The Question, April 8, 2013
When it Feels Like Cleaning the Bathroom
by Estelle Rosen
Danielle Skene has been working in professional theatre for over 15 years as an actor, teacher, administrator, playwright and stage manager. Her most recent credits include Waiting for the Barbarians, (Segal Theatre), Harlem Duet (Black Theatre Workshop), The Taming of the Shrew (Repercussion Theatre Company), Same Time, Next Year (Segal Theatre), Ars Poetica (Infinithéâtre), The Little Prince (Geordie Productions) and both Gemini and Forty Carats for the Dawson College Theatre Program. This May, Ms Skene will stage manage Scapegoat Carnivale’s staged reading of Faust at the Segal Studio.
CHARPO: You've recently moved from being an actor to a stage manager. Why?
SKENE: I think from an outside perspective it looks like an unorthodox move. The more conventional migration is from being an actor to a director or from an actor to a playwright. Although I do write as well, I never considered it my "profession", it was something I did (and continue to do) because I had a need to express an idea. For me, the transition to stage management has been very easy and organic. I have a reputation for being organized, prepared and a lover of lists. I was always the actor in the room with the perfectly highlighted binder that had the tabbed dividers for schedules and notes. Really, I was already the stage manager in actor's clothing.
When I look back, I was leaving acting behind for quite some time, in the mid 2000s I was teaching acting, working in theatre administration and dabbling behind the scenes but I was starting to act a lot less. I took some time off from the theatre world and started a family. Once it was time to go back to work, I started to put together my acting CV, looked through my headshots, thought about calling my agent but instead of feeling excited about starting back, I just felt exhausted and disinterested. It felt like I was going to clean the bathroom.
I knew that I was not done with the theatre. I so love the theatre community in Montreal and had really missed working in it but I knew I just didn't want to act. Whatever that drive an actor needs to keep wanting to audition, to interpret that role, to get up on the stage all of that in me had just vanished. I had to sit back and decide where I fit in. The natural move for me was to arts administration, I had done quite a bit of it and all of my jobs outside the theatre had been in office administration and management. That still didn't feel right. One of the things I love about theatre is that creative process, being in the room when the magic happens. Arts administration felt too far away from the rehearsal room. That is when I hit on it. Who does the administration and management in the rehearsal room? The Stage Manager! My body perked right up. I was no longer cleaning the bathroom, I was going dancing!
That was two years ago and I have spent that time doing apprenticeships with various theatre companies in Montreal. It has been such a rewarding experience. I have learned from some of the best in the business and I don't just mean stage managers, although they have been tremendously giving, I have learned from EVERYBODY. When you are the stage manager, you are in contact with everybody. As an actor, you don't really have the opportunity to sit down and hear the staggering creativity of designers, you don't get a chance to realize how clever and innovative technicians are, and how caring and involved administration is. As a stage manager, I feel I work so much closer with the director, than I ever did as an actor. And the actors! Now that I sit on the other side of the table from them, I have so much admiration and love for what they do. I just adore actors. I just don't want to do their job.
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