On Stage Management and Disability
This post is the sixth in our blog series A Place of Exposure, curated in partnership with The Apothetae, which takes its name from the first article written about The Apothetae and Lark collaboration in 2015. We launched this series in honor of the 2020 round of our Playwriting Fellowship for a Deaf/Disabled writer, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Both the Fellowship and series are dedicated to uplifting the multiplicity of voices and experiences of Deaf/Disabled communities. These are the perspectives of people who have worked to create or support new plays, and re-appropriate existing plays, in order to present the experiences of Disabled communities as part of our cultural landscape. By providing a platform to explore these varied and complex experiences, we aim to highlight the fact the 'Disability Community' is a series of communities, with a series of histories and stories - just beginning to be told.
In this post, Alyssa K. Howard and Peter Royston, two stage managers who have worked throughout the New York and regional theater scenes, discuss the ways in which their work has been affected by the current, virtual nature of our field, and what lessons they hope can be retained from this time. Their conversation is available to read or watch below. And be sure to check out the rest of the series as well - links to all posts are featured at the bottom of this page!
ALYSSA K. HOWARD & PETER ROYSTON
ALYSSA K. HOWARD: So hey Peter, Hello.
PETER ROYSTON: Hi! How are you? It's so nice to meet you.
AKH: Nice to meet you as well. Where are you calling from?
PR: Hell's Kitchen. I've been here all of quarantine. Where are you?
AKH: I'm up in Inwood, and same.
PR: So it's nice to meet another stage management connection. I was curious how you identify with Disability and stage management, or what is your story. Maybe just start off with that?
AKH: Yeah, it's kind of a very much a developing thing for me. The two threads of it: one of it is the stage management thread. I first got into stage management when I was in undergrad. I had always been performing onstage prior to that, and then I went to Williams College where they have a J-Term course in January where you can just take one class and try different things outside of what would be normal academic, or beyond, some of them are normal academic classes. But a one-month stage management course was offered, so I took that. And it's kind of like, "Oh I like that. I'm pretty good at that." And then, I did not get cast into the next show that I auditioned for, for the department. And so on the little form that says "if you are not cast in this show are you willing to do wardrobe, backstage etc." And so I decided to do stage management then. And I loved it and it went really well.
In the linear version of the story, that would be when I decided that I was going to be a stage manager, but I decided actually that, because I got no sleep, my grades went in the toilet, I’m like, "Okay, that was fun. Not doing that ever again." Until a couple of semesters later when a professor in the department asked me if I would stage manage the show he was doing, and it turns out I am extremely susceptible to flattery and feeling needed. That got me back into stage management for the rest of college. Then I was still like, I'm going to get a real job. That was fun, but now it's real world time. But I graduated into the 2007 wonderful economy, and so I worked, actually the job I ended up getting at that point was a music director and pipe organist at a church. I don't know how "real job" that qualifies as, but while I was doing that I realized that despite all of the on paper overlap between the jobs, I still wasn't happy with it. And so I said if there's ever a time to give this a try, it's now. And so, did a few years of interning and then, since I'd never actually studied stage management formally, I went to grad school, and came to New York after that.
So, what's sort of the overlapping thread of that is also while I was in undergrad, I've had issues with chronic pain my entire life, like since I was a little kid, and never any diagnosis or explanation or help, really. You know, a lot of "it's in your head" or "eat a banana, it's growing pains," and all of that when I was a kid. And then on top of that, when I was in undergrad, you know, it's college, you have all these kids around who are not getting sleep, whatever. I got sick a lot with like flu, sinus infections, all that. But at some point, about half way through my junior year, I got sick. And whatever it was, just knocked my body entirely off its axis to what, in hindsight, now with it being more prevalent and also more just on the internet, really lines up with what's described as post-viral syndrome. So basically I was just sleeping ten to 14 hours per day, the pain was worse than ever, could barely drag myself anywhere, cognitive function was like, down here. And that went on for a couple years. It wasn't like, “Oh it's a slow recovery but.” It was multiple years. And that's when it first entered my head, as I was graduating from college somehow in that state of health where I'm just like, “Am I ever going to be able to function in the world in the way that I had envisioned myself as a person who functions in the world?”
