management 101

    Erin Joy Swank

    7. Off Headset at Sea

    Charlotte Sachetti

    8. A Mutualistic Symbiotic Model: Stage Manager and Designers’ Strong Ties and Participative Intentions

    Rafael Jaen

    9. The Art of Management

    Joanna Obuzor

    10. Stage Management is Only Just Beginning

    David McGraw

    11. Hold, Please: Addressing Urgency and Other White Supremacist Standards in Stage Management (HowlRound)

    Miguel Flores, R. Christopher Maxwell, John Meredith, Alexander Murphy, Quinn O’Connor, Phyllis Y. Smith, and Chris Waters

    Part 2: Life

    12. Stage Managing a Beautifully Complicated History

    Nikki Hyde

    13. Already Calm, I’m the Stage Manager

    Michele Kay

    14. Life in the Real World

    Amanda Spooner

    15. "Was That a Go?" Lessons on Perseverance & Resilience

    Jay Sheehan

    16. A Multiplicity of Identities, On Headset and Off

    Narda E. Alcorn with Copy Editor and Proofreader Sam Tirrell

    17. The Fallacy of Figuring It All Out: Finding Grace in the Imperfect Attempts at Balance

    Jonathan D. Allsup

    Part 3: Career

    18. A Matter of Perspective

    Ramón Valdez

    19. Maxwell, Brown, and Co.: Learning from Corporate Management

    Christopher Sadler

    20. On Networking and Making Connections: A New, Empty Rolodex

    Elynmarie Kazle

    21. From Stage Management to Production Management: One Path

    Cary Gillett

    22. Unemployment: The Other Side of Being a Freelance Stage Manager

    Erin Joy Swank

    23. These Skills Are Made for Walking

    Tina Shackleford

    Afterword. Moment of Pause—Tech, 09.26.20

    Evangeline Rose Whitlock


    Rafael Jaen (sounds HA-EN), Associate Professor of Theatre and Performing Arts Chair, UMass Boston. Jaen is an award-winning costume designer, educator, and author. He is a USITT Fellow, the USITT VP for Communications (2019–2022), and a past National KCACTF DTM Chair. He is the author of SHOWCASE (2011) and Digital Costume Design and Collaboration (2017) by Focal Press/Routledge, and the Series Editor for the USITT/Focal Press Backstage series.

    Christopher Sadler, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma’s (OU) Helmerich School of Drama. Sadler heads the stage management emphasis and teaches multiple courses in stage and theatre management and dramatic literature at OU. He has degrees from Ithaca College and UC San Diego and is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association. Sadler has a successful freelancing career having been on stage management teams for over 100 productions at theatres nationwide.

    "Off Headset is a powerful collection of stories—a gift to fellow stage managers and the job we all love. The volume showcases a welcome range of voices to reflect on professional highlights and career arcs, to pose important questions about the industry in today’s world, and to consider our role as people and artists at the same time. It will be on my 'highly recommended' list as soon as it hits the shelves."

    Laurie Kincman, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, author of The Stage Manager’s Toolkit