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How to be A Really Useful Engine

A Really Useful Engine



To Thomas the Tank Engine, the greatest compliment in the world is to be declared a ‘really useful engine’, which is to say, an engine that not only performs their job efficiently and effectively, but employs problem solving skills and smarts to seek out difficulties and resolve them.

And while I do love the creative spark of acting and writing, there is a very different, and very real, satisfaction in being a really useful engine. Which is what draws me to stage management.
Stage managing, particularly when there aren’t any ASMs, is all about supporting the production in any way. Primarily, stage managers provide a concrete, stable foundation for a production to stand on, through scheduling, through open communication between all the various departments, and through discipline. Spreadsheets of props, set pieces, and costume items. Entrances and exits, movement patterns written down. Lighting and sound cues noted. In a world full of creative actors, directors, artists, and designers, someone needs to be there with a calm, steady hand and a mindset that looks immediately to finding solutions, to helping foster everyone else’s visions (while being mindful of the budget). Essentially, stage management do everything they can to get these great lumbering beasts on their feet.

And all that can be so very, very satisfying.

Tonight is opening night for The Great American Trailerpark Musical, which I was brought in to stage manage midway through the rehearsal process. The last project I stage managed, Sonnets For An Old Century, also brought me in midway through their process. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll be able to enter a project right from the first design meetings. Because if there is anything I have learned from this process, it is how key and crucial pre-planning and prep work is for this position. I did a lot of things right (such as having a conversation with the director on how he wanted me to act within the rehearsal process, particularly when it came to giving line notes and the like), but I also have a lot to build on, including building a proper stage management kit. Perhaps not as grandiose as Lois’s kit, but then, I’m not the professional she is. Yet.

Right, almost time for the opening curtain. The audience is pouring in. The adventure awaits.

Wish us broken legs!

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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