People who take the stage, like the rest of a production, can be unpredictable and needy. On the best of days, the talent are well prepared and low maintenance; but on an average day, the talent have many questions they want answers to and insecurities for which they seek assurance. Enter an Assistant Stage Manager (ASM). It is an ASM’s job to ensure that the talent is ready to take the stage at the right time carrying the right props and in the right state of mind. But as any production personnel understands, the worst tends to happen at the most inopportune time. Whatever the moment of duty calls for, here is a list of 10 assistant stage manager essentials to have on-hand to help you survive backstage as a ready-for-anything ASM.
The Gear List
Let’s start out basic. No one has scissors on set. Be that one person who does.
I suggest 5 minimum per show. If the Producer or EIC doesn’t walk off with yours, then the client or talent will!
3. Clip board
Trust me – a clipboard is an ASM essential. An ASM without a clipboard is like a teacher without lesson plans. You’re lost. No rehearsal schedule, no production schedule, no seating diagram, no prop list, and no brochure of the top-10-attractions-attendees-should-check out-after-this-session-is-over. (And people expect you to have extra copies of each of these on-hand for them to take and walk away with!)
4. Bobby pins
Hair malfunctions happen. You gain instant hero-status when you pull a few bobby pins out of your backpack and offer them to a struggling self-conscious female talent trying to fix her hair.
I’m suggesting plain, neutral, preferably skin colored Band-Aids so that the CEO doesn’t walk onto the stage with My Little Pony wrapped around his finger. That’s definitely going to get caught on IMAG. Especially since the client demanded that the production use the most powerful cameras and the best see-all screens.
Never underestimate how many Kleenexes will be used in a show. Having a starter pack to give to the talent may at least buy you enough time to run and find a box.
So the production company remembers the printer, toner, and extra paper for all those show flows and production schedules. But who remembers a stapler? You!
8. Extra sharpies
For when the audio guy, lighting designer, video tech, set designer, and the rest of the crew forgets where they misplaced theirs.
9. Jolly Ranchers
(Besides for your own enjoyment), it is inevitable that with five minutes before your talent takes the stage, he will inform you that he has diabetes and his blood sugar is low; he is shaky and pale. When you don’t have time to track down some orange juice, a handful of Jolly Ranchers may help. (Disclaimer – When talent has special medical needs, talk beforehand about different scenarios and how you should respond. Candy may not be the answer!)
10. Scotch tape
Everyone else has the gaff!
So there you have it, folks – a ten item list of essentials to have backstage in your assistant stage manager backpack. This won’t cover every pop-up dilemma, but providing what is needed when it is needed will help your reputation gain reliability (and reliability is also an ASM essential!)
Ashley is a freelance Assistant Stage Manager and Production Assistant. She graduated from Asbury University with a major in Media Communications emphasis Production. She was first exposed to corporate production in 2011 and has been in-love with the industry ever since. In her words, “My favorite part about working a show is seeing everything come together and experiencing the audience’s reaction to it. I like to watch a talented crew make it happen and the level of trust we gain for one another as we rely on each crew member to contribute his or her skill set.”