In our Ghost Light Chronicles, vol. 6, Producing Artistic Director Michael Stevenson interviews Director and Playwright Jeffrey Lo virtually. To learn more and to follow our Ghost Light Chronicles, visit: capstage.org/blog. To learn more about Jeffrey Lo visit his website at www.jeffreywritesaplay.com.
This episode features a conversation between Stephanie Gularte, CEO/Producing Artistic Director of American Stage in Florida, and Michael Stevenson, Producing Artistic Director of Capital Stage in California. Their conversation includes the partnership between these two companies, the co-production that was planned for this season, Joshua Harmon’s ADMISSIONS, and what it is like to lead an arts organization in the middle of a pandemic in 2020. americanstage.org/cross-country-collaborations
A Message From Actor & Apprentice Alum Elyse Sharp
“The theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.” – John Steinbeck, Once There Was a War
The show must go on.
Last summer, I was playing Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I woke up on opening day with plenty of time to do the complicated braided hairstyle that the director and I had agreed on. The final dress rehearsal had gone as smoothly as we could hope for, and although other shows I’ve been in still need one last rehearsal the day of opening night, the cast had been given the day off to rest.
Then, my phone rang.
It was the company’s artistic director. The assistant stage manager had been in a car accident on their way home after rehearsal and was in the hospital. This person spent most of the first act of our show as my dresser to help me with my quick changes.
If you’ve never seen a quick change, imagine a choreographed dance between the actor and one or more dressers who move with precision and speed–and there’s clothes.
Have you ever tried to help someone else put on or take off clothes? If you are home with another person right now, feel free to try. We all have the time.
It isn’t easy, so, there’s an exact order: As I run offstage after the discovery of Duncan’s body, I’ll undo the clasp at my neck on this nightgown so you can help me get it over my head once I hit the quick change booth. Then, I’ll kick off the pair of shoes I’ve been wearing without socks, and you’ll help me put back on the socks and boots I had been wearing earlier, but not before you’ve handed my shirt which is already layered under a leather tunic. I’ll work on tucking that shirt in and fastening the tunic while you roll down the legs of the pants that I had kept on and worn rolled up so they wouldn’t show under the nightgown. Another cast member will arrive just in time to help me finish putting on the tunic–there’s one latch-like thing that I can’t reach and your hands are full with either my boots or getting the final touches for my costume–then they’ll hold open the cloak while you help me put on a necklace and crown. I’ll maybe get a sip of water before walking back on stage.
This all happens in under two minutes.
And I have five of these changes in Act One. And they are all different, all complicated.
But the show must go on.
So, we adjust, we hatch a plan, and I do that complicated braided hairstyle in record time before arriving at the theatre three hours early in order to teach another crew member how each change functions.
The show goes on.
Take an introductory improvisation class, and you’ll hear about the concept of “Yes, And.” At its basic level, it is about accepting what someone else has said in an improv scene and building on it. So, if someone else says that the office building is on fire, then you have to agree to that setting and add something to it — maybe your character grabs the bottle off the top off the water cooler to do their best to stop the fire before the firefighters arrive.
Eventually, Yes, And becomes more about stepping into the unknown, letting go of anything you had planned, accepting the situation you found yourself in, and adjusting to it.
Capital Stage is the theatre that said, Yes we will do theatre on a river boat, And it will be excellent. Yes, we will take that old gun store, And we will turn it into Sacramento’s home for cutting edge theatre.
We are all improvising life right now — finding new ways of living and working through the unknown. We can’t change what is going on, so we have to Yes, And it. Capital Stage excels at Yes, And, and it is what I believe will see us through this never-before-seen situation.
For now, I’ll be catching up on reading plays and finding new material for when auditions start back up again. I’ll be video-chatting with friends, discovering new outlets for creativity, and taking walks with my fiance. And I’ll be looking forward to the next time I can walk in through that door on J Street, sit down in a seat (I’ve honestly tried them all, and there isn’t a bad one), and watch a show in the theatre that feels like home.
The show will go on.
I’ll see you at CapStage when it does.
Actor & Apprentice Alum MACBETH, THE REAL THING, MISS BENNET www.elysesharp.com
A Message from Audience Services Manager Sarah Thomson
Capital Stage saved my life 8 years ago.
I grew up in theatre. My parents owned a set design company. My childhood was spent backstage of places like B Street, Celebration Arts and Sacramento Theatre Company (unfortunately Capital Stage did not exist yet). It was always so cool to see the behind the scenes of a production coming together. There are so many people that go into putting on a production from designers, box office staff, actors, directors, stage managers and so many more.
