CHECK LISTS!!!

CHECK LISTS: I am a big fan of the “actual” check list. What I mean by this is checking something off and looking at it each and every time. I came to this realization when once, in a large regional theatre, the SM started the show without a couch in place and we had to bring it in. So, especially in a long-running show, and I have done a few of these, it is very possible to believe you have everything in order but like the impression left over by a stamp, your brain tricks you.

So, I was training a stage manager on a production of “Strange Snow”. On the set there was a break-away window that needed to be replaced every night. The actor had to punch through the glass in a pivotal scene in the first act. As a safety check, the curtains were left hanging down when the hard plexy was in place and for the top of the show, they were tied up, revealing the sugar glass window.

It was nearing the time for the actor to do his punch and I was observing the replacement SM from their little perch in the back of the 99 seat house. I looked up to see, the curtains hanging straight down. Well, I shot down that ladder and around to the backstage. I pulled the nails out of the plexy on the window (knowing that my “method” actor would punch it no matter what) and sweating with a leko aimed directly my back, carefully put the plexy on the ground. I picked up the sugar glass and had just gotten the third nail in to it when I heard the cue. I ducked and the sugar glass shot over my head.

Needless to say, the replacement SM believed me about my check list after that.

SMA partners with Columbia University for Standing in the Dark

Elynmarie backstage silhouette

The Stage Managers’ Association of the United States (SMA) is pleased to announce Standing in the Dark: A Series of Conversations with Prominent Stage Managers. This exciting initiative, a continuation of the SMA’s “Legacy Project,” will be featured on the Association’s website in both podcast and video format.

The Legacy Project has been in development for the past few years under the leadership of the SMA Chair Elynmarie Kazle who has been working to create a structure for the concept and a way of preserving these important voices.  It was originally conceived as a series of video conversations. Standing in the Dark, is a series of audio recordings of prominent stage managers and was created by Rachel Zucker, who envisioned this project as her MFA stage management thesis at Columbia University. The two efforts will be combined as Standing in the Dark: A Series of Conversations with Prominent Stage Managers. Last spring, Zucker contacted the SMA to see if there was interest and support for the continuation of her undertaking beyond graduation and the board of the Stage Managers’ Association has given its full support to the collaboration.

“One would think that stage managers, who are the backbone of the theatre industry, on Broadway and beyond, would have a rich written and/or oral history devoted to their work but unfortunately very little exists,” according to Zucker.  “That’s what really inspired me to propose this as a thesis project, which eventually became Standing in the Dark.  I believe it is important to hear their own words and voices, how these stage managers got to be where they are today.”

Michael J. Passaro, Associate Professor of Professional Practice (and Rachel’s advisor) at Columbia University, was supportive of Rachel’s venture from the start. “When I begin to advise my students on their thesis projects, I ask them a few questions to focus their thinking: What’s missing? What isn’t available to them, or doesn’t currently exist, in the world of stage management theory or practice? What do they wish they had in terms of a resource that will help them – and future stage managers – be better at what they do? Rachel’s proposal crossed my desk and I wrote one word on it: YES!”

In the next few weeks, ten audio podcasts compiled by Zucker will be rolled out on the SMA website along with the first video podcast.  According to Hope Rose Kelly, the Stage Managers’ Association Website Editor in Chief, the podcasts will feature conversations with Bonnie Panson, Michael Passaro, Buzz Cohen and Arturo Porazzi, among others. The first video podcast will feature premiere Broadway stage manager and invererate hiker, Bob Bennett.

“I speak for many of us I’m sure” continued Passaro, “when I wish that legendary voices such as Ruthie Mitchell, Biff Liff, Beverley Randolph and many others were part of this series [who are no longer with us].  There’s no better organization than the SMA to foster the continuation of Rachel’s work and to ensure this incredible history is available to future generations of stage managers.” Speaking for the SMA, Kazle says, “By working together, we can create a cohesive history for our profession.  It is our hope to make this available through our network to future generations of stage managers.”  To nominate a stage manager.  Go to I WANT TO (on stagemanagers.org) and click on NOMINATE A STAGE MANAGER FOR THE LEGACY PROJECT.

