It’s weird, man.

This is Don’s post — uploaded by Jules.

For the longest time, I didn’t let myself get personally involved in any of the shows I stage-managed. Laramie changed that.

Let’s back up a little. I’m confident in what I do. I would never describe myself as a “great” stage-manager, or really anything other than a competent stage-manager, but I know how to get done what needs to get done. I’ve worked on a good deal of shows now, and none of them have crashed and burned. (Well, not completely at least.) One part of being a stage manager is being able to remain objective about a show. You have to build up a sort of emotional barrier between yourself and the material, because you’re on-duty from the second you enter the theater until the moment you lock it up for the night, and there really isn’t any time to stop and react to the show that’s going on.

I have never had a problem establishing that barrier. I always managed to distance myself to the point where the show just became a list of cues that needed to be called on time, set pieces that needed to be moved, and props that needed to be tracked down. And then there was Laramie.

I knew Laramie was going to be tough, emotionally speaking, after the very first read-through. Even then, there was so much raw emotion put into the show that it was truly amazing to hear. Still, I was absolutely positive that eventually, I would become numb to the weighty emotional content, and that it would be just another show.

And then I found myself in tech, trying to call cues with tears in my eyes. What? That has never happened to me. Ever. I was totally unprepared. I’d never worked on a show where every night I left the theater completely emotionally drained. It’s been tough, and it’s only going to get harder as the show gets more and more polished.

However, not having that emotional distance has really changed how I feel about calling the show. There are always tricky cues in every show, and with a normal show, you nail the cue, you have a private fist-pump in the booth, and you keep on going. But with Laramie, because I feel such a strong attachment to a show, each nailed cue is an emotional triumph, because I like to think that I’m helping showcase the incredible work that our cast has been doing, and that each perfectly timed cue is one step towards relaying the full weight of the Laramie Project to our audience.

It’s been weird. Weird but good. I was unprepared to become so emotionally attached to the piece, but, having experienced it, I can only hope that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work on more projects that I can become so invested in.

6 thoughts on “It’s weird, man.

  1. Number one, you’re an awesome stage manager. I’ve worked under a few, and you’ve been among the least stressful to work with. You must be doing something right.

    Beyond that…I guess that’s testimony to how much the actors have put into their roles. I swing to the opposite side of the spectrum that you do, and have an unfortunate tendency to begin to hate shows that I work on after a while. My teeth itch when the actors start crying about how sad they are that it’s about to be over, because I CAN’T WAIT for it to be over. Seeing everybody make the same mistakes five hundred times, weeks of near-sleepless nights in shops doing whatever I happen to be working on at the time, and my family and friends demanding to know why they never see me tend to add up. I’m sure you remember me by the end of The Lower D’s.

    With this one, though, it’s always interesting to see what’s changed from run to run, and different parts of the show always make me start to tear up. I guess we have the same kind of thing going there. And I think it’s good, honestly, that you haven’t managed to distance yourself from it too much. If this show can’t make you cry, there’s not a whole lot left that can.

  2. Don–

    I will just echo the kudos and love that you’ve been getting from the cast and crew. I think their sentiments really show how skilled you are at your job. It’s one thing to make things run smoothly. It’s another to have them run smoothly with respect, joy, and sense of community. I’ll just make a little plug here for having a production *class* to accompany the production because I think it brings together cast and crew in a way that is unparalleled for making a positive, fun, and focused working environment. And I’m saying that as an instructor who has watched this take root due to collective effort of all of you. Jeff and I are extremely lucky.

    I love the idea of you calling cues with tears in your eyes. It’s a sign that if we’ve not completely destroyed your interest in documentary media and performance after this semester, you’re destined to make some very interesting projects of your own. There is a special kind of dynamic required of documentary artists; to be able to immerse yourself so deeply in a subject while maintaining critical distance in order to shape and communicate that subject. Perhaps Stage Management is perfect training. : )

    Thank you for all that you do and for doing it so well.

    –Jules

  3. Don,

    This is an excellent blog. I have worked with many stage managers over my last 35 years in the business and you rank among the top I have had the pleasure to collaborate with. Your attention to detail, your nurturing of relationships between designers, cast, staff and crew makes the experience a joy for everyone.

    You should be exceptionally proud of the work you have done on this production. We would not be enjoying the success we are currently enjoying without your keen eye, energetic support and your hard, hard work.

    I have been thankful since the first moment we met that this company was in your capable hands.

    Words cannot express what a difference it makes to the whole process. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Best- Jeffrey

Leave a Reply