And part of what helped is, the music job I got, it was a part time job. I'm lucky enough to have a very supportive family. And also with the fact that it happened when I graduated from college, which is sort of, you know, accepted. Like, “Oh this kid, they're just getting on their feet right now, sure they’ll live at home for a little while.” And that really allowed me to take a very long recovery. And a combination of both time and also -- you know, it's sort of this double-edged, two sides of a coin, double-edged sword kind of a thing -- the fact that I was sick so severely, and in such bad condition, just sort of lit the fire under my butt. Like, what can I do? What can I do to control this or make it better? Is there any way of doing that? Cause like, all the doctors, all the blood tests, that was no help. And I’m always a little bit hesitant to talk about this because I don't want anyone to seize upon this and do the whole like, "Do yoga you'll get better" sort of thing, but I am fortunate enough that I have been able to manage a lot of my symptoms through figuring out what works for my body, and basically shaping my life around what can keep me as healthy and physically functional as possible.
And then, sort of the flip side of that is, it's chronic in that it's ongoing, but now it's intermittent when I have a flare up. When that happens my first thought is, oh god what did I do? What did I not do that let this slip through the crack, or let myself let that happen, to me? And that all sort of braided itself together in that it's really only over the past few years -- as I've made my way through my professional career as a stage manager, and also had the opportunity to be exposed to and listen to more Disabled voices in general, and then also work with people in the professional sphere -- that I've had the sort of exploratory discovery journey myself of what it means for me. Because I just felt like, “Oh well I just have to deal with this thing that I can or can't control.” And I had never really considered myself as having a "real Disability" or anything like that, but it has been over recent years that I have felt more of an affinity towards that.
PR: Do you talk to your directors or your production team or your cast and the colleagues when you start a production, do you talk about it? That these might be some things that come up for me? Or, “just so you know, if this happens?” Do you have those kinds of conversations? Or do you just push through?
AKH: I started. Yeah no, like back, especially early career, was just like push through at all costs, which I think is something that's an issue with stage managers in general, for like anything. But I also, you know, last year was the first year that I got a cane because sometimes the flare up gives me difficulty with walking, and that's sort of an easy opener. If I just walk in and be like, "Hey, sometimes I need this," it helps it both be steady and normalized. And also an incident that I went through last summer has sort of spurred me onto being more proactive about that, which also in turn made me be more like, "Am I a part of this? Does this apply to me?" in that I showed up to a theater to work there over the summer...I see a kitty cat tail!
PR: Sorry, there might be a--
AKH: No apologies! Hello!
PR: This is Princess
AKH: What's her name?
AKH: Hello! But I showed up to a theater, an absolutely lovely company, lovely people. But I got there and the only way to access the control booth, the stage manager's booth, was by ship ladder. And I said, oh no one told me about this. I'm in a different state now. So just FYI, this might now be a thing. Hopefully it won't be a thing, but there's this possibility, that's not zero, that this might be a major obstacle for me at some point. Which, now having encountered that I'm just like, oh this really needs to be something that I can be upfront about that is not only just standing up for myself, it's also for the sake of the production, and also for anyone, if it's not something they've thought about, for anyone who might come after me. It's really been a journey for me that has been really sort of gelling over the past few years. How about yourself? What is your story, your journey?
PR: Yeah, I mean there are similar themes and differences too. I have cerebral palsy. I was brought up and told to, “just say you had a stroke, just say you have minor CP and don't talk about it.” And basically the essence of my upbringing, what I was supposed to do was try to be as normal as possible, and don't let your Disability show. And it's not that big. It's not that bad. It's like, minor, right? I'm not in a wheelchair. Nobody really has to see it. Only when I'm tired will my speech get slurred, or someone might notice something, but make sure you work hard, as hard as you can. And make sure nobody sees it. So that's been sort of my philosophy, I guess, through life and it's gotten me quite far. But, definitely a few years ago with hearing more Disabled voices and seeing more Disabled stories being told on stage, and reading articles. Some by Gregg Mozgala and Katy Sullivan, I credit them a lot with my awakening and kind of like, "What the hell Peter? What are you doing," that I sort of questioned. “Why am I not talking about this? What were the problems or challenges in the past that were there, that maybe weren't my fault, but maybe there was something else going on there. So I trained to be a performer, very similar to you. I was in Opera, just trying to have many different avenues to be a part of the performing arts community. And in college there was an opportunity to take a stage management class, like a go-to-see-theater class, and I was kind of like, “I go to see theater all the time.” And my advisor was like "You need to take this," and I was like, "...okay." But I took it, and the production manager was like "don't judge it while you're in it. Wait until you're at the end of it." And at the beginning of this I was like, "I hate this. This is terrible."
