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Coates can put 200-300 lights anywhere in the theatre, and
determines their spacing and how high off the floor they should
Then Coates, who lives in New York City, sends his plan to
Chapel Hill and electricians hang the lights.
A week before opening night, Coates arrives in Chapel Hill,
just in time for the technical dress rehearsal.
"I see what special things I need, like a special light on some
body's face for a few seconds," Coates said.
For the actors, who must hold still while Coates and Boyd
survey the effect of their highlighted features, the rehearsal is
The actors are on stage for 10 hours out of 12 on Saturday and
Sunday before the Wednesday preview.
"This show is not very technically involved, so it needs to be
precise," said Kimberly Kearsley, production stage manager. She
Photo courtesy of Haymakers Repertory Company
Josie Hogsn in the Playmakcrs Repertory Company production
. Eugene CNeilTs play is presented at Playmakers Theatre
s S "S.
marks the light and sound cues" on a script
Coates said that A Moon for the Misbegotten may have 50
light cues, or it may have five. "It depends on how much we
want to focus down on a given character and let the rest move
away." A professional lighting designer for seven years, Coates
said that the larger shows, usually musicals, may use 200 lights in
1 50 configurations.
Life on the Mississippi, PRC's first production this season, had
103 light cues, and that meant a steady patter of instructions be
tween Kearsley and electrician Robert L. Orzolek. During shows
at Paul Green Theatre, they sit in a booth behind the audience,
up two flights of spiral staircases. They wear headsets which also
connect to Lori Delk, the assistant stage manager, who is back
stage. Kearsley is armed with a prompt book, lamp, watch and tea.
Orzolek sits at a complex computer console with a television
screen to the side, next to the spotlight switches. The screen
shows the lights' numbers and whether or not they-are at full
strength. It can pick up The Dukes of Hazzard during intermis
sion. The light and sound engineers can't make a move without the
stage manager's command. "It's important that they trust me,"
Kearsley begins working on a new show by relaying informa
tion like "this chair should not have wheels" and sharpening
pencils. The smooth operation of a performance after a director
is finished preparing the show, also depends on her. She does
everything from telling the actors to take their places to telling
the house manager to escort a crying baby outside.
It isn't easy to do all of this and still call more than 100 cues at
precisely the same time every performance. Kearsley joked,
"half the time it's the actors holding for the lights."
Karen Rosen is a staff writer for the The Daily Tar Heel.
Stage manager must keep her head
By KAREN ROSEN
you can keep your head when all about you ,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If Rudyard Kipling had been backstage at a theatre when he wrote
"If," he would have had a stage manager in mind. Kipling's poem,
sandwiched between notes from appreciative actors and proteges,
hangs above Kimberly Kearsles desk in Graham Memorial.
"When everything is going well, no one realizes why," said the Play
makers Repertory Company Production stage manager, who will be
Vailing the shots for A Moon for the Misbegotten until Nov. 14. "When
everything is going badly, all eyes turn to me."
An actor under the spotlights doesn't garner as much attention as
the stage manager when those spotlights fail to come on. But that rare
ly happens it is the unforeseen that can mystify both cast and crew.
During PRC's production of Mobile Hymn last spring, a strange noise
cropped up one night. "The actors were going crazy and couldn't think
because of the constant sound feedback," Kearsley said. "We turned
off the entire sound system and still heard it."
The next day someone said, "I think it was these ladies sitting next to
me with hearing aids."
. "Every time they turned their heads, the frequency changed,"
Kearsley said. "I wanted to crawl into a hole and die,"
Things could be worse. Kearsley's ex-husband, also.a stage manager,
once almost watched part of a train roll into the orchestra pit.
"Through This Portal Walks the Greatest Musical Cast. Ever," pro
claims a sign above the Majestic Theatre's stage door.
The 57 cast members of the. hit musical 42nd Street stroll through
this door two blocks away from 42nd Street eight times a week. As
stage manager, Barry Kearsley has been in charge of the technical
aspects of running the SRO show daily for the past two years. He gives
cues for lights, sound, the winches that move mammoth staircases on
stage and the stagehands who grab trains before they tumble off the
In the early 1970s the Kearsleys traveled on the road together with
touring companies of Hair, Codspell and Seesaw. They split up when
.Kim's career pulled her to regional theatre and Barry's best interests
were anchored in New York.
"Half of my work is in rehearsal," said Kim whose shows rehearse
three weeks and perform roughly two weeks. "It's like being a contrac
tor, but once you build. the house, you don't live in It
"Barry has the same people for two years. A lot of intrigue goes on,
and interrelation among cast members. If someone starts dating some
one else's boyfriend, it can affect a performance. Barry has to keep
, everyone on the ship happy."
The same goes for Kim. but for a shorter time period. "I can sense
, when someone needs to go out for a drink and relax, or smooth their
TW feathers," Kim said.
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Phil Hoqan (Ken Grantham), left, and James
When a principal actor leaves 42nd Street, Barry and the other three
stage managers must break in the successor. They play all the parts,
unless they can round up some understudies. "After two years, you
know all the words, no problem," said, Barry, then in the process of
replacing Peggy Cass.
