January 6, 2020

Stage Management Podcast – Hold Please!

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:55 pm

You guys, I have to blog because my friend Spencer Clouse has just done what I always intended to, but never took the time to pull together: he’s launched a podcast where he interviews stage managers. It’s called “Hold Please!” which is an amazing title, first of all.

Hold Please logo

I’m so honored that he shared his idea with me way back almost a year ago now, and asked me to be his first guest. We recorded two episodes back then, the first of which has just been released conveniently for the beginning of 2020 — the Year of the Stage Manager. I can’t wait to hear how it develops.

In this first episode we talk about general philosophies of stage management, early-career advice, show stops, and more.

You can take a listen and subscribe at the usual places, for which you can find all the links at holdpleasepodcast.com.

February 9, 2015

Making Wishes

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:11 pm

Every now and then, I sort of calmly make a wish.


Back in 2012, when it was announced that Triassic Parq would not be transferring, I was sad. All I wanted was to be able to stay in New York on an Off-Broadway show. In my mind, perhaps out loud, I added to that thought, “like Silence!. Being the PSM of Silence! would be my ideal job.” Basically immediately, I started hearing rumblings from all directions that Silence! was looking for a new PSM. By the time Triassic ended its limited run, I was already on contract as the incoming PSM of Silence!, attending whatever rehearsals and performances I could fit around my Triassic schedule. When Triassic closed I moved all my stuff from Soho Playhouse directly into Times Scare, and there I stayed for a year.


When the fateful day came that Silence! closed, I was a little worn out after a year-long run with almost constant cast changes. My ideal job had shifted. I wanted something with less responsibility, but I also had spent too much time doing shows in 199-seat black boxes. The skillset needed on larger shows was starting to fade. Being an ASM on Broadway would have fit that bill, in the same way that winning the lottery would satisfy my desire to pay my rent, so my wish was something more reasonable. I wanted to be a sub on Broadway, or on one of the few Off-Broadway shows that are big enough to feel like “big shows.” The only one I could think of by name was Peter and the Starcatcher. A month after Silence! closed, I was offered a job as a sub deck hand on Peter and the Starcatcher. In my wish I had assumed we were talking stage management subs, but being a crew member (with three people outranking me just in my own department) satisfied the “no responsibility” clause of my wish even more. But of course subbing only brings so much satisfaction. And a few months later the guy I was subbing for was leaving, and I knew it would go to the first sub, who had been there much longer. And then he turned it down. And that’s how I became full-time on the crew on Peter and the Starcatcher, until it closed three or four months later. It was one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had.

These are the two most specific examples I have in my career of wishing for something very specific (like “I wish I was the PSM of Silence!” and having it come exactly true weeks later). I haven’t really had another story that illustrates such a miraculous event so clearly.


Today somebody retweeted an old tweet of mine, and it sent me down memory lane glancing through my tweet history. And I found this tweet I had no memory of:
Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.36.11 PM
The backstory here is that some stage managers have decided that October 10 is International Stage Managers day (I have no idea why it isn’t 10/12, and I have my own personal celebration on that day instead).

So to this comment from @SM_problems, suggesting people give stage managers the gift of a job, I said, “Dec. 1, if you please!” which was sort of a joke. My current show was closing November 30th, see?

It was an offhand comment to somebody else’s tweet and until today I forgot I ever tweeted it. I had certainly forgotten all about it six days later, when Ogunquit contacted me and offered me Mary Poppins, starting rehearsal — you guessed it — December 1st! It was so tightly scheduled to the closing of my previous show that they had to fly me to Maine and reschedule the first rehearsal an hour later.

We won’t even get into the fact that getting my foot in the door at Ogunquit has been one of my main life goals for the last 10 years, since that wasn’t particularly related to the wish.

Finding this tweet totally creeped me out, because I didn’t even realize that I had made any statement wishing for that specific job. I’ve gotten lucky plenty of times where I’ve been offered jobs that started immediately after the previous one finished, but this took on deeper meaning for me because Mary Poppins ended up being the single most amazing experience of my career to date, so it’s funny to think that I wished for it so casually that I didn’t even remember doing it when it came true less than a week later.

