“For each of us, our job is to try to make sure our show is the best one of the season. We’re pretty competitive personalities.” Yesterday a group from Oneonta’s Center for Continued Adult Learning met with Production Stage Manager E. Reed Fisher to learn more about the rehearsal process. While staff members in other departments (props, costumes, titles, etc.) work on several shows at once, each stage manager focuses all of his or her energy—and then some—on one show.
I’ve always thought of stage managers as uber-collaborators; they’re the ones who make sure that there is smooth communication between all departments throughout the rehearsal process. If a goblet full of red wine is needed, they not only ask for the prop, they check with wardrobe about how best to avoid stains in the event of a spill. They also check with the singer—would they prefer dyed water, juice, what? (As far as I know, actual wine is not an option.)
But in a repertory situation, where several operas are being produced at the same time, some competition is inevitable. YES, the props department can upholster that chair for you, but they’re also working on some briefcases for another show. So who gets their stuff first? Shows that are closer to opening tend to take priority, of course, but every stage manager worth his clipboard will push (gently) to make sure his show’s rehearsal needs are met as quickly as possible.