Sometimes, you just stumble into love – even if it’s off stage. And that’s how Carli Starman became a stage manager for the Pioneer Theatre Guild.
“When I was a sophomore my friend Louise was a junior and she was a stage manager and it always seemed like she was having a lot of fun and loved stage management so I decided to try it in the spring,” she said. “I also had been questioning if I really liked acting and wanted to try something new, so I really just stumbled upon stage management and fell in love with it.”
Starman is the stage manager for PTG’s upcoming production of “Matilda the Musical!” The musical opens Nov. 2 and runs through Nov. 10.
So what exactly does a stage manager do – besides manage the stage? Turns out they do quite a lot.
“It’s really a two-part job,” says Starman. “During the rehearsal process we run rehearsals and manage the schedule, which includes stuff like sending out emails, making a calendar of all the cast member’s conflicts, taking attendance, making announcements, setting up for rehearsals(with speakers and pianos and stuff).
“We also take blocking notes which means we write down entrances and exits, draw out big dance formations, and write down any type of group that is made so that the actors and directors can have a backup. We also make a lot of copies of scripts and music.
“Towards the end of the rehearsal process we are on book, which means we follow along in the script and if an actor forgets a line we can be there to give it to them and we make rehearsal reports of what we do in rehearsal each day and what we need from each of the crews.”
Wow, that is a lot. What? There is more?
“Once tech week starts our jobs change a lot,” says Starman. “When you’re backstage (which is when you’re first or second assistant) you run the whole backstage area which includes cuing anything that happens backstage, keeping it quiet and controlled so that you can’t hear backstage and it’s a safe environment, and communicating with the backstage crew (sets, props, paint, costumes and make up).
“The assistants also place spikes, which is tape to show where each set piece goes on stage and glow tape the set to make it easier for the actors to see edges of the set when it’s dark on stage.”
Starman says all stage managers communicate with each other during a show. The lights and sound manager and the stage manager communicate via the telex (a radio headset).
“When you’re the head stage manager, which I am now, you are in the audience with the members of lights crew, the directors and the producers,” she says. “The lights crew makes the cues and I write them all down (usually about 300 or more) in my script with what they are and when they happen. While this is happening I relay backstage cues to the assistant stage managers, spotlight cues to the person who is up in the catwalks running the center spotlight, and sound cues to the person in the sound booth.
“Once all the cues are in and we start to run the show, I call all the cues for lights, which basically means that I tell the person who is running the lights board when every light change happens and they follow me, so I’m responsible for when all the light changes occur (not the actual lighting itself because I don’t program the lights, just when they happen).”
It’s a big job with big responsibilities. It’s the chef in the kitchen, the mechanic in the garage and the quarterback on the field. Without the stage manager, the show just wouldn’t go. And organization and preparation are two of the keys to being a good stage manager – and it doesn’t hurt to be able to multi-task.
“Organization is really big,” says Starman. “You have to be able to balance a ton of different things and communicate between a lot of people so if you can’t stay organized and on top of your work then you aren’t going to be successful. You also need to be confident because you have to make a lot of announcements and be in charge so if you aren’t confident in yourself no one will follow your lead.
“And definitely problem solving is huge, you have to solve problems on the fly so it’s really important to do that and make good decisions because people are depending on you to do that.”
Starman says “Matilda the Musical!” is a “tech heavy” show which makes things even more difficult and challenging for the stage manager.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces to manage and the transitions in the show are really difficult because there are a lot of big set pieces,” she said. “But overall, the show has been going really well! We’re about to have our first dress rehearsal and first run with the band which is super chaotic but also really fun because you really get to see the show come together.”
“Matilda the Musical” is about a girl who has special powers and loves to read. Unfortunately, her family does not feel the same way about books and they ignore and mistreat her. She goes to a school run by the horrible Miss Trunchbull but school is made tolerable because of her teacher, the kind Miss Honey. Matilda is a great show to bring kids to because it is based off of the Roald Dahl novel.
Plus, it has an “amazing” cast and crew.
“It’s a pretty small cast for PTG (only about 40), but they’re really awesome,” says Starman. “The crew is super big for this show too which is always really fun! I work with all the crews, sets, lights, props, sound, paint, costumes, and make up, and of course my incredible assistant stage managers Kat Berens and Lindsay Robert! The three of us have really bonded throughout the show and work super well together. I definitely could not do it without them.
“Matilda is a show where cast and crew really have to work closely together and it is turning out amazingly.”
Carli, the daughter of Helen and Jeff Starman, has a 3.8 GPA and also is a in the A Capella group Sha Bop Shoppe at Pioneer HS. Her previous work with PTG includes being in the ensemble for “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “High School Musical.” She was in a student production her sophomore year and directed a show her junior year. She also was second assistant stage manager for “In The Heights” her sophomore year; first assistant stage manager for “Willy Wonka” her junior year and head stage manager for “Future Stars” and “Fame” during her junior year.
She hopes to be involved in theater in the future.
“This year in theater I’m hoping to student produce for Les Mis and then I’m hoping to go to college somewhere in the Midwest to study nursing,” she says.
But she can figure that out later – she’s a little busy now.
“Matilda the Musical”
Tickets: $10 (Students, 65+ Seniors, PHS Staff); $15 (Adults). Reserved Seating Tickets are available and on sale NOW at A2tix.com. General Admission Tickets will be available at the door starting one hour before each performance. All performances are in Schreiber Auditorium.
Performance Dates: ● Saturday, November 2, 7:30 pm ● Sunday November 3, 2:00 pm (matinee) ● Friday, November 8, 7:30 pm ● Saturday November 9, 7:30 pm ● Sunday November 10, 2:00 pm (matinee)