Diary of an SPT Stage Manager: Rehearsal Week 2 for Godot

Rehearsal, Day 7:

After Sunday’s rehearsal, the AD (who is the director) asked if there was any way we could rehearse on Thanksgiving (we are going to be short three hours this week because of the extra day off). This is my 4th show with this company in this slot and we’ve never had this come up before. It’s probably because we would have normally started a week earlier so this would have been week 3. I also happen to think we’re in really good shape considering we’re just starting week 2. According to the SPT (Small Professional Theatre) rulebook, we are not allowed to rehearse on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. But, I emailed my Business Rep just in case. My Rep is great and not just because I’ve known her for a while. She emailed me back within half an hour or so and explained that if he really wants to rehearse on Thanksgiving, he could contact Equity. IF Equity says it’s ok, it would probably be very expensive. She said he should call on Monday if he wants to try. I emailed him that information and told him if he wants, he could add an extra hour to three days of rehearsal this week, but that would mean we’d go into overtime for those three days. Needless to say, I didn’t hear anything today about rehearsing on Thanksgiving or adding extra time to other days. Personally, if I were home with my family for Thanksgiving and was told I have to work, I wouldn’t want to. But since I’m not and since it would have only been three hours, I would’ve been ok with it (especially if I was going to be paid more). But, I’m also not upset that we’re not rehearsing because who doesn’t like having an extra day off.

Anyway, back to the business at hand:

It’s week 2! I came in this morning and made brunch plans for Sunday with the Company Manager and the Education Manager. I can’t wait!

My ASM swept and set up the prop table while I reset the tables (since we are finally done with tablework). One table for stage management, one for the AD, and one for the actors.

There was a weird buzzing sound in the room which got worse when I put the lights on (maybe as a result of the power outage on Sunday), so we kept the lights off most of the day. Luckily, it was a nice, sunny day so we had a lot of light coming in through the many windows.

We started staging the top of Act 2. There’s a lot of blocking that happens without any lines at the top so I made my actor a little cheat sheet which he was very appreciative of.

One of my actors has had some medical problems (that I will not go into since it’s personal) that we were aware of long before starting rehearsals. Because of that, he will have to leave for various appointments including today. It makes it a little difficult since he’s pretty much on stage the entire time and we can’t really do much without him but we certainly want to be mindful of his health. While he was gone, two of my actors ran lines with my ASM reading in the other actor’s lines.

It was Moe Monday ($5 burritos or bowls at Moe’s), so the Education Manager picked up a bowl for me and we had lunch together. It was nice.

When we came back, we tried the lights again but got the same loud buzzing sound so we turned them off again.

My actor who had the doctor’s appointment was late coming back so the other actor ran lines with my ASM.

By the time my actor got back, it was time for the other two actors to join us so we picked up staging where we had left off on Sunday and then moved on to the second scene that the four are in together. And hilarity ensued. At one point, my ASM and I put our sunglasses on because the sun was in our eyes.

The rest of the day was pretty much the same. After rehearsal, I quickly did the schedule and report. I had to go to the store to pick up some stuff for Thanksgiving.

Rehearsal, Day 8:

My actors playing Didi and Gogo are always early. I usually get to the theatre 30-45 minutes before we start and my actors are always there before me running lines. They’re so good. Today, we started at 10:30am (half an hour later than normal) so I told my ASM to be there at 10. She had told me that the later start time really helped her because she had to go downtown to pick something up. Unfortunately, she underestimated how much time it would take for her to get from downtown to the theatre so she was late. She had let me know though and there wasn’t really a lot to do beforehand so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

We continued staging and had the Boy come in earlier than usual; he had been released from school due to Thanksgiving break. I’m from New York and we never had a Thanksgiving break. We had Thursday and Friday off and that’s it.

When I made my character/scene breakdown during prep week, I broke it down into essentially French scenes (a French scene is delineated by when people enter and exit; the scene starts when someone enters and ends when someone exits). This particular play is in two acts, but has no scenes so making French scenes is helpful. There’s 10 French scenes; two scenes have all four adult actors and two other scenes have Didi, Gogo, and the Boy. The other scenes are just Didi and Gogo. I have two extra blocks under each scene column on my breakdown to mark when we’ve done them. We read thru all the scenes so they all get a check mark. As of today, we’ve staged all the scenes except for two so those scenes get another check. Once we stage everything and really start working through the show, each scene will get another check. I keep my breakdown in front of me so I remember to check things off as we do them.

