There is an immense amount of work and preparation that goes into successfully producing a theater production at the College of William and Mary. Behind any good performance is a diligent production staff that works tirelessly on all aspects of the show. From sets, props and costumes to every other moving feature and technicality in between, the production staff is there behind the scenes each step of the way.
Stage Management: Sofia Quinteiro ’20
Sofia Quinteiro ’20 was one of the three assistant stage managers for W&M Theatre and Dance’s spring musical production of “Into the Woods.” Quinteiro is well-versed in the realm of stage management at both the high school and collegiate levels. Her first interaction with theater was through acting, but Quinteiro said that she discovered in high school that although she loved the performance aspect of acting, she did not enjoy some of the other parts, such as auditioning and being judged constantly by observers. Knowing that she still wanted to have theater in her life, Quinteiro got involved with other aspects of production. She acted as assistant stage manager for her first show at the age of 16 and ended up really enjoying the experience.
For “Into the Woods,” she served as the backstage left assistant stage manager, a role with great responsibility that she did not take lightly.
“Essentially my job is to assist the stage manager,” Quinteiro said. “Our stage manager is Ann Fitzgerald who graduated last year, who came back and was hired for this production specifically. Just basically to assist her with anything that she needs … and just kind of keeping track of everything that needs to happen back there.”
Quinteiro had some additional roles that she said fall under her jurisdiction specifically for the production of “Into the Woods.” For Quinteiro, these additional responsibilities included knowledge of pyrotechnics. She went through a pyrotechnic training and was the backstage individual in charge of looking after this technology.
The role of an assistant stage manager is vast and may include the responsibilities of giving place calls to the actors, making sure there is constant communication between the people stationed backstage and those in the booth, keeping track of props and problem solving if anything goes wrong unexpectedly.
“There is a whole bunch of stuff that is going on, but generally it falls under the category of anything that happens backstage,” Quinteiro said.
Quinteiro has been an assistant stage manager before and said that her role in the productions has varied greatly depending on the type and needs of the production.
“It just kind of depends on the needs of the production,” Quinteiro said. “There have been productions [for which] I have done not a whole lot. It really just depends on what everyone needs.”
Another vital role of the stage management team is communicating with the other sectors of the production staff. In addition to the report, with written notes, that the stage management team generates at each rehearsal, weekly production meetings fuel communication between departments.
“Any concerns of the actors or anything that we see during rehearsal that either doesn’t look safe or doesn’t look right, go from stage management to whatever department [they apply] to,” Quinteiro said. “Usually that is our job, to make sure those conversations are happening. Sometimes there are a lot of things going on, and things slip through the cracks, but it is our job to make sure that we work through it and make sure that we have a show.”
Looking to the future, Quinteiro expressed her aspiration to take her love for theater further, in the form of owning her own theater company.
“Coming into college I knew that it was something that I knew how to do and that usually people are in need of good stage managers,” Quinteiro said. “I enjoy stage management. I think I will continue to do it in some capacity, but ultimately, I want to direct, and I am on the path of ‘I want to eventually own my own theater company.’ That is something that I am very interested in.”
Costumes and Wigs: Katie Dezern ’20
Katie Dezern ’20 was a costume shop assistant for “Into the Woods.” For the production, she also completed an independent study focused on wig making and styling. Dezern’s responsibilities included assisting with the making of costumes and wigs and helping to facilitate quick wig changes throughout the duration of the performance.
Dezern had to complete a lot of research and preparation as part of her independent study.
“We then started thinking about how we wanted each of these characters to look and what we wanted them to do,” Dezern said. “In my class, we had to look up different hairstyles because the costume designer had a specific time period look she was going for with the characters. So, we had to find hairstyles that would work for them.”
The costume-making process is a collaborative effort with the actors themselves, as the costume designers are dependent on the actors to know of any particularly difficult movement that has to be done in given the costume.
