By Betsy Selman
Trying to explain to someone else what you do by habit is incredibly difficult. In THE ACTOR’S NIGHTMARE, one of the characters is the stage manager for the “show” that is happening. I have been helping the directors work with Theresa, the actress playing the role, to try to explain what a stage manager does and embody the character. I have helped by providing real examples of things that have happened to me when working on a production and have also had to act a little by demonstrating what my preshow routine would be!
I started off by explaining the different stage management positions. In Emerson Stage, they are the stage manager, 1st assistant stage manager, and 2nd assistant stage manager. There are different duties assigned to each role, but they are all there to work as a team and to help each other achieve each task. The nightmare in this play is that there is only one person to do all of the jobs! In a real situation, it would be impossible for just one stage manager to run the entire show by themselves.
We then went through all the different tasks a stage manager would perform before a show, such as checking props, sweeping the stage, and making sure the spike marks haven’t been ripped up. The other challenge that Theresa’s character faces is that while she is trying to prepare the stage for the performance, an understudy walks onstage and acts like he has no idea where he is or what he is supposed to be doing. The scene is incredibly funny, because Theresa is explaining things that are common knowledge to everyone in the rehearsal room, and everyone who has ever worked on or seen a play.
It has been truly wonderful to watch Theresa transform from an actor into a pleasant and efficient stage manager before my eyes. She has really taken the character to heart, and even arrives early to rehearsal to watch us set up the rehearsal room!
Betsy Selman is a senior BFA Stage/Production Management major at Emerson College. She is the Stage Manager of THE ACTOR’S NIGHTMARE and the Production Stage Manager for the double-bill of THE ACTOR and THE ACTOR’S NIGHTMARE, which run November 4-7 in the Greene Theater.