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Williamstown Theatre Festival

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Interview | Michael Rico Cohen, Production Stage Manager for Samuel J. and K.

I had a chance to interview, Michael Rico Cohen, Production Stage Manager for Samuel J. and K. about what exactly is the stage manager’s job.
Sarah Slight: From what I observe, the stage manager seems to be involved in everything related the production he/she is working on. Is that true? What is your job?
Michael Rico Cohen: The stage manager is involved in many facets of a show, but primarily serves as a communication gateway, who organizes and coordinates a production. Specifically, the stage manager communicates with all of the designers, crew, actors, and management/staff of the theatre to ensure that rehearsals, tech, and performances happen successfully. Some other specific stage manager tasks include creating rehearsal schedules and a ‘prompt book,’ which serves as an archive of the show. It is important to note that there are also production managers, company managers and general managers who handle many things that the stage manager is not responsible for, such as contracts, budgets, transportation, housing, payroll, and more.
SS: What is a typical day of rehearsal like for you?
MRC: A typical rehearsal day for the actors in Samuel J. and K. is 11am-5pm. (Many shows with larger casts rehearse 10a-6p) However, I always work before and after that designated time, as the stage manager is responsible for setting up and striking the rehearsal space. In addition, at the conclusion of every rehearsal, I send out a ‘rehearsal report’ which details all of the work done that day as well as a ‘daily call’ which is the schedule for the following day.

SS: What changes once the play moves from rehearsal to tech?

MRC: When a show is in tech, we move from the rehearsal space to the stage, and slowly work through the play incorporating the lighting cues, sound cues, costumes and scenery. During tech, the stage manager is the one who is coordinating, or ‘calling,’ the cues and ensuring that all of the components of the show mesh together well. This task must be taken seriously, as often times the safety of the people onstage relies on specific cues happening at very specific times.

SS: And from tech to performance?

MRC: When we shift to performances the show doesn’t usually change much after that, and the actors and stage manager are then focused on maintaining the show as it was when we opened.

SS: Do you get to pick the shows you want to work on?

MRC: Sometimes you just want to work at a specific theatre, and they pick the show for you. And sometimes you pursue a show itself.

SS: You've been to Williamstown before--what do you like about being here?
MRC: It’s my third summer at Williamstown, and what keeps me coming back is that everyone who works at WTF is here only because they love it.

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