BWW Blog: Emma Suttell - A Bitter-Sweet Closing- as a Stage Manager in Training
As I am writing this, I can already say that I miss the cast that I worked with terribly. There's nothing that makes my heart so full as working with forty-three 5-10 year olds who are all truly passionate about theatre. Closing this show- my first one learning how to stage manage- has been extremely bittersweet. Training as a stage manager has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and I have a newfound respect for everyone that works tech for any show, anywhere. I've student assisted two other shows, but Winnie the Pooh strengthened my knowledge in tech beyond belief! I'm so grateful to all of my production staff for everything they taught me throughout the show- they've all teched several shows themselves, and I am so grateful they passed along their tips and techniques to me!
When opening weekend approached, I quickly adjusted myself to using a headset and learning how to call cues correctly to make sure that everyone reached their side of the stage on time. With kids as young as the ones that I worked with, sometimes that can be difficult. By the time the show opened, I knew the show inside and out- I guess you could say I knew it better than the back of my hand!
Quite a few dilemmas happened on the job, such as props going missing, or set pieces almost being left behind during a change, however, I learned how to think quickly and save scenes before anything went wrong. Stage managing requires quick thinking- especially when something vital to the show breaks or goes missing. In the case of Winnie the Pooh, the straps on "squirrel tails" from costumes commonly snapped, and Christopher Robin's note frequently went missing. These were common issues I learned how to adapt to and solve during the shows.
My most common challenge occurred on Saturday and Sunday, when the children had three shows in one day, and had large breaks in between shows. The theatre decided to have the kids stay during their breaks, and the job turned to me to come up with games and distractions to keep everyone entertained and happy throughout the night. This became one of my favorite things to do, because I'd get to play games with the cast members and get to know them all better. I love learning about the kids outside of rehearsals and seeing the smiles on their faces whenever I remembered something about them or asked them how their day was at school.
We played several large group games, such as Little SAlly Walker, Statues, and Down By the Bank. My personal favorite idea came to me just when I thought I had completely run out of ideas. I remembered that when I used to go to summer camp when I was about 10, I learned lots of songs in a "repeat-after-me" game. I decided to teach my favorite song, "The Rattlin' Bog" to the kids, and see if they caught on. In case you'd like to use this game with your own cast (it's a great game for any age!), you can play by having a leader sing the chorus, and add on several items each time the chorus is repeated. The goal is to see how far you can go remembering all of the motions and words that are added on! It's super fun to play because it encourages a cast to be creative and turns on their focus for the night. This actually turned out to be their favorite game of the entire weekend, with several kids asking me if I could play it with them at the cast party so they could show their parents!
Overall, I loved working with this young cast, and I'm elated that they were my first cast as a stage manager in training. I look forward to next season, when I will officially become a stage manager and take on even more responsibilities. Thank you for following my journey with the cast of Winnie the Pooh, I begin my journey with the cast of Willy Wonka in just two weeks!