Tag Archives: stage manager

3,500 technical cues in the play? No problem for this mighty pair of stage managers

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Stage Managers Deena Tovar and Emily Lehrer, “Arrival & Departure,” Fountain Theatre

You may know that the Fountain Theatre’s smash hit world premiere, Arrival & Departure, is highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, has earned rave reviews everywhere, and has been delighting audiences in sold-out houses since it opened in July. What you don’t know is that the magical mixture of lights, video, sound, music and open captioning is operated by only two stage managers in the booth — executing the play’s 3,500 technical cues in a fast-paced running time of 90 minutes. How do they do it?

Production Stage Manager Emily Lehrer and Assistant Stage Manager Deena Tovar make an excellent team.  They share years of professional experience between them but Arrival & Departure marks the first time they have worked together. It’s also the first time they’ve managed a cast of Deaf and hearing actors. 

There was a learning curve on the American Sign Language front, for sure,” admits Emily. “That being said, everyone has been so helpful and supportive as I fumbled my way through.”   

Deena echoes the same enthusiasm. “This has been an amazing experience. Everyone involved with the show are truly remarkable and supportive. Even with my signing skills — or rather the lack thereof — everyone made sure I was learning.”

“I really want to start studying ASL more seriously,” adds Emily. “It’s a gorgeous language, and as a Stage Manager, communication is at the heart of everything I do. So having that asset in my communication toolbox would be amazing.”

Emily Lehrer is from Los Angeles and has worked as Production Stage Manager on several plays at the Fountain Theatre. She has also stage managed for The Latino Theatre CompanyThe Garry Marshall TheatreThe Odyssey TheatreSacred Fools, and at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Deena grew up in Eagle Rock. She has worked as a Stage Manager all over Los Angeles at such companies as Circle X, Open Fist, Casa0101, Shakespeare Center of LA and many more.

“The Fountain is a great place to work,” Deena beams. “It really is like a family. Anything I need is almost always available. Everyone is here to support the art and you can really feel that when you walk in every day.”

They clearly enjoy working together and make a kick-ass team in the booth and in the rehearsal room. What makes them such a dynamic duo?

“Complimentary skill sets, ” says Emily. “Honestly, a lot of it comes from Deena also being a great PSM, and because she knows how to think like a PSM, she is able to anticipate needs and fill in the gaps beautifully. It also doesn’t hurt that we enjoy each other’s company as people. Having team members you genuinely enjoy working with is a gift, and it makes every aspect of the process go more smoothly and easily.” 

Deena agrees. “We both absolutely love our jobs as Stage Managers. We don’t come to work wishing we were doing something else, we walk in knowing we are working in our dream profession. It also helps that we both have very similar styles of stage managing and from that we are able to predict exactly what is needed before it’s said out loud.”

Emily Deena 5

When Deena first read Stephen Sachs‘ script for Arrival & Departure, and its blend of both Deaf and hearing actors in a production that mixes lights, sound, music, video and open captioning, she was unsure how it would all come together.

“I originally felt it would be difficult for the audience to keep up with everything going on,” she admits. “But during the rehearsal process my concerns were very quickly extinguished. I saw exactly how each word and each scene had to be portrayed to make sure no one was missing out on any moment.”  Emily agrees. “I am so thrilled with the way it turned out.”  

Both have been blown away by the audience reaction. 

“It has been such a balm to see how audiences have responded to the show, ” says Emily. “Especially our Deaf audiences, as they realized with utter joy that this is a production created with them in mind.”

“The audiences have loved it, ” exclaims Deena. “They really enjoy the way the show captures both the Deaf and hearing experiences. I love looking at the audience during intense moments and seeing their reactions. My personal favorite was the reaction of these two women sitting in the front row. Just as the characters Sam and Emily are about to kiss, the two women grabbed each other and shook their heads like they wanted to yell out, “don’t do it!”

