2015-2016 Season, Disgraced, Featured, Interns

Intern-view: Learning While Behind the Scenes of Disgraced

The following post was written by Stage Management Intern Quy Ton. Quy offers both a behind-the-scenes look at Disgraced, as well as advice for future prospective Stage Management Interns.

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Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Bernard White (Amir) and Zakiya Young (Jory) in Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Kimberly Senior.

Disgraced has been a whirlwind from the beginning. It’s a tough, funny show, and incredibly relevant right now. Each night, I’m surprised by audience reactions and engagement. Disgraced started at Goodman Theatre in Chicago, performed next at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and Seattle Rep is its final stop. Thanks to Disgraced being a co-production, my pre-production week was mostly merging paperwork from Berkeley and Goodman instead of creating our own from scratch.

Despite the slow week, once the actors came, we started running full speed from there, “locomoting” forward as our director Kimberly Senior would say. We went straight into tech week on the first day!

The main difference between the Bagley Wright and Leo K. Theatres, for me, is that I have another Stage Manager on deck (meaning backstage) with me in the Bagley. When I was in the Leo K., only one stagehand and I were backstage, and my mentor stage manager was in the booth calling the show. For Disgraced, we have a crew of five, plus a different stage manager mentor and I.

During the show, the backstage crew follows what’s called a runsheet. This document is a record of everything that happens backstage: where costume or set changes happen, who is responsible, and what the details of the change are. Thinking about it like a map, it’s essentially a list of the paths, or “tracks” as we call them, of every person backstage. For Disgraced, I learned not only my track, but also my supervisor’s track so I could run the deck by myself if need be. As a visual learner, it’s helpful to have the runsheet, but it’s more helpful for me to watch my supervisor and learn by osmosis. I could write a much longer post about what I picked up, but the most important thing I learned is how to be a grounding, calm presence who quietly holds authority backstage without needing to exert it unnecessarily. If you can be that person, then people will come to you with their needs instead of you having to chase them around.

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Quy working backstage during Disgraced in the Bagley Wright Theatre.

Yet, I also had moments of learning pains during tech. I made small mistakes, missing my cue to be at a certain spot or not switching to the correct intercom mode for example. It happened just enough for me to get frustrated with myself. I started to self criticize, “Why can’t you handle this? They’re not hard tasks at all. Other people are doing fine, why can’t you keep up?” No one yelled at me, no one was upset, but I didn’t need them to be. The thought of disappointing people I truly admired was enough.

Normally, I’d beat myself up, overthink things, and dig myself into a hole. That’s when I learned two things. The first is the importance of having other stage manager friends to talk to. Being able to vocalize your frustrations and get them out of you, is a tremendous help. My mentor calmed my anxieties of the entire tech week in minutes. Equally as important, I learned to be careful about projecting my emotional turmoil onto others. A sour attitude or “sorry” is not what others are looking for. They’re looking to see if you can fix your mistakes and if they can depend on you. I had no time to dwell on my feelings. I made checklists, little chants to remember things, and I left a trail of strategically placed sticky notes like bread crumbs to ensure I would not forget again. It’s reassuring to know that I have room to make mistakes. Own them, strive to improve, and push forward until you make it.

 

Disgraced has been extended through February 6 in the Bagley Wright Theatre – don’t miss it!

If you are interested in our Stage Management Internship or any of our other Professional Arts Training Program opportunities, visit our website.

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