I share this really as just a mildly amusing stage management ghost story. But on another level, I do like to look at these events to calm myself whenever I find myself feeling like things never go my way. And now I have one more to remember.

August 9, 2012

Of Goats and Lambs

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:35 pm

I’m just gonna blog real quick. Maybe you’ve been wondering what the hell happened to me, after the triumphant opening of Triassic Parq. Well, I’ve been busy. And now I’m insanely busy, but I should write a little bit about it, because it’s kind of interesting.

A funny thing happened in the Off-Broadway world this summer. Triassic did not extend after its scheduled run through August 5, and the original PSM of Silence! The Musical was also leaving on August 5. A bunch of dear friends of mine, from many different departments of theatre, all got it in their heads independently that it would be a great idea if I became the PSM of Silence! despite the fact that taking over a show on the day your show closes is crazy. But I said, “No problem, I’ll catch up!” And so here I am.

The good thing about my first week at Silence! is that I’m getting to experience pretty much everything. We’ve had a new actor go in. We have an understudy going on for Lecter for the first time this weekend. On Sunday we’ll have four understudies on in our cast of 10. I’ve done a put-in. We got a new dance captain yesterday. We’re also still working out the kinks in a new theatre. So while it’s insanely busy, I’m getting a lot of things out of the way right off the bat, so there will be relatively little I haven’t experienced by the end of this week.

I wish I could talk more about the experience, but I have very little time, so I will share one observation:

In any case where I’ve come into a show that was already running, I have always had doubts in my ability to get up to speed. When I do a show from the beginning I know it so well that I always feel inadequate replacing someone in an already well-oiled machine.

However, every single time, as soon as I go from following people around training, to actually doing it myself, it feels totally natural, and I’m reminded that in a lot of ways every show is basically the same. People have told me over and over in my career, “Trust your instincts, you’ll know how to handle things.” And it never sounds that simple when I’m learning, but the moment I’m actually given responsibility it suddenly becomes easier.

I’ll probably go through this for the rest of my career, but at least now I’m starting to actually remember that I will calm down when the time comes.

September 26, 2009

Inventing Avi

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:59 pm

I guess it’s about time I talked about my current show. My fall plans were kind of up in the air until the last minute, with a number of possibilities floating around, but I ended up ASM-ing a new Off-Broadway play called Inventing Avi, produced by the Abingdon Theatre Company.

I’m assisting my good friend Josh, which is a always a lot of fun. Josh assured me that if I took the job, the play would keep me laughing, and I haven’t been disappointed. The play is very funny, and our cast of six is amazingly talented. I have to call them out individually: Alix Korey, Stanley Bahorek, Emily Zacharias, Juri Henley-Cohn, Havilah Brewster and Lori Gardner. From day one they have been hysterical, and they have an amazing gift for making a scene laugh-out-loud funny no matter how many times we’ve gone over it in the rehearsal room.

Josh and I have also been working on paperwork a lot. Stay tuned for more details on that.

September 18, 2009

Facebook as a Business Tool

I call this: random,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:44 am

I know there are Facebook haters. People who think that anybody who uses social networking sites is a waste of oxygen and must have the IQ of a gnat. Those people are stupid. But they generally don’t know it, otherwise they would know they are not one who should be scoffing at the intelligence of gnats. This post is one small story in disproving the assertion that Facebook is useless.

First there are those who believe that social networking actually makes us less social. For some people who are very naturally social, I suppose this may be true. Myself, I am extremely antisocial. I think I’m a very pleasant person and well-liked by the people in my life, but though I have many friendly acquaintances, I have a lot of trouble forming close friendships. As a result, I lose touch with people the moment they leave my life in whatever context I knew them (which in this business can mean a new job every few weeks or months.) I tend to assume (maybe neurotically) that nobody really wants to hear from me that badly, so as a result I never contact anyone. But Facebook is a way of saying hi when even an email feels too intrusive. If someone is reading my message on Facebook they are there because they want to get random messages from people like me, and so I feel no anxiety about making contact with them. It also keeps me up to date with what other people are doing, which opens up ideas of other things we might have in common or be able to do together. Which brings me to my point.

