Assistant Stage Manager: Curtain and Life Wrangler

Assistant Stage Manager: Curtain and Life Wrangler

I volunteered to be Assistant Stage Manager for a production this week. It’s been pretty interesting. There was a lot of sitting around on Sunday, Monday, AND Tuesday but yesterday was the Dress Rehearsal and that’s when everything came together and I was busy, busy, busy! I’m in charge of the curtain which entails toggling between “In” and “Out” on a touch screen and holding the “Up” or “Down” button till the curtain gets to where it needs to be. During one of the pieces the curtain goes up and down at least 5 times so it’s not the typical before and after each piece.

There are only 3 pieces in the show but each is quite long. I wonder how the audience will like it. I haven’t seen the show from beginning to end without pauses but there’s only one piece where the middle goes on for a little too long.

At first, I was frustrated with this position because I felt a bit invisible and like I was wasting my time just sitting around. I was able to watch the dances from the wings and from the audience in whatever seat I wanted and that was well worth it. Watching from the wings is such an intimate position – you can see what’s going on backstage and on stage.  It’s like seeing the face of the clock and the innards at the same time. If you get too caught up watching, you could even accidentally end up on stage since you’re only 2 feet away (this did not happen- just saying). I’m invisible to the audience which gives me this full scope view. On the show days I doubt I’l have this much freedom what with- making sure props are ready, dogs are ready to go (YES there are actual dogs in one of the pieces!), and listening for directions through the walkie/com. 🙂 I have learned a lot from watching the Stage Manager though. You really have to be on top of EVERYTHING like knowing the positions of the dancers at specific times for lighting cues, cuing the sound and the curtain, paging the dancers, basically being all knowing and all doing. 🙂

This experience has reiterated the fact that everyone is part of a bigger picture. The dancers and choreographers are not on my time and although it looks like I’m on theirs- it’s really all about being ready for the show. There were times when the dancers were doing their piece and the choreographers were testing out the lighting. In that moment, it wasn’t about the dancers, it was about the aesthetics.

I think I’ve always thought that your job will be for you, a part of you – that it would define you. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That is the question that plagues us for our entire scholastic career, maybe life even. I know people who’ve been working all their lives and still don’t know what they want “to be” or “to do.” There is that saying that your job does not define you, but is it true? Where was that saying when we were asked what we wanted to be?

At parties, why is the first question “what do you do?” if it isn’t something that defines you or that people think define you. I would very much love to be defined as a dancer or a linguist though I take neither on despite having a degree in the latter. How and why were we programmed so early to think of “being” as a profession, that you must do something and do something GREAT to be? Rather than answer the question of what you want to be with a noun, why didn’t we answer with an adjective? “I want to be happy.”  So that now when we are not the astronauts, rock stars, baseball players, scientists, or ballerinas we had set out to be, now when we are working for the man and just working to live, it wouldn’t be such a shock because we would know that there is such a thing as regular day jobs, that you might not end up where you thought you wanted to be, that being a piece of the whole is ok, that the end goal is to be happy.

We are just small pieces of a bigger picture. We’re not insignificant but neither are we the focal piece. This is what I learned so far as Assistant Stage Manager. “All the world’s a stage” after all.


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