Both Emily and Deena feel the play — how it was conceived and the way it is performed — serves a valuable purpose.  

“This production is truly important because it incorporates elements of sign language, captioning and spoken English, ” Deena explains. “This show isn’t only for one audience. It is open for everyone. Everyone can watch and relate. That kind of inclusion is sadly lacking in the entertainment industry.”

“We live in weird, difficult, and downright terrifying times,” states Emily. “Times where hatred, bigotry, and closed mindedness are becoming the new normal. In times like these, creating art is an act of resistance. Creating art that is, by design, inclusive, a celebration of a woman coming into her own, a love story —  is nothing short of revolutionary. “

And now that the celebrated run is soon reaching its final performance? 

“I got to meet some of the funniest, most energetic, and kind-hearted  people, ” Deena confesses. “It really has been an excellent experience.”

“It has been such a beautiful, hopeful reminder of what we can be when we open our arms and our hearts to those who may on the surface appear different than us,” states Emily. “I will cherish it.” 

Emily in booth

Arrival & Departure ends September 30. 

Statement by The Fountain Theatre: Moving forward in this new landscape

MON Aug 22 PWYC 3

The Fountain Theatre has stood at the center of the battle against Actors’ Equity Association’s attempt to dismantle and fragment the intimate theatre community of L.A. with its Promulgated Plans that favor some of our theatres and disfavor others. We have hosted countless Pro99 and Review Committee meetings at our theatre. We offered our name in pledges of support. Our Producing Director served as a volunteer on the Review Committee, dedicated incalculable hours over nearly two years of meetings, conference calls and intense negotiations with Equity representatives, and even took the bold step of including his own name as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the union on behalf of the L.A. intimate theatre community.

Our position has been that the Fountain Theatre would continue to operate under the 99-Seat Plan, as we always have, even in defiance of the December 14th deadline, until the court made a ruling, which it did on December 8th. Sadly, the decision was not in our favor. We are angry and heartbroken because we believe that everyone will suffer: the intimate theater community, the members of Actors’ Equity who will lose opportunities, and the citizens of Los Angeles who will be deprived of the benefits that the 99-Seat Plan has provided. Now we, as an organization, need to move forward.

Since the Court’s ruling, we have struggled with the challenge of extending our current production, produced under the 99-Seat Plan, with Equity actors who now are threatened with reprisals by their union. We have told Equity that we will not sign the new seasonal agreement going forward, and have negotiated terms only for the extension of our current production. We do so under protest and duress. Our position that Equity’s tactics are harmful and destructive to our theatre community has not changed. But the Fountain Theatre will not become a non-union theatre. We are committed to delivering to our audiences the highest level of work possible. That necessitates, in addition to talented non-union actors, access to the echelon of professional, trained and experienced Equity talent pool.

We firmly believe that all actors in Los Angeles — including members of Equity — have the right, if they so choose, to exercise their craft in intimate theatres, whether as volunteers, independent contractors or employees. Therefore, The Fountain Theatre will do its best to assure that Equity actors are not excluded from working on our stage. This is a hardship we are forced to undertake to guarantee that The Fountain is accessible to ALL actors in Los Angeles. It is our position that actors and stage managers who are members of Equity should not be denied the right to work at our theatre by an Equity “blacklist” because of the misguided leadership of their own union. For 27 years, the Fountain Theatre has created productions with casts comprised mostly of Equity actors. The contribution of their artistry has helped make the Fountain the success it has become. We will not turn our back on them now.

We do not take this position lightly. It is a difficult and challenging road to take. We are assuming this burden for the integrity of our work, for the sake of all L.A. actors and to continue our role as a leader in presenting the best possible theatre in Los Angeles. Inclusion sits at the heart of our artistic mission. The Fountain will fight to remain a safe haven for all actors to exercise their art. We blacklist no one. Our doors — and our stage — are open to the finest artists we can find.

