Thank You, Places...Nashville Children's Theatre's Company Stage Manager DAN BREWER
What's a stage manager? What do they do? What's their job? Seriously. Perhaps no job in the theater is as hard to define as that of a production stage manager and it's that blend of mystery, fear and total dependence that makes actors, directors, crew members, producers - you name it! - hold a really great stage manager in total awe and to revile someone who is (how do you say it, without offending anyone?) less than stellar in their position?
According to Wikipedia, "Stage management is the practice of organizing and coordinating a theatrical production. It encompasses a variety of activities, including organizing the production and coordinating communications between various personnel (e.g., between director and backstage crew, or actors and production management)." And that's a pretty good definition, to be sure.
However, it doesn't quite do justice to the amazing stage managers who can make a good production a great one. As they ride herd over everyone connected to a show, while maintaining the integrity of what has been created, the stage manager's responsibilities are many and varied, and by the wave of a hand or the pointed gesticulation of a colored marker or highlighter, they can work miracles that oftentimes save a production from certain failure.
Yet despite their magical powers and all the wizardry they can summon at any particular moment, stage managers seldom get the attention, the adulation or the respect they so richly deserve...because they are simply so good at their job that they seamlessly move from one task to the next, one project to the next that they don't call attention to their awesomeness.
With this - our latest regular feature - we hope to rectify that and shine the spotlight on the individuals who make the shows run with the precision of a Swiss timepiece. Thank You, Places... is our opportunity to edify the theater-goer by introducing you to some of the best production stage managers to be found on the planet.
Today, we introduce you to a man who needs no introduction if you are at all involved in the theater community in Nashville or points north, south, east or west. He might best be described as a legend, a man affectionately known as "Pops" to legions of actors and other theater artists, who is so much a part of the history of Nashville Children's Theatre that he seems to personify that fine institution.
Today, we very proudly shine the spotlight on PSM Daniel Brewer, the dean of production stage managers in this region, and the resident stage manager at Nashville Children's Theatre. In 2011, he was among that year's First Night Honorees in recognition of his truly exceptional career and for the grace and skill with which he does his job. In fact, we wouldn't be at all surprise to find his headshot next to the very definition of "stage manager" in reference books.
To be honest, when we made the decision to launch this series, it was with one goal in mind: To hear Dan Brewer's answers to our queries. We share them with you now...
What was your first stage management gig? And your most recent? My first show as stage manager was as an undergrad at Virginia Tech, where I stage managed Waiting For Godot, which made it to the Kennedy Center in the ACTF competition. I started stage managing as a career at the Greenbrier Repertory Theatre in Lewisburg, West Virginia, upon graduation in 1978. It has been my honor and privilege to be Nashville Children's Theatre's company stage manager since 1985. This is my 33rd season and The Hundred Dresses is my 174th production.
How did you get into stage managing to begin with? I was doing both performance and technical tracks at Virginia Tech and my mentor, Tony Distler, suggested I explore stage management. I think he saw the writing on the wall early on...
What's the biggest misconception most people have about stage managers? Besides most folk not knowing what professional stage managers do...thinking that a good stage manager must be mean to "get the job done." Using the positive elements of one's own personality - humor, organization, communication to create and maintain an environment where everyone is respected, nurtured and can do their very best work with openness, joy and humility is the key!
What's your favorite "the show must go on" moment? I was stage managing Show Boat at Glassboro Summer Theatre - huge production - cast of 52, running crew of 10, orchestra 28! At Half Hour Call, the producer comes up to me and says Joe (who sings "Old Man River") is in the hospital, no understudy, full house, will not cancel. Now, figure out how to do the show! Or David Compton, as Oberon, shooting a fireball magic trick that turns 90 degrees and sets Cobweb's costume to "smolder." All in a day's...
How do you prepare for a new production? Even before auditions or rehearsals start? Having a realistic and workable Production Schedule in place is extremely important so "time and task" management can match available resources and meet all deadlines. Also, studying the script in every aspect and detail so you can anticipate questions and potential problems.
What's the most outlandish thing ever asked of you as a stage manager? Wow, it's usually something like, "Can I just skip a Tech or Dress Rehearsal? I got a commercial..." or "Can I have 25-plus comp tickets for a performance?"
Why should people come see The Hundred Dresses at Nashville Children's Theatre? The Hundred Dresses is an adaptation of the Newberry Award-winning book by Eleanor Estes written in 1944. The play is about a Polish immigrant girl and her fourth grade classroom. The play's extremely timely themes explore bullying, friendship, empathy and the immigrant experience. The compelling challenges surrounding art, education and social issues are excruciatingly relevant today in our own community and this story needs to be experienced now! It is a call to ACTION!
About William Kent Williams' The Hundred Dresses (September 14-October 3, 2017) based on the book by Eleanor Estes will feature Tamiko Robinson Steele as Adult Maddie/Kid Maddie, William Barry Scott as Mr. Mason/Mr. Svenson, Catherine Birdsong as Peggy, Taylor Kelly as Tommy and Kristin McCalley as Wanda/Shy Kid. Scenery is by Mitch Massaro, Lighting by Bill Rios and costumes by Patricia Taber. Josh Stark designs the sound. Ernie Nolan will make his Nashville directorial debut with this brand-new production.
Memberships for the 2017-2018 NCT season are on sale now. Sapphire Memberships at $150.00 include ten tickets redeemable for the five mainstage shows (excluding Cinderella). Diamond Memberships at $200.00 include ten tickets which can be redeemed for the five mainstage shows, plus a family four-pack to Cinderella and discounts on branded merchandise in the boutique. Single tickets are currently on sale.
For more information or to purchase tickets call (615) 252-4675 or go to www.NashvilleCT.org. All performances take place at The Martin Center for Nashville Children's Theatre, 25 Middleton Street, Nashville in the SoBro neighborhood. Free parking is available on site.
About Nashville Children's Theatre Founded in 1931 by the Junior League of Nashville, Nashville Children's Theatre is the oldest professional children's theatre in the United States. A national leader in theatre arts and education programs for young people, NCT was ranked by TIME Magazine as one of the top five children's theatre's in the country. Lead funding for NCT's programs is provided by Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Tennessee Arts Commission, The Shubert Foundation, The Memorial Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. For more information visit www.NashvilleCT.org.