Bridget Flaherty ‘21
This week, I interviewed Brian Saville ‘22 who worked as the stage manager on the Theatre Department’s production of (Le) Deluge. We discussed how the role changed as a result of the pandemic and its remote environment and what he learned from working on an original production.
For readers who might not know, what is the typical role of a stage manager?
The role of a stage manager is essentially to be the one in charge of organization and communication between all the different people involved in a theatrical production. Normally they would sit in on every rehearsal and take notes on everything– scheduling, blocking, props, tech, publicity, you name it– and get that information to wherever it needs to go.
Have you stage managed before? How much did the role change due to its virtual nature?
I have technically never stage managed prior to Deluge. I’ve been an assistant stage manager several times in high school and college, but skipped out on the stage manager position in favor of acting in shows. The role is still very much an organizational one, but this time instead of making sure that props were on the right tables and cast and crew members were where they needed to be, I was in charge of making lists and spreadsheets of important information and making sure these files were easy to find and well-organized.
What was the most rewarding part of this experience?
The most rewarding part of this experience was getting to be a key player in this piece that was entirely original. It was very exciting to watch these characters develop and hear these songs before anyone else in the world.
What was the most surprising part of this experience?
The most surprising part of the experience was watching everything come together so well. There were times, from the first read-through of the script up until we were filming and editing the video, when I thought “this is crazy” or “this is a mess, there’s no way this is actually going to look or sound like we want it to.” I was blown away when the show was released. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much everyone involved had really pulled together and exceeded our wildest expectations.
What was the most difficult part of this experience?
As a stage manager, I think the most difficult part of the (Le) Deluge experience was not being able to foster a sense of community among the cast the way I would have liked to. In normal times, the stage manager often plays a big role in planning events that really help bring the cast together, and this was difficult to do in the virtual format. I did regularly send memes in our group chat to make up for it.
What were the biggest challenges you as an individual and the production as a whole faced?
I think the biggest challenge for the production as a whole was finding ways to do what we wanted to do technologically without sacrificing the interactive elements that are essential to acting. When you see characters singing, moving, and having conversations in the show, they really were doing that all in real time, and the gadgets that let us have that (video cameras, airpods, recording software, etc.) were always finicky. Our tech team did a stellar job working through these kinks, and the final product is much better off for it.
Did the fact that “Le Deluge” is an original musical impact your work/experience?
Deluge being an original piece affected my work in a big way. Much of what you would take for granted during a normal production, like a script with scene numbers and a musical score, obviously did not exist when we started. Our librettist Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin and composer Ulysses Loken knocked it out of the park writing scenes and music, and a big part of my job became to list out these scenes and songs by name and number and who/what we needed for them, and to update this information every time changes were made to the script.
Did you feel as connected to the cast/crew/story in a remote work environment?
As I said before, it was challenging to connect with the cast in a remote environment, though I was grateful that I got to be such a key player in the making of Deluge and was able to use this experience to maintain some connection with the cast during the virtual semester. Many of them are people I’ve been working with for a few years now, so being able to see them all regularly despite the circumstances is something I really appreciated. And I think we all felt very tightly connected to the story because it was entirely our own. The fact that we went down this path rather than trying to make an existing musical work over Zoom made it feel not like we had been cheated out of a grand production like Cabaret, but that we had gained something by performing a show that is very unique and very much a product of its tumultuous time.
The run of (Le) Deluge has been extended and will be streaming on Youtube until March 24. Don’t miss out on the chance to witness this totally original creative phenomenon!
Graphic design by Hui Li ’21