Photo by T Charles Erickson
Though we are busy running performances of Stick Fly and teching Tartuffe, “Prep” has begun for A Christmas Carol in the Stage Management Department. I actually begin planning for A Christmas Carol in the spring when I choose my Stage Management staff for the upcoming season. This will be my 14th year as the Supervising Stage Manager for A Christmas Carol; joining the team this year will be Assistant Stage Manager Hannah Woodward and McCarter’s Stage Management Interns, Kimberly Pretz (who will be the stage management assistant on stage left) and Heather Klein (who will be the Young Ensemble Supervisor).
In 1993, when I first took over the Production Stage Manager position on the last version of McCarter’s A Christmas Carol, I was walking into a machine that had been running for 3 seasons. The production script contained so many cues to call that I was basically talking almost non-stop for the whole performance, the running sheets for our 23 person crew were about 36 single spaced pages long, volumes of information existed and systems were generally in place. I had to lead the troops, most of whom had worked the show in past years, and I needed to hit the ground running. At that point in my career I had stage managed a vast number of productions at New York City Opera, many of which were remounts of major productions in the repertory. From that experience, I had mastered what I refer to as “archeological stage management”.
You must use a completely different set of “tools” when you walk into an existing production vs. working on one from scratch. You must do your research, wrap your mind around and understand every piece of information that is part of the show archive and study the archival videotape of the production. I do remember, though very well prepared, I still felt like I was just keeping up through the rehearsal process. But when we hit the first day of tech and I finished teching through and calling the opening scene perfectly, the Lighting Supervisor turned to me and commented that it seemed like I had been calling this show forever. It was a great turning point for me and that experience is my basis for getting my last 13 stage management teams up to speed during the pre-production process. The steps I am taking my new assistants through will be their own archeological digs into our current production of A Christmas Carol, one which I was fortunate enough to be a central part of when the collaboration first came together in 2000. This will also be a great learning experience for them, because many of the jobs out there are for replacement stage managers on long running shows, and they will have this experience to refer back to.
I have so much to share with you, so my goal over the next few months is to give snapshots of the collaborative process from the Production Stage Manager’s perspective in the hope that you never watch McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol in quite the same way!
Posted by Cheryl Mintz, Resident Stage Manager for McCarter Theatre and Supervising Stage Manager for A Christmas Carol. Photo: Cherise Boothe and Paul Benedict in A Christmas Carol.