Dr Michael Smalley

Dr Michael Smalley

Senior Lecturer in Theatre Production
BA (Distinction), MA, PhD


Areas of specialism

scenography; stage management; distributed cognition; relational semiotics

University roles and responsibilities

  • Programme Leader MA (Stage and Production Management)
  • Personal Mentor (Level 7 TTA Students)

    Affiliations and memberships

    T&PRA Member
    IFTR - scenography working group member
    ADSA member


    Research interests



    Michael Smalley (2024)Stage Management: Communication Design as Scenography Bloomsbury Methuen Drama

    Drawing on interview material from more than 20 leading stage managers from the UK, USA and Australia, this book situates the contemporary practice of stage management within its historical and social contexts.Questioning the notions of the invisible stage manager and a linear production process, it argues for a broader conception of stage management lying at the intersections of administration, management and artistry. This volume places stage management practice within key theories drawn from the diverse fields of performance studies, semiotics, phenomenology, distributed cognition, management and scenography. It champions the creative agency of stage management and details the properties of communication which stage managers manipulate and the objectives they set out to achieve as a guide for decision making. While it considers the different approaches necessitated by productions from different cultures, genres, and so on, it offers a view of stage management which is not bound by these differences.

    Depending upon whether you are thinking of the Borg from 'Star Trek' or the Vogon from the 'Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy', the old saying goes ‘Resistance is futile/useless’. Sometimes it is best to adapt, revise, regroup, move, bend, or change rather than resist. To remain relevant, vital and strong resilience is important. Resilience enables us to hang in there, to recover quickly, to rebuild and thrive. Sometimes the focus of our art/research/educational practices/sector is building resilience in others. Sometimes it is important to focus on building resilience within ourselves as individuals or in our communities of practice. Resilience implies a source of compression, a passage of time, and a process (or an innate ability) to spring back to a (positive) “normal” state.