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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Stage Manager Tia Harewood-Millington

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Behind the Curtain: Interview With Stage Manager Tia Harewood-Millington

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 stage manger Tia Harewood-Millington.


What is your job title? Tell me about what you do within the theater industry and how long you've been doing it for.

I'm a stage manager. I've been a production stage manager, assistant stage manager, and a production assistant on various projects over the last two years.

What were you working on when the shutdown was put in place?

I was working as a production assistant on Manhattan Theater Club's production of Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive. We were in the middle of our rehearsal process when the theaters shut down.

What has communication been like since the shutdown with the people you were working with? Have you continued to maintain contact with them?

My stage management team still keeps in contact. We check in on each other every other week or so, just to see how everyone is doing. I've also been in contact with other members of the MTC staff. Sometimes people just pop in to say hi and make sure you're doing okay.

How do you feel that people in the theater community have come together during this time?

I think there have been various forms of community sprouting up during the shutdown. We were not only hit with quarantine but with massive civil unrest. Theater companies have been doing many things like opening lobbies for protester supplies and starting conversations within themselves about the roles they have played in the historical effects of racial injustice. There are also more "self-produced" type support systems like virtual hangouts, educational zoom conferences being held, and networking opportunities for recent graduates. There's a lot going on, and I think everyone is trying to do the best they can given the state of the world. Fighting overt racism and a career-debilitating virus at the same time is a little difficult.

What ways have you found to best deal with the current circumstances?

Being as active as I can in the protests and volunteer efforts is what is keeping me sane. This, along with taking some time to truly just let myself relax. I think in theater we are conditioned to think that if we're not doing something at all times, we're not doing enough-- which is unacceptable. This has forced us to stop, and learn how to just be. But we still can't wait to get back to work.

How do you think this will change the world of theater going forward?

I think people will demand better treatment and stronger protection. I definitely see some changes to come in how work weeks are structured, how insurance is provided, and how what it means to have and run a diverse room will have to shift. There is a lot of learning to be done. And I think all of this is needed. I believe the other side of this is artistically fruitful for the theater community, but if it's fruitful for everyone except artists of color and those just starting out in entry level roles...then we've done nothing but continue to fail.

Do you have anything else you would like to share?

I hope people stop viewing the arts as a pastime after this. I hope when people leave quarantine they realize that they turned to movies, and books, and music to keep them mentally stimulated. The entertainment business as a whole is just that, a business. It should no longer be treated as an extracurricular activity that you signed up for in the 5th grade. This is a livelihood that thousands of people rely on and dedicate themselves fully to. I believe artists across all forms of entertainment deserve better, and I hope we can achieve that in the coming months.


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