2018 TRUE WEST AWARDS, Day 11
An effective stage manager requires stealth, compassion, organization – and a willingness to go completely unnoticed
True West Awards: Let’s see. How to best describe the traits of an effective stage manager? What are the words I’m looking for? … What are they? … OK, I give up. “Line!”
Effective Stage Manager (whispering): “You don’t go into stage management to be noticed …”
True West Awards (interrupting): Right. Dammit, I knew that! OK … You don’t go into stage management to be noticed. And you don’t last long if you are.
Stage management is the most visible purveyor of the invisible theatre arts. In addition to being organized, punctual and dependable, an effective stage manager keeps her mouth shut and her eyes and ears open. She makes everyone in the room feel respected and heard. She manages every last rehearsal detail. When the show opens, she serves as the de facto director for the remainder of the run. She keeps everything moving seamlessly both onstage and in the wings. She calls cues and signals what’s to come. She handles unexpected emergencies and wards off disaster – hopefully without the audience ever catching on. All while keeping her cool and maintaining a professional demeanor and a sense of humor. Stage managers are generous, passionate, considerate and – perhaps most important – can deftly manage eccentric personalities during times of great creative stress. All while going completely unnoticed.
And they call your lines when you’ve forgotten what to say.
The above is a fairly accurate description of several top-notch stage managers throughout the state of Colorado. But it is an especially accurate description of Katie Espinoza, who silently kept backstage trains running this year for The Edge and Benchmark theatre companies, as well as Boulder’s The Catamounts.
“She’s a dream,” said The Catamounts’ Amanda Berg Wilson, who directed Men on Boats, a rollicking, true(ish) story of John Wesley Powell‘s 1869 expedition to chart the Colorado River, featuring a cast of a dozen women. “She’s quiet. But stealthy. Always one step ahead of me. Whenever I asked something of her, she would kindly look at me like: ‘Duh, already done.’ And even with 11 of the most opinionated women in theatre in the room, we all happily deferred to her.”
Rachel Rogers, Benchmark’s Executive Artistic Director, says Espinoza “possesses one the coolest heads I’ve ever worked with. She is someone I’d always want with me in a crisis because she is able to maintain an air of calm regardless of the circumstances, and that attitude is incredibly contagious in all of the right ways. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Katie or working with her.”
Espinoza, originally from Chicago, has made the boutique theatre at 1560 Teller Street her artistic home since it was opened by the Edge Theatre, which went on hiatus in June. It then bequeathed the space to Benchmark, where Espinoza is now Resident Production Stage Manager, and where this year she supervised The Arsonists, The Fever Dream Festival and Benchmark’s current world premiere of the play What You Will, running through December 22.
“Katie has been such an integral part of our success this year, and we are so lucky to have her,” Rogers said. “Anyone who is fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work with her should jump at the chance. She’s truly an asset to the Theatre – and I mean that with a capital T.”
In her own words: “Theatre is a place where you foster friendships, develop families, explore the unknown and navigate the ripple effect of our choices. That’s what theatre has allowed me to do: Not just play but feel the boldness of my decisions and weigh their prospective outcomes. Every time I walk into a theatre, to that space for facilitating community, and smell that lingering scent of freshly cut wood, I know I am home.” – Katie Espinoza.
Postscript: In rehearsal, when actors don’t know what to say, they say “Line.” It’s a call out to the stage manager to please tell them what they are supposed to say. And that could be problematic in Men on Boats. “ ‘Line’ was often an actual line in the script,” Wilson said, “and somehow Katie could tell the difference between when the actors were calling for a line or just saying the line, ‘Line!’ ”
About The True West Awards: ’30 Days, 30 Bouquets’
The True West Awards, now in their 18th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2018 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre magazine in 2011. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org
Katie Espinoza: 2018
As a Stage Manager:
- Death of a Salesman, The Edge Theatre
- Empire Records, Screenplay
- Glengarry Glen Ross, The Edge Theatre
- Men on Boats, The Catamounts
- The Arsonists, Benchmark
- The Fever Dream Festival, Benchmark Theatre
- What You Will, Benchmark Theatre