Behind the Curtain: Interview With Peyton Becker - Production Stage Manager for the MEAN GIRLS National Tour
Due to the global health emergency, Broadway theaters have found their bright lights dimmed and their houses dark for the first time in history. As the world works together to stop the spread of COVID-19, the theater industry has been put on hold indefinitely - theaters around the world have closed their doors in compliance with social distancing rules, and Broadway has been shut down in full since March 13. The Broadway shutdown has impacted the lives of all who work in theater industry, who are now facing uncertain and unprecedented circumstances.
In our Behind the Curtain interview series, we are speaking with Broadway musicians, stage managers, ushers, bartenders, and more, talking about how they are handling the current circumstances, and discussing the impact that the shutdown has had on the Broadway community.
Today, our Behind the Curtain interview is with Peyton Becker, the Production Stage Manager for the Mean Girls First National Tour.
What is your job title? Tell me a little bit about what you do within the theater industry and how long you've been doing it for.
I am currently the Production Stage Manager for the Mean Girls First National Tour. I moved to NYC right after school and attempted to hit the ground running, saying 'yes' to any job that came my way and any reading I could get my hands on. Aside from my bartending gig (which kept me afloat for years and allowed me to take the readings), I have been kept employed by Broadway, Off-Broadway and the road through the years. Even though I haven't been here the longest, I have most certainly found my home here in this industry.
What were you working on when the shutdown was put in place?
The Mean Girls tour was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We were shut down a day after Broadway. That day was very surreal, looking back on it. We had had a pretty emotionally charged performance the evening before (Thursday, March 12th) due to finding out about Broadway. We knew it was only a matter of time for us. We were scheduled to do a put-in rehearsal Friday, March 13th prior to our performance that evening. We found out around noon that the rest of our Fort Lauderdale engagement was canceled. At that time, New Orleans (our next city) had yet to cancel, so we still came in and did the put-in rehearsal with most of our company. Our new Vacation Swing was scheduled to debut in New Orleans the following week so we rehearsed like that was still the plan. By the time we were done with the rehearsal, New Orleans and Denver had both canceled. So, there went our next four weeks of work. Just like that, people without homes had to scramble to figure out where to go, who to go with, what was safe, what was best. My team came in and we packed up the office, we packed up the road box and the hampers, the call desk and The Remains of BC/EFA supplies. And that was it.
What has communication been like since the shutdown with the people you were working with? Have you continued to maintain contact with them?
The company is still talking amongst ourselves. We get emails from Company Management every few weeks, usually with news that we know is coming but we are dreading. The most recent being that all of our California engagements had been canceled. That was a devastating blow, but we get it. We want safety. We don't want to be put in harms way or to put others in harms way. Company Management hosted a Saturday Night OFF Tour (SNOT) via Zoom about a month and a half ago. I think we will do another one of those soon. I would say without a doubt I talk to at least 2-5 people from our tour every day. Sometimes just to check in, sometimes to workout with them, sometimes just with a random memory that needs sharing and is good for a laugh.
How do you feel that people in the theater community have come together during this time?
I am not surprised at the way the community continues to lift itself up and inspire those within and around it. Theater never ceases to amaze me with its resilience and selflessness. It is incredibly humbling to be at home and watch these companies perform via Zoom or come together for #coderocky. This industry is a family, far and wide. We will get through it. I am very proud to be a member of this family, now more than ever. I don't know what the future holds or how we will come back, I have no idea what that will look like, but we will still be here, ready to tell the story and reconnect.
What ways have you found to best deal with the current circumstances?
I have found that I am talking to my family more than I have in years. I am getting to spend time with my fiancé that we hadn't planned on but we are grateful for. I am challenging myself in the kitchen and spending time with the animals. We also just adopted another puppy so she keeps us busy. I am fascinated daily by the online workouts and have found that through them I am staying connected with people from our company as well as reconnecting with people from my past, and developing those friendships that we used to have. It is nice.
How do you think this will change the world of theater going forward?
I don't know what the future will look like for us. I recently read an article that talked of no longer having Meet & Greets on the first day, no more company meetings in new cities, no more opening night parties or birthday celebrations. I really didn't like that article. To me, theater is about the connection and the coming together of a community to listen and observe and storytell and emote. I am not interested in going back to a theater with no gatherings. The home part of theater is the community in which we create. Having theater without those moments is just not the same. I would rather wait until it is safe for us to be together again than go back too early to be together only partially. I look forward to seeing what comes next and what lights are at the end of the tunnel. This will most certainly change things, but I look forward to implementing those changes and seeing my company again all together, wherever and whenever that may be.
Do you have anything else you would like to share?
Please do your part and stay home. It really does save lives. Stay safe and be well.