The making of the magic of Cinderella: a look at the role of stage manager’s assistant

Elizabeth Fleming. Photo courtesy of Maggie Zargo.

Elizabeth Fleming. Photo courtesy of Maggie Zargo.

Of the hundreds of people working on the school musical Cinderella, from the musicians, dancers, singers, actors, techies, painters, shifters, and numerous others working behind the scenes, there are only a handful who actually run the show. 

Jesse McGuire, sophomore, served as the stage manager, giving everyone their cues, being the boss behind stage, and overall making sure everything runs smoothly. “It’s my job to take the director’s vision and make sure that it ends up on stage.”

Perhaps lesser known to the general Leesville public is her assistant, Elizabeth Fleming, freshman, who took on the role as assistant stage manager.

“Elizabeth basically [kept] me sane. She’s my eyes and ears backstage because I’m in the booth,” said Mcguire. “Even though she’s a freshman, she jumped in… that’s what makes a good stage manager, to be fearless. If you let people walk all over you, they’re going to.”

Fleming, recalling her first days as assistant stage manager, said, “Honestly, I really didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to help [in the play], but none of the other running crews fit me.” She said when she discovered the position of assistant stage manager, she decided that would be the best for her.

“At the beginning [rehearsals] I just had to pay attention to what was in the scene and what wasn’t,” said Fleming. In this way, she grew familiar with which people and props were in the play as well as the blocking, how people were supposed to move. “I had a month and a half of sitting there and watching.”

“[My main job was] running around for Jesse, especially during hell week,” said Fleming. “Pretty much whatever Jesse asked me to do, I did it.”

In addition to running errands and making copies for the stage manager, Fleming collected money for the director’s gift, notified McGuire when to give cues, generally kept the cast in line – which was rarely well-received, and occasionally ran warm-ups for the actors.

“I had to make sure everyone was on top of everything,” said Fleming. She had to see that the actors were in the appropriate costumes and had their body microphones checked.

Overall, Fleming said the play went very well. “On stage they covered really well, like if they missed a line or something.” However, behind the curtain was a different story. “Back stage it was hectic. I missed cuing a mouse and I’m sure it looked fine to the audience, but to everyone else who knows the play backwards and forwards… well, they noticed.”

Although Fleming didn’t have too many tasks during the first weeks, McGuire had much more to do.

“[Jesse] has to work with more people than I do; she has to get along with everyone… she deals with the actors a lot more than me,” noted Fleming.

With rehearsals running until 10:00 at night sometimes, those involved in the play don’t have a lot of free time. “There were two weeks in there that I didn’t do homework, and I was tired all the time.”

Besides sleeping and doing school work, Fleming said she had to put her life outside theater on hold; there wasn’t room to fit social life into the mix of never-ending rehearsals.

There are many benefits which come along with the job, despite the downsides of spending so much time on the large project. “I felt like I had an important place in the theater department,” said Fleming.

She said she learned a lot through the process, especially about acting; she said she feels better prepared to audition as an actor in the following years. Fleming made many friends during her time working on Cinderella and enjoyed working with the play, technical and chorus directors: Catania, Wrayno, and Covington.

“I get along with both techies and actors, more so with techies, maybe because of how weird I am, but I really want to be an actor.”

Fleming suffered through a lot of stress during the show but had fun as well. After it’s all over, once the curtain has been drawn for the last time, the days to come are anti-climatic; she suffered from PSD, otherwise known as post-show depression.

“I go home and there’s nothing to do,” said Fleming. She said she felt really depressed afterwards and regretted missing any rehearsals at all, knowing she missed out on more time spent with the cast and crew. “I missed being able to see all my friends all the time.”

Fleming recalled, “[My mom] got me through rehearsals. In the beginning, I really wanted to quit but she was there to keep me going.”

“Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I definitely want to do it again, [but]I don’t know if I could be stage manager,” said Fleming. “I’d do it again, but only if Jesse is stage manager.”

Both Fleming and McGuire formed an impeccable team, running the show while the director observes from the audience. Together they took on a lot of responsibility, stress, and laughter. If it were not for them, the show could not go on.

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