Big Wish Comes True with “The Lion King”

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Zeke with his mother and Matt Shiner

My sister, Julie Johnson, works for some very special clients. One night she called to ask, “Do you know anyone who works with The Lion King?”  It turns out that she had been in communication with a family from Ohio whose young son, Zeke, had a BIG WISH: to be able to go and see The Lion King.

I thought of Zoya Kachadurian, a stage manager who had sent me a “headshot shot” taken backstage at The Lion King I emailed her and she sent me contact information for the tour stage manager, Matt Shiner. It just so happened that the tour was going to be performing very nearby where Zeke and his family lived so I put the two in touch and frankly, I forgot about it: in this business it is just what you do.

A couple of months later, my sister called a second time. Matt had contacted Zeke and made arrangements with him to attend the show.  Zeke has a condition that makes necessary special accommodations for him to attend this sort of public experience but Matt was on it; he met the family before the show, gave Zeke a sort of a preview of what he was going to experience and gave Zeke his biggest wish.

I received this note written by Julie and photos from the family:

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Zeke with his mother

This was a fantastic experience and we could not thank you enough for introducing us to this wonderfully accommodating man!

Zeke has wanted to do something like this for a very long time – really his dream! With his challenges related to his disability, the over stimulation issues; any change in a routine schedule can be very difficult for him to overcome.  He needs to prepare and be made comfortable with any change to allow him to participate without a great deal of anxiety.  The way he was treated, helped to transition and know what was coming was an amazing experience that we have not had before. We were not only amazed by what a wonderful person he is (Matt Shiner) but the show was incredible.  This was a life moment that will never be forgotten.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this happen created an amazing memory for Zeke and our family that we would have never had without you.

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Zeke with his father

This is the truth about show folks. A person in Minnesota finds out someone in Ohio needs help, people from NYC make it possible. There is no folk like show folk, they are some of the best people in the world, willing to share the great fortune we have to work in this special business.  Thank you to Matt, to the Company of The Lion King and to Zoya for making this possible.

Observing Bob Bennett, Stage Manager for “Incident at Vichy”

Bob Bennett, Stage Manager for "Incident at Vichey by Arthur Miller
Bob Bennett, Stage Manager for "Incident at Vichey by Arthur MillerIn December I had the pleasure of observing stage manager Bob Bennett at work during a performance of Incident at Vichy at the off Broadway Signature Theatre in New York City.  
 
First of all, if you have never been to the Signature Theatre, I would definitely recommend a visit (and a tour if you can get one) when the opportunity presents itself. The Signature Theatre building is beautiful and a bit unusual in that it was originally built to be the New York home for Cirque du Soleil. The lobby is expansive and comfortable and there is a before-and-after cafe with a full bar, so it is a great gathering space for theatre goers or anyone from the public whenever the space is open.
 
It is always interesting to observe another stage manager at work. Bob is what I would call ‘old school’ and since I consider myself a bit of old school, I was happy to see that he created his script in much the same way that I do, using the good old pencil, ruler and paper method. His calling was crisp and sharp, clearly the gentleman in command. Between cues, he did take the time to tell me a bit about the creation of the production, and how he worked with the director, Michael Wilson. I was also fortunate that Mr. Wilson was revisiting the production that evening and was
as gracious a host as Bob was.
 
After the show Bob, his assistant stage manager Lori Lundquist, and I got to hang out a bit and chat, capping off an enjoyable evening.
 