AKH: Why would anyone want to do this?
PR: Yes. But by the end of it, I loved the relationship I developed with the director and the cast and being there for all of the productions, seeing all the pieces come together. It seems like a common theme with stage managers. By the end of it I was like "What can I do next?" So I got my first pick of the next show, and I did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which developed my love of Tennessee Williams. I relate a lot to his work. And I was Production Stage Manager for a theater festival for my final year.
Then I just started looking for avenues, and I worked my way up into Equity. I'm from the Bay Area, so I just came to New York six years ago and I worked in the regional theaters there. A year or two before I was there, it was like work wise, it was a little difficult to put together a full season of work. There were some experiences that I had that did not necessarily go very well. That's one thing that I've looked back on in this awakening too. What were all of the factors? And so I came to New York, and I was originally coming here to actually go in an administrative theater direction, and I went to TCG, and I started as a development intern and I tried a few other administrative theater roles at Theatre Works USA as a development person. I went to The Public and was helping out in the executive office for a little bit. And then I was like, around the election, as part of the awakening too around Disability it was, "What the hell Peter? You need to be a part of the production. What are you doing with yourself? This is not it. Maybe I can make the world a better place really as a stage manager.”
And so it really has been this journey of trying to figure out that awakening of myself, and what that means, and how to use my voice to make positive change in the world and what has happened.
In this awakening too, I did not talk about my Disability at all before 2017, and if there were problems we would deal with them. Like, Peter you need to try harder, of course you should have done better. You don't really have a voice, that's how they do it, that's just their style, and you're not trying hard enough. Of course it was your fault. And always that guilt and shame around that, and coming into my own and being aware of my Disability and just trying it out and being like, "I think this is what I need" or, "this is what might happen" has been a big journey.
So my first out experience as a stage manager was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2018 and just trying that out. And there were some things where it was really empowering to start off and talk about my Disability and say what I might need or what comes up for me or how I would like to work, but I also was trying it out. And the thing with me is, I don’t need help all the time moving something, or I don't always need help with somebody, with like aphasias that kick in all the time. It might not be consistent accommodations or help that I need. It's different day to day. So it's been interesting coming into my own about that.
Then this last year before the quarantine I started working for The Blue Man Group, and that was really empowering. Because I felt I was at a different stage of acceptance and being able to talk about what I need. I have a history of epilepsy, so we figured out a way, in a part of the show there are strobe lights, and so I flipped down the eye patch just during that moment. And it's mostly a safety thing. I have not had a seizure in a very long time, but I need to be aware of that. And also doing cue lights, I'm left hand dominant, so I only type one handed, so cue lights and how it's set up in that tiny booth is a little bit of a challenge. And I got a different stool so I could sit and swerve around.
And, it was wonderful because I came out of it, and of course in my interviews it was like, “Oh yeah that's fine, it's not a problem.” And I was like, “Yeah but, we need to talk about it. I think it's better.” So, it's interesting going through that process.
Then training on the show, there are some, I guess they're microagressions. Like, one of the stage managers was telling me the first week, "Oh yea I was one of the fastest to learn the show so...” and then just little things that I was like, "Why is that helpful?" There was varied confusion too because all of the stage managers help you. So one of them would be like, "Oh my god I wish you were so much further along" and then the next day I'd be talking to another stage manager who's like "I'm really happy with where you are." The one that I really appreciated. So it's very interesting seeing the dynamics in just a stage management team of how different people view your situation. Of course it comes with different personalities and all those things, but it was still interesting.
I had been thinking about that a lot. Obviously I don't see very much Disability representation. I had not seen it at all on Broadway. And like, why is that? What are the superpowers and things that they are missing that could make -- if they actually had more voices and gave us a place and didn't look at it as something you had to overcome or just doing us a favor, or doing me a favor. Are all the things that a stage manager is supposed to do, like our little job profiles, is that really what we have to be doing. That whole thing about style I think is really interesting. So I've been thinking a lot about that just as my little rambling. And then it's like, we have a conversation usually with stage managers or with the group like, “how do you like to do that?” Until the last few years of like, “Well I don't think I should really be on book, like it's a little bit of a challenge, and definitely if I'm sending off a big email to people, those are kind of like, I should make sure someone reads it before I send it off at the end of the night. Those are two main things I'm pretty sure I need to make sure are checked or at least people are aware of, because there might be something way off. And it’s just because of the aphasia, I could literally be reading and it would show up.
