The Stage Management Workshop: Props, personalities and practice

by Kristina Latino

In the dance studio at Farkas Hall, eight undergraduates sat around a seminar table waiting for the second week of this fall's Stage Management Workshop to begin. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly as I chatted with students about current undergraduate productions and the class to come. Co-sponsored by the Office for the Arts and the Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club, this three-session series provides students with a basic understanding of the responsibilities of a theater stage manager.

The class is taught by Dana Knox, the advisor for Harvard Theater Programs, and Eleanor Regan ’13, a student with advanced undergraduate production experience. As a result, attendees gain insight from people with experience at both professional and college levels.

This week’s seminar focused on Tech Week responsibilities for stage managers, and we discussed everything from managing props to managing temperaments. The class combines logistical instruction with intuitive guidance, emphasizing that the job of stage manager isn’t easily defined and often takes different shapes. Knox’s lessons included personal anecdotes from his years working in theaters in Boston, linking the class with real experience. He describes stage managers as the "axle in the wheel of the production" and the "central communicator of information," and believes that "by strengthening [stage managerial skills], we strengthen the overall quality of production on campus."

Evan Schueckler, a sophomore in Cabot House who has been attending the seminars, says he can "put these things into practice right away" in shows on campus. Students who attend all three sessions have the added benefit of becoming eligible to attend backstage tours and shadow professionals at Boston theaters, as opportunities become available.

In the final 20 minutes of class, we sketched out possibilities for blocking a scene, compared note-taking method and examined examples of stage management from last year’s productions at Harvard. I loved sitting in on this seminar; it was clear and informative, but even more importantly, it was interesting. Though designed for students with some theater experience, the seminar was accessible to students without prior experience in stage management. If interested in attending the next seminar, to be held on Thursday, September 27, (and I recommend it!) contact Danielle Drees at Danielle.drees@gmail.com.

[Caption: Dana Knox (standing center) discusses stage management techniques with students. PHOTO: Kristina Latino]