Off the beaten path

Usually when a backstage track has been established, you keep to it to be consistent. Every so often some arises where you must go off track. Then there are those rare moments when you go off track and you don’t know why until something does happen to explain it. For me, I was ASMing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and I was curious about a part of the show from a particular backstage perspective – the theatre this was in was shaped like a classic Greek theatre – stage thrusts out, downstage entrances are voms that go deep to the backstage area. The walls of these voms had wide ledges and our Oberon was staged to sit on one while Puck told him what he did to Titania which resulted in Oberon laughing so hard that he would fall off the ledge into the vom. Puck is worried but then Oberon would bound out to congratulate him. Early in the preview process, I had a bit of free time and rather than just passing by this vom to go directly to my next stopping point, I stood by to watch Oberon drop into it. He dropped only rather than bouncing back up, he began crawling towards me – realizing he must have landed wrong and broke something, I instantly radioed up to my SM to tell her the actor was injured and to stop the show which she did. We tended to the actor till the ambulance arrived and needless to say the performance did not continue that evening.

The dummy didn’t drop!

My favorite shows tend to be farces or ones with fast costume and scene changes like “The 39 Steps” or “Compleat Work of Shakespeare Abridged”. And when you work on a show where you are constantly moving around backstage, any troubleshooting that arises needs to happen on the go.  So when we started Act 2 of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and we didn’t hear the “plop” of the dummy body drop to the stage from the grid when it was supposed to – a crucial prop piece that would show up again in a scene following the one we were about to change into – the troubleshooting commenced as we readied ourselves to go onstage to set the next scene. The plan I came up with was to send the wardrobe person to get a spare costume suit from the dressing room after she did the scene change and then we would grab some pillows from the green room and stuff them into the suit thereby creating a makeshift dummy. After quickly imparting that plan to wardrobe and the PA, we popped out for the shift and as I rolled off a set piece – hands full with Dr. Watson’s medical instruments – the actor playing Holmes grabs me and whispers in my ear “The dummy didn’t drop!” – to which I quickly whispered back, “we know, we have a plan” and we moved on. Wonderful thing about the show is that there is room for ad libbing so when we tossed the makeshift dummy out onto the stage, the actors had to take a moment to laugh and comment with the audience.

Meet the 2017 Recipients of the Del Hughes Award

Buzz Cohen grew up in Broomall, Pennsylvania in a close-knit and endlessly supportive family – the daughter of Lester and Selma Cohen, and sister of Celia Cohen. Although she expected to make her career in languages, her interest in writing led her to script development with her high school’s experimental performance group, where she fell in love with theater. She stage managed her first show during the first semester of her freshman year at Wesleyan University, where she discovered that her true love was, in fact, stage management.

Upon graduation from Wesleyan in 1977, Buzz got her start as the assistant production manager for Missouri Rep in Kansas City, MO. Returning east, she established herself in New York through the usual round of showcases and production assistant’s positions. Two seasons with the Hudson Guild Theater led to her joining Actors’ Equity Association, and eventually to her first Broadway show–the short-lived (but happy) Ned and Jack, directed by Colleen Dewhurst.

Her ability to work in Spanish allowed Buzz to connect with the Public Theater in 1986 for their Festival Latino – and she has remained there ever since, working for artistic directors Joseph Papp, Joanne Akalaitis, George C. Wolfe, and Oskar Eustis. At the time of this award, she is stage-managing her 70th production for the organization, where her work has ranged from 20 Shakespeare in the Park shows at the Delacorte to a wide variety of straight plays and musicals in the downtown space.

Although there have been forays into commercial theater (The Queen and the Rebels and the transferred-from-the-Public The Secret Rapture and The Tempest on Broadway), an ongoing association with Providence, RI’s Trinity Repertory Company (15 shows), and the privilege of stage managing all five incarnations of the International Festival of Puppet Theater for the Henson Foundation, the Public continues to remain her artistic home.

Buzz is the recipient of a unique Obie Award for Distinguished Stage Management.

