Sunday, August 10, 2008

The First One

This whole thing started a little less than 2 years ago.  I am not a stage manager by trade, I didn't go to school for acting or film/tv production or technical production of any kind.  But somehow I ended up here.  I was a teacher, mostly kindergarten.  I was for the most part intimidated by actors, they seemed loud and very confident, always wanted to be the center of attention.  So completely the opposite of me.  
       Flash forward 20 months and now nearly all of my closest friends are actors.  How did I get to this point?  A friend asked me to stage manage her 30 minute one act in October of 2006.  After much begging and convincing I agreed.  I think back now to that first rehearsal and laugh.  I was so clueless, no idea what I was doing and terrified of all these people.  I had originally agreed to stage manage as long as I didn't have to run the booth during the show.  The idea of being responsible for light and sound cues was exceptionally frightening.  Slowly though I began to change my mind and by tech week, I was learning how to operate a light and sound board.  My knowledge then was very much on a need to know basis.  I didn't want to know anymore than was absolutely necessary for that particular show.  After all once it ended I was going to walk away.  
      Then during strike for that one, I was asked by two other directors to stage manage their one acts at the next one act festival in March.  I agreed to do it, telling myself, it was just a few more months and then I'd be done.  I still didn't feel like I knew what I was doing and didn't think I was very good.
     March came, the shows went up, opening night I made my first ever sound cue mistake, a ringing phone rather than a busy signal.  I know, I should let it go, but it still bothers me even now.  I'm somewhat of a perfectionist.  A skill I've been told is good for an SM to have, but it can also be downfall as I tend to dwell on the mistakes for much longer than I need to.
     Somewhere in the rehearsal process for the March one acts, I began to really like what I was doing.  More than like it, I loved it.   It was almost a drug, I wanted another show, a bigger show,  a main stage show.  In a matter of weeks I got not one, but three mainstage shows.  
     I learned a lot with those three shows.  Left the company I was with and joined a new one.  New meaning brand new, not just new to me.  It is a company started by 9 friends, all of with one common goal to create truly remarkable theater in Los Angeles.  My job in this company is to be the production manager.  I oversee all things related to the actual production of each show.  So from scheduling auditions, to interviewing stage managers to being the stage manager and working with everyone in between that is my job.  Not paid, yet, none of us are, but that is the goal eventually.
   That brings me to now, August 10, 2008.  My list of things to do for this company is huge.  In the next 8 weeks we have three different productions going up.  My first and most important job is to be the stage manager for The Tempest.  It was my choice and I'm happy to be there.  Rehearsals six nights a week from 7-10 do get a bit tiresome after a while.  I can't complain though, I worked with this director last year and knew what I was getting into.  He is my favorite director.  Originally an equity stage manager himself, I've learned so much from him.  I have a cast of 17, not my largest, last summer I had one of 28.  17 is a good number.  I love this cast.  I've been fortunate with all of my casts, no petty problems, no back stabbing, no divas, just good friends and talented actors.
  We've been in rehearsals since June and have one more month to go.  The show is nearly blocked, two more scenes and we'll be done!  We'll be starting stumble throughs at the end of this week.  My concern as always is my cast.  I want them to be happy, I want them to see how much their hard work is paying off.  It's something I don't know they really see until we get to opening night.  I know it has to be frustrating to be called at 7 and then not work until 9.  I see it on their faces, but some nights just don't go according to the plan.  Not that they complain, they never do, but I know some are thinking of what they could have been in doing in those two precious hours of free time.  
  Tonight they should have fun.  Tonight is the one night in the rehearsal process where we set aside the play and have fun as a cast and crew.  We'll play games and finish getting to know one another.  The cast members who worked with him last year are looking forward to tonight, the others a bit nervous.  My hope is that they will relax and enjoy themselves and realize tonight is their night.
  I'm off to go unlock rehearsal space for one of the other productions.  Then to a budget meeting and then to rehearsal.  Feels like a pretty typical Sunday :)

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