From the beginning to the end of a theatre production, stage managers co-ordinate much of what the audience sees on stage. In general, they:
- do script analyses that outline scenes, numbers of characters and who plays them, props required, costume changes, scene changes and technical requirements
- discuss production needs with directors, production managers and designers before rehearsals start
- co-ordinate with directors to develop and implement schedules
- contact actors to tell them when and where to report for rehearsals
- attend rehearsals to document the artistic process and co-ordinate daily activities
- communicate daily with technical departments and management regarding rehearsal progress and requirements
- set up and maintain the callboard (the central means of communication throughout the rehearsal process and performance stages of production)
- act as a liaison between actors and theatre management together with an Actors' Equity deputy (an elected member of the acting company).
During rehearsals, stage managers:
- ensure that regulations for breaks and overtime are observed and all safety regulations are strictly enforced
- prepare prompt books (scripts) or written records of actors' cues, blocking, placement of props, and sound and lighting cues
- track costumes and sets (both stage and fly pieces)
- co-ordinate with directors, designers, actors and technicians.
On opening nights, directors hand over shows to stage managers. After that, stage managers are completely responsible for productions and maintaining the artistic and technical intentions of the directors and designers.
During performances, stage managers:
- ensure the cast and crew and the physical aspects of the production are ready
- cue light, stage and sound technicians as well as any other special effects personnel
- keep theatre staff informed about the status of the production
- may call rehearsals during long performance runs.
In amateur or community theatre groups and some smaller professional theatres, stage managers also may help build and paint sets, operate lighting or audio during performances or be responsible for finding people to help "strike" the set and store lights, sets, costumes and props. In larger theatres, stage managers usually have assistants.