The show has a tricky shadow dance and as dancers are injured per
forming it, Barry pulls a chemical ice pack from his desk in the wings.
"We go through 30 to 40 ice packs a month from people pulling
muscles if they're not getting accidentally kicked by someone," he
Bring on the understudies. After all, that's what 42nd Street is all
about an understudy who goes on for the big star and wins everyone's
heart. The splashy show, set in 1933, stars Jerry Orbach, Millicent Mar
tin and Lisa Brown, who plays Nola Reardon on the soap opera The
Guiding Light. Both Barry and Kim knew Brown from touring with
Barry was the stage manager and Kim, then a senior at Hofstra Uni
versity, was offered the job as star dresser for John Gavin.
"John didn't want a lady dresser," Kim said, "so I was supposed to
be Lucie Arnaz's dresser. But there were a lot of kidnappings going on
then, and Lucille Ball, the story has it said that her daughter had to
have a male dresserbodyguard type."
Kim became Tommy Tune's dresser. "He hadn't expected anyone,"
she said. "He was. flabbergasted." . .
Kim had to keep-the 6-foot-6 inch Tune's clothes cleaned, pressed
and hung in the right place. "Tommy had a lot of memorabilia so I had
to fix it so it was comfortable for him: post his telegrams, lay put his
giraffe collection and make sure his Tony Award was out on the dress
Lucky it wasn't a bus-and-truck tour like a later Seesaw tour when
they had to set up practically every other day and sometimes camped
out in the car to cut expenses.
Barry, 35, never dreamed of occupying center stage. A Rhode Island
native, he built scenery for community and civic theaters when he was
M2 and has been a carpenter (for Jethro Tull), electrician and lighting
designer. As a Hofstra freshman, Barry taught a freshman technical
Barry's first stage managing job was with Mickey Rooney on a tour
of George Ml "He has the energy of three people. He wore me out"
.- Barry said. '
Because of his stagehand background, he became fast friends with
7 Milton Berle, a former vaudeville stagehand.
Barry was an electrician with Equus in Boston and on Broadway he
ran the light boards for Ethel Merman's Hello, Dolly! Then he did five
h different Broadway shows, none lasting longer than two weeks. He next
r hooked up with Dancin', the last major musical done with a hand-oper-i
ated light board, instead of an overstuffed easy chair and computer
like at the Majestic Theatre.
"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a dancer," said Kim, 33, who grew
up on Long Island. "I didn't know what a stage manager was." She
Tyrone Jr. (Henry Hoffman) enjoy a drink and good conversation in A Moon for the
... Pulitzer Prize-winning play presented by Playmakers Repertory Company thrd
worked three summers in the Catskills and quickly found out. One
summer she was the assistant stage manager, choreographer, electri
cian, actor, in charge of apprentices, and she said. "I also cooked
She stage-managed children's shows at the Provincetpwn Playhouse,
instead of rehearsing her own acting scenes at school. "My heart
wasn't in acting anymore. I would rather be backstage."
Kim became the first female stage manager at the Hofstra
Shapespeare Festival, with The Merry Wives of Windsor.
At the Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Kim stage-managed the debut of
the Pulitzer-prizewinner The Gin Game. She followed that with a stint
at the Cricket Theatre in Minneapolis.
"I drove to Minneapolis feeling very much like Mary Tyler Moore,"
When Kim applied for the Carolina job, she was asked, "Are you
really a stage manager? The last people who applied were schoolteach
ers." She has worked with 14 PRC productions since then. During The
Glass Menagerie last year, Kim went to the hospital during the show,
causing her to miss a PRC performance for the first time. She practical
ly had to be dragged out because she didn't want to leave her 138 light
cues and 45 sound cues. Her stand-in had these instructions: "Just
remember to say 'Go'."
"I was glad it was me and not one of the actresses," Kim said. "Then
what would I have done?"
"Kim and I work a lot the same in terms of personality," Barry said.
"It's amazing how hard people will work for you if they care for you
and respect you."
Barry has earned respect as catcher and photographer on the 42nd
Street staff softball team in the Show Business League. They lost in the
semifinals to the cast of Torch Song Trilogy.
"It's not just a job, it's my whole life and has been from the time I
was a child," Barry said. "I'm proud of it and never unhappy to come
to work. I like sharing it with people, anyone who offers the slightest bit
He gives two or three tours a month. "Some people just get a charge
standing on a Broadway stage and looking out on an empty theater,"
Barry said, standing beneath the first-act scenery, which was suspended
above the stage by a one-ton chain.
On her return from a trip to Russia with the Yale Men's Russian
Chorus, Kim stopped in New York. She and Barry talked about Russia
and theatre in general.
"I don't want to go back to New York," Kim said. "There's no reason
for me to go anywhere right now."
When she lived in New York, she once took a job at the Harold Klur
man Theatre with Zoe Caldwell because it was only a four-block walk.
Now she lives two houses away from the Paul Green Theatre. "I can
see it from my kitchen window."
Karen Rosen is a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel.
. . . PRC stage r