Find out about a day on tour with Stage Management
When Cinderella arrives at the ball in her pumpkin hot air balloon, it’s a magical moment and one audience members never forget, but what you might not know is that a member of Scottish Ballet’s Stage Management team is at the side of stage cueing every action, making sure this spectacular scene runs perfectly at every single performance.
“Everything that happens in terms of lighting, sets and special effects comes from Stage Management,” explains Sue May Hawley, head of the Stage Management team. “Each member of the technical staff will respond to us giving them a particular instruction.”
Scottish Ballet’s Stage Management team, made up of Sue, Sheelagh McCabe, Deputy Stage Manager, and Assistant Stage Manager Alice Horsey, is responsible for overseeing that absolutely every aspect of the performance runs smoothly. This is a process which begins back at Scottish Ballet headquarters at Tramway. From the moment rehearsals begin, the team will be in the studio. All three members of the team read music, and as the dancers learn the piece, they will note in the score all that happens effectively learning the piece along with the dancers.
Sue also handles a great deal of administration and circulating information such as running times and dressing room requirements to each theatre at least a month in advance, as well as fitting in staff meetings and delivering talks for occasions like Friends events or Doors Open Day.
Another of the overall team’s responsibilities is sourcing props, like the Stepmother’s ornate pink telephone, which can found anywhere from antique shops to eBay and will be adapted for use on stage.
“Props for a long show like Cinderella can wear out because the rehearsal and tour period are so long,” says Sue. “When we last toured Cinderella, the blancmange that the Stepsister pulls out of the fridge fell apart after continued use, so I had to make a completely new one using a jelly mould!”
Along with the Technical and Wardrobe teams, Stage Management are out on the road for the entire tour, getting into the theatre before the dancers. When they arrive at the theatre, they will check everything, from dressing rooms right through to preparing the stage with specific marks for particular pieces of furniture that have to be lit in a specific spot.
Before a performance, the dancers will take class and rehearse in the theatre, during which time the Stage Management team will be present, and then along with the technical staff , the team will reset the stage before the next performance.
Once the curtain rises, the team will literally run the show, from lighting, scene changes and special effects to emergency evacuations. Even the voice you will hear welcoming you to the show and reminding you to switch off your mobile before the show begins belongs to Sue.
Two members of the team run their show in the wings taking care of props and furniture and assisting in scene changes, and are immediately on hand to help with any problems such as any minor injuries that are part of a dancer’s life. Depending on the production, they may also help with interval changeovers and operate elements of the set: for example, they helped control the falling paper birds in Val Caniparoli’s Still Life which toured as part of Geometry and Grace last autumn.
The team member cueing the show will be in an area known as the prompt corner with the production’s score known as the prompt copy, reading the music as it is played and giving the technical staff their instructions through a headset. Cinderella shall go to the ball, but not without everyone backstage following their cues.
“I like working on the big shows like Cinderella because you have these huge transformations, and I love the feeling when you’ve done a show a few times, everything’s working together well and you feel relaxed and confident,” says Sue. “It’s like learning to drive; to begin with, the book is driving you, but after a while, it becomes a book you’re comfortable with and know well, and you begin to drive it.”
Watch video: Stage Management get ready for a performance of Alice
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