There is something soothing about sitting in a booth, watching and listening. Unconsciously, without realizing it, you have been reminded of the important parts of running a performance: listening and taking in the atmosphere. I have had the opportunity to observe a few times in the past, getting an introduction to Mickey Rooney from Stage Manager Joel Tropper and meeting the inimitable George Rose backstage at The Mystery of Edwin Drood and even finding out why never to wear white shoes, as demonstrated by an unfavorable reaction from actor Daniel J. Travanti when I was, without realizing it, being suggested for an ASM job only to lose it by wearing distracting white athletic shoes. I have to say the experience with Bob is my new favorite. I definitely recommend taking advantage of Operation Observation, should you get the opportunity.

GAME CHANGE: SMA Chair Invited To Attend TCG Conference

I was pleased to be the representative of the Stage Managers’ Association at this conference.  In a conversation with Theresa Eyring, executive director of TCG, I learned the organization was interested in having more production professionals attend their conferences to provide their perspective in the discussions and ongoing work of TCG. The SMA was pleased to be taking part in this way.  Of course, as I also represent USITT and Ohio University, those connections came into play in the course of the work and workshops I participated in over those four days.

“In theatre, unless we say yes, nothing changes” Lear deBessonett, Peter Zeisler Award honoree.

The theme was GAME CHANGE and many of the sessions and panel discussions centered around how we can make a difference with our art, our stories and by employing inclusion in our practice.  Here Oskar Eustis from the public theatre interviews Lisa Kron about the process of creating the intimate musical Fun Homefor the stage.

In addition to several large group sessions that featured story tellers such as ….. and an artistic directors panel, the head of the NEA and the dual Kevin Moores. Much was lauded and as was pointed out, much is left to be done.

The game changers artistic directors panel included:  Mina Morita from the Crowded Fire Theatre in San Francisco; Michael Kahn from the Shakespeare Theatre Co in Washington DC, Gregory Boyd from the Alley Theatre in Houston, Niegel Smith, the brand new AD for NYC’s Flea Theatre and Laura Kepley from the Cleveland Playhouse.

Many interesting points for game change and survival were raised but two of the most significant were Michael Kahn’s announcement that in DC, the first or second play of everyone’s (over 40 theatres) season in town was going to be one written by a female playwright.  Gregory Boyd stressed the importance of regional actors making up the bulk of the regional theatre company as well as how you have to upend the typical schedule of performances to accommodate the making of a new play.  His idea was to mount the play, run it ten performances take it back into rehearsal and then remount it again. This is an idea he wants to try this fall in his newly renovated facility.

Break out sessions held with and without allies present (allies being the non-members of the minority or underserved group) were convened by interest groups, by gender and by heritage or cultural affiliation. Positive strategies were discussed for moving forward to gain more opportunity for these groups and these discussions were reported out to interested members of the full conference group at Intersection, a gathering of the majority of the 700 soe attendees on Saturday afternoon at the State Theatre.  There were performances by local artists, an opening night/gala style party, Pandemonium at the Cleveland Public Theatre as well as a number of fascinating all conference sessions.

Personally, I spent time in a session with managing and artistic directors as we discussed strategies and challenges that currently face founders, funders, and community leaders in their day to day work of supporting their local cultural institutions.

SMA Membership Greeting 2015 From Our Chair

Happy 2015!

I trust that your seasons are moving along with interesting work and full houses.  Now that the holiday season is behind us it is time to renew our efforts for the spring and beyond.

The SMA has several projects in the works, new and renewed and we would be pleased to have your participation and input.

These projects include:

** The re-launch of Operation Observation
** Live Forums and Chats (helmed by Erin Joy Swank)
** SMA’s Mentoring project, being developed by first Vice Chair, Mandy Berry, (which was launched with a webinar produced with the help of Propared last week),
** More member accessible content about trends, tips and picks as well as the ability to publish member articles on the website. For this we appreciate the efforts of Jon Goldman, webmaster and Senior Website Editor, Hope Rose Kelly (2nd Vice Chair).
** The Del Hughes Awards: the committee chaired by Janet Friedman is also gearing up to select this year’s honoree(s).

