Top Nine Things You Need to Understand or Have Done to Become a Professional Stage Manager:
9. Have swept a stage, focused a light, mended a costume
8. Know basic first aid
7. Understand that the ACTOR is the one putting her/himself in front of the audience and how vulnerable that makes them
6. Facilitate communication among creative people (and their egos)
5. Ability to put your ego in your back pocket
4. Love the ART of theatre, but be challenged by the work even when it isn’t art
3. Understand that knowledge is NOT power
2. Have a sense of humor
And the number one thing you need to understand or have done to become a Professional Stage Manager…………………………………………………
Know when your headset mic is on!!
Top Six Things to Help Keep Your Stage Manager (and ultimately you) Happy:
6. Be on time. On time means ready to rehearse
5. Clean up your own trash at the end of the day
4. If you have a “challenge” with a costume, prop or set piece, ask nicely for help
3. Do not give notes to other actors. EVER.
2. Do not whine
And the number one thing to help keep your stage manager – and ultimately you – Happy:
…………………………………………..Bring her chocolate.
I joined the stage management team for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in the fall of 1991. The show that year was the one they’d been doing for a number of years with no changes. The crew was the same, the sets and lights were the same; I was the newbie. I studied hard to learn to call the show (to this day, the most difficult show I’ve ever called). Finally, the day came to solo my first time. I was nervous but had the support of everyone I was working with. The first compliment came when I cued the snow for a scene and the fly floor dumped snow on my head as I was calling – they knew it would not rattle me and they were right. But the best compliment came at the end of the show when the show electrician, Marty Fuller, came back after and said: “You called a great show! You called all the cues just where we DO them!” I have carried that as a badge of honor ever since.
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.
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 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.)
This year, the SMA decided to focus on a particular kind of stage manager to receive its annual Del Hughes Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Art of Stage Management: Two pioneers in the field of corporate meeting and special event stage management – David Piel and John Fennessy. And, on the occasion of the SMA’s 35th Anniversary, we will also give special recognition to Jane Neufeld for bringing her commitment, enthusiasm and insight to the founding of both the SMA and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Mr. Piel began his theatrical career as an actor in his hometown of New York City. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, he made his Broadway debut in Joseph Heller’s “We Bombed In New Haven” starring Jason Robards and Diana Sands. He went on to act on Broadway, National tours and Off-Broadway, as well as films, television and commercials.
When offered a job as an assistant stage manager for an event for Exxon, he grabbed it (“I needed the money”) and for the next 40 years, became one of America’s foremost stage managers and directors of business theatre and corporate conventions…known in those days as “industrials”. His client roster reads like a who’s who of the Fortune 500 (IBM, Ford, Pfizer) and the leading associations (AARP, AMA, etc.). He moved to San Francisco in 1982 to be closer to his then busiest client: The Shaklee Corporation. In addition, he has stage managed such major events as the National Political Conventions (both Democrats & Republicans), the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and the United Nations 50th anniversary ceremonies.
Mr. Fennessy started his career as The Russian Tenor, in the original Bus and Truck of Fiddler on the Roof. He then stage managed Fiddler in Las Vegas for six months. Soon after, he joined the original cast of Grease at the Eden Theater as the ASM but also understudied and played every male role in the show. He performed the same duties on Over Here starring The Andrews Sisters. Other Broadway SM credits: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the notorious Got tu Go Disco and the legendary Frankenstein.
He has stage managed nearly one thousand industrials and special events including the Ford Centennial, Statue of Liberty Centennial, Super Bowl XXXIV Halftime; he directed and called The Coca-Cola Centennial, the largest industrial ever mounted.
He is an executive speaker coach to numerous Fortune 500 companies. Recently he returned to acting and won Best Actor at the First Run Film Festival for his performance in, Old Monster, opposite Sylvia Miles. In May he’ll be appearing in Simon Stephens’ Harper Regan at the T Schrieber Theater.
Ms. Neufeld currently resides in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania, where she has recently retired from volunteering for her local Ambulance Corps. She teaches CPR and First Aid courses and is active in local politics as an elected Township Auditor. But, as she says: “for over thirty years, I had the great good fortune to earn my living in theater!”
Starting as an off-Broadway techie in 1969, succeeding years were filled with work on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Regional theater as well as numerous special events and benefits. Notable shows she has worked on as a stage manager include the 1973 production of A Moon for the Misbegotten, Strange Interlude, 42nd Street, 7 Guitars and Twilight: Los Angeles. She was one of the coordinators for the Best of the Best, a benefit for AIDS at the Metropolitan Opera House. When the fledgling SMA achieved five seats on AEA’s Council solely for stage managers, Jane was chosen as one of the first five stage manager councilors.
Del Hughes (1909-1985) was an American theater performer, stage manager and television director. Hughes made his Broadway debut in 1941 as a replacement stage manager and performer in the original play Tobacco Road at the Forrest Theater. Prior to establishing his career as a stage manager, Hughes performed in several Broadway productions, including Vickie (1942), Yours, A. Lincoln (1942) and Open House (1947).
Hughes managed dozens of Broadway productions, including the premiere of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in 1949 at the Morosco Theater, as well as works by Lillian Hellman and Graham Greene. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hughes directed episodes of the television dramas One Life to Live and All My Children.
In 1970, Del Hughes was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Direction for a Daytime Drama Series for his work on All My Children.
The Del Hughes prompt books, archived in the Billy Rose Collection at the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, date from 1943 to 1968 and represent twenty-four Broadway productions which played at various New York City theaters.
Upon his passing in 1985, his daughter, Julie Hughes, of the casting firm Hughes/Moss, consulted with the Stage Managers’ Association about how to keep her father’s legacy alive. The result was the creation of the Del Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Art of Stage Management.
The recipients are chosen by the SMA’s Recognition Committee and its Executive Board as representing the finest qualities of Stage Management: patience, diplomacy, organization and a sense of humor.
We are proud of this year’s awardees and proud to continue our 35-year tradition of advocating for the work we do and recognizing those who excel at it.