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Behind The Scenes with a Stage Manager, Curve Theatre.

Ever been like me and although you love watching shows, you are eager to find out more about those people behind the scenes who help make it happen? I have said for years that the one thing my content is missing is a spotlight on behind the scenes, a spotlight on the careers within the wings that are just as much the heart of a show as its performers. I got things kicking at the start of January and got the opportunity to shadow the wonderful Lisa Lewis, the deputy stage manager for Curve's production of West Side Story. 


I arrived at the theatre just before 12:45 where I was greeted by one of their marketing team, Yasemin and taken through to the auditorium to be introduced to the cast and team of that day's performance. In fact, on the day I attended it was one of Curve's Relaxed Performances. Through their programme, Curve are driven to be more inclusive and regularly put on a range of accessible shows. These include Dementia-friendly, youch tours for the visually impaired, captioned and signed performances too. This was a relaxed performance which meant it was specially tailored to support audiences with additional needs, however, it is open to everyone to attend. 

In a relaxed performance, the lights remain on and there's the ability for audience members to come and go from the theatre as they please if they need a break from the performance. There's also a room specifically set up to be a space where people can go if they need to become calm. The show's sound and lighting are also adapted to more comfortable levels and the script can also be tweaked to soften or remove surprising moments. The team create a fantastic atmosphere for this type of performance and the Information Pack which is sent in an email and available on the day are exceptionally equipped to create a fantastic trip to the theatre for everyone. 

Anyway, I managed to have a quick tour backstage with one of the stagehands who gave me an insight into his specific role in the show as well as the different responsibilities they have for running the show. The West Side Story production was created on such an epic scale with its stage design - being able to see for myself how the foundations for different areas of the set was really interesting. The view from on top of the structure was quite something, especially with its perfect look towards the Dress Circle and overlooking where the orchestra was situated for the entire show. 



It wasn't long before I had to be called to the stage to receive my cans for the show. Cans are communication devices used backstage in a theatre, they consist of a pack (like a radio) and a headset. These are vital in ensuring the effectiveness in a smooth show and clear communication between the many individuals involved in the production; from the stage manager to the stagehands. In this production Lisa, the Deputy Stage Manager of whom I was shadowing was situated at the far back of the theatre. Sometimes you may see them situated on the side of the stage but in this instance, we were at the back, which actually gave us a fantastic view of the entire auditorium from the stalls. 

Lisa has a huge role in the fluidity of a show's run. She has several key responsibilities and tasks to performance through each phase of a production, this includes scheduling and running rehearsals, communicating the director's wishes to designers and the performers, coordinating the work of the stage crew and managing cues during the performance too. Her space within the stage manager box (which is what I'll call it for simplistic terms) has a huge board which has a camera on the conductor in the orchestra as well as an image of the stage from where you can see the production from. This board also contains a collection of different buttons which are used to function cues or enable communication to the various teams within the production crew. Of course, Lisa also had a copy of the script in front of her which was scrawled with cues and a timer set up in order to establish the running times in the show. 



I quickly realised how organised you need to be as a stage manager in order to deliver the correct cues and to communicate different notices to the team. The team ethic was clearly demonstrated and I loved chatting with Lisa between the cues about her career and the shows she's worked on before including Grease and Evita. Being a stage manager sounded exceptionally challenging but rewarding, especially as someone who can tour through various theatres throughout the UK with shows of different genres too! Lisa also spoke about how she initially trained as an actor whilst participating in extracurricular activities which gained her skills in a wider field of the theatre industry. As someone individually myself who did some stage management type roles through university, the experience is incredibly invaluable for someone who wants to work in this industry. We also got into an interesting discussion surrounding female representation in stage management, because it's, in fact, a role that has a lot of females at the reigns. Although Lisa explained there was a lack of it in the sound department. 

I came away with a real insight into the role and absolutely loved being able to stick on cans and feel like part of the Curve production team for an afternoon! Thanks to Lisa Lewis for giving me permission to join her! 


Comments

  1. God I would love to do something like this, it sounds fascinating! You always forget how much actually goes into a show I think!

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