You settle into your seat, the curtain rises and magic happens. You’re transported to an apartment in Depression-era St. Louis, an art gallery in 1980s New York, or––as in lean ensemble theater’s upcoming production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike––to a farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As the actors, under the invisible hand of the director weave their spell, behind the scenes Lean Ensemble Stage Manager Zach Conrad is making sure that nothing disturbs the illusion.
Conrad’s job, the clockworks behind the production, is the culmination of weeks of work. Through the first table read when actors and director first come together to closing night, he schedules rehearsals, coordinates with props and costumes, answers questions from the set, lighting, and sound designers, and trouble shoots.
With rehearsals underway, he maintains the prompt book, show’s “bible” listing cues, blocking (how actors are positioned on stage), technical notes about lighting and sound and their timing, and scripts. Along the way he is a problem solver––for example, figuring out how to keep Nora Leahy’s dress from catching on fire during the candle scene in Glass Menagerie. Beyond those technical aspects, his work extends to the care and feeding of actors: he orders the pizza and keeps the candy dish filled with M&M’s (a favorite of director Blake White).
Opening night. Conrad dons a headset and embarks on coordinating all the moving parts: ensuring actors and props are on stage when needed, checking that costumes are ready, and calling transitions. “Standby, sound cue,” then “go,” and doorbells ring or thunder claps. Ditto for lighting, triggering a ghost or spotlight. It’s a feat of timing and traffic-controlling, he’ll perform for the following performances.
Zach Conrad takes his last Lowcountry bow with the final performance of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike on May 8th. This summer he leaves for New Mexico to work with lean ensemble artistic director Blake White and ensemble member Nora Leahy. From there the 24 year-old goes to Wayne State University to pursue a Masters Degree in stage management. His goal? To be the best stage manager he can be, working at a regional theater located in a place where he can settle down and raise a family.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. May 5-8. leanensemble.org. 843.715.6676.