It isn’t hard to understand why actors usually get most of the attention, but what many theatre-goers don’t appreciate is the huge behind-the-scenes cast working to help ensure everything on stage runs smoothly. One of those roles is that of stage manager, a multi-tasker who is the pivot point between pretty much every other person and group involved in a theatrical production.
Jethelo E. Cabilete has been part of the Vancouver theatre scene for a number of years and is currently stage manager for the upcoming Pacific Theatre production of Playland, set to open November 5th. We caught up with Jethelo after his first week with the production to talk about the role of a stage manager and about the show.
Tell us about the role of a stage manager – what does a stage manager do?
Oh boy … well simply put, the stage manager manages the stage! Seriously though, the stage manager is one hub of the theatrical world, and we generally keep things organized and flowing. Anything from taking notes, writing down choreography/blocking, making sure all information is sent and received by everyone involved. It’s pretty busy! I mean you have all these designers, the director, cast, publicity, production … it can be pretty daunting. Multitasking is a major skill for stage managers, and the ability to immediately send all the important information out to everyone involved can be tricky. But gods it’s worth it when the show opens and the audience reacts!
When does a stage manager typically get involved with a show?
Usually stage managers get hired on a week or two before the rehearsal process even starts. The pre-production weeks are when the stage manager, director, production crew and designers meet and discuss what the director’s vision is and what is needed for the play. For stage managers, this means getting and reading the script, breaking down the scenes and such, working with the production crew on contact lists and the rehearsal and technical schedule, and making sure everybody gets that information.
What drew you to being behind the scenes in theatre?
I actually started onstage a long time ago… I was acting since junior high, and continued into University. I’ve always loved the stage, and I thought it would a great creative outlet for me. The jump to working behind the stage came about when the theatre course I was taking at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, also involved some work behind the stage. Then, a chance to do a practical course in technical theatre at Humber College came about, and I was hooked. Learning a lot of the backstage stuff, made me realize where my strengths lay, and stage management was one of them.
You’ve had a varied career – what has been your highlight?
Oh geez, there have been so many. I mean I’ve worked with a lot of brilliant and talented cast and crew and also working in the events and entertainment field as a general technician. There have been so many highs and lows. For me, I would have to say working on the set-up for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics for Riggit Services Inc. has been the highlight so far in my career. We helped with a lot of the technical aspects of the Richmond Olympic Oval, some of the different world Houses, BC Place. It was phenomenal.
The audience can expect a deep, dramatic story here…it’s a social commentary set in 1989-1990 South African Apartheid.
Playland uses South African apartheid as a backdrop to tell its story – some 16 years later, why is it still relevant today?
It’s still relevant today, since globally and locally, there are still issues of race, social animosity, religion, sexuality, you name it, that affects everyone. The larger issues in the play are those of connection, forgiveness and responsibility, issues that are just as relevant now as it was 16 years ago.
Why does playwright Athol Fugard place the action in a traveling amusement park?
Fugard doesn’t just randomly place his characters in a situation and then write these amazing stories. The traveling amusement park is both social background and social commentary on society during one of South Africa’s most violent times. Without giving anything away, I would have to say that the amusement park reflects deeper issues in society than most people want to believe.
What’s it like working with director Anthony F Ingram and the cast of Playland?
It’s always such a pleasure working with great directors and cast and the combination of both makes my job that much easier. This is actually my first time working with Anthony, and actors Tom Pickett and Michael Kopsa (pictured left in a photo by Tim Matheson), and the consummate professionalism and focus, along with the humour, makes for a great working atmosphere.
What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing Playland?
I’m hoping that they take away questions and their own relevant answers to social issues that do have an effect on them.
What’s next for Jethelo?
I’ll be continuing working for Riggit, and looking forward to the new year in theatre. I’ve been asked by a few friends and associates to work on some upcoming shows in 2011 so I’ll be looking forward to more creativity.
Pacific Theatre, 1440 W 12th Ave, Vancouver
5 – 27 November 2010
New Years Eve, 1989. Two South Africans, a black security guard and a white soldier, meet at a travelling amusement park. A powerful exploration of guilt and damnation, truth and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa. Tickets are available online or by calling 604.731.5518.