Laura Schlachtmeyer: Über Everything You Could Possibly Want in a Stage Manager
Greg Oliver Bodine, Laura Schlachtmeyer, Nat Cassidy and Rob Neill
"Supporting your show. Staying calm. Getting it right."
Laura Schlachtmeyer is no stranger to the indie theater scene: she has worked on over 100 productions, including dozens in New York, with several Off-Off-Broadway companies. She is the resident stage manager at Manhattan Theatre Source and one of those mysterious "technical collaborators" with the New York Neo-Futurists. But many of those who have worked with her may not know that Laura is also an indie film producer, a science fiction writer, and a board member and singer with the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York.
We were pleased and honored to be able to hand Laura the 2011 IT Award for Outstanding Stage Manager. She is the third recipient of the only award of its kind. Like the other production awards, judges who attend productions throughout the season evaluate how the technical elements of a production worked together. Those scores help inform the decisions of a committee of OOB stage managers who review applications submitted by producers, directors and fans to select the recipient.
Stage managers are perhaps the most overworked, overlooked, and under-appreciated members of the production team. They are the classic unsung heroes of the theatre world, saving shows from chaos, saving actors from disasters and saving directors from themselves every day.
Following in the footsteps of previous recipients Jillian Zeman and Jaimie Van Dyke, Laura Schlachtmeyer is extraordinary in her own right. And why not? It takes an extraordinary person to perform that extraordinary function. Her motto: "Supporting your show. Staying calm. Getting it right."
Producers and performers alike sing her praises. Greg Oliver Bodine says “It was my sublime pleasure and great honor to recommend Laura Schlachtmeyer last summer for the 2011 Outstanding Stage Manager Award. It was, of course, an even bigger thrill when she received the award in September, along with co-producer/performer, Nat Cassidy (Outstanding Solo Performance) for our production of Things at the Doorstep: An Evening of Horror Based on the Works of H.P. Lovecraft.”
It was a tricky production that required Laura to go above an beyond. “Things at the Doorstep," explains Bodine "comprised two one-man plays (my solo adaptation of The Hound and Nat's original I Am Providence, respectively), requiring Laura to do everything for which she would normally be responsible twice – mastering duplicate sets of light cues, sound cues, set pieces and the very tedious task of carefully unpacking, pre-setting and re-packing a myriad of delicate show props, many of which were handmade and on loan to the production. She graciously hosted a number of rehearsals in her own apartment when Nat and I couldn't afford to rent studio space; she expertly kept us on schedule during our load-in and tech; she flawlessly coordinated and executed our cue-to-cue and dress rehearsals; she stayed late to resolve technical issues in the booth, and generally went out of her way to address the cacophony of concerns that were brought to her attention by the director, designers, crew, house management and myself before we opened the show. Laura even volunteered (due to our lack of a technical director) to coordinate our strike at the end of the run.”
When Christopher Borg called Laura, she was in her studio, working on deliverables for her recent film. When pried a little, she explains that she was working on the dialogue transcripts for oversees dubbing for her most recent sci-fi adventure Android Insurrection. This is film number 9 for Laura, who has produced 7 other indie films, written 4 and appeared in 2. The films have names like "Battle: New York, Day 2" "Clonehunter" and "Angry Planet."
Borg asked Laura about exploring the hostile, alien landscape of indie theatre:
Laura: I love stage managing indie theatre. Partly, its just fun to work in different venues, to get to know the quirks of each space and what each space has to offer. I also like working with different directors and in different ways – everyone has their own styles and different expectations of a stage manager, and in a process without a lot of rigidity you can be flexible and adapt to each other's creative process…From time to time I do other things, like playwrighting, translating, adapting, and creating the "Book of EstroGenius". Generally I try to make myself useful…
Borg: Did you start out as a stage manager?
Laura: Sort of. Since I got out of college its been 99½ percent of what I've done.
Borg: Do you have a favorite show?
Laura: There are definitely some stand outs, I really like working with the New York Neo-Futurists on Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, that is a really great gig for a technical person to have and I've done some great shows at Manhattan Theatre Source, Three Sisters, The InGenius Festival and the EstroGenius Festival.
Laura has worked as a stage manager from coast-to-coast, from 100 performances of Tony N' Tina's Wedding in Chicago to Killing My Lobster sketch comedy in San Francisco. Her short plays have been included in Manhattan Theatre Source's EstroGenius festivals, and her translations of Woyzeck and Masse Mensch were produced there. She has worked with Rob Neill on (un)afraid at the Living Theatre and Nat Cassidy on Any Day Now at MTS. “Laura has always been in extremely high demand as a stage manager” says Bodine, “but that’s not at all surprising to anyone who’s worked with her – she’s ridiculously competent, efficient, organized, professional, calm, friendly, punctual, reliable and reassuring. Suffice it to say, I’m very grateful for the numerous opportunities on which I’ve had the privilege to work with her in this capacity.”
All of this and she sings regularly with the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York.
"I can’t imagine Things At the Doorstep even remotely reaching the high level of quality and success it achieved without her devotion, expertise, über can-do attitude and selflessness. She clearly demonstrated and continues to define absolutely everything a producer could possibly want in a Stage Manager. Simply put, Laura represents the 'best of the best' as a person and theatre artist” Bodine says.
She just closed the Workshop Theatre Company's production of Beat Chick, the story of a young woman's encounter with the beat poets in San Francisco in the 1960s. This Spring, Laura is working on dance productions with Kinesis Project dance theatre and is joining again the run of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.
When asked, if there was anything else that she wished for from the Off-Off-Broadway world:
Laura: Singing…I wish people did more musicals in indie theatre.
(Also, she would like you to Netflix her films.)
Laura proves that stage managers in indie theatre, bring that same diversity of talent, skills and interests that make Off-Off-Broadway one of the most interesting performing arts communities in the world.
And when Laura sings in Russian, it's like an angel. Like an angel who can operate a nail gun.