Backstage at Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’

Sabrina de Brito

“Standby 120 … 120, then house lights and sound.” When stage manager Victoria Keating ’16 gives the cue, lights and sound shift, and the play ends.

The winter play “As You Like It” was Keating’s third gig as a stage manager.

The play, performed in Rugby Auditorium, opened on Feb. 5 and ran until Feb. 7.
“This production was one of the easier ones that I’ve done,” Keating said. “It has fewer than 200 cues. Some of the dance showcases go up to 300 or 400 cues.”
“As You Like It” blended classic Shakespearean story lines with a post-apocalyptic setting. This was the first Shakespearean winter play the Upper School had performed in eight years, director and performing arts teacher Christopher Moore said.
Moore said that he was excited to direct the play with the twist in setting.
“I think [the play] is really relatable to all the kids, and to put it in a different time setting was a lot of fun to explore, Moore said. “Shakespeare’s plays, his themes, his characters, his stories are all timeless.”
Cast members spent the first week of rehearsals working with English teacher Joceyln Medawar-Turner for help interpreting the play’s language.
She asked the actors to put the text into their own words in order to hone a better understanding of each character’s situation.
Talia Lefkowitz ’17, who played the role of a shepherdess named Phoebe, said that the cast members grew very close while preparing for the show.
This was her first upper school production, and though she was very nervous at first, she said that the other students were very welcoming.
“On opening night, the audience was smaller because it was a school night, but they were also very responsive. It was very nice to get laughs, and I think they really liked it,” Lefkowitz said.
An hour before the show on Feb. 6, Keating began to walk around, checking on the cast and the crew.
She walked back and forth between actors in the lounge and crew members in Rugby Auditorium a total of 56 times, telling crew members where they were needed, reminding cast members of the time, and telling the directors how the cast was doing.
“My job before the show starts is to make sure everyone backstage knows what’s going on,” Keating said. “After the show starts, my job is to make sure nothing goes wrong on stage. Also, I make sure no one gets hurts at any point in time, even if that means yelling at a few people. Basically I patrol.”
Keating’s job as stage manager begins before production nights.
She works with actors in every rehearsal, blocking each entrance, exit and set change, and sends out a report each day to cast and crew that summarizes the rehearsals and informs them of upcoming rehearsal times.
“It’s an interdependent relationship,” Keating said. “The crew depends on the cast to portray the story, and the cast depends on the crew to help them reach the hearts of the audience.”
Once in the tech room, Keating is alert and cautious throughout the entire play.
As the stage manager, she calls the cues. Without her cues, the lights and sounds would not change.
“The lights and sounds are really important because they influence how the audience feels,” Keating said. “Really bright and white lights can make the audience feel happy, and really mellow and yellow lights can make the audience feel melancholy.”
Keating’s job does not end with her last cue.
Along with the rest of the crew, she cleans up programs and papers left behind, and clears the stage of props used during the last scene of the play.
“After a performance, the feeling is a mix of relief, exhaustion and accomplishment,” Keating said. “Relief because it has ended, and you know you’re done with your work for the night. Exhaustion because it’s late and you’ve put many hours into it and you’ve been on your toes for a good two hours. Accomplishment because, though you may have made some mistakes, the show still went on, and people enjoyed it. It’s really a great group effort, and in the end, everyone’s feeling great.”