Valdosta Daily Times

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July 2, 2009

All her world’s a stage

PSST! stage manager keeps shows moving

VALDOSTA — When the director of Peach State Summer Theatre’s “Once On This Island” asked for an unscheduled scene during a photo shoot, Cristin Downs is the person who had to shoot the request down.

Rare to hear someone tell a director “no” on a set. As this season’s Peach State production stage manager, Cristin Downs is charged with keeping everything on time and on schedule.

It’s not that she enjoys saying no to a director or anyone, but she has to weigh what’s best for the production.

“I try to come at everything from a really nice perspective so when I do have to do something unpopular, people can understand that I’m acting in the best interest of the show,” Downs said this week between a matinee showing of “Big River” and an evening performance of “Once On This Island.”

As production stage manager, Downs is the go-to person. She works closely with directors and actors, designers and the stage crew. The stage manager is involved in all facets of the play’s preparation. During each performance, she watches from the upper-floor sound booth, keeping in touch with stage-level personnel by radio headsets.

Think of the stage manager behind the old theatrical saying: The show must go on! The stage manager is the person who makes sure everything and everyone is in place so the show can go on.

Downs views the job of stage manager as being a “communications hub,” keeping in contact with everyone involved in a play. She takes an even-keel approach to the job. She is direct, but remains calm. She strives to be pleasant but is ready to say no. It’s all for the good of the show.

For example, she hangs around the theatre during the transition period from the matinee to the evening show, so she is aware of any situations that may arise. Situations can range from an unforeseen technical difficulty in switching out sets to providing a diplomatic function between unexpected artistic differences.

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