Day 5: Let’s hear it for those you never hear about
Every year the True West Awards calls attention to unsung heroes of the theatre because art doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And it only happens in the parking lots of at least 50 Colorado schools a year because Stuart Barr often gets up at 3 a.m., heads down to the Denver Center’s warehouse to collect a beat-up old pick-up truck filled with props, costumes and sound equipment, then drives it to schools up to 100 miles away, just in time for an ensemble of Denver Center Teaching Artists to perform Shakespeare at the ring of the first school bell.
It’s called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, and Barr often beats the sunrise to set up the stage in those parking lots. He connects speakers to temporary poles. He runs the sound as the actors perform abridged versions of Romeo & Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream – sometimes four times a day, back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Barr then packs everything up and drives it all back to Denver before tackling the rest of his myriad responsibilities as the Technical Director for DCPA Education.
“If Stuart weren’t there, we would have to have three more entire human beings doing his job,” said True West Award-winning actor and DCPA Teaching Artist John Hauser, who plays Romeo, among others.
Since 2009, Barr has been “the connective tissue for everything we do,” said Allison Watrous, the DCPA’s Executive Director of Education and Community Engagement. “He is the fabric that threads our students, actors and faculty together.”
In addition to facilitating Shakespeare in the Parking Lot performances for 17,000 students a year, Barr oversees the needs for any and all other DCPA Education projects from pre-K students through adults that require technical support. Which means he’s also a Scenic, Sound and Lighting Designer. He is the Stage Manager and House Manager. He’s at times an actor, director, teacher and choreographer. Whatever needs to be done.
“That support might mean helping the director solve how an angel is going to fly for Angels in America,” Watrous said. “Then it might mean making sure all of the crafts are ready to welcome our students for summer camp. Then it might mean getting Shakespeare in the Parking Lot out to a library on a Saturday. Next week it will mean running Master Class performances of Dead Man’s Cell Phone and Buried Child. That support is amazing to all of us.”
He’s certainly never bored.
“What makes Stuart, Stuart is his generosity,” Watrous said. “He is the most generous person on the planet.”
Stuart Barr/At a glance
- Technical Director for Education and Community Engagement at the DCPA since 2009
- Previously worked at the Town Hall Arts Center and Arapahoe Community College
- Originally from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina
- Studied Scenography at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The silent Stage Manager
Miners Alley Playhouse Resident Stage Manager Bryanna Scott is so quiet, you might think someone stole her spike tape and spike-taped her mouth shut.
“There are a lot of bossy stage managers out there,” says Miners Alley Playhouse Executive Artistic Director Len Matheo. “Bryanna is not one of those who walks into a room and announces to people how things are going to be run. Her style is to just get things done. But what makes her amazing is she gets it done the way she want to do it, not the way people think it should be done. She does what she does with a quiet authority.”
Scott, 26, came to the charming 130-seat theatre in the heart of downtown Golden as an intern in 2010, while she was still a student at Golden High School. She was mentored by Managing Director Jonathan Scott-McKean, who affectionately nicknamed her Hobbit because she is so tiny. Scott is now in the unusual position of having run every mainstage show at Miners Alley since the 2013-14 season.
In a remarkable and varied 2019, Scott has overseen productions of Lost in Yonkers, Our Town, Queen of Conspiracy, Fairfield, Once and A Christmas Carol.
Stage managers are an incredibly important but publicly invisible part of the creative process (if they are doing their jobs well). Stage managers provide practical and organizational support to the director, actors, designers, stage crew and technicians throughout the rehearsal process. After a show opens, they serve as the director’s proxy – meaning they’re the boss. They typically call light and sound cues at every performance, essentially serving as the backstage head coach.
More than anything, Matheo said, stage managers set the backstage vibe at any theatre. And that can be the difference between the success or failure of any production.
It’s a lot of responsibility for a 26-year-old, but Matheo believes having Scott on as a full and equal member of the Miners Alley staff ensures a kind of consistency other theatres don’t enjoy when they rotate stage managers in and out.
“We make a big point of telling our audience that we realize the key to any theatre’s long-term success is consistency,” Matheo said, “and Bryanna is a big part of that for us.”
Another key to any stage manager’s success is a sense of humor, and Scott showed she has one back in 2014, when Director Brenda Billings couldn’t resist putting Scott on stage in The Fantasticks.
“It was funny because she played The Mute – so she didn’t have to say a word,” Matheo said.
Bryanna Scott/At glance
- Full-time Stage Manager at Miners Alley Playhouse
- Graduated from Golden High School and Red Rocks Community College
About The True West Awards: ’30 Days, 30 Bouquets’
The True West Awards, now in their 19th 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 2019 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