During a performance the stage manager will call the cues for sound, lights, scene changes, fly bars etc. (In some small budget productions, the sound operator will be expected to follow a script & cue themselves from notes they have made, but generally there is less chance of mistakes if the stage manager calls all cues.)
The stage manager wears a headset with one earpiece & a microphone. This is connected to a master station.There are a number of circuits that feed out of the master station to different departments. So, for example, the stage manager can decide if he/she wishes to communicate with the lighting department or the sound department or both.(The stage manager may also have a microphone that feeds to the green room & the dressing rooms to allow him/her to call the actors.
The photos above show the components needed to set up a wired communications system for theatre. The top picture shows a main station (or base station). This would be situated on the stage manager's desk with a headset (mic & headphone) attached. All the personnel who need to be in contact with the stage manager have a belt pack and a headset.
The belt packs are connected to the master station using normal mic leads & it is possible to link one belt pack to another belt pack so that more people can connect to the cueing system. An example for this would be one belt pack for the lighting operator from the master station, with a further pack connected to the LX operators pack so a follow spot operator can also be cued by the stage manager on the same channel as the LX operator.
On the belt pack there is a "CALL" button that will flash a light on the master station when pressed. This is useful for alerting the stage manager without speaking. There is also a control to adjust the volume in your headphones & a button marked "TALK" to turn your microphone on & off.
The stage manager may choose to communicate with different departments on different channels. The system above is a four channel system so the stage manager may choose to talk to the lighting operator on channel 1, the sound operator on channel 2, the fly bar operator on channel 3 & the assistant stage manager on channel 4.
(The stage manager may also have a microphone that feeds to the green room & the dressing rooms to allow him/her to call the actors. There may also be a microphone hung above the stage that broadcasts the play’s dialogue into the green room & dressing rooms. This enables the off stage actors to know where they are in the play & allows them to be ready to go on stage for their scenes.)
PROCEDURE FOR COMMUNICATING WITH THE STAGE MANAGER
The stage manager calls all the cues from “the book.”
This is a copy of the script with all the cues & all the stand-bys marked in it. The stage manager will read along with the actors' dialogue every night & call the cues & stand-bys at the same point in the play every night.
As an example, the dialogue between the stage manager & the sound operator might sound like this for a particular cue.
STAGE MANAGER: “Stand-by sound cue 32.”
SOUND OPERATOR: “Standing-by."
STAGE MANAGER: “Sound cue 32……GO.” (The sound operator plays the cue.)
There are a couple of exceptions to this:
If the cue is visual, it will be up to the sound operator to start the cue when they see the relevant visual cue on stage. Very often the stage manager will be off-stage looking at a TV monitor & it will be easier for the sound operator to see the on-stage action.
FOLLOW ON CUES
Sometimes there are "follow on" cues. This simply means that when a certain cue finishes you follow on to the next one without being given a verbal instruction by the stage manager.