I’d never expected to ever be a stage manager. When you work on shows with someone who is an experienced and awesome stage manager then it’s a job that is definitely not available. Plus I’m actually quite happy just moving chairs and tables, making pictures crooked or cleaning blood* off the set and leaving the responsibilities to somebody else.
But when James couldn’t go to the Loxwood Joust this year, and it was suggested that I could stand in for him as stage manager, looking after a few artists on a little stage in the middle of a woodland, I found myself saying “Yes”. After all, I know the festival already, know my way about a stage and best of all I could get advice and instructions direct from the expert.
So nervously I set off on a Friday night with a new tent, a clock and a clipboard with the running order and detailed instructions attached. My instructions said I needed to acquire a broom and inspecting my domain on arrival I could see that I did, as the stewards were laying out straw bales in the woodland and using the stage as (sorry) a staging post. Still, it was getting dark, so I put my worries aside (mostly) and went to the bar for some mead.
Early the next morning I hung up my clock backstage with a copy of the running order and went in search of the broom. That found, I made a start by sweeping the copious amounts of straw off the stage. Feeling I had now claimed my territory, I settled in to do my job. By midday I had met everyone performing on my stage that weekend and the sound guy (who had the harder job), made a “No Entry” sign and told countless (not many, I just wasn’t counting them) people not to come backstage and, most importantly, got the first act on stage successfully. With some surprise, I realised I actually could do this and somehow my earlier nerves had evaporated. Perhaps I was just too busy keeping track of the time.
Still like all theatre jobs, it evolved over the four days of the festival until I was also plugging in microphones, laying out tambourines and hunting for the juggler’s balls**. All this in a (surprising) glow of calm confidence, and no, it wasn’t just the result of the mead.
Next year I have no doubt James will be back to reclaim his stage and of course he’ll do an even better job than I did, but for once I have been the stage manager and I loved every second.
*Fake obviously. Unless someone really upset the SM…
**Crystal balls. He threw them off stage when he’d finished juggling with them. What did you think I meant?