“We have to have the actors come in for fittings because we need to make sure the costume pieces fit them, won’t fall off and can stand up to some of the movements they are doing,” Dezern said. “They’ll come in, we get their measurements, we make the pieces or alter pieces, and then they come back and try them on, and we are like, ‘You do something really tricky. Do that. Make sure you still can spin around with this big skirt on.’ The costume designer depends on the actors somewhat for knowing about their characters, and knowing how their characters react and their personalities, so she can accurately design.”
The director may also sit in on costume fittings and oversees their design, giving feedback and suggestions when needed. “Dress Parade” takes place near the opening of the show and involves the actors standing on stage in various light settings with the director and costume designer taking note of any changes that need to be made prior to the show opening.
Additionally, the costume department communicates with the lighting crew in instances of shiny fabrics. Dezern commented that it is really helpful for people in both departments of production to know this information. Communication between the set and costume teams is also crucial to prevent the colors on set pieces from clashing with the costume materials.
Dezern has a great passion for the pieces she is involved with constructing and said that she gets excited to see them in use on stage.
“Everything is cool with what you make,” Dezern said. “When it goes on stage, it’s like, ‘Wow, I did that.’”
Props: David Garrett ’18
David Garrett ’18 was the properties master for “Into the Woods.” Garrett returned to the College this year to complete his senior year. Regarding his transition back into the life of a college student, Garrett said that after the first few months of the school year, in which he just continued to show up and volunteered to help build things, he was easily accepted back into the college atmosphere.
The properties and set production for “Into the Woods” was no simple task and required a lot of intense planning. Early on, the scenic designer, director and properties master gathered to discuss dimensions and figure out how to construct the needed items.
“The director has a vision for how actors will behave in the space, and properties become part of that behavior system,” Garrett said.
Garrett said that the College has large stockrooms of material from past productions, which the staff can sometimes repurpose toward the new productions. There are storage and work spaces for properties staff to utilize in both Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall and the Dillard Complex.
“William and Mary, given the longevity of the program, has huge volumes of properties; they have an archive,” Garrett said. “Costume is the same, [and so is] scenic components … So, the first step is just figuring out what you have in inventory. … The people who have worked the position prior to me have all done a really great job with cataloguing what is here. It is really organized. You feel like you’re on a really strange shopping trip.”
After determining which materials can be used from existing inventory, construction begins. For “Into the Woods,” Garrett particularly focused on several key items first.
“Once you figure out what you already have — or things that you have that you can easily make work for the show, that you can transform — from there, it is time to begin manufacturing,” Garrett said. “In talking with Professor [Matthew] Allar [scenic designer for “Into the Woods”], we very early in the process identified that the witch’s staff, the harp and the hen that lays the golden eggs were going to be big-deal props. These were not items that we were going to find already in existence; they were items that were going to have to be built, and so with his encouragement, I prioritized those in the build, to get them done first. … I have a tiny little corner in the scene shop that I kind of just annexed.”
Garrett said that he enjoys watching the transition of the props from maker to actor, and that often, the actor uses the prop in a unique and unexpected way.
“The next stage is getting these things to the actors, putting them in their hands, … and just seeing the ways I thought something was going to be used, and how the actor ends up using it, is completely different,” Garrett said. “… The actors are all very loving of the things that you make for them. It is really neat to see how they end up using stuff. It is like, ‘Oh, I would have never thought you were going to do that with that, but OK, it works.’”
In his professional career, Garrett currently works as the assistant theater manager at Thomas Nelson Community College and has worked in theater for the past six years. He said that the work he has done with students both in his career and here at the College has been particularly rewarding.
“I find that it is super rewarding,” Garrett said. “… When you have been doing this a long time, it is very easy for you to just choose the path of least resistance, to just go for what gets it done, and students tend to approach things with an ‘I’ve never done this before, so this is how I think I might do it,’ [attitude] and in that conversation space, in that process, some really amazing stuff comes out.”