An Assistant Stage Manager's blog
Cherie reveals the exciting duties as an Assistant Stage Manager on tour with The Enormous Room...
I have been lucky enough to be a part of The Enormous Room from its early R&D days, working in the studio with the team and occasional guest artists such as Ben Duke, Dan Watson and Thomas Noone, playing and exploring with tasks that Lucy had given us.
I soon started to see Lucy’s ideas unfold and I created a mood board that we took with us to different rehearsal spaces, asking questions such as “How do we open up the space?” and “How can we make disrupted patterns new patterns?” As the dancers started to develop their characters I also created character profiles for them so they could look back and study them. Eventually, I was constructing an early stages creation diary of all that was going on in the studio, who was who, who did what and so on.
In March 2016, we were first introduced to the set. We all dashed into the studio that morning, climbing and exploring it. I would not know how much I would be involved with it until later. It soon got a makeover and you could now see its story, as it went from just a construction of plain wood to having old dirty wallpaper where pictures used to hang, white cabinets and colourful curtains. Equipped with a ratchet and spanner, I quickly learnt how to build the set, dismantle it, and pretty much play a game of Tetris by trying to fit it all neatly in the van.
During the rehearsal periods, I would make sure that the set was in the right place and the right distance from other smaller pieces of set, that Nadenh and Amy could reach and fit through certain aspects of the set and that the props were all where they needed to be. I also supported Dave with his scripts and learnt all of the visual cues for the music so I could run it while Lucy watched and took notes. (This would have been a lot easier if I could split myself in 4!)
During the piece there is a performed intermission where I come on stage and, with the help of Alex, our Stage Manager, the small pieces of set get moved around and eventually taken off stage or placed on the big set that gets turned 180 degrees, whilst the dancers are still performing, eeek! For Scene 2, the set is now just this black object with a grey door in the distance, curtains get taken down, the wings are opened up and tape gets removed from the floor ready for the change of atmosphere. It has had many ups and downs - Wheels breaking, the set refusing to move, having to change music and re-choreograph the scene change, to name a few. However, it is exciting and visually engaging to watch, which is brilliant to be a part of but also scary as there are so many factors to think about.
Whilst on tour, in the mornings I do the get-in and build the set in whatever venue we are at, look after the dancers and answer any questions they may have. If the set needs some fixing, I get my tools out. I know where all of the props need to be, I sort out the costumes, as well as finding time to take part in class.
During the performance, what goes on backstage is choreography in itself. There isn’t much space for us all back there and we are trying not to be seen. Backstage I am in charge of giving clearance to the dancers when I get the okay from side stage that the audience are in. I look after the props backstage, give cues to the dancers, help Amy do a quick change, bang doors, support NP getting on and off the set, as well as changing his hairstyle before he goes back on. I also sneakily need to remove cables and unplug things so that the set can turn freely before I go on for the scene change.
Phew! So I think I have covered everything! I feel very blessed to have this opportunity and to be picking up so many new skills. I did not think that I would be touring as Assistant Stage Manager and be so involved with the piece, but I am very thankful that I am.
On to the next venue.