Lovers and Liars : A David Garrick Double Bill
It is almost inevitable that as a young theatre company enters production week, a multitude of problems will arise. As a stage manager it is my job to spot to and tackle difficulties that have crept up unnoticed, such as impossible scene changes or props that are still missing. It is a credit to all the hard work that has been done in the past weeks that my job has been made incredibly easy. Having stage managed five productions previous to this one I felt the familiar sense of dread and pre-empted tiredness that normally accompanies the concluding weeks of a rehearsal process. This time, however, I have found myself in bed hours before midnight, no mean feat I can assure you!
I was lucky enough to be able to work closely with the set designer so I was very familiar with the set by the time it came for the get in. I knew how to assemble and remove it quickly and efficiently. I also found it very easy to work with the set team of The Lying Valet who quickly and confidently explained the more complex elements of their set to me. I had watched runs of Miss in her Teens to familiarise myself with the blocking. On the first occasion I had become so interested in the performance I forgot for a large part of one scene to take notes and had to double check some facts with the DSM to prevent mistakes. Our props mistress had been kind enough to take me on several expeditions into town and show me the items she had carefully sourced so I could get an idea of how many people it would take to lift things and how much space on the stage it might occupy. All in all I felt very confident entering the normally fraught production week.
My first major challenge was to orchestrate the changeover between the two shows that will happen in the interval. At the beginning of the entire process the directors and the set designers had come up with the idea that both plays would be set in the same household, just centuries apart. Gayless and Sharp of The Lying Valet would have purchased the 18th Century manor house and modernised it with a 1920’s aesthetic as was fashionable at the time. Luke de Belder, the director of The Lying Valet, had been curious to play with the idea of using the time in the interval to establish this fact. We toyed with the brilliant idea of having Gayless and Sharp enter the stage during the interval where we would create a small, silent performance demonstrating them remodeling the old house. I therefore created two plans of action. One which I felt was the most seamless and quick way of changing the sets, and another that would perhaps be more comical, such as only putting in one door and forgetting another, losing steps and setting aside jobs for Gayless and Sharp to attempt badly. After several attempts and a long discussion, it was ultimately, and unanimously, agreed not to pursue the performance element. While we had discovered many beautiful comical moments, much more thought would be required to ensure the way we presented the characters would support the way they behave through the rest of the play. Also both groups have put care into the foyer and the information we want to present pre-show. A performance onstage may dissuade people from discovering the interesting information in the foyer. We decided to go for the most efficient and swift scene change, allowing the impressiveness of the set to engage and intrigue the audience.
My task for next week is now to keep track of the seemingly endless number of lists I have and ensure that I, and my team of stage hands, practice all scene transitions enough so that the hard work of the set and costume designers shine and the actors can focus on their job of performing, confident that they are entirely supported every step of the way.