- Courtesy of Peter Smith Photography
“It’s 20 minutes to places; this is 20 minutes to places.” Though spoken into a microphone, the voice doesn’t resonate through the small expanse allotted as Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre’s backstage area. Rather, it travels to the deep under-heart of the building, reaching all the costumed actors and mid-warm-up actresses in the dressing and green rooms.
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The house had been filling up for 10 minutes, the show-goers finding their seats and chatting over programs of the show, Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.”
Laura Beth Cohen, a fifth-year senior at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, has stage-managed two other MT&D shows: “Ariadne auf Naxos” last semester and “Noises Off” this past year; calling the time until curtain is routine.
“I enjoy it a lot; it’s very fast-paced,” Cohen said. “It’s kind of like a 3-D Jenga game that’s continuously moving in time, and you have to have the pieces in the right places at the right moment. It’s definitely fun, and there’s a lot of adrenaline back here when it comes time for a big change.”
Before the doors opened at 7:30 p.m., Cohen took off her stage-manager headset in order to check in on everyone. She walked down to dressing room A, finding actresses in corsets and various versions of ready: One girl had yet to get her hair done while another was worried her corset was entirely too revealing.
In another dressing room, two shirtless actors with awesome mustaches threw around accent possibilities. Cohen warned them not to get too carried away or else there would be a French/Russian-inspired character in 1900 Sweden. They refused to let up and instead listened to their trippy, bumping pump-up music.
The only snag was the missing-in-action status of “Giff,” who had run home to grab a damsel in distress’ forgotten fake eyelashes. It was apparently the talk of the crew, as hair and makeup were also aware of the missing Fredrik Egerman-actor. Cohen informed two of the assistant stage managers of the disappearance to mixed reactions: At the same time, one “aw”-ed while another “oh”-ed … the wait for Giff was on.
Students milled around the backstage, warming up their vocals, putting on their dresses and coats, drinking tea and water when suddenly, a half-dressed Giff pops up and happiness ensues. Everything can go smoothly now.
“I don’t have to be on Giff-watch 2013!” exclaimed a happy assistant stage manager.
When asked about the differences between this show and others she has managed, Cohen explained that though each show has its own snags and mishaps, the true difference was the medium.
“ ‘Noises Off’ is almost like a ballet, so it was really complicated blocking and difficult to keep track of that. ‘Ariadne’ is a very difficult opera, and opera has a totally different protocol with what happens offstage and onstage. It’s really just the difference of the medium.”
Musical theater shows like “A Little Night Music” have their own set of necessary preparations that the cast and crew practice the weeks leading up to the show.
“The main thing I do … is I call the show,” Cohen said. “I tell everyone when things happen; I tell the lights when to change; I tell the curtain when to move … and I kind of enjoy taking my timing from the people onstage and creating something with my words.”
Typically, stage managers time the entire performance, knowing which props, pieces and people are to be on or offstage at any given moment. To accomplish this, the crew of “Night Music” created an Excel booklet with each minute of the show mapped out.
LSA junior Jean-Luc DeLadurantaye, assistant stage manager of the show, had the Excel-produced master run on hand.
“(The master run) has all of our directions on it for tracking what goes on and off, including people,” DeLadurantaye said. “We have a crew of backstage people; there’s also a crew of costume people, and props, and scenery and lighting. All together it’s maybe 20 people.