Getting Back to my Roots

This post is by Kate Gibson, one of our Production Coordinators.

Kate in the scene shop

Photo courtesy of Kate Gibson

This was my first trip to the USITT conference, and I spent a good deal wishing I had even known about it as a student. I attended this conference coming from the perspective of someone who manages theatre. This could mean a variety of things: stage management, production management, theatre management. And, there is a definitive “Management” track that is a part of the conference. Much else is geared towards the actual technical aspects of the theatre and the educational perspective. So, while my colleagues were mingling with various vendors, former colleagues, and classmates, I spent a great deal of time getting back to my roots.

One of my first roles in the theatre was as a stage manager. I was fourteen and my high school drama teacher took me under his wing and decided to show me the stage manager ropes. I got extremely lucky — couldn’t have had a better teacher — as he is now one of the most sought after Broadway and national tour production stage managers. I have found that I always return to these roots when starting a new project, working at a new theatre, or looking for a new enterprise.

Stage managers are the glue of everything you see on stage. I truly believe that every person thinking about a leadership role in any business should be forced to spend some time shadowing the stage manager at their local theatre. They are juggling personalities, safety, egos, art, and acting as cheerleader, mom, foreman, nurse and director. If you can do that, you can do anything.

So, going to the management sessions at USITT, many of which were geared towards early career managers, served as a reminder of the basics of this incredibly difficult field. I spent much of my time, listening to sessions with the ears of a college senior, instead of those of a seasoned professional.

And it was refreshing. I was reminded that no matter where you are, what you’re working on, or who you’re working with, the job remains the same. I received justification for the work I’ve done over the years. I am inspired to create new ideas and projects. I attended sessions on managing new plays, creating productions in ad hoc spaces, managing students, and production meetings – all things I do at the Center.

The following week back at work, I found that my production meeting felt lighter to me. I was reassured that my work is strong and accurate. I took the little reminders of tools long forgotten and re-adapted them to my current projects. I was reminded that even when it’s hard, there is an amazing joy in working on the new pieces that we do at the Center.