Monday, December 14, 2015

Behind-the-Scenes: Managing “Christmas” at SCR

Members of A Christmas Carol's stage management team: (L to R) Mariann Papadopoulos, Talia Krispel and Becca Sharpe
It’s the holiday season again and—trying to navigate through shopping lists, work and perhaps the worst of all, traffic—it can be a stressful time. Now imagine managing a production that is 36 years old, a holiday tradition for countless families and there’s only about two weeks for the show to come together.

Some of the lucky few in charge of stage managing A Christmas Carol took time to explain just what a stage manager does and what it’s like to jump onto SCR’s annual production while getting into the holiday spirit.

Talia Krispel, Stage Manager

How long have you been with this production and what are your main duties? 

This is my second year with the show. I joined the stage management team last year for the 35th anniversary. I manage the rehearsals, create the daily schedule with the director, arrange costume fittings, provide support to the actors and stage crew, and I call the show during performances. There's a lot to call—more than 300 cues!

What was it like for you to join a production that’s been going on for move than three decades? 

It's a very fast process. We say it's like running to catch a freight train. There's a lot of information to take in! The atmosphere is wonderful, warm and generous. Everyone loves doing this production so the room is always filled with joy. One of my favorite days is when all the adults come together for the first time. There's just so much love and happiness to be back in the room working together again.

How do you describe what a stage manager does?

We have a bit of a unique function because we serve as the assistant to the director and production staff during rehearsals. We provide and maintain all communication within all the departments—including director, designers, front of house, staff and actors.

During performances, we arein charge and help maintain the director’s artistic vision of the show. We “call” the show, making sure all the lights, sound and scenery happen when they're supposed to.

How do you get into the holiday spirit? 

By working on A Christmas Carol!  I grew up in Southern California, but live in New York City. This production has brought me back to SoCal and has allowed me to be with my family during Christmas.

What’s a favorite holiday memory?

 It was years ago when Phantom of the Opera was in Los Angeles. My mom had seen it multiple times and I was just dying to go. I knew all the songs by heart! I remember my mom handing me a card at Christmas and in my child brain, I thought, "Well this is going to be a boring present." Little did I know, Phantom tickets were sitting inside. I was so thrilled! To this day, I still remember watching that chandelier fall for the first time.

Mariann Papadopoulos, Stage Management Intern

How long have you been with this production and what are your main duties? 

This is my first time with SCR's A Christmas Carol and I couldn't be more excited about it! My main duty for this show is moving Scrooge’s bedchamber. I also assist in making sure actors are in place, setting props, resetting scenery and helping everything run smoothly.

What was it like to join this production as a fresh face?

The way it was explained to me was that it's like a Mack truck chasing a train that has already left the station—and that is entirely accurate. Everyone has been helpful and supportive through the process of learning this production, even though I felt like I was so far behind. It felt like walking into a big part of your family you didn't know you had.

How do you describe what a stage manager does?

My quick answer is simply that we create magic. Yes, you need the actors. Yes, you need costumes, scenery and lights, but you need someone to put all those things together in that way that makes theatre so magical. Sure, a stage manager isn't alone in that task, but they are a huge factor in it.

How do you get into the holiday spirit? 

It doesn't take me too much to get into the holiday spirit! Let me listen to some Christmas music, watch some Christmas movies, with hot chocolate and get my nails done all festive-like and I'm ready!

What’s a favorite holiday memory?

It’s something that still happens every year. My parents always told me and my brother that if we didn't believe in Santa, we wouldn't get presents. So, you bet we believed—and still do—in Santa, or the spirit of him, at least.

And every year on Christmas Eve, we download the Santa tracker app to watch him fly around the world and see where he has been and where he will go to next. It definitely keeps the spirit of the season alive for me.

Becca Sharpe, Stage Management Intern

How long have you been with this production and what are your main duties? 

This is my first season with SCR and therefore my first experience with A Christmas Carol. As an intern, my responsibilities consist of following and updating the previous year's paperwork and keeping up with everything in the rehearsal room. I help set up for rehearsals and make sure everyone has everything they need to get the show back in their bodies in the short time we have during rehearsals.

Then, when we get into technical rehearsals and the run of the show, I help make sure the show happens safely and effectively for everyone involved.

What’s special about being part of a show that’s been running this long?

From the first day of rehearsal, everyone who has done the show at least once was ready to go and excited to help teach us the ropes. Everyone involved is incredibly kind and helpful; it's a fun show to be on.

How do you describe what a stage manager does?

Stage management is a team of people who are responsible in ensuring that the artistic integrity of what the designers and directors dream up is maintained. It's our job to make sure each and every little part of the show comes together to create and complete the big idea.

How do you get into the holiday spirit? 

It always takes me a little while to get into the holiday spirit. And that usually involves snow. This is my first winter on the west coast. I moved here from Virginia Beach, by way of St. Louis, four years ago. It wasn't until the Christmas lights were hung in the backstage hallways that I finally felt like it was time. Christmas lights will get me every time.

What’s a favorite holiday memory?

Last Christmas, I worked a show in St. Louis and couldn't go home to see my family. Everyone on the show—cast, crew and band—all came to my house and we cooked together, had a fire pit, played music and spent Christmas together as a family. It never ceases to amaze me how we find family through each other.

Find out more about A Christmas Carol

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