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WA Stage Manager Erin Coubrough calling a rehearsal at His Majesty’s Theatre Perth. Photo by Yebo Photography.

Stage managers form new national association

Providing professional development opportunities, a greater sense of community and even a national award are among the SMA AU’s goals.


A membership-based organisation aiming to increase the profile of stage managers and their work, while also providing a greater sense of community for stage managers across Australia, is now seeking members nationally.

‘We are for stage managers by stage managers,’ said Kate Middleton-Olliver, Chair of the newly launched Stage Managers Association Australia Ltd (SMA AU).

‘The first thing we need is members and so obviously we’d encourage stage managers across Australia to sign up and to be part of it. We want their voices at the table to help direct us,’ she told ArtsHub.


SMA AU’s vision is of a connected, open and inclusive community of stage management practitioners who actively engage in and have access to programs and initiatives for talent development, wellbeing and support.

The association will advocate for best practice in all stage sectors and genres at all levels of the industry across the country, while also highlighting and celebrating the important work stage managers do behind the scenes.

‘We don’t often get thanked – though we don’t do it for the thanks – but we want to raise the profile of stage managers and provide them with resources to help them better their own careers and have sustainable careers. And part of that involves acknowledging the work that we do,’ Middleton-Olliver explained.

‘We need to start small, obviously, but we’ve got great plans – to set up an award for stage managers, for example. Actors, directors, designers, they all get awards, but the people behind the scenes don’t get that sort of public acknowledgement.’

Conversations about the need for an organisation like SMA AU grew out of the COVID lockdowns last year, which left the live entertainment industry struggling nationally .

At the height of the 2020 lockdowns, a working group of 13 stage managers across six Australian states and territories came together to assess the viability of creating a national stage management association.

‘We did a survey last year in October, just to find out whether it was something that the industry wanted, and had an amazing response … We had 472 people come back to us with responses, and 87% of those people wanted us to do it, so here we are.’

Once the SMA AU’s membership has grown, the association intends to work with MEAA Equity to help strengthen conditions for members. A focus on education is also on the cards.

‘We want to support students through their training [by connecting with tertiary institutions] … and make sure that when they come out into the industry that they’re supported – that there’s opportunities for them to be mentored in their early career by more senior stage managers,’ Middleton-Olliver said.

SMA AU also plans to develop professional development opportunities for stage managers at all levels in the industry.

‘Obviously we’re all learning all throughout our careers, so there’s always professional development to be done. The big thing in the last few years has been intimacy training, for example, and certainly the work that we do around that in the rehearsal room, we often haven’t had training for. We’re just expected to kind of know about it – and the same with stage combat … but I certainly never had any training in stage combat at drama school,’ said Middleton-Olliver.

‘So as professionals are moving through their career and as the industry shifts and changes, we want to be able to support that with professional development opportunities.’

Being able to provide such services is dependent on growing the fledgling organisation’s membership, Middleton-Olliver added.

‘We’ve got a great vision of what we can be long term but it’s about picking a path and starting small and growing … We just want people to get involved; we want every state and territory to be involved and to really feel like they’ve got a voice at the table.’


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