After rehearsal, I did the daily and report and then I talked to one of my actors and one of the education actors for a bit and then went to pick up my dinner (Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken; it’s literally the best).

At about 10:30pm, my ASM texted me asking if we were starting rehearsal at 10:30am again because that’s what the daily says. I could have sworn I had changed the time but when I pulled up the daily I saw that it did indeed say 10:30. I sent out a correction email and apologized for any inconvenience. Then my ASM texted me thank you and I said “No, thank you!” Good thing she caught that. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times you proof something. I normally would have my ASM check the dailies before I email it but I thought it wasn’t necessary for this show since it’s such a small cast and our rehearsal schedule is pretty much the same every day. Except for this one day! I will look it more closely from now on!

Rehearsal, Day 9:

We didn’t have our Lucky today because he had to teach and perform one of the education shows all day, but we were able to get a lot done without him. We reviewed the parts of Act 2 that we’ve already done (except for the part with the Boy, because he wasn’t called) and we staged the last two little scenes. We finished the initial staging!

It has been so cold in the rehearsal studio that the Company Manager gave me a small space heater. I put it on a chair slightly behind my ASM and I. It’s definitely helping.

We spend a lot of time in rehearsal talking about the Marx Brothers. Any time you can talk about the Marx Brothers is a good time. Seriously, if you don’t know who they are, Google them! We talk about them for a reason though. Didi and Gogo are clowns. Not circus clowns but clowns like the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. It’s research!

I got a new unicorn notebook from the dollar bins at Target the other day so I now have that with my show notebook. I’m currently using my new notebook to write down bullet points for this diary!

The last hour of rehearsal before any day off, but especially an extra day off, is rough. It goes by soooooo slowly and everyone gets really punchy.

In addition to keeping my character/scene breakdown in front of me (as described above in Day 8), I also keep my conflicts calendar there. I hand write updates in as necessary but it’s good to have nearby when we’re making the schedule after rehearsal. The conflicts for this show haven’t been terrible, especially because of the nature of the show. Last year was brutal because we had a cast of eight or nine; every person was playing more than one character and half of the cast was in the education show so it made scheduling a nightmare.

I’m so glad tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Not just for an extra day off, but so I can eat my weight in food. I don’t even need turkey; just give me the side dishes and dessert (I made two pumpkin pies after I got back from rehearsal; tomorrow I’ll make baked brie. It’s going to be delicious)! My AD and his wife (the General Manager) are having us over so it should be a great day!


Rehearsal, Day 10:

We talked about Thanksgiving and what everyone did on their extra day off. I had brought in a huge thing of Ambrosia that my host had made for her Thanksgiving.

We reviewed/worked scenes today, mostly in Act 2. Everyone was called at least for an hour. We also started fittings today; Didi, Gogo, and the Boy tried on their costumes. Pozzo and Lucky’s weren’t ready yet.

I’ve done a number of shows with kids in them (varying from elementary to high school ages) and each experience is different. This show is no exception. The Boy’s mother emails me in response to my daily schedules almost every day. Sometimes it seems like she’s just double checking that he’s only called for that particular amount of time and sometimes she says things like “his dad will be picking him up, what time is he done?” when it’s clearly stated on the schedule. Today was a new one. After we were done with the Boy in rehearsal, he went for a fitting. We had gone a little over time and decided to take our ten-minute break a littler early since we were supposed to start something new. It’s a good thing we broke early because the Boy’s mother called me. She said she emailed me but figured she’d call me anyway and asked if I was in the space and who should she ask about getting him a haircut (because he really wants one). I said I am in the space because we’re in rehearsal. I also told her that I would ask the AD and costume designer about his hair but I think we want to keep his hair this length. I swear I was on the phone with her for like eight out of the ten-minute break. I asked the AD and sure enough he said the Boy should not get a haircut.

About half an hour after we started up again, I saw the Boy leave and I went to talk to the costume designer. We need a specialty item for one of my actors and I wanted to know if she understood my notes in the report and if we could get the item by Monday. She said yes to both things.

