Appreciating What Stage Managers Do

Dateline: Valentine’s weekend in Pine Mountain Club (PMC), California.

The Mountain Theater Alliance (MTA) is staging a production of Ken Ludwig’s Be My Baby. The romantic comedy captured Broadway audiences with its story of a crusty Scot and stuffy English woman going to San Francisco to pick up a baby.

There is a special genius in minimizing a show meant for a Broadway stage to a 22-seat dinner theater Pine Mountain Club Internet coffee shop. The sets include a Scottish estate, an airline terminal and a plane, a San Francisco hotel room, a church, a ship, and a walk in the park.

And when Valentine’s weekend arrives, you will believe that you are there.

Mike Cram of Artworks Community Gallery, a retired contractor, built the stage in a corner of the café and will create the ship’s railing, a Scottish garden—and more. Bill and Kat Fair of MTA, the show’s producers, will create the sound effects and lighting. Stacey Havener, our director, will mold and shape our performances and keep the show on track.

Until now I didn’t appreciate what stage managers do. Bobbie Ladin from the Basecamp Café and Lee Dunnavant from Artworks are the genial sprites who dart onto the stage between scenes to snatch the cushions and a throw off two chairs to change the setting from Scotland to San Francisco. Behind the curtain are the offices of All Seasons Realty. From now until the first performance, Carole Swanston has to sell houses amid all the props; the baby carriage, a stump, a wheelchair, and a pile of odds and ends that are critically necessary for the play.

The stage managers not only prompt the players, but along with the director, they choreograph the actors. They decide entrances and exits in a tiny, tiny space filled with large nervous people. They find the exact place to put the baby so that it is available in the millisecond between scenes. They know where each actor must stand so that they physical comedy works. They also prompt us when we forget our lines.

It’s all coming together now at our almost nightly rehearsals. Did I mention the fun of community theater? The play itself is funny: some great lines. But we laugh a lot with each other and the goofing around is just as much fun as the play.

Join us Valentine’s weekend. Call for reservations or stop by Basecamp.

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