Delegate? Ha! Not if you're a stage manager

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | 4:54 p.m. CST; updated 11:41 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 25, 2010
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A look at the work of the stage manager for "Brighton Beach Memoirs."

COLUMBIA — Stage manager Madeline Bender is the first person to arrive at MU's Rhynsburger Theatre and the last one to leave. Two days before the opening night of the coming-of-age story "Brighton Beach Memoirs," the cast and crew run through a dress rehearsal.

Bender's job is to make things go smoothly. "I once read in a textbook that the stage manager knows everything about everything all the time," Bender said. "I try to — but I don't."

If you go

What: MU production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs" by Neil Simon. Directed by James Miller.

Where: Rhynsburger Theatre, Hitt Street and University Avenue, MU

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; March 4-7 (Sunday performance is at 2 p.m.)

Cost: $12 for adults, $10 for MU faculty and staff, and $8 for students and seniors. Box office is 882-7529; more information at


If Bender were to write a diary of her evening, this is what it would look like:

5:40 p.m: Arrive and unlock doors: five doors to the theater, booth, costume shop, backstage doors, shop doors, stage manager cabinet, dressing rooms, prop closet and light room.

6:05: Kerri Packard (costume director) asks about costume pre-sets and any fast costume changes.

6:08: Sheldon Price (master electrician) drops by to talk and asks if he needs to change the bulbs in some of the house lights.

6:15: Tell Joseph Burch (assistant stage manager) they will have to sweep the stage tonight.

6:16: Start making notes in the book (the script with notations and blocking).

6:21: Packard says she is "befuddled" that the female actors have not arrived because they usually get there early to get into costumes and do hair.

6:24: Make sure a chair on set has been repaired.

6:27: Check the call board to see who has arrived. Remind people to sign in.

6:33: Talk with crew member about the whereabouts of the silverware.

6:34: Ask Christine Snyder (sound designer) about doing sound checks and Elliot Alvis (light board operator) about dimmer checks.

6:39: Turn on running lights backstage. Turn off other lights.

6:42: Investigate a strange smell backstage. Discover pickles (a prop).

6:47: Watch the moon rise onstage (a lighting effect).

6:50: Matt Heapes (lighting designer) announces there still is a ladder backstage. Help Burch move it to the side.

6:53: Ask Snyder to do the sound check. Inspect the night's meal: vanilla pudding and Kit Kat bars, which substitute for the cabbage and liver mentioned in the play.

7:02: Go over light cues with Heapes.

7:08: Visit the dressing rooms (check first to see if it's safe before going into the guys' room). Ask if they want to do a cast warm-up together.

7:10: Knock on (director) Jim Miller's door for a quick check.

7:21: Burch asks what I'm doing. Me: "I'm always checking on everything making sure people do what they're supposed to when they're supposed to."

7:23: Me: "Everything look all right, Joe?" Burch: "We're in business."

7:24: The director and crew comment on Grant Watkins' (the character Jack's) makeup. Me: "Do you wish you had makeup on, Joe?" Burch: "Do you think I wake up looking this good?"

7:27: Talk to Snyder about pre-stage music and intermission music.

7:37: Stop one of the actors from leaving the warm-up and tell him to be a part of the ensemble. Check your props, people — the house is opening in two minutes.

7:38: Me: "Everything ready to go?" Burch: "I haven't done a mic check yet."

7:48: "Ten til places. Have a good show."

7:52: Sit between Alvis and Anderson in the booth and flip through script book and check cues.

7:59: "Remember — if you have issues, let me know and we'll deal with it."

8 sharp: "Lights — go. Sound — go."


Throughout the show: Call out sound and light cues, and watch the stage.

10:20: "Light 97 . Nice show, everybody."

10:33: "Nice show, ladies. Anyone have questions right now? Nice show, guys."

10:34: Check with the director to see if there are issues. Miller says to fix a light cue and calls it a beautiful production. Me: "It's one of my favorite shows."

10:38: Tell actors it's OK to leave.

10:44: "People good in the shop? I'm going to shut the curtain. People, watch your heads!"

10:47: Return a pair of brown shoes left on the set to costume.

10:51: Turn the final lights off. Stage goes dark.

11:17: Lock doors and head home.

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Andrew Rea March 3, 2010 | 11:34 p.m.

Wonderful angle on the typical "College Theatre Production" Story. I was a member of the cast, and more than anybody else involved in any given production, the stage manager gets so little of the glory. Maddie Bender is a model ADSM, and she is the ONLY reason we can do the show night after night to the best of our ability. I also thoroughly enjoyed that little taste we got of Joe Burch.

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