Stage Manager Stories: Lisa Iacucci, Shelley Miles, & Clarissa Marie Ligon- IS THIS A ROOM and DANA H.

Meet the three powerhouse women who make the repertory of Is This A Room and Dana H. run!

By: Nov. 14, 2021
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Stage Manager Stories: Lisa Iacucci, Shelley Miles, & Clarissa Marie Ligon- IS THIS A ROOM and DANA H.

Need a cue? Call a stage manager. Need a line? Call a stage manager. Need a day off? Call a stage manager. Need a call time, a schedule, an inspection, a to-do list, a floor plan, a script, or just a pep talk? Call a stage manager!

When it comes to the hardworking folks behind the scenes of your favorite shows, perhaps no one works harder than the stage manager. Acting as the liason from the crew to the creatives and from the creatives to the company, the title "stage manager" is an umbrella term for the numerous roles these individuals play that bring order to the chaos of putting up a production.

Each month, BroadwayWorld is spotlighting stage managers from across the theatrical spectrum, shedding a much-deserved light on the breadth of responsibilities these theatrical jacks-of-all-trades take on and the heart, hope, and humor they bring to their work as Broadway returns from its lengthy shutdown.

This month we're taking you behind the scenes of the recently extended, high-intensity dramas, Is This A Room and Dana H., currently playing in repertory at the Lyceum Theatre. Below, get to know the three powerhouse stage managers bringing not one, but two Broadway productions to life each week.

Lisa Iacucci is the Production Stage Manager for both plays. Her Broadway credits include Burn This, Head Over Heels, Latin History for Morons, Michael Moore' s The Terms of My Surrender, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, On a Clear Day..., and War Horse. She has also worked on the national tours of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Her extensive resume also includes productions with Park Avenue Armory, Lincoln Center Theater, The Public Theater, NY Stage and Film and Shanghai Disney Resort.

Clarissa Marie Ligon and Shelley Miles work as Assistant Stage Managers on the productions.

Clarissa is making her Broadway debut after working as Production Stage Manager of the original run of Dana H. at Vineyard Theatre. In addition to her stage manager skills, Clarissa also works as a director and performer and self-proclaimed renaissance woman. She makes art because she believes it can change the world.

Shelley Miles' has numerous Broadway credits to her name including The Ferryman, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Violet, Betrayal, Gore Vidal's The Best Man. She has also worked on the Off-Broadway and regional productions of the new musical Soft Power as well as Off-Broadway on Tumacho, Harry Clarke, ...Betty Shabazz vs. The Nation, For Peter Pan on Her 70th..., The Outer Space, Sweet Charity, Nat Turner in Jerusalem, and Hadestown.

How has it been returning to work after such an extended period away? In what ways have the experiences of the shutdown and the pandemic altered your approach to your role as stage managers?

Lisa: Everyone has been changed by the pandemic. I don't think any of us are the same people coming back. I certainly was humbled by the last 18 months of trying to find work, and humbled by the situation of how many people were in need and trying to provide that in ways non-work-related ways. I was fortunate to have a few projects before this one, but many people were coming back to this job after having spent 18 months kind of in a very solitary place.

Clarissa: I feel like I am more thankful anytime I'm working now. And I'm just trying to be more understanding of everyone's situation because we're all going so much right now as people in our everyday lives outside of work. So when we come into the theater, being aware of that is so much more important to me. Not that it wasn't before, but now it's one of the things that I hold onto because we are so connected in these rooms and spaces. We have to be open and understanding and there for one another in a way that maybe we didn't have to be prior to the pandemic.

Shelley: I feel very similar to Lisa and Clarissa on that front, I feel like the pandemic was humbling and I am who I am now. I embraced that and I have to continue to embrace everything that everyone is bringing into the room, because we're all bringing in a big load when they come to work every day. Before the pandemic, it was a sort of popular idea to leave your baggage at the door. That's just not possible in these times.

What is the difference between the Production Stage Manager and the Assistant Stage Manager positions?

Lisa: I think my, my responsibilities are more about taking in the whole picture. We all do a little bit of everything. and no one person only ever does one thing, but I communicate a lot more with producers and general managers on the bigger picture things in terms of schedule, communicating with designers, and overseeing the room. I won't speak for Clarissa and Shelley, but assistants are definitely more on the ground in the trenches, dealing with things on a much more personal level.

Clarissa: We are on the deck with the actors and our crew, and so the people management side of that is really strong because we have to also deal with whatever emotions come into the room or onto the stage prior to show time. And then of course, we also deal with paperwork and the running of the show itself.

Shelley: I always like to say that stage managers are "process dramaturgs", who are in service to the whole theater, the audience, general management, and producers. Often we're also great collaborators with, as Clarissa just said, the actors and the crew and how things happen each day, and what is preferred, you know? Does an actor want a prop? Is it best for an actor's prop to be set off stage in a certain way? Can that adapt and change over time? And how do we manage that? So the ASM role is a little bit more hands-on in service to the day-to-day while production stage managers definitely are overseeing the major, bigger picture responsibilities of the whole building.