As your chair, I am continuing to reach out nationally, with visits this fall to Kansas City, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland and New York and would be pleased to attend, when possible, other events as they are planned. In addition, I have taken on a Legacy Project, the purpose of which will be to record and preserve the voices of the great stage managers in our industry. I have secured the interest of the Drama Book Shop to host the live recording of the very first one of these in New York, this spring.

One of our newest collaborations is an exciting exchange partnership with United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) because, this year, through this exchange, we will not only have a presence on their trade show show floor March (18-21) in Cincinnati, but will have a time slot for a Membership interest and issues Meeting and also sponsor a social event. This will be a good chance for members and those interested in the SMA to get together in Cincinnati and share ideas about where we want to advocate and serve working stage managers in the years to come.  At least three board members (myself included) will be in Cincinnati and we encourage you to make plans to attend.  You will be receiving information about how to register for the full conference as well as how to obtain a day pass from USITT very shortly.

Also in the works is a member survey.  We would really appreciate it if, when you receive it, you can take the time to fill it out and tell us what you are thinking. We are very interested in hearing from you. And as always, you can write me directly at elynmarie.kazle@stagemanagers.org.

Best year yet, 2015 — GO!

Sincerely,
Elynmarie Kazle, Chair of the SMA
And the 2014-15 Executive board

Del Hughes Awards 2014 Press Release

The Stage Managers’ Association (NYC) (July 2, 2014) for immediate release. Elynmarie Kazle, the Chair of the Stage Managers’ Association, is pleased to announce the honorees for the 2014 Del Hughes Award for Lifetime Achievement and Excellence in the Art of Stage Management. On Monday, June 23rd, members and distinguished guests gathered to honor Thomas Kelly (NYC) Martha Knight (Washington, D.C.) and James (Jimmie) McDermott (Los Angeles) at a celebration in New York City at Connolly’s on 121 W. 45th Street. The Chair of the event was Janet Friedman and the Emcee was past SMA Chair, Richard Costabile.

Thomas Kelly has been a Stage Manager, Production Staging Supervisor, and a General Production Manager for over 50 years since going off to summer stock in 1962. He has had an active career both on and off Broadway, with his Broadway credits including Hair, The Wiz, Sugar Babies, Merchant of Venice, and Death of a Salesman (with Dustin Hoffman). He worked with Christopher Plummer on Cyrano! The Musical and with Tommy Tune’s productions of The Club and A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine. Tom has also worked in stock and regional theatres. As a Production Manager and Staging Supervisor, he has worked on such diverse productions as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, MTV’s Unplugged series, and the Papal Mass in Central Park. He has managed installations and presentations including the first VHI Music/Fashion Awards, and at MTV and Between the Lions for WGBH. Tom has served as Production Manager for Center Line Studios, one of New York’s foremost scenery companies, and on the faculty of The State University of New York at Purchase.

Martha Knight (Stage Manager) has been a stage manager at The Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. for over 30 years and most recently on Other Desert Cities. Last season, she stage managed Long Day’s Journey Into Night in the Kreeger Theater and in the previous season At Home at The Zoo in the Kogod Cradle. Martha has worked on Broadway, off-Broadway and on national tours such as: Foxfire; Annie; Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!; Over Here!; and The Me Nobody Knows. This past summer, Martha received the ‘Broadway Salutes’ medal for 50 years of theatrical work. For the past 35+ years, she has been happily stage managing in the Washington area’s many theaters doing plays, musicals and free-lance productions; including 25 years of The Helen Hayes Awards. She proudly joined Actors’ Equity in 1962 at Musicarnival “under thebig, blue tent” in Cleveland, Ohio.

