Scene4 Magazine — International Magazine of Arts and Media
Scene4 Magazine: Michael Bettencourt
Michael Bettencourt
The Curse of the Stage Manager

My father once said to me that he has always enjoyed handling paper — (re)arranging it, cataloging it, organizing it.

I pointed my finger at him and exclaimed, "So that explains it!"

Because I, too, have that same invasive inclination, and I find it such a curse — call it the Curse of the Stage Manager.

For many years, before I started writing plays, I stage-managed for a large theatre in Manchester, NH, as well as in smaller theatres in the area. There is no real art to being a good stage manager — the key (aside from an abundance of patience) is, first, making a list, and, second, doing every item on that list when it needs to be done.

In short, it's all about the paper.

I was a good stage manager, a belt-and-suspenders stage manager — and I called light and sound cues in pretty much the same rhythm every performance.  In other words, I made sure the paper was in the proper order and easy to read.

I have been the same way in my jobs, all of which have brought out, in one degree or another, my stage-managerness: teaching (get those syllabi done and handed out!), office management (it's all about the paper), freelance writing (schedule the jobs and get them done).

But I can't say that, in the end, stage-managing brings about a deep satisfaction with life, because entropy is always active — the papers get shuffled, cues are missed, people don't follow the rules, and so on — and much energy has to be spent on splicing back together what had once been together but no longer is. 

As Carole King says, nothing ever stays in one place for very long, and that can be exhausting.

And thus a double curse, really — first, the uncontestable urge to arrange and order, and, second, the impossible-to-resist urge to re-order when the order gets whacked, even while knowing the second law of thermodynamics is always engaged.

But I am now at a point in my life when I no longer want to stage manage — that is, I no longer trust the order that the stage manager brings into being, and I don't want to spend any more time working under that order's regime.

So, what is one to do?

I don't know.

I don't know into what other sorts of productions I would like to place myself.

I don't know what sort of order would not feel oppressive and heavy-harnessed — we have so few chances in our society to experience regimes of order that lift and carbonate.

I don't know which words are now worth reading — or whether words at all bring anything good in their wake.

I just don't know.

So I start this new year off on the look-out for a new look-out, to stage a new stage — most of all, to rid myself of the urge to paper things over and stay in a comfortable voice.

It is time to stop managing and see what the management has to say about that.


©2009 Michael Bettencourt
©2009 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt is a produced and published playwright and a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate" and wife, Maria-Beatriz

For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives


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