A stage manager is an individual who has overall responsibility for stage management and the smooth execution of a theatrical production. Stage management may be performed by an individual in small productions, while larger productions typically employ a stage management team consisting of a head stage manager, or "Production Stage Manager", and one or more assistant stage managers.
The title of Stage Manager was not used until the 18th century. Though the concept and need for someone to fill the area of stage management can be seen with the Ancient Greeks. The playwrights were usually responsible for production elements. Sophocles is the first known stage technician, supported by his employment as a scenic artist, playwright, musician, and producer.
Moving into the Middle Ages there is evidence of a Conducteurs De Secrets, who oversaw collecting money at the door and serving as a prompter on stage. The prompter held the script and was prepared to feed performers their lines, this was a common practice of the time.
Between the Renaissance and 17th century the actors and playwright handled stage management aspects and stage crew. During the Elizabethan and Jacobean Theatre there were two roles that covered the stage management: Stage Keeper and Book Keeper. The Stage Keeper was responsible for the maintenance of the theater, taking props on and off stage, and security of performance space. The Book Keeper was responsible for the stage script, obtaining necessary licenses, copying/providing lines for the performers, marking entrances and exits, tracking props, marking when sound effects come in, and cueing props and sound effects.
Between the Renaissance and the 16th century, actors and playwrights took upon themselves the handling of finances, general directorial duties, and stage management. Stage management first emerged as a distinct role in the 17th century during Shakespeare's and Molière's time. During Shakespeare’s time the roles of stage management were left to apprentices, young boys learning the trade. There is still evidence of a prompter at this time.