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English major Carolyn Fast ’10 writes about her experience as stage manager in College Theater’s presentation of Little Women

Carolyn Fast ’10 (Rockaway, N.J.), an English major with a theater concentration, has worked as stage manager for numerous College Theater and Marquis Players’ productions. In the fall, she served as stage manager of College Theater’s Little Women as an EXCEL Scholar under the guidance of Mary Jo Lodge, assistant professor of English. She plans to pursue a career in stage management after graduation.

I’ve participated in the EXCEL Scholars program since September 2008, when Professor Lodge, who is also my academic adviser, asked me if I would be interested in stage managing College Theater’s production of Urinetown. I quickly agreed and began what turned out to be a fun and invaluable experience.

This project then extended to include stage managing Caligula, a Broadway-bound new rock musical that was brought to Lafayette for a series of script development sessions and culminated in a staged reading. In September 2009, Professor Lodge approached me again about stage managing Little Women as an EXCEL research project, and I jumped at the opportunity.

Stage managing Little Women was a wonderful experience and I had the opportunity to work with a great group of actors, designers, and technicians. The role of a stage manager is complex and multi-faceted. Following auditions but before the rehearsal process begins, I create a contact sheet, a daily schedule, a breakdown of which characters are in each scene and song, and any other paperwork that the director needs. During rehearsals, I make sure everyone arrives on time and knows where they need to be. I write down all of the actors’ movements onstage and record when props and set pieces are used. Each night, I send out a rehearsal report to the design and production team so that everyone is aware of any changes, updates, or new requirements.

When technical rehearsals begin, we add in the light and sound cues and bring in a stage crew to work the set changes. I, along with my assistant stage manager, coordinate those set changes as well as the actors’ entrances and exits to ensure that everything goes smoothly and efficiently. During the performances, I sit up in the booth and call all of the cues. For each rehearsal and performance, I am often the first to arrive and the last to leave at night.

Professor Lodge has been an excellent mentor to me. She cares about whether her students learn and is devoted to providing us with exciting and educational opportunities. Through the College’s Closs residency program, she brought Jason Howland and Dani Davis, the composer and producer of the original Broadway production of Little Women, to Lafayette to present a master class on the process of bringing a musical to Broadway.

Stage management has always been my passion and I have decided to turn that passion into a career. Having my participation in the EXCEL Scholars program on my resume makes me a strong candidate for stage management jobs. It shows that my professors recognize my ability to do my job to a high standard.  Little Women had a very successful seven-day run that received a wonderful response from the audience and ended with three sold out shows. I am proud to have been a part of this production and the EXCEL Scholars program.

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