By Andrew Wojtek, Arden Professional Apprentice and Assistant Stage Manager for The Borrowers
As part of the Arden Professional Apprenticeship, each apprentice serves as the Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) for one of the productions in the season’s lineup. It just worked out this year that two apprentices had to double-up on one production because of the timing of Ghost-Writer and The Threepenny Opera opening so closely together. I was one of the lucky two APAs who were assigned to ASM The Borrowers.
Going into what the rest of the company likes to call “ASM Land” is very different from your day-to-day duties as an apprentice. While the production is in the rehearsal process, you pull rehearsal props, take notes, and help work through scenes. In tech rehearsals, we run sequences over and over again, re-set the stage, and learn what parts of the show we will eventually “crew” for every performance. But once the show opens, your life is tied to the performance schedule.
I thought it would be interesting to share with you a day in the life of the ASM. This not only gives you a glimpse into what happens to prepare for a performance, but what it’s like to work just one morning at the Arden.
6:50 am: Wake up; hit snooze button.
7:00 am: Wake up; get out of bed. Get ready for the day.
8:02 am: Leave the house, catch the 17 bus.
8:27 am: Arrive at the Arden.
8:28 am: Drop off bags, start a pot of coffee (the cast and crew all pitched in and bought coffee and fixings – it’s cheaper than buying it every morning), and eat a little breakfast.
8:45 am: Crew call – this is when the whole crew is “called” to the theatre to prepare for the student matinee performance. To get the show ready, I set my props, boil noodles for Crampfurl’s “worm” and make sure that everything I need for the show (like the giant screwdriver, the trap door, and pieces of “doll house” furniture) are all set to make their appearances.
9:35 am: The Haas is now open to patrons! All three crew members take turns swinging the pendulum that you see shadowed on stage.
10:07 am: Make my way to center stage to give the curtain speech. I finally have all the Arden’s media partners memorized!
10:08 am: The show is up and running. During the first act, you’ll find me backstage running my crew track: stomping my feet for shadows, changing the puppet’s costumes, handing off props, and operating the screwdriver.
10:47 am: First act is over, now it’s time to set the scene for the second act. My partner, Ashley, and I do the shift on the stage left side of the theatre. You’ll see us moving out the apartment and –if you look carefully– getting the boot prepped to go on stage.
11:02 am: Act Two has started and I’m back to work making more shadows, operating puppets, and paging the curtain on the Gypsy Caravan.
11:44 am: The show is over! As soon as the cast is finished with their curtain call, I bring the big spool of thread table on stage and answer questions that the audience has for the crew.
Noon: The crew goes about resetting the stage for act one as soon as the theatre empties out. As a part of ending the day, we do the laundry for the next show, reset the wigs, clean up props, and close down the backstage side of the theatre.
After the show, we jump back into our regular APA duties, doing Facilities Maintenance (FacMan), processing gifts in Development, prepping bins for Arden Drama School, and so much more.
If you have any questions about what happens backstage to prepare for The Borrowers, I hope that you won’t be too shy to ask. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be back in touch. And I feel obligated to end this blog entry the same way I end my curtain speech… “Remember that The Borrowers is here on stage at the Arden through January 30th, so if you like what you see, tell your friends and family!”