Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Tech Week

on March 17, 2015

Amanda Stage Manager

Tomorrow is the first day of tech for the fundraiser (a festival of short plays) we’re producing for the theatre company of which I am a board member. I can’t wait.

For those of you who don’t know what that means, I’ll try to briefly explain. For this production, before the actors arrive in the theatre on Thursday evening to rehearse, the designers and technicians have to come in to prepare. The lighting designer has to hang and focus the lighting instruments, the sound designer has to bring in the necessary equipment, and the directors must work with these people and the stage manager to create the “look” of each scene of their play. The directors will go through all of the recorded sounds, music and effects, and will tell the stage manager when those sounds are to begin and end. The stage manager will also write down when the lights change, so that during the play, the transitions between scenes happen flawlessly and become part of the magic of the theatre.

For these shows I am the stage manager.

The fundraiser is a presentation of four short plays, so the task of preparing is made more complicated by having four directors and four completely different settings and stories. We don’t have much time to get ready, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how this is all going to happen. I will probably be at the theatre every day from early to late until we open on Saturday. I will probably drink gallons of coffee and I will have to solve unexpected problems and tempers will probably run high. We will undoubtedly deviate from the schedule I have worked very hard to create because things always take longer than planned.  I will rake my fingers through my hair and rub my eyes but I will always keep calm because that’s my job.

I love it more than I can possibly tell you.

I love the pressure and the work. I love collaborating with other people who are just as dedicated and passionate as I am. I love being part of bringing a work of art to life. I love sharing what we’ve created with an audience and seeing them respond.

If a leprechaun knocked at my back door and offered to grant my heart’s desire, it would be that I could make a decent living doing this work that I love.

I have very good reasons why I left the theatre all those years ago. I did it mostly because it’s almost impossible to make a living as a stage manager (or any kind of theatre artist) in Atlanta. It requires you to have other jobs, which I did, but I was getting older and it was getting harder to work all those hours and days and weeks without a break. I also got married, and I wanted to spend time with my husband – something that is very difficult to do when you’re working during the day at your job and nights and weekends at the theatre. And I wanted to travel, and have a home, and all that stuff. I had by then reached a point in my theatrical career that I thought I didn’t have anything left to prove. I felt like I’d done it all, and done it well, and I could walk away with my head held high. I could do a show now and then (which I did for a while), so I could have the best of both worlds. That was the plan, and, as plans go, it made sense.

It still does, actually. I’m still stubbornly pursuing self-employment, and I enjoy my work and the people I work with. It’s not a lucrative as I need it to be, but I have hope that it will be soon, and I am dedicated to its success.

But I miss my life in the theatre.

So tomorrow morning I’ll meet the lighting designer and the sound designer and we’ll hang and focus and set levels and do as much as we can do before the directors come in that evening. I’ll feel that soul-deep hush of a theatre on the edge of waking, where the only sound is the soft buzzing of the lights and the creaking of the lighting instruments on the grid as they are loosened, adjusted, and tightened once more. Our voices will break the silence from time to time and echo through the empty room as we work to bring light to the worlds we are creating.

“Up a bit, I think – yeah, that looks better.”

“Can you trim that? It’s bleeding on the curtain.”

“This is outdoors – do we have any gel that looks like sunlight?”

When the directors come, each in turn, we’ll show them what we’ve done, and we’ll go through the scripts and we’ll paint each scene in light and sound. I will capture what we’ve done in my book, and when the casts come in on Thursday, we’ll put it all together for the first time. Then we’ll rehearse as much as we can through Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday we’ll open the doors and share our work with the people who have come to see it.

And then it will be over and just a memory. But along the way we will have forged bonds with new people and strengthened ties to old friends and colleagues. We will have created something to be proud of, something we can tell people “It was wonderful – I’m so sorry you missed it”, or “I’m so glad you came!” This is the life and the joy of the theatre; by its nature it is impermanent, but the love we share and the memories we make last forever.


photo by Charlotte Coleman.

If you want to know more about this show or our theatre, go to Aris.

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