Behind the Scenes at the Winter New Works Festival
Theater student Winter Mallon was assigned the stage management of an original work in her first year. Working on “The Pigs in Trenchcoats” as a part of Cornish’s Winter New Works Festival, she gained new insights into the strenuous task of working behind the scenes.
by Winter Mallon
As a part of the Cornish curriculum, first year Theater students are given a show to work on and a crew assignment to fulfill in order to show them how other parts of the theater operate. For my crew assignment, I had the opportunity to work as the stage manager for a reading of The Pigs in Trenchcoats, a new play written by fourth year student Anu Brown that premiered in Cornish’s Winter New Works Festival. Being a musical theater major, I’m usually found on stage rather than behind it, so the position had seemed daunting, but I was still excited to work in this position.
Since the piece was a reading of the play rather than a full production, the task of stage managing was significantly lessened. I was to attend all rehearsals and performances, set up and clean up for rehearsals, make sure everyone was where they needed to be, email out messages from the director, write rehearsal and performance reports, and just generally be available for anything people in the production needed. For this particular reading, I was also asked to read stage directions. For a full production, these would not be read.
Due to the small number of people working on this production, when performances neared, there were tasks uncovered that I filled in for. Rather than reading stage cues, I became light and sound tech for the production. I learned how to use the systems the day before performances. Despite being stressful, learning how to operate lights and sound was incredibly fun and I imagine it’ll be plenty useful in my career.
Working off-stage fills you with an entirely different stress. While working tech, I was nervous because I didn’t want to mess up the entire production with a wrong light cue rather than a wrong line. It’s impossible to understand the amount of work a position is until you are placed into it. Being a stage manager for a few weeks definitely made me gain a deeper understanding and a greater appreciation for stage managers and all other behind the scenes people.
Photo: Emma Standerford. Performance of “Pigs In Trenchcoats” at 2019 Winter New Works Festival.