When most people think theatre, they imagine the eccentric actors who spend their friday nights analyzing the metaphors behind Waiting for Godot, a play where two characters sit on a bench for three hours. They may think of the musical numbers filled with jazz hands and sassy expressions, or they may even imagine the blinding lights of the Times Square displays. These assumptions aren’t (always) wrong, but there is so much to theatre than that. When I think of theatre, I think of the magical sets and costumes that transform an average setting into a beautiful scene. I think of the beautiful music and detailed dance numbers that steal my attention for two hours. But most of all, I think of the backstage hands and production crew who work tirelessly day and night to make the script come to life.
One of the vital positions in a production team is the Stage Manager. This person is generally the relationship counselor of the show. A buffer between the director, stage crew, tech crew, and actors. They help to organize paperwork, schedule rehearsals, and call cues. If anyone has a question, the stage manager generally has the answer. They are like the encyclopedia of the show.
During the Garnet Valley High School’s production of Oliver! this January through March, I got to see what it’s like to be a stage manager. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I loved how hands-on I got to be on the show. I was able to oversee every detail. From costumes to sets and to acting I was able to see it all. I had so much fun.
So as I wrote before, my job as stage manager was to organize paperwork for Mrs. Arters, review the changes in lighting design, and even remind people to be quiet backstage. I am one of those people who are super organized. Every professional stage manager has a book. Typically in a binder, the book houses all information that you could possibly need for the show. The script, cues, and even set design information.
When I got my script in January I got way too excited when I velcroed post-it notes, sticky tabs, and even the CD’s for the show onto the front cover of what was going to be my ‘book’. When I say I was excited, I mean it. I was showing my binder to all of my friends. I even printed out a table of contents so when I added a tab to a page and then numbered it, I could find out what page I was looking for in a matter of seconds. I admit, I may have been too invested in this organization, but it made my life 10,000% easier, so who cares?
During rehearsals I got to play the music for the actors on stage, tell the tech crew when they needed to turn on and off certain lights, and make sure the actors were in the correct spots on stage. It sounds exciting, I know. Though rehearsals can be somewhat boring, the best part of being a stage manager doesn’t happen until dress rehearsal. This is when I get to have some fun. During shows the stage manager has a headset that allows for them to talk to the stage crew backstage. From the back of the auditorium I will sit with one of the lighting guys and watch the show, telling them when to go to the next change in lighting, known as a cue. If something goes wrong backstage or if someone in stage crew has a question, they can contact me through the headset walkie talkie and I can try to fix the problem. I constantly need to be prepared for everything and anything. That’s what makes it fun.
As I mentioned before, I loved being the stage manager this year. The thrill of each show is something that I can’t fully explain but I recommend it to everyone. Though we had to deal with so much snow and bad weather, I thoroughly believe that we were able to pull through and put on something amazing. I am so proud of everyone in both the cast and crew and can’t wait to put on more wonderful shows next year.