StageWrite welcomes the president of the Board of Directors to the blog today. Debbie Owen, who frequently serves as stage manager for our productions, is in a unique position to tell us all why Build a Backstage is such an important project for our theater.
Let me take you on a tour of our current backstage:
When you sit in the audience enjoying a show on the mainstage, you may not realize that the back wall you are looking at is also the exterior wall of the theater. From the wings where the actors make their entrances, a small space opens directly to the deck that runs along the back of the building. To make a costume change mid-show, the actors go down a set of wooden steps, around a corner through the grass, and down another set of steps to reach the changing rooms below. If it’s raining, the stage manager sets umbrellas by the doors,upstairs and down, so actors can make this trip without getting their costumes wet. If a costume change is too quick, actors change right on the back deck, no matter the weather. If it’s windy, the wing doors have a habit of blowing open at the most inconvenient moments, and in one memorable show I remember chasing angel wings through the backyard between scenes!
So what is goal number one for the Build a Backstage campaign? We plan to re-build the staircase from the basement to the stage level and add a quick-change room in the backstage area, so that actors can make costume changes without fighting the elements or missing an entrance.
If you’ve attended any of our shows, you have undoubtedly enjoyed the beautiful sets that enhance the performance. Have you ever thought about how those sets get built? Volunteers come every Saturday for six to eight weeks for set work-days. Weather permitting, much of the construction takes place on the back deck or on the grass. Materials are stored on and under the deck where they are not fully protected from the weather. When volunteers arrive for the work-day, they have to make sure the materials they need haven’t been damaged by weather during the week and collect tools from three different storage areas around the building. Because a lot of construction also takes place on the stage, they have to thoroughly clean up at the end of the day so that the stage is ready for rehearsal. Our dedicated volunteers do all of this cheerfully out of commitment to the quality of our productions, but the difficulties of the work environment are challenging.
The second goal of Build a Backstage is to provide enclosed workspace for set building and painting, including dedicated storage areas which will reduce waste of materials, add security for our tools, and offer the ability to craft larger set pieces.
I do most of my theater work from backstage. Early on, I learned to define my stage manager role as taking care of any details that may cause stress for the actors, allowing them to put all their energy into their performance on stage. When people ask how the Build a Backstage project will help our productions, I think of it the same way: The audience may never see what is happening behind the curtain, but every performance will be enhanced by an improved work environment for the actors and crew.
Thanks to the response from our year-end fundraising appeal, here is the current status of the Build a Backstage campaign:
So where do we stand now? Our fundraising chair, Randy Clark, is setting up meetings with individuals and organizations that might be willing to support this project. If you can introduce us to a person or group that could help we would love to hear from you!