BACKSTAGE

Stage left is where the stage manager sits on a high stool, wearing earphones, the script in a loose binder with lots of notes and cues written on it. Above the “desk” are 3 monitors. Two of them are rather small. One shows the entire stage from the front of the house and one shows Diane Walsh, our classical pianist, from above as she plays. These images are in black and white. Then there is a larger screen (about the size of an old fashioned TV screen in the days of “Howdy Doody”) showing the entire stage from the front of the house in color. This screen can swivel to see different areas and close in for close ups. Linda Marvel is our main stage manager but she has trained Melissa and Pat and sometimes they “call” the show, allowing Linda to watch from the audience. In the absence of Moises, Linda gives us notes. Mostly they are technical (“This afternoon you came too far down stage and got out of the light) but sometimes they have to do with pace. (“The opening three scenes felt too back on their heels. You need to pick it up.”) She is very, very good at her work. I vaguely remember back when things for the stage manager were much simpler. Now, and especially given this technically complicated show, it’s a non-stop job with intercoms and you can’t talk to her for fear of distracting at a crucial moment.

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Linda at her station

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Melissa Spengler and Linda Marvel

monitors

I asked Diane Walsh one day, how she manages to keep her fingers so flexible and strong, because she has so many really challenging, unbelievably rapid trills to execute. She said, “It’s not about the fingers. It’s about the back and shoulders, that’s where the strength comes from.” I like to watch her play on the monitor when I am waiting back stage to make an entrance and I can really see, now that I am aware, how much she involves her back in her playing-her whole body, in fact.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to come backstage after the show tonight but, to my surprise and pleasure, Jessica Andrews, the woman who was at the event in Phoenix who first told me she’d seen the play and found it very powerful was here. She said, “I was right when I said this is a part made for you.”

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With Jessica L. Andrews, the executive director of the Arizona Theatre Company (photo: Michael Rudd)

My dear friend for more than 2 decades, Barbara Pyle, also came back stage. She worked with Ted in the early 1990s to create the environmental TV series, “Captain Planet,” that is now appearing on MNN-Mother Nature Network. She remains a hard working, very knowledgeable environmentalist who has been through a lot of physical challenges. She’s proof of the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

See you next time.

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15 Comments
  1. Stage managing is so hard, two of my dearest friends are professional stage managers….it’s such an amazing position that is so integral to the show.
    I just have have to say I read your blog often–and will be seeing the show two days before it closes. But I was walking by the theatre tonight with the some friends after dinner and I saw Tulea being walked outside of the theatre. She looked ADORABLE! My friends thought I was nuts that I knew instantly that it was your dog and that I knew her name was Tulea because I follow your blog. I wanted to say hi, but chickened out. My partner and I just got an adorable puppy and we have entered this new world of doggy ownership. It was such a joy to see her running around outside the stage door. 🙂
    XO
    justin

  2. Hi Jane
    Just wanted to wish you “Happy Mother’s Day!”
    All the Best!
    I hope I can wish you that in person outside the
    stage door after I see the play again today.
    I hope you are doing something nice for yourself on this special day. You have ‘mothered’ many with your inspirational authenticity!
    Thank you!
    Bradley

  3. Well, it is 2:30 in the morning and I am writing with a frame of mind that is less than focused. What I do want to say is that I think that for your upcoming book you should interview me. Why? because I am a young woman who finds your openess to aging and growing as a human very interesting. I am a 25 year old Veteran. I was a medic in the Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq for a year in 2003-2004. I am currently a student. I am about to head to my internship in Lincoln NE. I am a graduate student getting my Master’s in counseling from the University of South Dakota. I believe that the two of us would both connect with a conversation about our experiences. I find your writing very interesting as a woman who is of the age that you are open to letting others know what you experiences are in life. It is an inspirational thing that you do with this story.

  4. Interesting outlook at the system of technological concepts as it becames part of the environmental stage. You have me thinking on the Robert Rauschenberg ‘s works “in the gap between art and life” with his concept or staged shows. I met a few artist who were on the forefront of an artistic revolution, I met John Cage, the minimalist composer and Allan Kaprow know for his happening’s. I find the problems of production and reproduction of art on the stage a interesting one. Seem that like marketings we have product and endproduct and endproduct product development as a rule to go by in the problems. I see it a all production as the the Art and not just the problems of reproduction and the stage play , pre and post production and the production is looked at as reproduction often. The rules of media are from self to the expression and the end of reporduction is far off out ot control of the artist. A interesting problem in Art and technology .

  5. Having always wanted to see, experience Broadway reading your blog helps.

    One day I will. Wish I could see your play. Good luck with your nomination

  6. I love Stage Managers. I’ve had a few great ones in the past who not only called the show but soothed nerves, provided hugs and always knew where everything and everyone were!

  7. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
    I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think I twittered this saying a few weeks ago. Love it!
    By the way, you look great.

  8. I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

  9. Saw you at last night’s performance (Sat)…and you signed my poster!! Thanks for the remarkable show and for your autograph!!!
    Keep well and many blessings to you,
    Darlene

  10. Happy Mother’s Day Jane! We should all have Mom’s as forthright, dedicated, educated, talented, and so willing to share and give to those they love, with the humility you display. Your work and your life make a difference!

    Alvin

  11. I’ve enjoy seeing movies and going to plays, but I don’t know much about what happens in the process of making a movie or doing a play. So, what you have shared in this blog is insightful and fun to read!! It’s interesting to see these pictures too. I know it takes a lot of hard work to do anything well, and it seems for a play to be successful there are many people involved….actors, stage managers, directors, etc. Loved reading this! I just started checking your website recently. I’m impressed! You write about such a variety things!!

  12. My birthday. I turn 59. You are one my greatest inspirations. I think of all that you have done since you were the age I am now and marvel at what you are still accomplishing. Congratulations on your Tony nomination, I’m rooting for you. Remember when Paul Newman was nominated for “Our Town” a few years ago? I hope you have better luck. I know that he was happy to be appearing on Broadway after many years’ absence, as you are. I love you so much, and can tell that you are still vitally involved in your craft and in so many other admirable things.

  13. I was involved in stage crew during high school and I remember how we were on our toes for most of the productions, and ours weren’t nearly as sophisticated as 33 Variations, so I can imagine the pressure your stage manager feels throughout the show.

    Oh, I totally forgot to mention this in another comment, but one thing I noticed these last two times was that when the x-rays are enlarged in the backdrop, there’s a slight breeze on stage, so that it looks like the skeleton is breathing. In and out, in and out, a very cool effect that I’m sure was accidental. I know you can’t see it because your on stage in front and it’s all behind you, but it looks so freaking awesome.

    I so wish I could see the show again and again through the rest of the run.

    All my best,
    Amanda

  14. WHEN IS NEWSROM PREMIERING with Jane
    send me donation and volunteer,F00000RMTTTJIS

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