Just before the company’s final salute, the ensemble presents their hands to team members backstage. In our musical productions, we extend our arms to the band in the pit, then to the booth. Behind the lights that we cannot see beyond is our light board operator and our manager overflowing with joy for a job well done. This moment is to pay tribute to all the technicians who help bring the shows to life: our director, choreographer, designers, management team, film crew, spot operators and all the intermediate technicians. However, this is a particularly important thank you to the person who runs the machine we are creating. Our managers, especially at the college level, face high expectations and may not always receive the recognition they deserve.
Lauren Thomas was the production manager of Songs for a New World at Florida Southern College. She is a BFA Theater Performance and BFA Technical Theater junior double major, chair of the department’s organization, Vagabonds, and co-founder of a student directors club called Theater After Dark. Lauren is focusing on stage management as part of her technical degree and has taken on the responsibility of managing the musical after deliberating with other students over the summer. Her position is vital, which requires organizational skills, quick thinking and dedication to keep a show going. As a full-time student with nineteen credit hours in her academic schedule, time became a finite resource that she had to selectively measure. Without her diligence, the experience of all of the cast and crew would have been drastically different, and since she doesn’t get a reverence, her impressive work deserves to be recognized in another way.
Songs for a New World is song cycle, meaning it is a collection of songs linked by a theme and does not rely on spoken dialogue to tell the story. This structure is different from typical musicals, so Lauren’s prep did not have any memorization cues or definite transitions. To prepare, she said she had “listened to the sheet music religiously, talked to the director about her thoughts, feelings and visions for the show, detailed which actor was in which song” and gathered the contact information of the show. distribution and crew. His preparation was evident throughout the process. Other technicians spoke of her succinct meetings, skill and great leadership, while other comedians appreciated their comfort in confiding in her and asking questions. Speaking as a member of the cast, Lauren’s communication was efficient, prompt and attentive. She organized a group discussion thread for the cast and crew and sent out regular, detailed messages with all the information needed to be successful and prepare for the next rehearsal. At the end of each post, she asked us to answer a question to confirm that we had read all of the information. Her establishment of open and direct communication prevented confusion and encouraged positive relationships to flourish.
Lauren’s effectiveness didn’t come without hard work behind the scenes. She mentioned that due to the demands of her job, she had to find a balance between work, school and personal life. Lauren was responsible for preparing for rehearsals and closing the theater afterwards, as well as administering the weekly production meetings. Then she had to navigate as a student with obligations outside of her major and her studies, like the other organizations she is affiliated with. Although this was her biggest challenge, she mentioned “maintaining a work-life balance and creating space for [herself] do things outside of the theater and work that [her] happy and keep [her] “This balancing act wasn’t the only thing she learned, as she also had to build confidence by keeping a tight rehearsal schedule, while remaining kind, calm and professional.” The words encouragement from a peer gave her the little push she needed to begin to control the space to its full potential.Lauren walked away from the experience with new refinement and self-confidence.
With the production being the first return show with a live audience and unmasked performers, there were many amazing moments. Personal success for Lauren involved receiving a number of new clues for the song, making “The River Won’t Flow” one of the most technically complex songs on the series. Lauren explained that calling a musical is quite difficult because, “if you miss a line even by a single drum beat, you might be wrong in calling the rest of the lines for that number.” She also had the added inconvenience of receiving these new signals on opening night. To set herself up for success, Lauren walked the number several times with lighting designer Nour Lotfy and light board operator Kendall Uslan until she felt right at home. Lauren and Kendall even got there early to keep the number working before the standard calling time. On the first performance, the new design flowed so smoothly that many of the cast didn’t even notice a change. Lauren recalls, “high-fiving and laughing for joy” with Kendall in the cabin after their success. However, Lauren’s most rewarding moment came from another part of opening night. She fondly remembers the moment when “the whole cast of actors took the stage for the opening number and the audience applauded louder than [she] never heard in this theater. It took [her] breath and [she] thought, ‘We did it. It’s live theater. We are back.'”
It wouldn’t be educational theater without evaluating the experience to learn as much as possible. Now that the production is over, she has reflected on her work and noticed things that she would consider doing differently in another experiment. Lauren admitted that she tended to take work home with her and worry about what happened during the rehearsal, whether or not she needed to take action or if there was something thing she should improve. Her remoteness from the project has helped her see herself as most of the cast and crew, who is a powerful person who is extremely good at their job! She wishes she had allowed herself to have fun, enjoy the process more and allow herself the possibility of making mistakes. Her experience has left her wiser in the face of the demands of college theater management and with an appreciation for the many hats a stage manager must wear. Lauren thinks the complex role goes more smoothly when you “honor yourself, honor your time, [and] trust your instincts. Be kind and understanding, but also know when to put your foot down and be firm within your limits. as a member of the domain in which you are. Hopefully, by shedding light on the techies who don’t salute, the audience, performers, and the rest of the crew, begin to really appreciate the person behind the Quick Book.