In the early months of 1999, I was finishing up my MFA at UC San Diego. One day, Eva Barnes (our speech professor) let the acting students know that Charlie Fee, Artistic Director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and an old friend of hers, would be coming to audition for the summer season. I offhandedly asked her if he needed a stage manager; she said she’d check and when Charlie arrived on campus, I had an interview. Soon after, he offered me an Equity stage manager position for the season, and a few months later, I was landing in Boise.
The question I often get from students nowadays is “When should I get my card?” and I always reply, “You’ll know when the time is right.” The time was right for me in 1999. I had worked as an intern and/or EMC for years before going to graduate school, and those places and people – PCPA, Portland Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival and Hangar Theatre (with the incredible James FitzSimmons as the first SM I worked alongside – how lucky was I?) – gave me a solid foundation in what Equity was and how it worked and why it is so valuable.
Little did I know that first Boise summer would forge a seven-year relationship with ISF. I grew as an artist and perfected my craft working with amazing directors (that first summer I stage managed Scapin directed by Chris Bayes and Titus Andronicus directed by Bart Sher—again, how lucky), talented designers and an acting company gathered by Charlie that was the core of the Festival. To work with the same brilliant, dedicated humans summer after summer after summer: yet again, how lucky!
For the past fourteen years I’ve headed up the Stage Management BFA program at the University of Oklahoma, where I teach the basics of Actors’ Equity and unions in my Stage and Theatre Management courses and hold a special studies seminar about the union in which we dive into contacts & codes: educating future union members. My luck continues.