AKH: And I feel like that's one of the things that you don't always get it with a… you know, if you're doing a super tiny production, but if you begin to move into medium size and larger, often stage managers, we're working as a team. And I feel like there's a real room to take advantage of the fact that we do have a team of people, and that there is some porousness between who's doing what, and what strengths people -- When you were mentioning that last part, it made me think of the huge debates within the online stage management community, by which I mean Facebook, about, do we make an official stage management job description? Do we list specific tasks? On the one hand, that can be a protective tool by saying, well this is actually not on it so you really shouldn't be having me take out the garbage or whatever. But on the other hand, it changes so much, what a stage manager does from project to project, and what's necessary. Which also means that you can have stage managers, a group that are all on a super high caliber, and some will be correct for some projects, and some will be correct for others. It doesn't mean that they are better or worse, but certain stage managers fit better with certain projects and what demands of it, and I feel like one of the arguments against delineating everything is that, is it making it too rigid? Which also, I feel like has the potential of locking people out unnecessarily. Would that mean that the theater I ended up at, someone would be like, "The stage manager must be able to climb ladder.” Which doesn't make them a better or worse stage manager, but if you begin delineating tasks, then who's to say that it's actually what we need from a stage manager, or if it's unnecessarily locking people out?
PR: Yeah I have seen a lot of stage management positions that ask for that stuff, which is the argument too. That shouldn't even be in a stage manager position. They're just trying to get more out of you. I wouldn't really want to work with that group of people anyways. For me, that's just like, I probably wouldn't be able to stage manage, and really if you consider what a stage manager does, and like, I guess that should be okay. Obviously some people are qualified and they want to do that. I think it's just like, it's been interesting as my reflection over the past few years. There's certain people that I locked on and like, we're like a team. You want that team. Just looking at it from that respect, stage managers, they find their team and their ASM or PSM that they like to work with, or you find your theater where you know how that works, and each production is different. But it's also that flexibility of how do you make it work.
(*Doorbell interruption because we live in the world!*)
AKH: Yes. I actually was really curious too, with one of the prompt questions that Gregg had shared with us about working with integrated casts of both Deaf/Disabled and non-Disabled theater workers, and he said we both have experience with that. Could you tell me about what your experience has been like?
PR: Well the most recent thing was working On Every Link a Heart Does Dangle at The Lark with Madison [Ferris]. Well, actually, no. And then I did the Emerging Writers' Group Series, so I did Ryan Haddad's, I was part of the stage management team for the development of that. And I did a dance show that Madison was in too. What else? I'm just listing my things I can recall. And then I had Monique Holt, who is a Deaf actor at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Right now I'm currently in the second semester of learning ASL.
But I think what I've learned as a basic, where I find kinship -- because there's a personal understanding that I have -- I want to make sure that the actors I work with have what they need, have what they want, and I don't know if all actors or performers or Disabled people in theater are... I wonder if they are always asking for what they need or want, or feel like they are empowered to do that? So I feel like I want to be sure, but I also don't want to be like bugging and prodding. Like, with On Every Link a Heart Does Dangle, I knew who Madison was, I respected her, I got to see her on Broadway. I actually thought it was... I sort of was like, "Oh how do I make sure I connect with you?" And respect, but those first interactions, like, do you, how do you make sure you are getting what you want, or once we're moving into rehearsal, I want to make sure you get what you want. And it was at The Lark. It's not like there's a huge production elements, but it's still like, you're going to be doing a play that's three hours long, what do you need? Do you need anything? Just make sure you can talk to me. I want to make sure, so don't feel shy.
AKH: I feel like that's hopefully going into a... hopefully getting support from a, what I feel is a larger positive trend, or at least a desire of seeing the whole person as they come into the room. It's not just, it's sort of stepping away from the whole, "Leave everything outside of the door. Just get in here, do the work, and that's it.” But it's a recognition of how a person exists as a whole person in the world, and that their life exists outside of the room. We can't both ask for everything that their life outside of the room gives us as far as their strength and creativity and experience, and disregard other aspects of it that might seem "less convenient." Like that it takes you X amount of time to get from point A to point B, which might be a different amount of time that it takes for another person. And that we're, yeah basically that we have to see the whole person if we want to be able to work with full artistic honesty and integrity with them.