I have a show in rehearsal right now. I have been Facebook friends with our production manager since we did a show together about a year and a half ago. One day last week, his status was about how he was looking for an Express programmer for certain dates (pretty clearly our tech). On that same day, another friend, who was the venue tech director for a show I did at NYMF last year, had as her status “Amy really needs to find employment,” or something to that effect. I wrote Amy a message and asked if she could program an Express and was willing to work a short-term job for undoubtedly crappy pay. She was. Cut to today, and Amy has been hired as the programmer for our tech. Now she has a job, we found a programmer, and maybe she’ll get future work now as a result of making these new connections. And all this was made possible very easily, when there’s no way I would have known about either her need for work, or our lack of luck finding a programmer if we had to rely on talking to people individually to find out what’s going on in each other’s lives.

And on top of that, since the job in question happened to be the show I’m working on, I will actually get to see her in real life, proving that Facebook does not cause you to see your friends in person less! Someday I’ll give you my rant about why text messaging is more useful than phone calls.

April 29, 2009

Red Flag

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:00 pm

I got an email today forwarded through several people, about a company looking for a stage manager for an upcoming production.  When I got to where it said, “This is a paid position,” like there was any question that it might not be, I stopped.  Of course I wasn’t available for all the dates, and I doubt this gig was Equity-approved anyway.  However…

Being that it’s a paid position, I’m sure it would be a great job for somebody just starting out.  But honestly, nobody deserves to stage manage for free EVER, unless it’s in school, or for charity.  Whenever I see that in a job description it makes me crazy.  The implication that under other circumstances a “professional” company or individual producer might have been looking for a stage manager for no pay is just sad.  Come on, if you’ve got the money to put up a show, however small, you can find $100 to give to the person doing the hardest and most thankless part of it.  I know some people really do need the resume and experience, but I think anybody has the right to refuse to work for free.  In fact it would be nice if enough people did it that producers wouldn’t think to ask.

Sorry, I had to vent about that peeve.  Am I being overly sensitive?

October 27, 2008

OK the Job…

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:19 am

As I wrote in this teaser post, I am starting a new job.  I think now is a good time to tell you what it is.

I’m going to be the Production Stage Manager for The Acting Company’s 2009 tour. ¬†In a very brief history of The Acting Company, they have been producing classical theatre and new works for 36 years, and every year they do a tour, bringing classic plays and educational workshops all over the country. ¬†In 2003 they were given a Tony Award Honor. ¬†Much more information is available at their website, linked above.¬†

The tour this year is Shakespeare’s¬†Henry V, and a new play called The Spy, based on a novel from 1821 which takes place during the American Revolution. ¬† The shows will be performed in rep by a cast of 12. ¬†

The touring company will consist of the 12 actors, as well as the company manager and the staff rep director, who basically functions as the resident director of the company, meaning I don’t have the responsibility for the artistic integrity of the show. ¬†These 14 folks will be traveling on the cast bus. ¬†On the crew bus will be me, Nick, the tech director, lighting, sound, props and wardrobe supervisors. ¬†We’ll be living on the bus part of the time, which I expect will be kind of annoying and kind of like being a rockstar. ¬†The cast will be staying in hotels. ¬†

There’s also going to be a shortened school version of Henry V, which will be performed out of a trunk that travels under the cast bus. ¬†Occasionally the trucks and the crew bus will leave town to head to the next city while Nick and the cast stay behind to perform the smaller show for students, followed by workshops. ¬†This sounds kind of fun. ¬†I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do one of these performances.

