Organizing run crew?

This is my first show stage managing. Unfortunately, most of my run crew is totally new to theatre. Also, as a high school theatre, people are unreliable and don't know what they're doing. Also, the set keeps getting changed, reorganized, things are added or taken out of scenes. Unfortunately, we open in a week and we only just started doing full runs, and the set isn't even done. Oh, how I love high school theatre...
Does anyone have tips on how to make an effective run crew or train new people on a tight schedule? Any special tricks to use to persuade people to actually show up/care about the show?


Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
Paperwork. and more Paperwork. Break everything down into nice bite size pieces. ie Johny is on the DSL part of this unit getting to this spike, that is all he is concerned with, not you 4 people go move this unit. Take your time and really look to see what is happening onstage, if someone is just standing around for a shift can they be preseting a prop, dropping a pin, paging a drape? Make a run sheet for everyone stating what they are doing on each shift, when they go, and what they need to preset for next. Basicly a "who what where" sheet. As far as getting people excited and coming back, make them feel like they are actually contributing to the run of the show, not just lackys that push stuff around on stage. Give them control, take their feedback, try to not to play the "im the SM, what i say goes" (which verywell might be true, but remember if they aren't enjoying themselve, you will find yourself pushing around wagons). Let them take ownership of the show, just as the directors (at least the should be) letting you take ownership of the show.


CB Mods
Premium Member
Ok this turned out to be a longer post than I had originally intended, but I thinkit worth all the reading. -van

I have to agree with Footer. In used to TD for a summer arts camp called YMA. During the first two week session was primarily Orchestra.The "tech" crew was a group of kids that were taking the technical theatre elective. I got them for one 45 minute session a day. They would sign up on the second day of camp and by the fourth day of camp I had to produce the first talent show. An average of 12 - 15 acts that might be anything from chamber music to jazz trio to interpretive dance. Unfortunately, for me, I had sort of built up expectations of much higher production values than some of my predecessers. < I have a hard time saying no> To the point, yes there is one, from the moment i started recruiting for the class I stressed a point that I truly beleive in. I would tell the kids right up front "This is your show, the other kids might get to particioate in one or two of the talent shows, but you get to perform in every one. If the show sucks it's your fault and if the show is fantastic it's you're fault." In the day and a half I had to prep them I'd dole out responsibilities, authority and pride in a job well done. Remember when handing out responsibility you have to hand out authority. Make sure you let the other kids know that they have the responsibility to accomplish a task and the authority to do what's neccessary to get the task done. I have several wonderful stories about kids I thought would be the worst trouble makers or the ones I thought would never "get-it" who turned out to be some of my best students. I have to brag on "my kids" I wasn't just asking them to move around props I had them changing scenes, making cues sheets, doing sound set-ups runing the light board ,sound-board, writing cues and even running flies. Stick with it. I'm assuming you're a student the same age as the rest of the kids running the show, that's not an easy posistion to be in. You don't have one of the advantages I had, being the adult comming from a posistion of authority with years of expirience behind me, but you can use your age and social connection with your peers. Create a sense of "gung-ho", "all together". Whatever you do don't approach them from a stand point of, "Because I'm the SM and I said so !", that'll kill ya dead in the water. In the words of Douglas Adams and The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxie", "Don't Panic!".
In the words of Larry Ash, "F--- it, just have fun !"
Good Luck, Have Fun.
Let us know hwow things turn out.


Active Member
I "dry tech" our crews at Grand Valley. We have rehearsals with no actors and just the stage crew and we practice all changes (both in the light and in the dark). It is eerily like a choreography rehearsal.

I also spell out in detail what pieces get set/struck by what person. The are responsible for that piece only. If I have more pieces than available people... I pull from the chorus of the show and assign them the roll over (ie... I'll have them carry on a chair for the table) or I actively recruit another set crew member.

The way I detail this is by making a 2-D picture of the set and the spikes and make a folder up per person and a master binder up for each side's leader (which we call the "assistant stage manager").

I also follow this rule with my actors... "Tech week is NOT your week for rehearsal. It is the time for the sound, lights and the set to come together. If you stink... too bad... you had x weeks to prepare (x varies as to whether I'm talking about a drama versus a musical)." It helps push people to have their lines and marks memorized timely and it helps motivate the construction crew to have the set completed.

I hope your set gets finished.

Best of luck.