One of the things that I also was thinking about, that I feel ties in with that, is the issue of production timeline. I feel like it's always a little bit of a crash course because, as a stage manager, if you're a deeply involved person with a specific company or production team, you might be involved with or dealing with it earlier on. But a lot of the times, you're kind of brought in when a lot of stuff has been in motion already, as far as on the hiring and on the human resources end. But also like the, "This is what we have designed." And things that have already been built and we spent money and planned, whatever. But there is planning that it's just, well is this taking into consideration... actually I'm thinking back to, I think Monique Holt was actually involved in a panel with Deaf artists that I watched, and they talked about something that lined up with my experience, my two main experiences which were One: For Colored Girls at The Public this past winter, we had Alexandria Wailes was our Lady in Purple, and then also doing Teenage Dick which was starring Gregg and Shannon DeVido was also our Buck in that, and it was a high school version of Richard III commissioned by The Apothetae and presented by Ma-Yi Theatre at The Public. But just in considering the full sum of the humans that you're bringing in to work on this project, some of those things require a lot of advance planning. Like hiring the full schedule of interpreters that you need, or what needs to be built into the set so that people can physically access it. Hopefully that's something that theaters are thinking about beforehand when they're looking to draw from these artists, but then it's sometimes a little bit crash-course stage management they're like "Oh yeah and this, this, this... we have this Disabled artist" and then you kind of have to very quickly try to search for any red flags or anything that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible before you even interact with a person for the first time.
PR: I agree with you. I think time is the biggest barrier or the biggest challenge. And I think it's the sense of feeling,I think that's why there's a stage that the theater community and probably a lot more people need to have more experience or vocabulary or thinking about how disability involves in that it's not all just because you worked with one disabled person too that you know all the answers and that for each production it's going to be different. And how do you actually figure out your production schedule? So maybe you need a different amount of rehearsal weeks or actually maybe you should have a longer planning period. Let's consider that. And what are all the different options? Like is there just the standard practice of we just do our table work, we have the staging week where we have tech and we're up. Like does that work all the time?
AKH: That does...Man flexibility and schedule. It seems like just a little bit of irony that I feel like almost, theaters and organizations, it's kind of tipping this -- you can only have one but it feels like the more resources you get, also sometimes the less flexibility you have because often more resources means you're dealing with a bigger organization or institution which means now you're trying to jigsaw in 25 productions in a year and if this one thing changes, that has a domino effect on knocking down all these other things that can reduce the amount of flexibility that's available as we're trying to maximize or optimize what we can do with all of these resources. And it's like, how do we bring things back into balance with that?
PR: It always feels like with all the conversations around disability, there's never an "Okay we've had this conversation and there's a clear answer to any of these conversations and this is exactly what needs to be done" It doesn't work that way. I think that's the most interesting, most annoying, and most challenging part about talking about disability and representation and making sure everyone is heard and experience and treating everybody with the same...because it's not just cut and dry.
AKH: I feel like I'm kind of seeing a divergence in that I'm definitely seeing, I'm seeing that everyone is talking about this time of pause, and theaters being closed as leading to potential change. I see different stories being told through actions from different individuals and groups, and I feel like one of the things that I do recognize that, to use one of the words that 2020 has destroyed, that some are in a position to be more nimble than others as far as changing the way that things are going. That for some it is a much bigger change and it brings much more risk to enact change and to step away from business as usual. Again, like if you already have all of these things on your plate and a domino effect could set everything off, that's a much bigger risk to make a change than if you're a tiny theater company that's like "Alright, we're going to do this, and all of our resources are held right here in our two hands." It has been interesting to see who has been, who has already started taking concrete action and witnessable action and it also comes down to all the rest of us, whoever that is, and how we then choose to react to and interact with these people, organizations, entities, and how they have responded, so say Oh I want to be a part of that or I don't want to be a part of that or it seems like they haven't gotten there yet, but there seems to be potential, so I'll get in maybe I can push from the inside now and do something there.
Having been involved in some conversations, it also has been interesting in some places where there's been, people have been less than satisfied with what they've been seeing from the larger structures. But there are still people inside of them who are feeling energized and who are taking that. I feel like we need to watch, and also on the one hand... I think, hold people in general accountable, but also not immediately just write something or somebody off if we don't see the change immediately because there might be things happening inside that we aren't seeing yet. I think a balance between accountability and giving support to people who are making the changes and improvements now, while still being like, alright we're not going to vibe with that right now but we're still looking forward to when you hop on board.
