EXCERPTS FROM THE CONVERSATION
Recently Everyman Education Coordinator Andrew Stromyer sat down with The Roommate's Stage Manager Cat Wallis for a short conversation about her career path and what excites her about working on The Roommate. Below is an excerpt of that conversation. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Everyman Theatre: When did you first develop an interest in stage management? When did you decide to pursue it professionally?
Cat Wallis: I stage managed my first show in high school, Steel Magnolias, and knew pretty early afterwards that it was the right fit. I decided to study stage management and production in college and stage managed my first show when I was 19. The rest is history. That was that.
ET: What are some of the responsibilities associated with being a stage manager?
CW: The stage manager acts as the go-between for all staff involved on a production: the production staff (like designers and crew), the actors, the director and the full time staff at Everyman (those in production as well as administration). I am the primary communicator making sure that everyone is informed of what's going on in rehearsal as well as changes in design. I reflect the needs of the actors as they make discoveries in rehearsal—adding a new prop, making an adjustment to the set... any updates or adjustments as necessary. I also schedule rehearsals and communicate the schedule to the production staff. I, along with the assistant stage manager, take down blocking, record scene changes, and note all cues for lights and sound in my prompt book. Once the show is open, I am responsible for running the show from the booth. I call the cues, lead the crew and support the artistic work onstage by having the eye for consistency needed for performing the show eight times a week.
ET: What excites you about working on The Roommate? What challenges does it present for a stage manager?
CW: I am most excited by working on a play with all women in the room! That has not happened for a very long time and it makes for a very fun room.I love working on new plays. The works that haven't been done so many times that all the challenges have been solved. There isn't a "right way" to do a play. When there is no precedent, it challenges the artistic team to find the most interesting way to work. The Roommate only has two cast members. This can make scheduling a challenge as there is rarely a time when they aren't both on stage. Making time for costume fittings and other appointments with actors can be tricky.
ET: Walk us through a typical day of stage managing for The Roommate during rehearsal.
CW: During rehearsal my work day begins about an hour before actors and the director arrive. The assistant stage manager and I setup the rehearsal room with the right props for that days work, answer any emails from the day before to designers or theatre staff, and prep the daily notes and call forms for the next day. When it is time to begin, the director begins working with the actors and I track changes and choices (where and when actors cross the stage/sit/stand) as well as how props and furniture are used. I manage the time of the rehearsal as well—when breaks need to be taken, if we are planning to work on more scenes, I make sure that they are covered and that the show stays on schedule (or at least I try to do that!). At the end of the day, actors are dismissed, the director and I make a plan for the next rehearsal and go over any notes that need to be passed on to the design/production and theatre staff. I write everything up and pass the information on to all the right people. Usually I do a drive-by meeting with some theatre staff after rehearsal as well. That all ends up taking another hour.
ET: What has been one of your favorite productions to stage manage and why?
CW: This is a really hard question! There have been lots of productions that I have enjoyed and all for different reasons. What comes to mind first is a production of Uncanny Valley I did three years ago. While it was a hard play to rehearse, it was so rewarding to work on each day. The actors were two of the nicest people ever and it was a beautifully designed show. Audiences loved it and that's always fun.
ET: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing stage management as a career?
CW: Build those skills! Knowing as much as possible about how all the different aspects of theatre work is helpful to being a stage manager. Being able to sew, knowing how to hang a light, knowing how to build scenery and doing a little work in all the various areas of theatre makes it easier to communicate and collaborate with all the different people I interact with. Shadowing a stage manager is a good way see how others are working so that you can "borrow" the things that work for them. Watch directors—stage managers work the closest with the director and all directors work differently. Being able to be the most helpful to them is important.