Chairs ghost precisely into place. Tables, too. On cue. Actors appear. Lit. With props (and hugs). That’s because stage managers are at work. You see them changing the furniture, but you don’t notice them. Actors notice them. They’re not called managers for nothing. They’re running the show from behind the scenes, assuring that actors make their entrances and that the set is ready for them.
Photo Credit: Rick LaFleur
I got to watch two experts at work during the recent Town & Gown play, The Language Archive. Husband and wife team Anna and Nelson Reynolds were organized, efficient and filled with good vibrations, which they dispensed in hugs that energized the actors. (Nelson will be needing his own hugs, since he’s acting in the upcoming T&G production, The Servant of Two Masters, opening Aug. 10.)
Granted, actors have tough jobs and need all the hugs they can get. They’ve got to memorize all those lines and make them believable in front of the audience, but none of it would work if they didn’t show up on cue and find their chair in its place and well lit. In our case that meant Isaac Callahan, who designed the lighting and ran the board to make sure it worked. Isaac is another one of those theater people who can do anything well and cheerfully.
Like Nathan Altman. Nathan, literally, does it all. He has star power. He has graced the cover of Flagpole three different times as the lead in T&G shows. He sings, he dances, he is serious, he is funny. He does it all, and he works just as hard behind the scenes. Most lately, he was assistant director on The Language Archive, helping to shepherd the development of the play, and he also designed the minimalist set that had to shift from scene to scene right before your eyes.
Mike Burke was the other assistant director, who helped the actors with their roles and was one of the actors himself, sort of like the playing manager some baseball teams used to have.
With such assistance, it’s no wonder director Julia Roessing delivered what became a sold-out smash hit.
I found myself during the work on the play comparing its construction to the production of Flagpole. Our writers and photographers are out in front of the audience, but they couldn’t be there without a tightly knit network behind the scenes. Our director is Alicia Nickles; she is like the quarterback on a football team, who has to know every player’s assignment. She is also in charge of our advertising sales, which, through the efforts of Anita Aubrey and Jessica Mangum, provide the lifeblood that keeps Flagpole going. That means that all the advertisers you see in Flagpole are vital players behind the scene, too. Anna LeBer creates those ads, while Larry Tenner designs each week’s Flagpole, moderates the cover selection and takes each story and photo and puts them into the pages with the best possible visual impact. Music Editor Gabe Vodicka doubles as managing editor, to oversee editing and copy flow and figuring out what goes where in the paper. City Editor Blake Aued is prominent in our pages but also has his own editorial duties behind the scenes. Our office manager, Stephanie Rivers, not only does all the administrative chores that keep a business running, she also works on the calendar and manages our classified ads. And Jessica Smith, our arts editor, moonlights as our distribution director, being sure that she has enough drivers every week to get Flagpole out to the 300 locations where it can be picked up in Athens-Clarke County and Oconee and Oglethorpe counties. And speaking of drivers, local musician and tile-layer extraordinaire Charles Greenleaf has for two decades picked up the papers from the printer every Tuesday and distributed them downtown.
The paper you hold in your hand is the tip of an iceberg—the final product of a week’s worth of work by people who not only know their jobs and are good at them, but who also have a fierce pride in Flagpole and what our paper means to our community.
With a play and a newspaper, as with a band, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. The show must go on, and all those who work behind the scenes assure that it will.
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