An Interview with 2013 Outstanding Stage Manager Abbey Bay
Actors, playwrights, and actor/playwrights often need a firm hand. Someone to crack the whip and skirt us round creative rabbit holes. I don’t mind a stern-voiced stage manager, if it means I get onstage with all my props. And as a playwright, I love the ones who take copious and specific line notes. Love them a lot.
2013 Outstanding Stage Manager Abbey Bay is not a yeller. She’s super nice. Like absurdly, weirdly, nice, which is one reason I think she may be some kind of robot.
There’s an artistry to stage management that is many often overlook. The best ones, like Abbey, serve a story in much the same way an actor does, only playing their roles from the booth. It turns out they’re not up there in that little box just making hacks like me look good, they have all kinds of important and mysterious stuff going on. With this in mind, I had to ask Abbey an important question.
JB: What the hell do stage managers do when they are not busy making hacks like me look good?
AB: Emailing. And probably drinking loads of coffee.
JB: But you’re probably emailing me, aren’t you – as you are right now – and drinking coffee as you do it? So, actually, you are more often than not busy making hacks like me look good. Was there a moment in your life when you knew you were destined to do so?
AB: Yeah. I was in high school, we were doing a production of Bye Bye Birdie, and I had a fever of 103. I couldn't let one of my totally capable ASMs call the show for me, because I loved that feeling of the opening sequence when all of the cues timed out just right. Backstage, wrapped in a blanket, feeling awful but glad I was there, I thought "Hey, this must be what I love doing! I should probably major in technical theatre."
JB: Sometimes I see a really great play and think 'Damn I wanna do that!' Do you ever see a show you wish you could call? Particular productions you’d love to stage manage?
AB: I really dig new plays, so I get excited when I read a piece, and I can't quite imagine how the playwright, director and designers would actually bring the scene to life. It makes me want to be there for those discussions and help to make it work in the play's original incarnation. I also totally felt that way about Spring Awakening, when I shadowed the PSM of the national tour. The lighting design was just so lovely, and all those bump cues would be fun.
JB: You received the 2013 Outstanding Stage Manager Award, which means you are superior to all other stage managers. Why isn't there a Tony Award for that?
AB: If stage managers were doing their jobs in a way the Tony voters would notice, they'd be doing it wrong! Good theatre technicians – I think this is true of all theatre professionals, really – should make a production flow seamlessly and seem easy.
JB: Okay so not a Tony then, but a Stage Management Olympics. In the Olympics of Stage Management, in what events would you take gold?
AB: Color coding. And maybe creative use of gaff tape. That should be an event for sure.
JB: I’ve seen you work under some crazy conditions. Early this year we worked together in a space so thick with drywall dust, we rehearsed in surgical masks. There were something like four thousand actors on that show, going in as many different directions all at once, but I can’t remember you once raising your voice. As I see it, there’s only one explanation for your ability to juggle so many tasks with such grace and precision, and never freak out: You are a robot, aren't you?
AB: Darn. Ya got me.
JB: So tell me a closely guarded secret about stage management. Blow the lid off.
AB: I’m sorry, J.Stephen, but I just can’t do that.
JB: Okay, Robot, last question: Indie theatre provides us with all sorts of challenges and adventures. Tell me about one of your favorites.
AB: It's a challenge – often a necessity – to balance multiple projects with varying degrees of overlap in production schedules, and there's a fabulous adventure in switching gears to best serve the team of people involved in each project. I had the chance to work with a large, all-male, except-for-Oedipus cast doing a very physical piece of classic theatre (Oedipus Rex XX-XY, Faux-Real Theatre Company) and a small, tight-knit all-female cast doing a very reflective piece of experimental theatre (All Girls, CollaborationTown) in the same month! I met a lot of wonderful people through both projects, and really had fun adapting my working style to fit the very different needs of the groups.
See what I mean about the nice thing? Abbey Bay, IT Award winning stage manager: Unflappable. Indefatigable. Probably a robot. And someone I hope to work with again and again.
Abbey Bay is a stage manager and prop technician from Dublin, Ohio. She holds a BFA in Theatre Design/Technology from Otterbein University. Select NY experience: Normalcy and The Jungle Book (Theatre East), How the World Began (Women's Project), Falling (Minetta Lane Theatre), The Jackson Heights Trilogy (Theatre 167). Abbey is thrilled to have recently taken a position with the Dramatists Guild Fund, a public charity focused on aiding and nurturing playwrights, composers and lyricists, and funding nonprofit theatres across America that produce contemporary American work.