Through the Eyes of a Stage Manager
Dec. 15, 2012
Erin Amlicke ‘15
Man of La Mancha in Hall Auditorium
Photo by John Seyfried
There’s no denying that there is an element of magic to theatre. The act of seeing characters come alive or witnessing beautiful lighting and sound design can be breathtaking. Yet, it is the weaving of the two—the artistic and the production elements—that truly gives life to theatre.
Sure, the designers perfect the show’s visual or aural elements, while the director stages the action of the play, but when it comes down to the live performance, it’s no longer the creative team who keeps the show on its feet. It’s the stage manager.
For the 2012 mainstage production of Man of La Mancha, this person was senior theater major, Sarah Jick.
What exactly does a stage manager do? That’s a good question. According to Jick, her job includes everything from coordinating rehearsal times, to giving line notes and corrections to actors, to verbally “calling the cues” during show time, or rather, standing backstage with a headset, telling the technical crew when to execute lights and sound.
This complex and tedious process makes high demands on a person, demands which would not be met if it wasn’t for the one trait possessed by all stage managers. “Being organized,” says Jick. “I‘m an organized person and I like making sure everyone else is organized too.”
Comfortable and confident in her position, Jick seems as if she has been stage-managing for a long time. In fact, it wasn’t until she arrived at Oberlin that she became interested in this line of work, initially plunging herself into a Little Theater production of Love’s Labor’s Lost as the show’s assistant stage manager her freshman year. From that point on, she was hooked.
For a young stage manager, there’s no better place to hone your skills and get some experience than with Oberlin’s student clubs, the Oberlin Student Theatre Association (OSTA) and the Oberlin Student Musical Association (OMTA). Jick began stage-managing there and has since worked on a number of productions for the Oberlin Theater Department.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that stage-managing is the same for every production. As Jick was quick to remind me, jumping around between musicals and straight plays isn’t as simple as one might think. “Musicals are harder to deal with on the technical side, so many stay away,” says Jick. Many lighting and sound cues are needed to coordinate with the musical score, so following the music and nailing down its timing is key to a production’s success.
Man of La Mancha, directed by Associate Professor of Theater and in-house costume designer Chris Flaharty, was no disappointment. The process of getting Mancha to the stage, as Jick describes, was one of tremendous ease. “Chris is great. I’ve worked with Chris before as a costume designer. He’s very detail orientated, he knows exactly what he wants; you just have to figure out how to help him get there.”
Mainstage shows are always exciting opportunities for student stage managers to work on. They take place in Hall Auditorium on Oberlin’s largest stage, are directed by departmental professors, and in the case of Mancha, also feature professionals in performance and design roles; Associate Professor Matthew Wright played the leading role of Cervantes and Don Quixote, while professional lighting designer and Oberlin alumnus Carolyn Wong joined Mancha’s creative team. The collaboration between these professionals and the show’s talented cast of student actors made what Jick describes to be one of the smoothest shows she has ever encountered.
Still, it is evident that Jick’s impeccable organization skills and breadth of experience are not the only elements of her nature that make her a sought after stage manager within the Oberlin theatre community. It’s also her passion for the job.
“Sometimes, when you’re just an actor or just a lighting designer, it’s easy to only focus on what only you have to do. You only get to see how it all comes together at the very end. As a stage manager, I like getting to see every part of the production. You see how every individual piece comes together.”
After seeing the show "close to 90 times,” I’m tempted to start calling Jick “The Protector of the Stage” or the “The Great Coordinator;” names from which I’m sure she’d shy away. Still, I have to say that I’m not far off. As she says herself, “The plan is to be a working stage manager. It’s always a challenge, of course, with professional theatre, but that’s the plan.”
Best of luck, Sarah.
Erin Amlicke ’15 is an expected Theater and Economics double major from Nashville, TN.