Malcolm Ewen, who was born and raised in the Chicago area, has been one of the resident stage managers at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company since 1987. Over the years he has stage managed well over thirty productions for the company as well traveling with Steppenwolf projects to Broadway, Great Britain, South Africa and Australia.

Malcolm Ewen

On Broadway he was the Production Stage Manager of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play), The Grapes of Wrath (Tony Award for Best Play), The Song of Jacob Zulu, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and The Capeman. Regionally he has worked at the Goodman Theatre, Arena Stage, Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf Theatre, Remains Theatre and the Northlight Theatre.

Since 2001 he has served on the Council of Actors’ Equity Association representing Stage Managers in the Central region and chaired the Central Region Stage Managers’ Committee since the early 1990s. Now that the Stage Managers’ Committee is a national committee, he serves as a vice chair.

A former Trustee of the Actors Fund of America, he now serves on the Fund’s National Board of Advisors. Since 1991 he has been a board member of Season of Concern, the Chicago theatre community’s fund raising organization that supports direct care services for those living with AIDS. He was an adjunct faculty member in stage management in the Theatre School at DePaul University for five years. A graduate of Amherst College, he returns every summer to the Green Mountains of Vermont to direct at the Weston Playhouse.

Arturo E. Porazzi

Arturo E. Porazzi was raised on Staten Island, New York, the youngest of four boys and the only one to make a career in theatre. In high school, he discovered his love for theatre as an actor and went to Hofstra University to pursue performance. After a series of acting classes which turned out not to be as rewarding as working backstage, he shifted his focus to being a part of every crew of the theatre department’s productions. Lighting was his first love though it was frustrating at the same time – it took too many instruments to do what he wanted to do. (If only one could refocus and re-color instruments during a performance so you can do more with less – frustrating and how would that ever happen?) Enjoying being at the center of all things and watching the collaboration of many for one goal, stage management was appealing. Back then, we had no classes for stage management. You just did what you were asked to do by the director – script prompting, making lists, posting rehearsals, calling cues. So the foundation was meager.

A brief stint over a summer as the House Technician at Westbury Music Fair taught him how to work with union crews and professional actors and celebrities. Post-graduation led Arturo to summer stock and a regional theater called Playhouse on the Mall – yes, it was in the Paramus Mall in, yes, Paramus, NJ. Here he honed his carpentry and lighting skills. It was there, too, that he met his mentor, Steven Zweigbaum, a professional AEA stage manager and a Del Hughes recipient of 2011.

After that one season, Arturo went out on his first AEA gig as the PSM of a summer tour production of Hair – and it was just that – hairy. He discovered his ability to improvise with the capricious cast members and at the numerous venues along the way.

Having had this baptism of fire, Steve Z put him on as his first ASM for the Broadway production of Shenandoah. It ran for 1050 performances – “automation” was manually set and operated and all the flying scenery was manual as well. We even used typewriters and yellow pads. This was my graduate school in stage management and under Steve Z there was much to learn and much revealed about the business. We went on as a team to do seven Broadway shows – most notably, 42nd Street, Singin’ in the Rain and Me & My Girl. After that Arturo was on his own. His first PSM job from start to finish was George Wolfe’s Jelly’s Last Jam. That’s where he met the one and only Jules Fisher and eventually, the very singular Graciela Daniela.

His subsequent shows were Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, Victor/Victoria, Triumph of Love, Marie Christine, 42nd Street (the 2001 revival) and Chita Rivera, The Dancer’s Life.
Having done 15 Broadway shows – musicals, he was fortunate not to get hired by Kevin Spacey for Moon For the Misbegotten – not enough straight play credits. As that door closed, another opened up to director Christopher Ashley, currently the Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse. Arturo took to Mr. Ashley’s special talent and they have worked together over the years on five productions – most notably, Xanadu, Memphis and currently, Come From Away.

