Theater students behind the curtain

Cast members of “Godspell” practiced their production the night of April 2, 2019, before their opening night on April 5, 2019. The musical spreads messages of empathy, compassion and love. 

Averi Baudler

After working tirelessly for months on end, Francesa Geis stands in the wings of the Fisher Theatre stage as actors take their final bow on opening night. The audience applauds and rises to their feet, in awe of the show they just saw. Though the actors are the ones receiving the accolades, they gesture off-stage towards the crew hidden behind the curtain. That single gesture gives the audience the chance to acknowledge the countless hours of work put in by the crew, most of which often goes unseen and unpraised 

Geis, a sophomore in hospitality and event management, served as the head stage manager for the recent ISU Theatre production of “Godspell.” Though Geis has experience working as an assistant stage manager in previous shows, this production marked the first instance she has taken on this new role.

“When becoming a stage manager, you give up all of your free time,” Geis said. “We have been rehearsing for the past two months, six times a week. There is a lot of paperwork and emails to keep up with.”

As a stage manager, it is also Geis’ job to call the cues in the show, set up the stage, attend production meetings, take notes during rehearsals for the cast and crew and stay on top of constant communication between everyone in the production.  

Geis said most people don’t realize all of the work that her fellow crew members and herself put into each and every show they are involved in.

“The cast are really the only ones who see how much effort goes in because they usually see me running around like a crazy person,” Geis said. “But if you come see a show and have never been a part of one yourself you rarely know the stage manager is there.” 

Emily Oldham, a freshman in industrial engineering and performing arts, acted as assistant stage manager for “Godspell,” said working as Geis’s right hand man throughout the production process was extremely beneficial.

“[Geis] is really nice and is definitely on top of it in terms of what needs to get done,” Oldham said. “It’s been nice for me to work with someone like her before looking to eventually stage manage myself.”

Oldham said she agrees that taking on the job of a stage manager is not an easy task. 

“Being a stage manager is a really large time commitment, so you have to be prepared for that and know how to manage your time working with the show and working on classwork,” Oldham said. “You also have to balance yourself between being a friendly neighborhood stage manager and the person in charge once the shows are completely on stage.”

Brad Dell, the Iowa State director of theater and director of “Godspell,” said there are many qualifications that a stage manager needs to possess in order to be successful.

“A stage manager needs to be someone who is super organized and super passionate about working with others,” Dell said. “They need to be collaborative, excel as a leader, have lots of patience and be incredibly supportive.” 

Geis said she wishes more people could see all of the work that she puts in behind the scenes and realized all of the time and effort that goes into her job.

“We dedicate a lot of time to this and some people think it’s an easy job to do just do for fun,” Geis said. “It’s a lot of work and extra time … We stay after rehearsals, [we’re] usually the last ones to leave the building and we get there before everyone to make sure everything is ready to go. We also have meetings outside of the usual work times and we don’t get paid for it in college.”

Though stage managers don’t get to take a bow in front of a cheering audience, without their efforts and passion no production would be able to truly flourish.