Behind the Scenes with Company Stage Manager A'nie Kirchner and Production Stage Manager Michael Yerges
What does a stage manager do – what are your responsibilities?
-Well, I think the more accurate question is “what is not the responsibility of the stage manager?” We as stage managers are responsible for knowing every facet and nuance a show. We are the communication conduit between the director, design team, production staff, house management and box office staff, so that everyone is on the same page, or at least as close to the same page as is possible! We run and facilitate every rehearsal, including tech and dress, as well as maintain and run the show. We make sure that everyone knows how the show is going and if things need to be attended to. We also keep track of all the movements of actors, props, costumes, set pieces, etc. of the show.
I bet most people think stage managing begins when our show opens, tell us differently?
-Actually, Stage Management begins 2 months before a show opens! 2 months before we typically have design conferences and meetings with the director, design team and the production staff of any given play to determine what the play will look like, feel like, functionality, practicality, etc, etc. 1 month, usually, before opening night is when rehearsals begin, which incorporates actors and blocking. About a week before the show opens we have what we call tech and dress rehearsals to take all the various departments and designs into the productions that our audiences have come to enjoy!
Lights, sound – how do you manage it all during a show?
-At other theatres the Stage Manager is responsible for calling (saying out loud) cues to a light board and a sound board operator. At BTE, we run our own boards. Because we operate the show on our own we can feel the show out ourselves and not have to worry about anyone disrupting the flow. It seems like a lot to do, but it is actually much easier for us.
Do you have a degree in stage management?
-AK: I have a Bachelor Degree in Technical Theatre with an emphasis on Stage Management and props, because I found that I loved doing this when I was 18. However, a degree in Stage Management is not necessary if it’s something you excel at, case in point my partner in crime Michael Yerges who has a Bachelor Degree in Theatre Arts and who has been a Stage Manager for 8 years.
What is the funniest thing that has happened while you were stage managing a show?
What was the biggest disaster you had to deal with as a stage manager?
-Well to answer both questions because, more often than not, in our job the “funny” stories are often disastrous for us, and the “disaster” stories are usually hilarious, we will tell the best funny/disaster story that has happened to us.
(with apologies to Sandie Pisieczko) For our production of Ghost-writer the key prop was a antique typewriter that Sandie’s character Myra used throughout the 90 minute show. Our job each evening was to make sure that the typewriter was fully functioning and ready to go. The key step in this process was to reverse the typewriter ribbons each evening, as they only moved in one direction and would stop when they ran out of ribbon which means the type writer stops. On this particular evening we forgot. About 3 minutes into the show the typewriter stopped working. Please note that the character of Myra never left the stage so there was no way to let her know that all she had to do was flick two switches and it would be fixed. We spent the next 87 minutes trying to fix the problem by any means necessary, including a hand drawn diagram of how to fix it held up to the window on the set to no avail, explaining to another actor how to fix it offstage when this character was NEVER allowed to touch the device and frantically signaling from offstage. In the end Sandie spent an hour and a half rewinding the ribbon by hand every time she typed, which was the entire play. The end result being told after the show through a veil of giggles and tears that “we are not friends right now” before we all dissolved into hysterical laughter!
You two are like a tag team, how does having a partner help you?
-Our tag team allows us to work on multiple productions simultaneously and to have two sets of eyes on any given task to make sure we haven’t missed something.
How would you describe your style? How do you incorporate it into your job?
-We really don’t consider what we do a style. We typically see it more as what needs to happen and how soon which does fuel how we operate. More often than not we try to give every project we work on our full attention and understand as many details as necessary to give the production its best possible outcome.
What do you look forward to in BTE’s 40th season?
-Seeing how we can continue to create and grow as a company……And The Legend of Georgia McBride!