On our next break, I checked my email. I had forgotten that the Boy’s mother had said she emailed me as well. She asked me the same question in the email and also said that the Boy wanted to know what the schedule was for Saturday and when would I know that. I emailed her back and said I would know after rehearsal today. I’m not sure how many times I’ve told her that.

We had a production meeting after rehearsal. It took a surprisingly long time, considering there are only four of us.

Rehearsal, Day 11:

One of my actors brought in a coffee cake from Panera and said it’s the best. He may be right about that. I had just had breakfast so I didn’t eat any before rehearsal.

Ten or so minutes before rehearsal was supposed to start, my actors informed me that they just made the last pot of coffee and they knew they were going to want more during the day. It would’ve been nice to know we were running low a little sooner but, whatever. Luckily, there’s a Walmart and a Target across the street so I sent my ASM to get some. Coffee crisis averted! Whew!

We were working through Act 1 today. Lucky has a big, non-sensical speech from page 33-35. During our first week of rehearsal, he had said he was going to get the speech word perfect the first time he was off book so I bet him $5 that he wouldn’t be (my ASM was our witness). He decided today was the day. I made sure that my ASM knew this was his choice. When it came time for his speech, he was doing really well. He substituted one word early and if that was the only thing he had missed, I would’ve just given him $5. But, he missed “a sentence” (there’s no actual punctuation in the speech but in a normal speech, it would’ve been considered a sentence), so I won the bet. I was still really impressed with how much he got right though.

My AD used the word “vociferously” today. I was very impressed and am going to try to use it in my everyday life. It means “in a loud and forceful manner”.

I ate a piece of coffee cake during our second break. It was like second breakfast (I’m kind of like a hobbit).

After lunch, we had the Boy in. He must have thought we were all crazy because we spent at least ten minutes talking about curling (it’s a sport that’s played with brooms and a large “stone” and is very popular in Canada. Seriously, it’s an Olympic sport. Look it up.) I think that started because my ASM is Canadian and Gogo has taken to calling her Canada.

I noticed while the AD, Didi, and Gogo were talking, the Boy wandered around briefly and was looking at Gogo’s script. A little while later, he asked me to look at my script. I asked him if he had his and he said no, he forgot it. I told him he has to remember his script. This wasn’t the first time he’s had script issues. The AD had emailed a script to his mother when he was cast. They never printed it out and he never even read his scenes. We had a copy for him for the first day of rehearsal which I had held together with a binder clip. When he came in that first day, I would tell him the page numbers and he said there are no page numbers. I said they’re under the binder clip, which he never took off. My ASM got him a small binder for his script but he never asked us to hole punch it so we figured he had one at home (not an unusual thing). The next time he was called (the last day of the first week), the page number thing came up again and the AD said we discussed this last time. He saw he had a binder and asked him why he hadn’t hole punched his script and he said he didn’t know. I pointed out our hole punch (which is sitting on the SM table), but he just took his script and left. I understand that he’s only fourteen years old, but this is not his first show. This isn’t even his first show with this particular theatre. My ASM and I are more than happy to help out in any way we can, but we’re not mind readers; we can only help if we know that it’s needed or wanted. Sigh.

Today, I started making a list of things we needed to bring to the performance space. Next Saturday, our Technical Director (who is also our Lighting Designer) will be loading up a large truck after rehearsal and then will load in to the space on Sunday. It’s nice to be in this new space because everything we need is here instead of being in multiple spaces. I also found two nice plastic storage boxes that we can use for stage management, hospitality, and show stuff to bring to the performance space. I put a note in the rehearsal report that the Admin staff should gather any Front of House stuff by the loading dock on Friday before they leave for the weekend. That way it can go right on the truck. Stage Management has this rolling tool case called Fat Max; we used it to go to all of our different performance spaces throughout the years. I’m retiring Fat Max. He had a good run but he doesn’t like to close anymore (or when you can close him, it’s hard to open him again) and we really won’t need him anymore since we’re going to be performing in our own space after this show. I honestly haven’t used anything in Fat Max, besides spike or gaff tape, in a couple of years, so I’m going to clean him out for retirement before we leave (that way we don’t have to lug him with us).

That’s the end of another week! Two down, three to go!


SMA partners with Columbia University for Standing in the Dark

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.

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.)