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Super Bowl Sunday: How Theatre and Football are Alike

Super Bowl Sunday
By Broadway Stage Management Symposium

It’s time for the Tony Awards of Football, the Super Bowl!!

Fans of every kind will all tune in to watch the spectacular drama unfold. Because that is what it is, a drama. Like any audience, those fans watch the action unfold enticed with each moment. It’s a real live drama. Although a play is rehearsed in advance, it still exists in the moment, live, and anything can happen. Sports and theatre are both engaging live experiences that thrill and excite their audiences to stand and cheer.

Football, like theatre both require teamwork to succeed. You cannot be successful in either, if the players are not working like a team.

Every spectacular throw, catch, or run you’ve seen is only possible because of teamwork. The offensive lineman makes a block to give the quarterback time to read the defense, he then has to make the perfect throw, rehearsed hundreds of times, to the wide receiver who has to run the route exactly as designed to make the catch.

In the theatre, the crew has to build and install the sets, lights & sound. The prop has to be set properly and, the light cue needs to be executed at the right time, the band and music director need to play the right notes and the actor needs to be in the right place to hit the perfect note! Then it all works!

Here is a comparison on theatre & football to enjoy and discuss between plays or bites of chili!

The linemen, offense and defense are like the crew. Valuable stage hands who are mostly unknown, but do a lion’s share of the work to ensure the “star” players shine. Without the powerful linemen holding the line, protecting their teammates, there is no show and no play will work. It all starts, “in the trenches.”

The “skill” players are the stars of course.

The quarterback is the star of the show. They are beloved, the face of the franchise and the show rests on their shoulders to deliver every night (or game). They get the accolades, the big checks, and are the names everyone knows. Sometimes referred to as the coach on the field. They are the ones on the stage that everyone looks up to.

At the next level are the wide receivers and running backs. Very popular, they are the ones that move the ball, names we know and players we root for. These are your principal actors. While maybe not the stars of the show, they are the ones the drama revolves around. How they play is key in the outcome of the show.

Next, the ensemble.

They are crucial in supporting and delivering for the “skill” players. Defensive backs, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties all try to give the ball back to their offense with good field position, so that skill players can score. Ensemble members are not household names, but they can occasionally stand out. Like the mistress in Evita, the defense can occasionally score and have a dramatic effect on the play/show, but mostly, they are supportive, giving their offense a rest, keeping the game close, so their principals can get back out in front.

Off the field, we have both offensive and defensive coordinators. As the principals are the skill players, the Offensive Coordinator is the director, drawing up the plays and creating ways for them to shine and put points on the board. QB, WR, RB all spend lots of time working with the offensive coordinator rehearsing the plays, so they can succeed.

As ensemble are the defensive backs, the choreographer is the Defensive Coordinator, designing their formations and assignments. They come up with creative ways to get the ball back to the stars, just like all the men backing up Roxie in Chicago!

Most obvious are the similarities between the team owner and the show producer. Both come up with the money and make the really big decisions, like the costs of tickets! Both football and theatre also have general managers who are responsible for budgets and contract negotiations.

So then who is the head coach?

Who is the one who coordinates all the position coaches, all the departments? Who makes the day to day personnel decisions? Who makes the rehearsal schedule and gives notes to keep everyone playing at the top of their game? Who calls the shots when the game is on?

The stage manager!!

On this Super Bowl Sunday, I celebrate the collaboration that makes theatre and football happen on Broadway theatres and in Football stadiums and the stage managers coaching everyone up!

Enjoy the game!!

Also by Broadway Stage Management Symposium:

Top 10 Broadway Stage Management Symposium Panels

The Misconceptions & Myths of Stage Management

Published in cooperation with the Broadway Stage Management Symposium
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