Behind the Curtain: Backstage Superstars

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Most people don’t give a second thought to the effort it takes to produce a theater show. Or if they do consider it, the credit for a good production usually lands at the feet of the director or the actors. Second only to the director, the stage manager is undoubtedly the most important person to a show’s success; nothing happens behind the scenes or on stage without their knowledge.

Although the director starts the creative process by mapping out a show’s artistic vision, stage managers are the glue that holds everything together. It is their responsibility to communicate closely with the artistic director, show director, music director, actors, set designer, technicians, stage crew and musicians to ensure that everything and everyone stays on point and on schedule.

Additionally, stage managers have a stake in every aspect of a show from the beginning of rehearsals to the very last curtain call. For many theaters, the stage manager works with the director to outline logistics and scheduling for all rehearsals, meetings and costume/wig fittings, and they are often the person that marks out the dimensions of the set on the floor of the rehearsal hall. They attend every rehearsal and oversee each individual performance documenting light and sound cues, actor blocking, props and costume changes.

Directors will typically leave once a show opens, and it falls to the stage manager to ensure that every aspect of the production runs just as the director intended, time after time, until the show closes.

Jeffery Kin, Artistic Director of the Players Theatre understands the value of a good stage manager. “Stage managers must have the ability to be clear and concise, firm yet fun … they set the mood and the tone. …[He or she] has to be one step ahead of mistakes; they have to know the mistake before it happens,” says Kin.

When asked to name a stage manager superstar, Kin is quick to give props to Alyssa Goudy.

“Alyssa Goudy is a phenomenal stage manager,” Kin says. “Her best quality is that she’s a lot of fun; she does everything out of a real sense of joy and passion for theatre. Because she’s having a blast, she wants everyone else to have a blast, too.”

Having and maintaining a positive attitude is important because stage managers are also the cheerleader for the cast, and are on the front line in helping to keep everyone psyched, ready and prepared.

“I love that I get to be a part of every scene, every character, every moment on stage … not just focusing on one thing, I am a piece of every department. And it’s fun! I get to make severed heads one day and play with lighting equipment the next.” says Goudy, who stage manages the Drag Queen Bingo and Pageant at Players Theatre.

Suncoast newcomer Chuck Conlon, also understands how important it is to be comfortable wearing many hats, since his last stint as stage manager for Denial at the Players Theatre required that he not only document and call all lighting and sound cues, but also work the control panel.

“I prefer to act because my technical abilities are limited … but [as a stage manager] I’m glad I get to meet and network with talented actors and work with established directors. Also I love to watch a show grow, from script to read through to final performance, it’s exciting, like watching a child grow up, reach maturity and then you get to kick it out when it becomes a teenager,” Conlon says.

Every show is different and staffed with different creative teams, so stage managers must also be flexible and fluid, ready to handle whatever happens.

“Being a stage manager, you are constantly faced with new challenges and there always new problems to solve,” says Kelly Borgia, stage manager of Hero: The Musical at Asolo Repertory Theatre. “It’s never boring, every day is different.”

The next time you find yourself on your feet, screaming bravo to the actors before you, give a moment to consider the many talented people who work behind the scenes. These unsung heroes and backstage superstars contribute so much in making sure that your experience is as thrilling and lasting as possible.

Producer for Suncoast View