MacEwan University’s theatre programs invited two visiting artists to campus this fall to work with students and share their experiences in the industry. In October, Andrew Byrne taught a vocal master class to Theatre Arts students and gave a lecture to voice teachers. In Theatre Production, Crystal MacDonell has been working with students as the stage manager for Pippin, the first show of MacEwan’s 2019/20 theatre season, and is hosting two workshops this month.
We asked Crystal about stage management, the importance of mentorship in the theatre community and the challenges of a show like Pippin.
Q. What does a stage manager do?
Stage management is a broad field that encompasses everything from being a communication hub for the show, to scheduling, to archiving, to organizing and coordinating with various departments, to maintaining the show once it opens. Where Pippin is concerned, there's the added challenge of integrating circus elements. It's exciting that everyone gets to learn these new tricks.
Q. What was the first show you ever worked on?
My first professional show was as an apprentice stage manager on The Woman In Black at Theatre Orangeville. My first show ever was as the stage manager for a play with my high school drama club — I can’t remember the name! — for the Sears Drama Festival. It was exciting to be part of a group of people who were coming together to make something for an audience. That feeling has never really left me.
Q. What are some of the key things you want MacEwan’s theatre students to know?
It’s been fun working with all the students and they have been very welcoming. I would like them to know that there's fun to be had on every show and in every theatre experience as long as they’re open to new opportunities that stretch them as artists.
Q. How important is mentorship in the theatre community?
Very important. As is the case for most stage managers, I had to apprentice for two years to get into the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association. I learned a lot that you can only learn by working in a professional setting. I also met a lot of people who then became the first professional references on my resume.
Q. What’s new for the opening show this season and what are some of the challenges from a stage management perspective?
It's my first show with MacEwan but I'm told that this is the students’ first experience with both circus training and traps (the concealed openings in the stage floor). Both involve special safety considerations and everyone — the stage manager, the cast and the crew — has been rising to the challenge.
2018/19 was an incredible theatre season — and we’ve got the pictures to prove it.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.