It’s no secret in the world of theatre that being in a show is stressful, difficult, and requires a lot of energy. When you have rehearsals nearly every day, you begin to lose energy and pep and become tired and stressed, especially when you are in college. Between homework, class, rehearsals, friends, family, and whatever else may be going on in a person’s life, there is a massive potential for all of it to become too much. This can happen to any cast member or tech person. I am going to talk about my experience as a Stage Manager for a show when about half of my cast was going through the problems listed above while the other half was still stressed but nowhere near as close to death.
I was a first time Stage Manager for Vanguard University’s 2014 production of The Beat Goes On. I was also going through the things above, which really did not help the situation, but in helping them, I was able to help myself. My top strength for the Strengthfinders Test is Empathy, which means I have a great understanding of people and can relate to them and know what they are feeling. This does not mean I am sympathetic all the time though, empathy and sympathy are very different things. With empathy, it was easy to pick up on the feelings and emotions of my cast, which made it easy to take care of them. Each cast is different and will react different to a show but there are somethings that are universal.
Remember that to take care of your cast, you also have to take care of yourself.
When you spend all your time looking out for others, it is remarkably easy to forget about yourself. I learned this the hard way and experienced burnout due to stress the night before Cue to Cue and was awake until 3 am crying and having hot flashes outside on a staircase. I also developed a skin condition called Pitoriosis Rosacea which I still have today. Since I was so concerned with others, I didn’t see my own deterioration which I paid a heavy price for.
Be there for your cast. Let them know that you are on their side. Make them feel comfortable and safe. Tell bad jokes to make them laugh because laughter really is the best medicine. Make yourself available for your cast so they have a person of authority they can go to in times of trouble and need.
Let them know they are loved. In one of the rehearsal reports I sent out, I included a special message for them at the end of it. Around the same time I sent out the message to them, I decided to do something special for them all. I was going to help alleviate their worries if even just for a few minutes. I bought them doughnuts and a punching bag in the shape of a clown.
This is the final point I have to make and I believe it is the most important. Put on the best show of your life. There’s nothing like working and working on a show that is basically killing the spirits of those involved and then getting standing ovations and thunderous applause for every performance. You spend so much time worrying if you’re going to get the dance right or hit the high note or whatever one may worry about. But when the audience stands and cheers and claps there’s this high you get because they loved it and for even just one minute, you see them and how much they loved the show and you see all this hard work that has paid off and it really is the best thing.
So, you’re a Stage Manager with a cast who is ready for the sweet kiss of death, and maybe you are too. Remember that to take care the cast, you also have to take care of yourself. A stage manager isn’t of much use if they’re six feet under. Let the cast know that you’re there for them. Good relationships, both professional and friendship, can lead to the cast being comfortable with you and knowing they can come to you for anything and that you can keep a secret if need be. Make sure your cast knows how great they are, because they are pretty great. Prove to them their hard work is paying off, tell them you love them, hug them, and take care of them. Everyone working the show is probably stressed out about something. And finally, every show is the best show. Every performance is the first time someone is seeing it and it’s a wonderful feeling seeing the audience cheering for the cast.
College Student, Guest Blogger, Professional Stage Manager
The Cast That Wants To Die And How To Make Sure They Don’t
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Daniel & David