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The ASM — The Busiest Person On/Backstage?

April 12, 2012

We are now a month from opening night for the final mainstage production of the year: Stage Door, the Kaufmann and Ferber play about Hollywood versus Broadway set in a theatrical boarding house in the 1930s. Aside from being the final show of the year, it’s also our largest, a total of thirty-two actors and a dog, not to mention it’s my first big college production and as an Assistant Stage Manager!

Last year as a freshman, we were all assigned to spend a semester in the Scene Shop building sets and then a semester making costumes. I worked on some of our independent projects too, assisting whomever needed a second pair of hands backstage, but this was different. These are the big shows and this was the first time I ever went to Upperclassmen sign-ups. Since I hadn’t been cast in any of the shows, I was just going along with what ever happened. All I knew was that I couldn’t cut wood—although I’m rather decent with a paintbrush and the pneumatic stapler and I’m fine with heights, I can’t keep wood measurements straight in my head so I had to avoid being put in the Scene Shop again. Suddenly it was my turn for assignments and I said, “I guess I could learn to stage manage?”

Next thing I knew, I was the new rehearsal ASM for Dance Ensemble (another mainstage show) last semester and now I’m actually ASM-ing for Stage Door. I won’t lie; for only being a sophomore, that’s kind of impressive.

What does an Assistant Stage Manager do? When I was working on Dance Ensemble, I covered rehearsals while the real SM was working on her other Theatre Practice so Stage Door is really my first time taking a show from rehearsal to opening night as the Assistant Stage Manager. So far, I’ve attended all the production meetings, taking notes that get sent out to everyone afterwards. I do the odd job, if something needs to be printed and hung up on the board and fetching props. Now that we’ve gotten into rehearsal, I’m busier: I set up our rehearsal space with gaff tape and rehearsal set pieces, calling in actors who are late, schedule fittings and as soon as we start the rehearsal, I bury my head in the script. With late-night classes and illnesses going around, we haven’t had a rehearsal with perfect attendance yet, so I’m reading the missing lines, doing the doorbell/telephone sound effects for timing and when the actors get off-book next week, I’ll be taking line notes as well.

Our lead actress and I were talking during our break yesterday about our favorite rehearsal dinners and our mutual love for Reese’s Fast Break bars when she said “I think you are the busiest person in the show, what with the doorbell and doing all these characters and everything else”. So says the actor whose character is onstage in every scene!

I feel busy. Busy is usually good for me, not busy means that I don’t know what to do with myself. But being busy means that I don’t get to go to club meetings—one of the things about college I’ve embraced was joining clubs and now I don’t get to meetings because I’m in rehearsal. I don’t have a lot of time to hang out with friends and my rehearsals for class are now usually scheduled during my lunch. My parents don’t hear from me and are only assuming I’m alive. Let’s not forget I’m also a college student with classes to go and essays to write too! Still—being busy means that I am busy: I have something to do and I’m happy to be doing it (so long as Starbucks is still open once I’m let out of rehearsal).

Then at the end of one rehearsal, the Stage Manager turned to me and said “So, I’m going to the USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) conference next week which means you’ll be in charge.”

Starting Monday, I’m an actor as ASM who’s playing the role of the SM for the week. One week—I can do it. Right?

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