Monday, November 4, 2019

Cindy Kearns, Production Stage Manager and Imminent Retiree

Rivka Levin
Hello, dear readers!

(I like saying that; it makes me feel like Pauline Phillips.) Rivka here, coming to you from the third floor of the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, where I sit amongst a chaos of papers and too many tambourines, to tell you a little about our own dear Cindy Kearns. 

Cindy has been with the company for more than three decades, and received a Suzi Bass Lifetime Achievement Award. Alas, our Cindy will be retiring at the close of 2019, but I had the privilege of conducting a brief interview with this fascinating woman, which you'll see below. 

But first, what exactly does she do? 
Cindy Kearns

Well, anyone who has been to the theater knows that those lights don't run themselves. If you look up in the balcony at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, you'll see a dark-haired wizard behind the curtain who is quietly whispering, "Go" when it's time for the lights to change. But that's hardly all Cindy does. Do you know for what else Cindy, as an Equity Stage Manager, is responsible? 

To name ALL of Cindy's tasks over the years could likely fill the whole page. But here are just a few of the things our about-to-be-retired SM does on a weekly basis:

This includes:
 - tracking the time and ensuring that breaks are taken in accordance with union standards
- following in the script and giving prompts when an actor calls for a line
- taking careful note of any blocking that gets set or changed
- taking note of any costume, sound effect, and prop needs that get mentioned during the rehearsal process and following up on integrating those into the production
- concluding each rehearsal with a detailed, categorized written report, which is sent to all cast and crew after each rehearsal

In some companies, props are handled by their own department. As a fledgling company without the budget or space for a formal Props Department, that duty fell to Cindy... and she has retained that responsibility even as the company has grown. She has procured anything from the numerous letters that appear in Shakespeare's texts, to the "wine" or "poison" or "witch's potion" a character might drink (and the vessel from which they drink it!), to the startlingly realistic severed heads that occasionally appear onstage!

Cindy in her booth

This includes:
 -  ensuring that all of the actors are present, and that nothing stands in the way of the show being performed that night.
 - alerting the actors and crew how much time remains at specified intervals
 - initiating light cues for all shows, and also initiating sound cues in shows that include recorded sound, such as our recent production of The Three Musketeers.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but as you can see, it's already quite a lengthy one.

Now, as promised, on to the interview!

RIVKA: Cindy, you may have been with the company as long as anyone except for Jeff. Just how long have you worked for the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, and how did you come to have the job? 

CINDY: I've been with the Tavern for 35 years.  I met Jeff while doing my first play ever with Acme Theatre and when he took over the Atlanta Shakespeare Association he said he would need a stage manager.  I said I didn’t know what a stage manager does and he said he would teach me.  So that is why I started saying that I am the only graduate of the Jeff Watkins School of Stage Management.

RIVKA: I love it. So, what's been your most frightening experience while here?

CINDY: Watching John Purcell, who was playing Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, fall off the stage backward.  Incredibly, he was unharmed except for a couple of bruises.

RIVKA: Yikes! All right, what's been your most rewarding experience?

CINDY: The sense of pride and accomplishment I feel every opening night and all the performances thereafter.

RIVKA: What's been the funniest moment?

CINDY: Watching Dikran Tulaine, who was playing Macbeth, unknowingly drag a coat hanger around the stage on the end of his long costume train and the other actors’ faces as they tried to figure out if they could get it.  (They never did.)

RIVKA: (laughs) Ah, yes. I can only imagine that it stole a bit of the gravitas from his performance. Let's see... what will you miss the most? What will you miss the least?  

CINDY: I'll miss my Tavern family, past & present. I will NOT miss the schedule.

RIVKA: Yes, I can only imagine what it must mean for you to have to organize some of those three-show Repertories; not to mention the "close one show on a Sunday, tech the next on Tuesday, and open it on Thursday" schedule we have here at the Tavern. WHEW! How do you think your time here has changed you as a person?  

CINDY: It has taught me responsibility and patience (most of the time) and I’ve learned infinitely more than I ever would have in a classroom or working in corporate health care.  Changing careers was THE BEST decision I ever made.  Working here has made me a better person.

RIVKA: That's beautiful. What do you hope people will remember about your time here 30 years from now?  

CINDY: That I cared, that I was fair and that I made them laugh sometimes.

There it is, dear readers! I hope you have enjoyed getting to know Cindy a little better. If you see her in the house before she retires at the end of this calendar year, please take the opportunity to wish her well and to thank her for the many years of service she has devoted to our fine company.