Arturo also does corporate work – aka Business Theater and again, as expected, there are special creative people in this field as well. The work is fast, intense, get it in, get it up, get it on and get out. Thanks to John Bettini and John Fennessy for having me on a couple of my first industrials.

These past 10+ years (he has lost count), Arturo has served as an adjunct professor or guest lecturer, working with many students at Wagner College on Staten Island, Fordham, Columbia, Pace in NYC and UCSD La Jolla, CA. It’s awesome to stand in front of students and try to convey one’s “how” to a successful career in stage management never knowing if it will inspire them or make them run screaming from the classroom. If the latter, then it’s a good thing. Then again, he is very proud of those who have gone successfully forth and have sent him notes of gratitude.

Arturo has sent many thanks to many friends and colleagues with regard to the Del Hughes Award and must state here, that no career happens without the love and support of family. When arts education was high in the spectrum of subjects to take in elementary and high schools, his mother, an English and Speech teacher in high school, instilled in him the thrill of live theatrical performances. Watching The Ed Sullivan Show with his father introduced him to many forms of entertainment.

He has always had the support of his three brothers and their respective families and lastly, his wife, Debora and daughter, Gabriella. Theatre is a mistress all her own and robs one of a plethora of personal time with one’s family. He thanks his wife and daughter for their love and support as they are the reason to strive for success and garner such an award as the Del Hughes Lifetime Achievement.

May we all continue in good health and success and prosperity and HAGS (Have a good show.)

Election 2017 – read candidate statements here!


Mandy Berry – 1st Vice President
Thank you very much for considering me as a chair for the SMA. I am looking forward to continuing the work I have done with this amazing board over the past 3 years. We have established our online document library and are running our education department with our three key programs: Ask a Stage Manager, Collaborative Connections & Operation Observation. The SMA is an asset to stage managers, a wonderful connection to all facets of our industry and we must tap these resources and share with one another to get the most out of our careers. For this coming year I would like to continue with the following goals – creating an audio and video library with interviews of stage managers and useful resources online.

Katrina Herrmann – Recording Secretary
I’m running for the position of Recording Secretary on the Executive Board. Previously I served on the Executive Board as Co-Secretary from 2010-2013. I’ve been a professional stage manager for 14 years and an Equity member for 10 years. Most of my career has been spent in New York and Chicago working on new plays and musicals. The SMA is a valuable resource for the nation’s stage managers, providing practical and tactical support. As I enter the middle of my career, I’m thinking about lifestyle balance, fair wages, and encouraging diversity. The country as whole is at a turning point, and there is work to be done to create an environment in which the arts can flourish. As a Board member, I would focus on building resources that help stage managers not just survive, but thrive.

Bill Hare – Treasurer
This has been a very exciting year with increased membership and growth both financially and geographically. It has been both a pleasure and an honor to serve with this highly committed, activist board. Next year promises to be ever more expansive as we explore additional avenues of growth and further opportunities for service to our fellows. Our ambitions are great while our resources are modest, but I’m convinced that with careful and responsible marshaling, we can take great strides toward realizing our ambitions.

Matthew Aaron Stern – Director-at-Large
I received my AEA card at the La Jolla Playhouse, spent a year as the stage manager for Ballet Iowa and then moved to New York City where I worked on Broadway, National Tours and at Radio City Music Hall. I’ve also stage managed for numerous corporate events and teach stage management at SUNY Purchase. I love stage management and I love stage managers.
I’ve been fortunate in my career and honored to work alongside many great stage managers, from which I have always continued to learn and grow. Membership in the SMA is an important part of my professional life and I am thankful for it. By connecting stage managers to each other, the SMA is vital to our profession and serves a purpose unlike any other organization, as it dedicated to the welfare of stage managers.
We are unique in our profession, balancing everyone else’s needs and being servant leaders. As an organization, the SMA can support us and our needs, providing social outlets, business opportunities and more. I would be honored to serve and help the SMA continue in its mission to support and advocate for stage managers.