PR: Brené Brown told us recently that we're in Day 2 of this quarantine, and that's like the hardest part and there's this initial part. I had this distinction, my first part of quarantine being like I'm going to do every webinar, get all my skills, I'm going to take all of this on. And all the reckoning that we've had on us as individuals and with the outer... and I've been happy and appreciative of some of those awakenings and surprised at some people hadn't been on the journey I thought some of us were. I've been surprised or I've been curious about the different ways that some people have had awakenings and taken action and thought more and moved on. And then I'm curious about what this Day 2 is because I feel like there's some roadblock too, which I'm still hopeful that there'll be actual change and that theater will have incremental change when we come back and we'll have these conversations and it will matter. But I'm also curious about that actually happening because I still see a block to at this point of there's some people that had initial conversations and voices have been lifted, but I would also like to see more of an expansiveness of that.
AKH: it's just started over the past couple of weeks that I've started to be doing more long term virtual theater work. It's given a sort of rhythm flow timeline for me of sort of stepping out of the "Oh we're dealing with the... we're in a pause. We're dealing with the pandemic, and do what you can" and now it's just like now it's sort of "back to the new normal" where we're like, alright. We're doing virtual theater now. We're working on the Zoom. I was surprised by the way that it hit me. It's sort of wondering now also for myself, what... it is a different work environment and in some ways a more accessible work environment. In other ways depending on your situation, you know some people's situation, it's a less accessible, equitable environment and now that we're settling in, we're going to be here, it's trying to navigate what it means that this is, “Okay this is going to be our work environment for now.”
And then there's the question of, once we get, as mentioned "the reopening" and getting back to it, what of all of this might stay? What might continue out of what developed during the "pause" of conventional theater when that begins to reopen? That's a great curiosity for me. In what of all that has developed during this time, what of it is just a stop-gap measure, what if it is... it's like "Oh we think we're... let's keep that."
From the listeners at home: What do you hope stays? I feel like geography means an entirely different thing now. Both in terms of being who we're able to work with and how. It's not...I'm remembering I had, well back to Teenage Dick and to Shannon who was coming in from Philadelphia for rehearsals to New York City, and to think that, to save an amazing performer like her from all of that travel and still be able to work together. Or, yeah no, I can collaborate with someone on the other side of the planet, like time zone coordinating notwithstanding, and that's just as "normal" right now because we're in the same spaces us in the city, it looks the same. I think it would be geographical possibilities that opens up is something I hope can stay both on the artistic side of things, collaborators and also on the audience side of things. It's exciting to be like someone can watch something happening live who normally would not be able to access it just because they live six hours away. I find that very exciting.
Also, for me, I've greatly appreciated, thinking back to the past couple of, the way it works, it would have been a huge chore for me to get to work when I just spent two hours literally lying on the floor because I'm too exhausted to try and pick myself up off of it, but my computer is just over there. I can manage getting myself up over there to have a zoom planning call. And that's just as "normal" now as what used to be the expectation of well we're going to meet in person, right? And that has in some cases made things a lot more manageable for me. Peter, what's been your experience with some of the things brought on by our current situation?
PR: For me, that week of the closure, I was working with Blue Man Group. I was trying to do Front of House for Blue Man Group, so I was on that process, and then I was most likely going to be a house manager for Playwrights Realm that would start in a week. So it was like, okay I've got lots of work lined up. And I was at my temporary receptionist job at Blue School which is an elementary school, on that Thursday, and I was sitting behind there and watching the news come in and was like, "Oh Broadway closed" and so I was like, okay all of my work is gone. And it's all part time work. I'm a regular employee of Blue Man Group so I have very low. But basically I was like, I got my schedule kind of set and my work situated for a little while. No.
PR: And it felt like there was a lot, I mean, obviously a lot of energy that goes into getting around to those places and so I've thought a lot about that. I've been, part of the reason I have the apartment in midtown is just because it's a way that makes me navigate the city in a way that I can. I tried living in Inwood the first year I was here, and I was at The Public and there was the day that the, or I mean the month that the A Train doesn't work and it takes two hours to get there and back and I'm like, I can't do this. I can't manage my energy, and related to that, the amount of rush you need, I think you have different compromises, you need that time to rest. If it takes me longer to do something or maybe it takes a different timeline to learn something that also means I also need rest, which I think is also going back to that timeline I'm just cluing back into that. And so I think that the idea of using zoom is really great in certain respects because it can open up a lot of time that maybe you wouldn't have if you could avoid having to travel anywhere and do that aspect, and I hope that there becomes a lot of flexibility in that.