Active Member
Hey bud, im in the same position. Our first show is this friday night, half the set isnt even up yet, the cues havent even bugun, and all hell has broken loose, and thats before we factor in the lack of eptitude of our actors this year. Im s/m this show for my first time to, usually im sound but im training a new guy since its supposded to be an "easy" show. We usually try to follow the week for actors rehersal, and week for tech rehersal thing, but having a show this early doesnt really work that way considering we lost about 80 percent of the experianced crew this year due to graduation. As VP for crew this year though, ive implemented a weekly crew meeting on mondays. Make a list of what needs to be done that week, whos doing what, and get it done. The biggest thing ive also learned is how to tell others to do things to. My headset is my best friend right now, calling shots on what needs to be built/painted/finsihed/fit/etc., manageing the tech runs with what weve got, and doing it all while talking to the director. The big thing though is this is probaly the first magor production of the year right? Have your senior members be more on the sidelines to offer help untill you really need to get down to it. Have the rookies do all they can and just learn by doing it, the stress seems to help when theres a deadline in learning quick. Also now youve probaly got more people that you will later, as more leave your left with the ones that really like and want to, therefore are better, people. Right now ive got about 25-30 people working the set, as well as the area directors and such. About 30 of those total people are compleate rookies this either being their first magor production, or the first one theyve done more than operate a camera for. Im counting on probaly having about 4-6 of those green ones left by the end of tear down to start the next set. just hang in, wear a hat to keep yourself from ripping out your hair, and keep all heavy and/or sharp objects away from you when your on your bound to happen rampages and youll be all good.


lol school theatres are some much fun :p we have only had one run through (with everything in position and no stopping to sort out things) and it didn't go to well. The school is paying about £5000 and I am actually really worried about it because a lot of the stage hands like to sit back stage and dont pay attention to anything and get the scene changes wrong. It starts tomorrow lol and i dont think we have time to run through it all.


hey clueless, hang in doing the job of many ppl at my school...manily b/c there isnt a vast number of kids that enjoy theatre as much as the rest of us do. i think that number is about 12...and those are my actors/resses...but yea, umm what i've done is asked around, found out who else at my school was involved in theatre, and asked them if they could offer any assistance, and turns out, i managed to find some more help..and yea, umm no power tools for you untill after the show is done...someone could have an accident..or 30...
Hang in there, I've been in the same seat as you; my advice is this, stay calm; if you panic, your crew will panic, deligate tasks and authority, put people you know you can trust to get things done over some of the newer people to help aclamate them to their jobs. Take care of your crew as well, if you have their backs, they will have yours. I've taken the fall for many a crew memeber and they have nearly always came back with an outstanding performance. but above all else develope your own style of handling things, what works for one SM won't always work for another. Later after things have settled look into a couple of books on Leadership and Stage Management, they really do help
I think that everyone involved in high scool theatre has had this exact story, over and over again. My first SM-ing went ok, the best advice i have to give is to never yell at the crew. If something went wrong, ask them why and work with them to fix it.


I can't agree enough with not yelling at the crew. No high schooler (myself included) wants to be yelled at for forgetting something, and it's more likely to make them forget it again (because now they're hyper worried). Do as many runs of each transition as possible. With my last show, I wasn't SM but I was in charge of getting the run crew to do a few transitions, and one was wheeling out a door and lifting it onto a small platform. I think we probably ran that transition 50 times, but, come show night, it was perfect. Before each run, take a couple minutes to sit down with the crew and go through each transition and have everyone say what they're doing. This proves to you (and to them) that they know what they're doing. Make it fun, but make them feel like they have a responsibility. That's about it for me. The previous posters said mostly what I'd say other than this.


Active Member
High school theater is always a challenge, but I was recruited during my sophmore year to stage manage, so you might find a 'gem' if you already haven't.

I'm going to add my voice to the 'don't yell at your techs!' thought. We hve the philosophy in our theater that no one makes mistakes on purpose. When someone does mess up, we discuss what happened, how the cue could be better called, the tech more prepared. One thing we do is bring our techs in starting with paper tech and let them know that their questions, concerns and voices will be heard. Until you're clear on paper, you can't be clear backstage.

Finally, the reality is that live theater means living (and dealing) with the mistakes that will inevitably happen during the run. We had a seasoned light board op go to black out during the curtain call just as the leads were taking their bows. It just happens, so don't let it make you crazy.



Well-Known Member
I found during my one time Stage Managing in high school that if your crew knows the show, things go a lot smoother. Too many times does a HS running crew show up a week or 10 days before opening and have no idea what's going on in the story of the show. If your crew for Les Mis thinks Jean Valjean is one of the chorus, there's not going to be a full comprehension of the show. If they sit through a rehearsal and see the show without tech, (just the actors) they can get a real focus on the flow of the show and why things are done a certain way. Without knowing the story, the "tree" is just a piece of fabric hanging from a pipe, the "house" is a piece of muslin stapled to some 2x4 frame, and that "wine" is just water with food coloring.

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