Robert Neapolitan – Director at Large
Robert Neapolitan moved to New York in October of 2015. Since then he has immersed himself into the world of Theater. He has been a proud member of SMA for two years. He looks forward to joining the Board of SMA and to help connect, educate and support Stage Managers across the globe.

Anthony O. Bullock – Eastern Region Rep
My name is Anthony O. Bullock and I am proud to be running for the position of Eastern Regional Representative. I have been working along the east coast as an AEA stage manager since 2010. My goal for this position in the SMA is to grow our membership, not just in numbers in areas with little to no members but in active participating members. I hope to continue along with expanding on the benefits and value the SMA provides.

Joel Veenstra – Western Region Rep
I am a professional stage manager, production manager, and improviser based in Southern California. It has been a joy to work with a number of renowned regional theaters and large-scale celebrity galas and to teach stage management, collaborative production, and improvisation at the University of California, Irvine. Currently I have the pleasure of serving as the Recording Secretary of the Stage Managers Association and I look forward to transitioning into the role of Western Regional Representative, pending your vote. Already we have started the process of raising awareness of the benefits of the SMA in the West with two regional events (in Las Vegas on October 27 and in Los Angeles on April 24) and I look to continue to build on these incredible events throughout my term. My network and networking ability will help to support, inspire, and encourage my fellow stage managers in the Western Region. Thank you for your consideration of me for this position.

Joe Drummond, Central Region Rep Honored by USITT


Joe Drummond, USITT honored him with the Distinguished Achievement Award in 2017.                                                                                               .

Joe Drummond in rehearsal for Disgraced at the Goodman Theatre, 2015
Joe Drummond in rehearsal for Disgraced at the Goodman Theatre, 2015

The Board and membership of the SMA are pleased to congratulate Central Region Representative, “Old” Joe (Hash tag) Drummond on being awarded the 2017 USITT Distinguished Achievement Award in Management.  The Award, a lovely plaque, was presented to him by SMA member and Management Commissioner Tina Shackleford at this year’s USITT National Conference and Stage Expo in St. Louis, Missouri.  Joe also received a chocolate cake courtesy of SMA student member Madison Smith, who hails from Capital University.

Joe on the floor of the stage expo in St. Louis, Mar 2017
Joe on the floor of the stage expo in St. Louis, Mar 2017



Joe was a very active participant at USITT this year. He spent a significant amount of time at the Expo in the Stage Managers’ Association booth, at SMA meetings and attended our Social Night Out at Bailey’s Ridge in St. Louis, where a record-breaking 90+ stage managers attended.  He also served as a mentor to a young stage manager throughout the week as a part of the USITT Fellows Early Career Mentoring program.  On Thursday morning, Joe, along with all of the Distinguished Achievement Award winners for 2017, was introduced to the conference and featured in conversation with Board members Kevin Rigdon and Michael Mehler.

Joe recently retired after 42 seasons with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago where he served as ASM, Stage Manager and then Production Stage Manager. He is an institution in Chicago Theatre where he also taught stage management at Roosevelt University for 21 years.  He has been a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association for 45-years.


Joe hung up the stopwatch at the Goodman Theatre with the closing of 2666. This was a production adapted from what the Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls called one of the great novels of the 21st century.  The production, based on a 900-page novel, featured hundreds of characters within the pages of its five parts.  Drummond effectively, and with good humor, helmed this Goodman Theatre Production that required two directors, ran 5 1/2 hours, had three intermissions, a cast of fifteen and a price tag of nearly $1 million.

Previous credits include 133 Goodman productions, among them The Iceman Cometh (also at BAM), Death of a Salesman (also on Broadway in 1999 and at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles), and Glengarry Glen Ross (Chicago and Broadway), plus 12 productions of A Christmas Carol.  He also shared his skills, teaching at Roosevelt University for 21 years.


