As Assistant Stage Manager
I had the opportunity to be assistant stage manager for the production of Miracle at a community theater on South Division Street. Stage management was something that had interested me as a profession in the theater world for some time. Stage managers really make shows happen and it was an honor to be a part of a production as a valuable asset.
When I started my freshman year of college last semester, I was in THEA120. My professor told the class that a community theater is looking for people interested in stage management or light and sound. I’m not usually the one to apply for things like this, but I figured I’d have to start building a resume at some point. After class, I approached my professor and told her that I would be interested in assisting on a stage management production. She gave me the director’s contact details and I emailed her that evening. I was probably more scared than I needed to be, but like I said, I’d never been out there like that before. The principal emailed me back and said she wasn’t feeling well so she added another person to the email for me to talk to. Ironically, the other person was her husband, who happened to be the senior stage manager. He and I chatted briefly and he said that if I wanted to he would call me the next day and discuss the assistant stage manager position further. I was so excited but so nervous at the same time. He and I were talking and he said, “Well, if you want it, it’s yours. You’re going to learn a lot and we’re going to have a lot of fun.” He was right about both things.
The first job I got done was assisting with auditions. I had to help make sure the actors were signed and had a script in hand. After those things were done, I got notes from the director about who came to the audition and who was called back to read again. The auditions were held in October and after those were completed I just sat there while the actors focused on their dialogue with the director.
My help was needed in December when the actors started deviating from the script. During the rehearsal, I provided lines as needed and noted where mistakes were made. I had a printed copy of the script that I kept in a binder for easy note-taking. After rehearsals were complete, I gave the director notes and emailed the cast about their progress in memorizing lines, missing lines, or sections that needed cleaning up. In addition to texts and notes, it was also my job to give technical advice and pass on all the director’s information to the actors. During the show, my duties were similar in some ways but more complex in others. Besides the technical notes, I also had to sweep and tidy the stage, close the theater, lock everything up and make sure everything was in place for the next performance.
My main stage manager John, thank goodness, was very patient with me. The fear of screwing something up or giving the wrong time terrified me. Everyone in the company has either worked together before or known each other for a number of years and at first I felt very much like an outsider. I was concerned that I would not be respected in my position as I was 19 and inexperienced in many ways. It became a joke between me and my senior stage manager that I would give “orders” and add “please” and “thank you” at the end of everything. Some nights John would let me give clues to prepare for the night he would be gone. He asked me what’s next, and I usually answered questioningly or uncertainly. After that, he would usually say, “You’re the stage manager, tell them.”
Having this opportunity was one of the coolest and most rewarding things I’ve been able to do. It has taught me that I need to show myself more because taking risks can be extremely rewarding. By the end of this production I felt like part of a small family. I enjoyed chatting backstage with the crew, sharing every conversation with our wonderful director, cracking jokes with the actors and of course making it a nightly routine to complain to John about how much I mean hate headphones. It was such a meaningful experience and I would do it all over again.
Thanks to the Epperts for giving me a chance and lots of love to my CTI and Miracle at South Division Street Family.