I hope Hamilton has inspired people to look at the many options, and that you could actually start off in, like why can't we stream more theater or experiences ahead of time? It's like if the theater is not accessible or built that way right now, and it's a historic building that you can't see why it can't, isn't there a stream option available regularly just as a standard? If that's also a way that, so I think that accessibility and different options, I hope that there's more variety in what's available depending on the companies and just how they work with it. I have not gotten to actually zoom a show yet, or experience yet, but I also know somebody where I started I was catching somebody who did a lot of zoom work during the summer, and actually her main theater is now trying to open up because they are in a different state, and trying to go back into the world, and actually she can't work because she's in a family full of people with immune compromization and herself, so she actually feels like she can't do it now. So now she's out of work where she's actually had a bunch of work during this first part of quarantine because she was doing a bunch of things. It's interesting now to see that, and I hope that there's...It's interesting in that respect because I don't understand, isn't there some flexibility still maybe how you can still work seeing that we can do these different opportunities.
AKH: It would be good if we could end up with a wider range of what we can do.
PR: I do know that it really, it is really important, and I definitely miss being in a group of people because that is something that you do need is that energy. But I hope that there's, I don't know how that works. Like there's that flexibility of like sometimes when people if you're not feeling well, is that a standard practice like you can actually just zoom into rehearsal today. And of course there might be differences if you're in a staging rehearsal. That might be a problem. But also if someone's really sick that one day maybe they can still get the blocking like having an assistant stand in learning and they can engage with the material. I wonder if that's an aspect. And that's a way for some people to manage a rehearsal process or even a tech day, could someone zoom part of it a tech day just so that they see where the lights are but they don't need to be in the theater for 12 hours a day.
AKH: If we become more discerning in the neutral-positive sense of discriminating in what do you actually need to be here for and to really just be respectful of that time and energy of physical presence because yeah there are things that definitely it's necessary for. There are some where I feel like it's eh maybe, maybe not. And especially if the train stops, and you mentioned somebody being sick, and maybe another thing that I wondered about coming out of this is the culture of "Oh you're not feeling well, but come in" But now everyone having disease and sickness on the mind, are we going to have more respect for health in general just being like, No if you're not feeling well, don't drag yourself in because there are other ways. There are other methods and other avenues available, and that we are giving a priority to health and well-being.
PR: I think it's just, I think it's more the question I hope we all consider the different ways that we can use ourselves or other stage managers. I hope the theater community will start experimenting or opening up their mind of what they think a stage manager has to be or how those teams are built or what is expected. And so I think it's that interesting thing of like not putting in a full job description of this is what you have to do each time, but also having that conversation like when people post a position or are talking about we'd like to look for a stage manager that can fill this show and these are the things we're thinking about but we're open to have a conversation with you and actually come from an open space. We'd like to build a really great team because we're looking to build a supportive environment while we're developing the show. If there's some way to leave job descriptions to leave it more open instead of being in like you're this thing and having that be open and actually appreciated and people are looking for that is to hear a new voice or hear of a new way of stage managing. Because I think it opens up how we produce theater. What is actually having that sense of openness?
AKH: And I feel like also until two things that struck me One: it seemed to tie into the value that we have touched on earlier of just having conversations from as early a point as possible and the value of that, but also just made me think about until the point that the job descriptions do open up the conversation for people not to notice the red flags when they are there, but also to not discount yourself, or not to pre-disqualify yourself from something just because you don't see the opening written in for you yet. It might not be there yet but it might actually exist if you go for it. It might lead to it then being more open in the future.
PR: And own your story so that it's important if it doesn't work too that's sort of a barrier too of like if I say this then I might miss out on something, but it's actually important. That's why I trust myself. If it doesn't actually work it's probably not the right time. But actually I need to keep on being clear about what I see and what I want. It's the right time when it's the right time and you're meant to be here and be doing this and be part of the theater community. Find your path. Of course part of the beauty of theater is that we're supposed to be keeping on searching for the new experience and the new openness and the new way of doing something, and so if we keep that instead of limiting ourselves, the world's our oyster. I don't know.
AKH: Yes! I love oysters!