Budding stage managers always want to know how to get jobs, so I’ll tell my little story about this one. ¬†It’s pretty standard for the business. ¬†Back in July, I was contacted about the show by Bill Fennelly, who was the director of Frankenstein last year, and had just taken a new position as Associate Producing Artistic Director of The Acting Company. ¬†When they were looking for a PSM for the tour he sent out a brief summary of the job to me and some other people (via Facebook of all things) asking if anybody was interested. ¬† I was out of town doing summer stock at the time, and not coming home anytime soon, but I called him and he told me what he knew about it. ¬†It was hard for me to consider touring when I was already away from home, but the job fit some of the experience I’m looking for in my career. ¬†We touched base about once a week for the rest of the summer, and a couple days after I got home I met with the production manager, who gave me a more detailed picture of how the tour would operate. ¬†I liked what I heard, but since my suitcase wasn’t even unpacked, I still wanted a little more time to think about it. ¬†A short time after that meeting, I met with the artistic director, who gave me the A-OK, and I accepted the job.

The moral of the story is, of course, you usually have to know someone. ¬†The selection of a stage manager is such an important decision in a production that few people want to take a chance on someone who they haven’t personally worked with before.

On the bright side, my ASM got the job by submitting a resume in response to a job listing, I’m not sure where exactly they listed it. ¬†Basically I couldn’t get any of my colleagues to do it, so I was ready to open it up to the world, confident that there’s somebody great out there that I just haven’t met yet. ¬†The three guys I interviewed all had no prior history with the company and were selected for interviews just based on submitting their resume. ¬†So there is an chance to get your foot in the door with new people, you just have to get lucky and hope the PSM’s friends all have better things to do!

As we will be all of over the country and doing a lot of one-nighters, this presents a perfect opportunity for some serious blogging, so stay tuned to the category “Tour Mini-Blog” to come along on the journey.

Also watch the sidebar, I’m experimenting with using Flickr to quickly take photos with my iPhone and upload them instantly to the interwebs, creating a real-time “KP’s-Eye-View” photostream of where I am and the interesting, or interestingly mundane, things I see. ¬†Once I get some time with it, I’ll do a technical post about the apps I’m using and stuff.

September 11, 2008

Next Job Teaser

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:32 pm

One of the destinations of my next job. Details to come later. It should lead to some interesting blogging.

Incidentally, this view of the topography also pretty much sums up how the walk from my apartment to the subway feels, except without the pretty flowers and sky and stuff.

March 7, 2008

It’s 29 Hours. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:57 pm

My Views on Small Gigs

After several weeks of unemployment, I have a little job. Actually, even Equity admits that a stage reading does not constitute “employment.” What they mean by that is, if you’re doing a show that allows you to miss rehearsal due to other employment in the industry, this is not a good enough excuse. But also, a week of work for $100 isn’t really a job. Still, I much prefer doing a reading to a showcase, as I recently turned down a 6-week showcase, even though it would have paid $600. My philosophy about jobs in theatre that don’t pay actual money is that if I’m not doing anything, I can dedicate a week of my life to meeting some new collaborators, learning a new show that might have a future, working with well-known actors I admire, and putting my full effort into making a 1-page contact sheet, putting together 29 hours of schedule, and helping them to coordinate the moving of music stands and chairs around a bare stage. I might even take the house lights up and down for the actual readings.

Contrast that to a showcase, which despite its name and original intentions, is a full production with a full design team, essentially a full-time job for usually six weeks, culminating in an actual production which needs to be loaded in, teched, and loaded out. And it still usually pays only $100 a week (if you can get it — that’s seldom the original offer). Not to mention for someone like me who subs on Broadway and Off-, I could lose far more money in lost sub work than I make doing the entire run of the Showcase. It’s happened to me several times. And lest that sound like it’s all about the money, let’s remember that if I’m taking a Showcase it means I don’t have a job. So yes, at least until the rent is accounted for, it has to be at least partially about the money. Personally I feel I’m making more art in the 8,125th running of the Phantom Overture than in many showcases I’ve done, so I actually feel no guilt about the art either.

But back to the reading. I don’t mean the title to sound like it’s going badly. It’s not at all. It’s actually something I’ve said many times, in fact to the director of this one when we first met for coffee. It really is my philosophy about doing readings. When you take a show, you don’t know if it’s going to be a good experience or a bad one, if it will go somewhere or be forgotten about forever, or if the people you meet will lead you to bigger jobs, or never call you again. In my opinion, if the show turns out to be a bad experience, there are two ways to rationalize getting out of bed in the morning: either they’re paying you a fair wage, or it will all be over soon. This is why showcases are bad — they satisfy neither criteria, so if you’re not having fun, you’re screwed.

