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October 22, 2009 / lotcchicago

The Art of Stage Management and Moosehumps by Christina Dougherty

Hello, lovely people!  I’m Christina. I’m the person that Lights Out Theatre Company calls when there’s a need for heavy lifting, painting large quantities of wood black, or finishing a case of PBR.

(Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Lights Out Theatre Company does not need assistance when finishing a case of PBR.)

Before I go too much further, I should start out with a little disclaimer.  Unlike the fabulous LOTC ensemble, I’m not from Maryland, I didn’t go to Towson, and I didn’t major in Theater.  In fact, until about 4 months ago, my theater experience could be optimistically described as “minimal.”  Now I’m working on my second show with these folks.  How the hell did that happen?

Let’s take a step back in time to earlier this summer.  Rehearsals for LOTC’s first show, “One Night Stand,” were underway and opening night was looming ahead on the not-too-distant horizon.  My dearly beloved co-worker and LOTC ensemble member Haily Wineland came to me one day and asked if I would be interested in being a stagehand for the show.  If you’re unfamiliar with the world of theater, a stagehand moves sets and props during scene changes, cleans up after the show, and does pretty much whatever else the director and stage manager tells them to do.  Oh, and they have to be as silent and invisible as possible while doing so.  Calling it “bitch work” is…well…telling the truth.  But, when my girl Haily needs something, I’m there.

Christina Dougherty (R) with Volunteer Recruitment Extraordinaire, Haily Wineland

Christina Dougherty (R) with Volunteer Recruitment Extraordinaire, Haily Wineland

So for four weeks, I moved large plywood boxes on and off stage, stealthily removed actors’ discarded wigs during the middle of scenes, and practiced the art of trying not to laugh backstage.  I’m not gonna lie – it was tough, exhausting, and sometimes painful work (I had bruises on my forearms that attracted worried stares from people on the train), but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get butterflies in my stomach each time I walked into the theater.  Everyone involved with “One Night” kept thanking me for volunteering for the job that no one wants.  That surprised me a bit.  How could no one want this job?  I was having a pretty good time.

Then I had one of those serious, potentially life-changing thoughts: I actually liked this. Nay, I actually LOVED this.  One show wasn’t enough.  I wanted more.  I didn’t just want to be a onetime volunteer, I wanted to be a part of this.

Then, one night, while we were solidly into a few pitchers of beer at a bar somewhere, the Force and the theater gods came together and answered my prayers.  Executive artistic director Mary O’Connor offered me the chance to learn the art of tech theater under the wise guidance of Jason Crutchfield, LOTC’s resident stage manager.  I couldn’t believe it.  Everything that happened after that is a bit of a blur.  I probably almost choked to death while screaming “WOOHOO!” and trying to down the rest of my beer at the same time.

But, there was kind of a catch.  Jason’s on a bit of a sabbatical due to a job on another show, so I was to be promptly “promoted” to stage manager for the next LOTC project, “MooseHumps.”  I was terrified, but excited to hold down the fort until his return.

Fortunately, working on “MooseHumps” has been a bit of a breeze.  It’s a short play and pretty low-key, as far as tech goes. I’ve spent most of my time bargain-shopping for props and practicing my puppeteering skills.  Our writer/director, Alex Kliner, and the rest of the cast have all been so fabulously helpful and supportive.  I feel like I might actually be getting the hang of this!

Did I mention that “MooseHumps” is tomorrow night?  Just thinking about it sends me into a fit of nervous giggles.  Last night’s rehearsal was amazing.  The scene changes went smoothly and everyone’s energy was so high.   The actors’ performances are still cracking everyone up, even though after all of these rehearsals you’d think that the script would be getting old and we’d stop laughing at the jokes.

I can’t wait for all of you to see the show.  There’s going to be some good belly laughs, and I think you’ll get a kick out of the choose-your-own-adventure format.  And, you’ll be supporting a fantastic cause.  Lights Out Theatre Company is a group of truly inspired, passionate, and talented artists.  Best of all, they put their money where their mouth is: not only are they dedicated to bringing new, fresh theater to the people, they’ll reach out a hand to bring new people (like me!) to the theater.

Peace, love, and MooseHumps,


The great Dame Dougherty on her throne after ruling the kingdom of backstage during One Night Stand

The great Dame Dougherty on her throne after ruling the kingdom of backstage during One Night Stand


One Comment

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  1. Jim Dougherty / Oct 23 2009 6:48 pm

    Nice photos, stylish gloves. I’m delighted that you are having such a good time with LOTC, and congratulations on your first gig as a the backstage boss. I only wish that I could be there for the show (and easy access to the bar).



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