A very proactive member of the Chicago theatre community, Joe has, for a number of years served as the regional representative for the national Stage Managers’ Association.  In that capacity, he has organized numerous gathering for the Kick Ass Chicago Stage Managers group. We know him as a resource for newcomers to the Chicago theatre scene and last year, he, along with fellow Chicagoan Barbara Butts, were responsible for a very successful View from the Wings, Chicago that drew stage managers, pros and students, throughout the region, to a sold-out event that was held in conjunction with the SMA and Steppenwolf theatre. He and Butts are in the process of planning their second conference, to be held in the fall of 2017.


Joe received a Chicago Joseph Jefferson Award for Lifetime Achievement after 25 years of stage management at the Goodman.

In December 2011, Drummond received the Del Hughes Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Stage Managers’ Association.

Upon his retirement from the Goodman, the Chicago theatre community selected Joe to receive the Corona Award.  The Corona Award honors an individual who has played an important role in supporting and nurturing the growth of the Chicago theater community as well as small to medium-sized ensembles. Past Corona Award Recipients include Chicago casting director Jane Alderman, Timeline Theatre Managing Director Elizabeth K. Auman, Former Steppenwolf Associate Artistic Director Erica Daniels, Goodman Theatre Associate Producer Steve Scott, Goodman Theatre Resident Director Chuck Smith, League of Chicago Theatres Executive Director Deb Clapp, and Mary-Arrchie Artistic Director Richard Cotovsky.



A family man, Joe has always paid great attention to work-life balance (even before it was a buzz word), planning annual family vacations, anniversary trips with his wife and most recently taking on the role as father-in-law with the marriage of his oldest son. (pictured here is Joe and his wife Sarah)


Robert Falls (Goodman’s Artistic Director since 1986) says, “Joe has been an invaluable asset to the Goodman for many decades. His undeniable talent and unique charm improved the day-to-day lives of our staff and left an indelible mark on the hundreds of artists who had the pleasure of sharing a project with him and the thousands of audience members who witnessed the magic he helped bring to life on stage. Joe defines the term “one of a kind,” and anyone who has worked with him knows exactly what I mean by that.”

Phil Vettel wrote of Drummond in a 1987 Chicago Tribune article about the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol, “… as dress rehearsal begins, Drummond is the busiest man on stage even though his feet rarely move.”

Joe is truly an artist.  His commitment to the art of stage managing was evident when he was doing Cyrano with director, Michael Maggio.  In that production, there was a very complicated fight scene.  Michael enjoyed Joe’s cue-calling on that particular bit so much that he delighted in being on headset just to hear him call it.


As for Joe, he’s “grateful to Roche Schulfer and Bob Falls for the opportunity to hone my stage management skills along side so many talented staff members and artists.”

In an article about Stage Managers published by Backstage magazine in 2001 Joe opines, “You have to want to do this because you just plain want to.  Your satisfaction comes from seeing the production turn out well.”

Drummond observes, “When I became involved with the theatre professionally in the ’60s, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a stage manager who was responsible for the running of a show. I don’t think stage managers were even mentioned during the two years I spent in acting school.  Now many university theatre departments offer majors in this area.”

His very best advice to stage managers?   “Always carry a fork; you never know when you might encounter a chocolate cake.”





Welcome (belatedly) Joel Veenstra to the Board of the SMA


January 2017

The Board of the Stage Managers Association welcomes to the board, – new recording secretary, Joel Veenstra.


Joel, who joined us in late 2016,  is a professional stage manager, production manager, and improviser. As an AEA stage manager, he has coordinated collaborations with renowned regional theaters including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pasadena Playhouse, and Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center. He also stage manages large scale galas including the Legacy Awards honoring Tom Hanks and Lisa Cholodenko, the California Science Center’s Discovery Ball featuring the Space Shuttle Endeavor, and the Detroit Party featuring Keegan Michael-Key. Joel teaches stage management, collaborative production, and improvisation at the University of California, Irvine.

Veenstra replaces the outgoing recording secretary Joshua T. Hardwick who left us to take on new responsibilities in Seattle.  Joshua served the board for a number of years as both West Coast Rep and more recently, as Secretary.  We wish Joshua the best of luck in his endeavors.