All of us in the intimate theatre community find ourselves in difficult, unchartered territory. Issues remain unresolved. More challenges lie ahead. Further action may be taken. Our common goal, together, must be to ensure that Los Angeles continues to be a city where meaningful, high-quality theatre is created and to maintain the spirit, artistry and integrity of our intimate theatre community.    

The Fountain Theatre Board of Directors and Staff

Spotlight: “Bakersfield Mist” Stage Manager Terri Roberts

Terri Roberts

by Candyce Columbus, LA Theater Examiner

Without stage managers the show would not go on. Yet they are the most unsung of theatrical professionals. Believing they should have a chance to shine, this is part of a series of Q & A articles with Southland stage managers. Next up is Terri Roberts who is currently stage managing the hit Bakersfield Mist at the Fountain Theatre.

How did you become a stage manager?

I fell into it by accident. Or not – depending on your point of view. In the fall of 2003 I set up and ran concessions for The Theatre @ Boston Court for their inaugural production of Romeo and Juliet,  Antebellum New Orleans 1836. That led to me becoming a dresser for Juliet and the women, doing costume repairs, moving sets and props – generally pitching in wherever help was needed. The stage manager, Jennifer Scheffer, was impressed with my work, so the following fall she invited me to be her ASM for a new musical she was stage managing. It was an Equity gig, so I was eligible to join the union on my very first stage management job!

"The Ballad of Emmett Till"

Do you have a favorite show you have stage managed?

There have been a few, actually, and for several different reasons (although the common denominator is the cast and/or director and designers. You just can’t beat working with really good, talented people!) However, The Ballad of Emmett Till at the Fountain Theatre holds a particularly tender place in my heart. Our dear Ben Bradley was just beginning rehearsals for it when he was murdered on New Year’s Day 2010. It was Ben who brought me into the Fountain in the first place, so when Stephen Sachs asked me if I would be willing to be the assistant stage manager, I immediately said “yes” – not only because I needed the work, but because it was something I could do to honor Ben. I only came into the show right before tech, but Shirley Jo Finney (who took over as director) and the cast and stage manager were incredibly welcoming and loving, and I bonded quickly with them. We were all connected both by the show (which was brilliant) and by the tragedy of losing Ben, so the whole thing was an extraordinarily personal, profound experience.

Do you have any funny stage managing memories that you cherish?

Well, it wasn’t funny while it was happening, but now…!

In late 2006 I was stage managing a show called Rockers at Theatre West. It had been cold and stormy all day, and during the show it began to rain. It was the first storm of the season, and it was a really heavy rain. About 15 minutes from the end of the show I started to hear a strange noise in the wall. It was rushing water, and the water was starting to pour into the booth through an opening in the wall.

I grabbed the small booth trashcan and stuck it under the flow of water, then snuck out of the booth and grabbed another trashcan from the lobby. I spent the last part of the show doing a wild, one-woman bucket brigade between the booth and the lobby bathrooms, carrying and dumping trash cans full of water to keep the booth from flooding while simultaneously trying to not disturb the audience (who were just a few feet in front of me), trying to call theatre staff for help on my cell phone, and trying to run the last few cues and get the show properly ended!

As soon as the show was over I was able to grab members of the cast and crew to help . . . the whole thing made for a great combined sense of drama, hilarity, accomplishment and teamwork!

Terri with "Bakersfield Mist" actors Jenny O'Hara and Nick Ullett

What is your current project?

I’m currently stage managing Bakersfield Mist at the Fountain Theatre, which opened on 11 June – and we’re still running! Bakersfield Mist is a wonderfully fun show about the nature and perception of art, and the audience response to it has been unbelievable. This is my sixth show at the Fountain, and my second working with Stephen on a production he has both written and directed. (And hopefully, it won’t be my last!) We’re definitely closing on 18 December, so if you haven’t seen it yet, well, as Maude would say, what the *$#! are you waiting for?!

More info on Bakersfield Mist (323) 663-1525