James McDermott: Jimmie has stage managed across the country and in the greater Los Angeles Area for organizations such as Center Theatre Group (Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum, Kirk Douglas Theatres) the Geffen/Westwood Playhouse, Los Angeles Theatre Center, La Jolla Playhouse and South Coast Repertory. Jimmie is in his fourth five-year elected term on the Council of Actors’ Equity Association, a Vice Chair of the Western Board of Directors, Chairman of the Western Regional Stage Manager’s and LORT Committees. In 2001, he was the first Stage Manager to be named as the Outstanding Professional Stage Manager in whose name the USITT Outstanding Stage Manager Award was given. The 2013/2014 school year marks Jimmie’s 18th year on the faculty of Cal Arts.

The Del Hughes Award is regarded throughout the theatrical community as a crowning achievement for a stage manager’s career. The Del Hughes Award was created by Julie Hughes and Barry Moss, partners in a major casting office. This award honors Julie’s father who made a 50-year career of stage managing. The selection committee looks for recipients who exemplify the finest qualities of Stage Management: patience, diplomacy, organization and a sense of humor.

Phil Friedman, Bob Fosse’s stage manager, was the very first to be so honored.

The following Stage Managers have previously received this award: Phil Friedman, Fritz Holt, Bill Dodds, Ruth Mitchell , Anne Keefe, Anne Sullivan, Biff Liff, Morty Halpern, Alan Hall (2010), Porter Van Zandt (2010), Susie Cordon (2010), Joe Drummond (2011), Steve Zweigbaum (2011), Beverley Randolph (posthumously) (2011), Bob Bennett (2013), Peter Lawrence (2013) and Perry Silvey (2013).

The Stage Managers’ Association, founded in the fall of 1981, by and for stage managers, is a professional networking and educational organization for stage managers all across the United States. Among the activities of the Association are mentoring, job lisitngs, “Operation Observation”, and online educational forums. The SMA also helps raise funds annually for the causes supported by the Broadway Cares/EFA Flea Market.

For more information on the SMA visit: https://www.facebook.com/stagemanagersassociation

A Welcome from the SMA Chair

Welcome to the Stage Managers Association:

It was a pleasure to again be in New York for the annual meeting. Webmaster Jon Goldman gave us an informative presentation on the soon to launched new website and there were a number of questions brought up which related to public vs private pages; questions which led to a discussion about the need to provide professional development opportunities and links to other affiliates. An issue was brought up about the SMA Directory, which for a number of reasons is complicated, expensive and time consuming for an organization of our size to manage online. Individuals interested in making suggestions and having input on the website should use the Support Contact Form on this site.

Programming was also discussed. Jon Goldman and Rich Costabile and the committee have been working hard to relaunch Operation Observation as an ongoing effort of the SMA; Erin Joy Swank will be working on new Online Forums that should be able to be live streamed from our website, and Mandy Berry, Tina Shackelford, Kevin Casey and Joe Drummond and I along with other committee members have been discussing mentoring and how best to integrate this into our organizational culture an as an ongoing effort.

After the meeting there was a lively discussion on Working in Regional Theatre put together by Melissa Nathan which also took on the subject of regional transfer to NYC and collaborative productions. The panelists, Melissa Nathan, Hope Rose Kelly, Liz Reddick and Dan Zittel shared their personal experiences and the session was rich and informative.

As I said in my candidate statement, I am eager to see the SMA expand its reach nationally, and become THE essential affiliation for every stage manager. With the new website in place and with the help of the Vice Chairs, Mandy Berry, and Hope Rose Kelly, the board members, the officers, Past Chairs and other invested members we can set some goals to continue increase the value of being a member of the SMA.

I want to thank Jon Goldman for his leadership over the past few years. I believe it is important for the Association to build on the ground work already laid in place and continue the work to strengthen ties with directors, producers, unions and other national theatre associations. This will lift our national profile.

Please join me in this effort. If you have an idea, a suggestion an issue, or are a member with a long career who is now interested in giving back; WE NEED YOU. You can use the “Contact the Chair” link on the tools menu to contact me.

Sincerely,

Elynmarie Kazle, Chair
Stage Managers Association