So, exactly what does a Stage Manager do, anyway? Allie Steele sets the record straight.

Allie Steele
Allie Steele

“Here at Summer Stage you have to have to earn the respect of young people and lead by example,” says Allie. “You have to be very good at crowd controlling and have a desire to keep things regulated. And you also need to be able to love what you do. It’s not an easy job to love. So the best stage managers enjoy stage-managing. They enjoy crowd control, they enjoy color-coding. It’s almost like a neurotic profession!”

Allie Steele seems to be everywhere at Summer Stage, all at once. But she never seems to be stressed or overwhelmed. During the peak of the Summer Stage season Allie stage managed “Narnia,” while working as stage manager for “Titanic.” A typical day began rehearsals for “Narnia” beginning at 9am until 4:30pm, a break for dinner and then onto “Titanic” rehearsals from 7pm until 10:30pm.

In addition, she has the job of Stage Manager Supervisor. Somewhere in there she was able to squeeze in rehearsals for the recent Fill the World With Love Benefit where she was able to showcase her beautiful voice and passionate on-stage presence.

Allie graduated from St. Joseph’s University with a degree in sports and entertainment marketing, but has come to realize it’s difficult to let go of her love of theater. Theater is “a bug that you catch or you don’t, and if you’ve got it, you can’t get rid of it,” says Allie.

She grew up at Summer Stage and like many who are involved, she came to the shows as a little girl and then participated in the program, acting in the Children’s Theater shows.

She started working as a stage manager at Summer Stage in 2008, the summer after her sophomore year of college. That was the year she ended up stage-managing all three of the university productions, an overwhelming feat no one had tackled before. But when she applied for the stage management job at Summer Stage, she already had the experience of stage-managing three productions under her belt.

Prior to this season, Allie recognized the need for more clarification for those in stage management positions. “The skill-set for a stage manager isn’t cut and dry. You might not know you’re hiring the right person until it’s too late. You wouldn’t hire a choreographer if she can’t dance and you wouldn’t hire a music director if he can’t play the piano.”

Allie suggested to Mr. Dietzler that she’d like to try out a supervising position where she could give guidance and direction to the other stage managers on staff. Not necessarily as an authority figure, but as a sounding board. She took it upon herself to identify the skill-sets needed for stage management and to develop a tool kit for each of the stage managers which provided a road map for them.

So what does it take to be a Stage Manager?

Organization and multi-tasking are two of the biggest skill-sets. “No matter how many actors you have, no matter how many different departments you are working with, you need to be able to keep track of all of them. You need to be able to know who is in charge of each department. And you need to be able to effectively communicate with all the different departments.”

“Here at Summer Stage you have to have to earn the respect of young people and lead by example,” says Allie. “You have to be very good at crowd controlling and have a desire to keep things regulated. And you also need to be able to love what you do. It’s not an easy job to love. So the best stage managers enjoy stage-managing. They enjoy crowd control, they enjoy color-coding. It’s almost like a neurotic profession!”

Summer Stage = Collaboration

One of the elements of working at Summer Stage is the acceptance of ideas from other staff members, no matter what the job title. “In other venues it’s much more hierarchical. You only ask a costumer about the costumes. You only ask a lighting designer about the lights,” says Allie. “But the great thing about working here is the collaboration. A director can turn to a stage manager, who can turn to a choreographer and say, ‘Did that work?’ ‘What did you think of that?’ ‘How can we improve that?’

Allie Steele
Allie Steele
“As a stage manager I enjoy the fact that I can add my opinion on how to improve on something. I can say ‘maybe if this line was said this way,’ and a director will consider that and perhaps make the change,” adds Allie. “And I love that!”

It all fell into place…

Why is Allie attracted to the role of stage manager? “For me, my mother is very math and science she’s very organized. And my dad is very artistic, very left-brain. From him I got my love of theater. And I was an actress and a singer and I enjoy going to see shows. But I never deemed myself a creative person and that’s because I’m very math and structure oriented like my mom. And I found that stage managing is the perfect blend of those things.”

“The thing that draws me to stage management is I always like being behind the scenes, I like being part of the production,” says Allie. “Because I grew up being an actress I enjoy the process of a show and seeing all the hard work come to fruition.”

Why keep coming back?

Allie continues to come back to Summer Stage. “I really love working here because it’s just fun. We work hard and we have some professionals here who hold me to a high standard which I like, but at the same time, the kids really remind you that it’s fun.”

“I’ve had the privilege to work with some fantastic directors and I like that they hold me to a high standard. The harder you work, the higher the bar you set for yourself. And the more directors rely on me to keep the ball rolling.”

The Mainstage production of “Titanic” was epic on so many levels including story-line, musical score, costuming, lighting design, performance level and cast size. “Titanic really challenged me,” says Allie. “I had never stage-managed a Mainstage production before. In some instances I treated it like Children’s Theater and I had to be reminded that no, I need to step it up a little bit. You can always improve. It’s like acting. There are always notes you can give and there are always notes you can get.”

Allie’s passion for the job and her love of Summer Stage keeps her going each summer. “I have a desire to make whatever show I’m working on better and I thrive on the knowledge that I am important to a show’s progress. If I’m not there and if I’m not being attentive or if I’m not doing my job, then the show can’t meet its potential.”

“I love theater and that kind of love doesn’t go away. In each project I can find something that I really enjoy about it. Usually for me it’s the music or the people. And the people here are just wonderful to work with,” says Allie. And it’s great to find moments with people I’ve known since they were really little and to see them grow.”

Leave a Reply