BWW Blog: Stage Managing IN THE RED & BROWN WATER
Hello Broadway World! It's TJ. I am currently a Junior Theatre Studies and Photography Double Major at Ithaca College (IC) in upstate New York. This past semester I was given the opportunity to Stage Manage IC Theatre Arts' (ICTA) Main Stage production of "In The Red and Brown Water" (RBW) by Tarell Alvin McCraney. This play is the first in a trilogy titled "The Brother/Sister Plays," which take place in the projects of Southern Louisiana and are set it in the "distant present."
It was only about two years ago that I first tried my hand at stage management by snagging a position as an SM Shadow on one of ICTA's productions my second semester freshman year. I was too shy to even really interact with anyone during the rehearsal process, so I sat quietly and watched, listened, and learned. But when tech came, without even fully realizing it, something turned on inside me. Suddenly I was running around backstage, setting props, getting actors, and making things happen! I was a man with a job to do, and I was going to do my best at it.
Fast-forward to this semester and here I am about to SM my first full-length show. I wasn't nervous about taking on this role, but I wasn't exactly exuding confidence in myself either. But as rehearsals began and we all got into the swing of things, I realized: I could do this. The students I had worked with in the past and the faculty who mentored me had more than prepared me to step into this position, even if it was on such short notice. Once I had established for myself that I was comfortable in and prepared for this role, I could fully dive in and enjoy this fabulous process.
The cast and director for this show were truly a dream! Their bountiful energy filled the rehearsal room with light each day. Right off the bat, we formed a passionate and supporting community, and it was this foundation that allowed us to synthesize and fully capture the neighborhood within RBW. With a piece so dedicated to community and connection, this was essential. RBW deals largely with the ideas of heritage and belonging; the main character, Oya, loses her chance to leave her home to run track for Louisiana State University, leaving her entire sense of belonging unwound. She is only brought down further when it becomes clear she cannot have children. If she can't run, or even have kids, what purpose and place on this earth does she have? With the community we formed as a production, we were fully prepared to dive into the topic of individual purpose, and how it relates to one's larger community.
There is not another group of people I would have loved more to work with on this complex and tough piece of theatre. Their light inspired me, and reminded me why I'm studying theatre; the connections we make and communities we form give us our own sense of belonging .
Photo: In the Red and Brown Water - photo by Sheryl D. Sinkow