When In Doubt
By Brittany Howard, Arden Professional Apprentice
I have entered an entirely new world – a world where a sharpened pencil is worth more than gold, where you can expect your phone to ring if you’re even a minute late, and where a person’s every move is watched and recorded. I’m not talking about Orwellian literature or some future dystopian society. I’m not even talking about a reality TV show.
I’m talking about assistant stage managing Romeo and Juliet.
What does an assistant stage manager do? More like… what doesn’t an assistant stage manager do?
You might see me pulling jackets from costume storage for the actors to practice with or maybe in the basement sanding down the sharp edges on one of the knives used in the production. Some patrons attending Blue Door recently may have even heard us rehearsing the fights in the Independence Foundation Studio (trust me, they look as real as they sound).
I have no experience in stage management (or at least, I didn’t), but every Arden Apprentice gets to assistant stage manage a production during their time here. When I was assigned Romeo and Juliet, I wasn’t entirely sure what to feel. I love Shakespeare. My mom is an English teacher, and I grew up living and breathing language. But of all the plays I pretentiously quoted in High school, and feverishly studied in College, I was never really attracted to the “greatest love story of all time.”
Because I’m too much of a cynic. Now, I know I’m not alone here. Odds are more than half of you reading are just as skeptical as me. Everyone thinks they’ve seen or heard this story a dozen times over, and that each production is as cliche as the last. And Matt Pfeiffer, the director, made plain at the first rehearsal that the actors, designers, and production team would have to pull out all the stops to prove that this story is worth the weight that history has given it.
Once upon a time, I might have told you that Romeo and Juliet was my least favorite Shakespeare play, and now I get so sucked into the story during rehearsal that I forget I’m supposed to be looking for what actor exits where and who is carrying what prop – and that’s after already having watched the play 6 days a week, eight hours a day. We haven’t even entered tech rehearsals yet, and I can safely say that they’ve already broken through my skepticism.
Once the production opens, the actors will only have about two hours to convey this iconic story and win over all the cynics in the house.
But whatever happens – every performance, back in the wings, dressed in black, there will be me.
One doubter down.