That said, I decided to leave this wonderful world of theatre when I was in my late teens and went on to work other various jobs, but was never happy. Fast forward to 8 years ago: I was unemployed, floundering in my mid twenties and miserable. My mother found out through a long-time friend that Capital Stage was hiring for some one part time in the Box Office. I applied and got the job.
I had never been on this side of the theatre world before and I had a bit of a rocky start. But I fell in love with the shows Capital Stage was producing almost immediately. ENRON was my first show with the company. It was such a fantastic way to tell that story that it quickly became one of my favorite shows of all time. After that, I knew I had finally found a new home. I sobbed during 4000 MILES, cheered when we did our first musical THE BEHAVIOR OF BROADUS, and laughed hysterically during THE TOTALITARIANS.
The years passed and we continued to produce bold, thought provoking, bizarre, beautiful pieces of theatre, and I saw the impact that had on our community firsthand. One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to know all our patrons and see how what we do affects them. Capital Stage is the only theatre in town that does what we do. We are a vital lifeforce in our community. We make you question the hard things. Love the simple things. See beauty where you wouldn’t have seen it before. Reflect on yourself. Sometimes that’s hard but it is so important to our lives to feel those things. To question those things.
Even though we are in a weird place right now, please continue to support Capital Stage and what we do. We will need it after the current state of affairs, and for many years to come.
“…Being a good steward of our community doesn’t only apply to creating theatre for everyone to see. It applies to being part of the solution during these difficult times.”
Before I start a new show I always go and get my blazers dry-cleaned. It’s a ritual that I love and helps me get into the mood of a new show. But of course due to our current world situation there is no need for me to put on those blazers. So in order to give myself the smallest sense of normalcy, and in honor of missing my next show and co workers, I decided to put on one of those good old blazers as I sit down to type this.
So how am I coping? I
think I am coping like everyone else. One day I am up and one day I am
down. But something that does help me make it through each day is knowing
that I am in no way alone with these feelings. Every single one of my
friends, co-workers and family are dealing with similar feelings and situations
right now. So even though I am staying home and I can’t see them all in
person, I know I am not alone.
It was a real bummer to see my friends who worked so hard on Admissions have to close before anyone was really able to see it. I was equally sad to receive the news that we would not be producing Passover this season. I have been looking forward to this show ever since we announced it last year. And now, knowing that I won’t get to work on it with respected artists and friends is a major disappointment for myself and for our wonderful Capital Stage audiences.
When I moved back to Sacramento, after being gone for 10 years, it wasn’t my intention to go back to work. I had my son and I was happy to stay at home with him everyday. Then one day an old friend called me up and said “Hey can you help me out of a bind and come be my Assistant Stage Manager on a show at Capital Stage?” I reluctantly said yes because she was my friend and I wanted to help her out…but I was very clear that this was just a one time thing. Well here we are and I am now in my fourth season as a Stage Manager with this amazing company.
And now Capital Stage is my home. And I miss it. I miss my coworkers. I miss seeing them every day and talking about work but also just talking about life, art and what is going on in the theatre community in and our town. I am constantly impressed at what my colleagues can accomplish everyday. From logistics, to building sets, to helping our audiences, to their performances on stage, etc. etc. etc. The people that I work with are amazing and I wish that we could continue to share our hard work with live audiences each night during this difficult time. But being a good steward of our community doesn’t only apply to creating theatre for everyone to see. It applies to being part of the solution during these difficult times.
We don’t get many “days
off” in the theatre world. Most productions around the country
run 6 days a week. We don’t know what to do with ourselves now that we
don’t have to work! It’s incredible to see my fellow artists out there still
creating from their homes as we adapt to these circumstances. I see famous
artists giving away content to make people happy. I see my friends and friends
of friends creating amazing videos to help encourage people through these hard
times. Theatre and art helps. Putting our artistic creations out
there for the world to see is what we do as artists. I know that as soon as we
get through all this isolation the amount of creative ideas that will be
flowing will be overwhelming. I know as soon as we are all able to be back
in rehearsals and on stage that we will be ready and willing. And I know
as soon as Capital Stage can reopen the doors again that we
will do it as fast as we can. We miss you Sacramento and we will be back.
But for now I sit at
home, in my blazer surrounded by two little ones and hope that I can enjoy
stage managing our quarantine lives as much as I enjoy stage managing at Capital