I truly believe the process of putting eleven actors standing at music stands for 29 hours can’t possibly create the kind of unpleasantness that would make it not worth the risk. Thus, I took the job, no questions asked. We start rehearsal tomorrow, and so far I like the director, who I’ve met, I like the composer and musical director who I’ve gotten to know quite well via e-mail, and I like the cast — one of whom I’ve worked with and am thrilled to be working with again, one of whom I’ve spoken to on the phone, and the rest through e-mail. I’m excited to start meeting people and get to work.

The other great thing about this job is, as I said in an earlier post, I’ve missed being a PSM for the last six months or so. A reading doesn’t allow for the full use of PSM skills, but I’m hoping it will be enough to tide me over until summer, when I will have more responsibility than anyone could ever want, as PSM of a summer stock season.

I will share one other thing I’ve learned from being unemployed for the first time in about a year. Having a week or more to myself has reminded me how valuable my time is. I am an only child, I learned at an early age how to entertain myself. I am not bored at all. If I could be paid to do nothing forever, I would never leave my apartment. So I feel no desire to take a so-called “job” just for the sake of having one, if the money offered is not remotely worth the value of my time. I believe I provide Broadway-quality stage management to every show I do, big or small. That doesn’t mean I expect every employer to be able to pay me $1,500 a week, or anywhere near that. I know how much money I need to live, which is not much by New York standards, and I need health insurance, and I will never turn down work that meets those two requirements. But for anything below that I realize now that the only reason to take such a job would be if I wanted to. For whatever reason — believe in the show, want to work with one of the actors, like the director, trying to get in with the producer. There has to be a reason I want it, so badly that I’d rather do the show than sit comfortably at home doing something else. And in the last month I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with saying no to working your ass off when there’s little or nothing to be gained. In no other industry would anyone be made to feel guilty over such a decision. Should I call up an accountant and ask him to do my taxes for $5 in his spare time at night? If he tells me he’s actually quite busy watching American Idol, do I have a right to question his devotion to developing his accounting skills?

Now that I’m spending some time back at the bottom of the industry, just wanted to share the view. It’s easy to forget when you get used to a weekly paycheck.

January 12, 2008

I’m Not Dead

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:47 am

I got called out by a friend of mine the other night — “The Go Button, not updated so much, hmmm?”

Yeah. It’s actually really embarrassing that it’s January and I haven’t updated since November. I’ve been busy, and to be honest, the Facebook epidemic swept through the Frankenstein company and took up most of my webpage-updating energy for a while.

Frankenstein has now been closed for a month, and I’m currently working on an adorable new musical called Wanda’s World, which is billed as “a musical for the ‘tween in all of us.” The site appears to be down at the moment, but here’s the tickets page. Anyway it’s a very fun show, aimed at middle school kids, but with a great score and a very talented cast that I think will make it entertaining for all. We’re currently in tech. I’m assisting (again!) so I’m sitting alone backstage while they work on a giant dance number. I really want to PSM something, but I’m going to be careful what I wish for because I could very well wind up doing a show in the spring right before going back to Reagle, and that means 4 PSM jobs with no time in between. I would probably be burnt out after the first show at Reagle. As it is, I’ve learned that it’s best to leave a little cushion before the start of the summer. I had about 18 hours between my last show of the spring and when I left for Reagle last year, and I was worn out very early in the summer. A job is a job, but if I have a choice I’m going to consider the importance of my sanity for the rest of the summer. I had less than a week between Frankenstein and Wanda’s World, so a week or two of intermittent sub work would be just fine whenever it comes along.

The best thing I can say about my career right now is that I have so many insurance weeks that it’s a non-issue in considering job offers, and I have enough savings from Reagle and Frankenstein that I can afford to work at a loss for a while. This is very important, because every now and then the job that pays the most or gives you the pension & health points is actually not the most challenging or most helpful to one’s career.

So that’s what’s been going on. Sorry to keep you waiting!

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