Dana H. and Is This A Room, as far as Broadway productions go, are physically quite sparse but also call for incredible precision when it comes to lighting and sound cues. Do you find it more challenging to work on shows that are larger in scale physically or shows that are more sparse but precise?

Shelley: Good question. I think every stage manager will answer this question differently. i personally find shows that are a little sparse on cueing and things to call are a little bit more difficult for me to manage. When there's a lot more stuff going on, you have to pay attention to how those technical elements connect with actors. So, it just keeps your brain engaged and open with the bigger picture more consistently. It's just harder in different points of the process. Obviously shows with bigger because of scenery that move and lots of cues, those are very, very difficult to tech. Not to say that our two small plays weren't difficult to tech, but it's just a different type of challenge.

Clarissa: Every show is so different. So it's really hard to say this one easier than the other because there's less cueing, because there are so many elements involved in putting on a show that are not just cues. It's about what is the props situation, what is the costume situation, what is the actors situation, what is the director situation. So, every show is so different. So you'll find that one show might be easier to tech, while as another show might be easier to rehearse, or another show might be easier once we're in the run of it.

Lisa: Marrying that, to what you're asking in terms of calling [the cues] is that a lot of people just talk about them as two small plays, and actually to your point in terms of the technical vs. the physical world, they are small. But to extend what we do, that is just one small part of our job. I think for me one of the biggest challenges is that it's not as if you're dealing with one act and then the second, or even two parts of the same play. These are two discreet experiences and with them come separate emotions and individuals who have great connections to the piece and each other. To put that on the shelf and take the other show down is a really different emotional experience.

Can you give us an idea of the coordination it takes to bring not one, but two Broadway plays to life each week from a technical standpoint?

Lisa: We're really blessed at the Lyceum to have a fantastic crew who honestly handle the bulk of communication and coordination involved with the actual change over. We have a production management team at Aurora who helped lay the map for how that was going to work. Initially we had extra support as you tend to do during tech, like extra hands, extra eyes to figure out like the order of things and how it will work before you're kind of left to your own devices. Now that we're up and running, we change over three times a week and they have gotten it down to an hour or less. It is a system by which the order of things is really important and we've noticed like even when we go out of order a little bit it changes how we set up. There are sometimes things one takes for granted when you're just static, which are very simple things. The pieces like technically are not huge, but they are precise. So with Is This A Room if even one light is not correct, that affects the play and for Dana H., even one prop is out of place, it's not correct. It is really the village that helps make the change over possible.

The other challenge of the changeovers is that the two plays don't share any designers or design elements. So, if you originally planned to do these plays in repertory, you might've shared those things, but for our plays there are two sets of everything. So that adds to the challenge.
Is this your first time working on an all-women stage management team? What does it mean to you to work alongside other women on such woman-centric works?

Clarissa: It is not my first time working at an all women team, but it happens, it's amazing. I mean, it's amazing work with anybody, but it is always really great to see women in roles like this. To me what is more important is not that we're just an all-women team, it's that we are women in leadership roles, which is just good to see.

Shelley: On production contracts on Broadway, I actually don't have a lot of experience working on all female team. I think what's really exciting about these shows in rep is that there are actually so many women in leadership positions. Two of our lead producers, our house manager, Lisa, our electrician, our audio engineer, and both shows have really strong female leads and it definitely creates an exciting energy for me in the building that I am going to be sad to lose when we close, if I'm being honest.

Lisa: It's a privilege. For me, there's nothing better thank to be able to, as part of my work, be part of the team that presents these stories with and about these women. To add on what Shelley and Clarissa said, one of our directors is a woman and some members of the design team are women. I feel really honored because that's an exceptional experience to have at work when you can connect all those dots and be part of telling stories that are so important to get out.

Clarissa: I will say specifically for Dana H., because I stage managed it at the Vineyard, feels super personal because I feel like I've grown with this show. To see it on the stage again, on a bigger stage and a bigger space, it touched my heart in a way that I wasn't really expecting. And then to also be part of Is This A Room That is so topical and so relevant to what we're experiencing in our lives right now, politically and individuals in America... it's all very moving.

What advice would you have for, for up and coming stage managers learning how to make their way in this business?

Lisa: No one has the same path to this job. Just follow your passion and know that you can really do anything. And you can decide, No one tells you what you can do. Nobody dictates your path, and many paths can lead to what you want to do.

Shelley: I still feel like I am learning what a stage manager is, and I feel like what we do and how we define the work that we do is ever evolving and should ever evolve. I would tell anybody who wants to be a stage manager, and you'll hear it all the time, is to never stop learning. What we do evolves in every room that you're in and you have to adapt to that.

Clarissa: If you follow your passion and follow your heart, it will steer you always in the right direction. For me, stage management has always been an act of making myself and others feel good. I'm able to work in a room and make everyone feel comfortable and excited to be there, and that's why I stick with it. And so if you just follow your heart and your passions, which I know sounds very cliched, but it's true, you'll find the thing that you love and stick with it. If it brings you joy to do it.