Summer Means a Change in (Theatre) Scenery

by David J. McGraw
Sunglasses on a Beach
When Vacation Becomes a Working Vacation

Summer is right around the corner, which can only mean one thing: summer stock!  In what other field do managers leave their jobs in the city only to take the same jobs in the country and consider it a break?  A Weekend in the Country isn’t a vacation – it is an awesome show-stopper to call night after night!  I have visited some truly beautiful parts of the country, only to sit in a dark room for most of the day.

But many stage managers do consider summer stock as a break in the routine.  Perhaps we enjoy working on a smaller scale, or perhaps we enjoy working on a larger scale at one of the grand amphitheaters or rotating reps.  We return to the summer theatres we have called home for years or maybe try a brand new company and reinvent ourselves.  Summer stock can be a stage manager’s time-share: we often find ourselves spending weeks in places we might not otherwise ever visit.  Whatever the difference, a change in scenery is just what we need to re-energize.

Last summer I returned to the Berkshires after a fifteen-year break.  I stage managed for the Chester Theatre Company, a new company for me but one with a great history.  During most of the year, my days are filled with committee meetings and strategic planning; in the summer I can focus on just the show.  It is not just the additional hours of daylight, I really felt that I could accomplish more each day because I didn’t have the usual routines and responsibilities.  And a smaller SM team meant that I could get my hands dirty.  The effect was as if I had visited a spa: I felt the years slip away.  Only I was creating great art and got paid for my efforts.  And did I mention the mountain resort cabin as Artist Housing?

Perhaps all of this shouldn’t be surprising.  Stage managers are notorious for working long hours and, when we are lucky, long contracts.  When you spend most of your day at work, it seems less like work and more like a lifestyle (my wife would beg to differ).  And in many cities, theatre only runs 9 months a year.  So we migrate to greener pastures to create our art.  Besides, we often have the great outdoors and small towns to ourselves on those Monday Days Off.

Here’s to another beautiful summer of theatre!