So, what do you do?”
“I’m a Stage Manager. I run shows.” I say, mentally bracing myself for the follow up question…
“Oh, ok. But, what do you do?”
This is probably the most common question in my life, and the response is also pretty normal. I am a Stage Manager, and for most people, this job title seems completely foreign. I would say that most normal people probably would not come in contact with me on the job for any reason. You would need to work in theatre to have a concept of what a stage manager is or what they do on a regular basis. I have accepted the fact that the answer to my original question posed above is never an easy one. My job is complex and, in many ways, indefinable. It mutates depending on the show, the company, and the people. But, in some ways, that’s the best part about it!
Let’s begin with the basics. I am a Stage Manager, which means, I work in theatre. I specifically run shows or productions. I also run rehearsals and meetings. I do schedules, reports, paperwork for everything imaginable, and I keep up with all the details of the show (from props, to personal contact info and everything else in between). In a lot of ways, the Stage Manager becomes the central contact person on the show, knowing almost everything about the production just from being involved with every aspect and every other person working on the show. It is not a job for the faint of heart, nor for the attention seeker. It is often a thankless job, requiring many more hours than anyone can really imagine. And, this job? I love it. I think that I was made to do it. It inspires me, drives me, pushes me, stretches me, and ignites me.
After graduating from Elon in 2007, I had the wonderful fortune to be asked back in the Winterterm of 2008, to be the Production Stage Manager for Elon University’s production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera. You may have heard (or may not, if you are also an alum) that Elon was given the opportunity to do Phantom of the Opera as one of five universities on a try-out basis, allowing its parent company (Rodgers & Hammerstein, Inc.) to see how it would do in a non-professional setting, aka, without a million dollar budget. This was a big deal for Elon, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it from the very beginning!
Working on Phantom of the Opera was an amazing experience, nothing like I had done before, but it came and went quickly, as great shows do, and when it was over, I had no idea where I wanted to go from there. I knew New York was the big goal – that was Theatre Mecca, where all the great things happen – the center of it all in the world of theatre – but it seemed so far out of reach. So, I decided to apply for internships for the next year, one of which was the Professional Internship Program at The Juilliard School. This internship was specifically for stage management, which meant, I would be working on many of Juilliard’s productions (drama, dance, opera, orchestra) throughout the year as a stage manager (Fun fact: Juilliard does over 700 productions year round!).
It all happened really fast. One minute it seemed I was mailing in my application, the next I was having a phone interview with the head of the internship program, and the next I was sitting in the lobby of The Juilliard School, waiting to head into my interview.