Julia Morrison in street clothes. “Tragedy: Closed with a Speech by the Actress” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 11, 1900
Julia Morrison in street clothes. “Tragedy: Closed with a Speech by the Actress” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 11, 1900

Murder Onstage: An Early 20th Century Actress Kills Her Stage Manager Before an Audience

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

During a performance at the Chattanooga Opera House on Friday, September 22nd, 1899, Julia Morrison, the leading actress of the traveling show, Mr. Plaster of Paris, exited the stage in the middle of her Act II scene with Frank Leiden, leading man and stage manager.[1]  She seized the loaded revolver she kept between her breasts, reentered the scene, and shot Leiden three times, killing him. Fifteen hundred audience members looked on in shock until a call for a surgeon roused them. Morrison was immediately taken under custody by the local police and sent to the nearby jail to await the outcome of the coroner’s inquest. A few weeks later, the grand jury indicted her, and her trial was set for January 1900. By the beginning of her trial, Julia Morrison had become a household name and the event was covered across the nation, making headlines.

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Sherrice Mojgani and Jonah keeping up to date on new technology. Photo Credit: Amanda Zieve.
Sherrice Mojgani and Jonah keeping up to date on new technology. Photo Credit: Amanda Zieve.

Sherrice Mojgani: Design & Community

Porsche McGovern

Sherrice Mojgani is an assistant professor in the School of Theatre at George Mason University. Before coming to GMU, Mrs. Mojgani was based in San Diego, CA. Sherrice and I have become friends through being two of the original four administrators for the Design and Production Diversity Working Group on Facebook for the last two years.

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Hustle and Grow

Ross Jackson

An Interview with Eb Madry, Lighting Designer

Ebony (Eb) Madry identifies as a black, queer female. She loves to create and support a space with lighting. She started to fall in love with lighting at 16 years old. And since that time, she has earned her MFA in Lighting from UC Irvine. She considers herself blessed to work with notable artists including Christian Vincent, Leslie Ishii, Paul Barnes, Michael Franti, Brandi Carlisle, and Melissa Etheridge. Eb’s designs are bold and actively strive to evoke strong emotion whenever possible, but what separates her from other lighting designers is her ability to stay calm during the sometimes stormy period of tech while continuing to explore ideas and enhance the show. Eb could sit at the tech table all day and night. 

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Prompt Corner. Photo Courtesy of Archives.org THE THEATRE AT WORK A Glimpse Behind the Scenes by James Cleaver
Prompt Corner. Photo Courtesy of Archives.org THE THEATRE AT WORK A Glimpse Behind the Scenes by James Cleaver

Women in Stage Management: Revolutionizing History with Inclusion

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

Since I started compiling research on the history of the stage manager, I have run into at least 10 different claims for the “First Female Stage Manager.” In a 1987 obituary, the Los Angeles Times credited Phyllis Seaton as being “Broadway’s 1st Women Stage Manager” (around 1940’s), The Washington Post interviewed Maude T. Howell about her role as an American stage manager in 1928, and Maud Gill wrote her See the Players autobiography which includes a chapter about her experiences as Stage Manager in 1920’s London. Even before this, in the 1860’s we have Laura Keene stage managing her own theatre, Charlotte Cushman stage managing at the Walnut Street Theatre in 1842-1844, and Charlotte Charke takes up the prompting mantle in England in 1754.

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Part II A Crash Course in American Stage Management History

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

The term “Director” was introduced in the late 1800’s, although scholars continue to debate who was the ‘first’ American modern director, I attribute it to Augustus Daly. Augustus Daly (among others), changed the production process in theater. Daly expected more out of his actors, requiring attendance at all rehearsals, beginning the rehearsal process several weeks or months in advance and for several hours at a time. Prior to this, rehearsals for specific productions were sporadic, and totaled a few hours spanning over several weeks. He fined actors for lateness, absenteeism, and forgotten lines or blocking. Overall, he regimented the rehearsal process.

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Bob Crachit and his son, Tiny Tim from Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol
Bob Crachit and his son, Tiny Tim from Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol

I Hate to Admit It, but I Miss Tiny Tim

David J. McGraw

Like counting the rings of a tree trunk, you can often determine an SM’s age by asking how many Christmas Carols/Nutcrackers they have managed. Unlike other theatrical and dance classics, these shows are cash cows with a very limited lifespan, so managing these holiday chestnuts usually means packed schedules with lots of overtime. I remember feeling a sense of comradery with the old “time to make the donuts” commercials every time Marley or a toy soldier hit the stage.

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The Martydom of St. Apollonia by Jean Fouquet. A Late 1400’s Painting that featured, on the right hand-side of the painting, a monk (prompter) feeding lines and actions to the "actors" onstage.
The Martydom of St. Apollonia by Jean Fouquet. A Late 1400’s Painting that featured, on the right hand-side of the painting, a monk (prompter) feeding lines and actions to the "actors" onstage.

A Crash-Course in American Stage Management History

Jennifer Leigh Sears Scheier

Before the second Industrial Revolution in the late nineteenth century, the prompter performed the duties commonly associated with the contemporary stage manager. Why do I say that? Because the prompter notated all blocking movements in the promptbook along with any special effect cues, scenic changes, and call boy cues. The promptbook served as a collection of paperwork that represented a production. Sound familiar? It stands to reason, that the historical bearer of such a book would be the predecessor to today’s SM.

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Backstage at the SM Survey

Every two years, a national study begins in early November: The Stage Manager Survey. This 3-week survey has evolved over the past decade into the largest study of stage managers in the United States and, quite possibly, the world. At just five days into the 2017 survey, we have already surpassed the participation count of the 2013 but are still hunting the record turnout of 2015. So let’s look behind the scenes into the survey.

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Everything Changes? Or Nothing?

David J. McGraw

Last week Actors’ Equity Association announced a major change to the Equity Membership Candidate (EMC) program. The stated goal of the change is to modernize the EMC program and to advance stage managers and actors from EMC status to full membership more quickly. Previously, AEA membership could be earned by accumulating 50 points, one point for each week you apprenticed on a show with Equity stage managers. Now SMs can become AEA members after just 25 weeks at EMC-participating companies.* So what does this mean for stage managers?

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