Ananya Gondesi closes the curtain on her junior year while stage managing


Photo courtesy to Ananya Gondesi

Ananya Gondesi closes out her junior year by being a stage manager for the spring musical A Chorus Line.

Ollie Shuminas, Spotlight Reporter

Ananya Gondesi is a junior at Metea Valley who has been very involved in this year’s theater department. She did this as both a stage manager for the fall play “Clue: On Stage” and the spring musical “A Chorus Line.” Gondesi likes her job as stage manager, so she chose to participate in this job the entire year.

How was your workload as a stage manager?

As a stage manager, the workload is kind of insane which is crazy because people do not necessarily think about that when they hear stage manager. They think it is a boring position, but I really think it is so exciting because my workload is having to go sit, take notes for the directors, track everything that is happening, and make sure it is all in a place and organized for the director. It is not just organizing the show, but it is building relationships with the cast. It is getting to know the show. At the end of the process, you are essentially the one who knows the most about the show. You are running the show because on show day no one is there to help you out, you are in charge. I think when it comes to the cast, specifically the people that are there, I take it as my responsibility to take care of them as well, because we are in high school and things get stressful sometimes, and students do not really have a person to fall on, so I want to be that person full of love and support that they might not have. I want to be that safe place for them to come to in order to complain about whatever they need to. On top of that, you are running everything on show day. You are giving all of the cues, you are making sure that everyone is ready, and you are the one calling places.

Was there anyone who inspired you to become a stage manager?

No, I did not even know there was something called stage manager until the beginning of this year. I was approached by Mr. Wolski and I was emailed to be the stage manager and I thought, why not? I am very glad that I made that decision because it has allowed me to meet and get to know so many amazing, wonderful people, but at the same time, learn so many real-life and tangible skills that are useful. Mr. Wolski, if anything, is the one who kind of taught me what my role is. So through the musical and through the fall play, he was kind of my source to go to and say, ‘Hey, I am having a lot of trouble with specifically this aspect of it. What do you think I can do to make it easier or to solve the problem?’ He was very, very helpful with a solution. So I would not say inspiration, but really just a place to talk to was him, but inspiration, really, nobody, I just kind of took it on myself.

What are your feelings about getting to work with the directors?

While holding the position of a stage manager, you get so many different perspectives, and I think that is the beautiful part about it. You not only get to see the production kind of built from the ground up, at least the way that we are doing it, where you start at the very beginning of the production and you stay through till the very end of the shows, but you also get to see the director’s side of it. You get to see their thought process and how they want to help stuff come alive. But at the same time, you get to see this cast starting off with themselves and then transforming and growing into the role they are given. It is really just amazing. I am privileged to be able to see that happen with such talented people on both sides. On the director’s side and the cast’s side, I think they all have done a phenomenal job. I mean, theater really outdid itself this year, in terms of the productions and all that kind of stuff. It just makes me feel so happy. It fills me with so much joy to see everybody else enjoying and to have that perspective sitting in the background and kind of just observing.

What skills are needed to be a good stage manager?

Number one is organization. There is no other way. I think this is the most important thing that people do not realize, you have to be away from the cast for a very long amount of time. You are essentially isolated for a little bit because you are sitting there observing. Sometimes it sucks seeing everybody else have fun, but you are just doing work while you are on the sidelines. That is not ideal, but that is what you signed up for. That is what the job is, but at the end of the show, you reap all the benefits. You are still friends with the cast and you still love them, but you have your own things that are separate from them that you need to do. So that is one responsibility that is major.

How much of a commitment is being a stage manager?

Being a stage manager is time-consuming. You are here after school for three hours every night. So a lot of your week is taken up by this, especially when it comes to tech week, it can become really time-consuming if you let it. You need to be organized and focused. You also need to be creative. Sometimes you are going to need to be able to add your own voice to the conversation, mention something or come up with something new. So you end up knowing the show inside and out. Even now I could just sit and recite the musical word for word because I have seen it so many times. I will not sing now because that would be atrocious, but those are responsible abilities, and you need to make sure that you have those skills. Another one that is really important is being able to separate your work and your life because I definitely struggled with this. It is not an easy thing to do. At a certain point, you realize this has taken over my life and I definitely had some times definitely closer to show time, where it was getting a lot more hectic and busy so I would forget to take breaks. I would forget to take care of myself because I would rehearse, come home, do homework, and go to sleep. And I did not really have a change in my schedule, you need to be able to actively recognize when you are kind of at your limit. You need to be able to ask for breaks, be able to give up your pride, and step forward and ask for help when you need it. You need to be able to understand when too much is too much.

Why do you think stage managers are such an important part of the theater?

I mean, they run everything. When I think about it, and I think about the different productions, I just think if I was not there, things would fall apart. I have to be there. I think when people watch the show, all they see is this magical device that is moving all these objects around. ‘Oh, great. Those couches are coming out, oh, the walls are coming up.’ What others do not understand is that there is so much coordination behind that. Maybe it can be argued that stage managers are not really needed from the very beginning, but I think having them from the very beginning is both beneficial to them and the production, because there is a somewhat assistant that is there to help. Again, I do not want to speak like I am exactly an expert on this, but at least from my experience, that is what I kind of picked up on.

How has being a part of the theater while not performing impacted your life?

It is different. I entered the theater at Metea Valley performing. I started my freshman year with Winter Scenes and that was the first time I had ever acted, which is great because it was an amazing experience. Then the next year it was online which kind of sucked, but I think ‘War of the World’ was a perfect choice for an online fall play. I was an announcer in that and it was really, really fun. Then, I did winter scenes again, which is great, and now, this year stepping behind the scenes. I think you start to have so much more appreciation for the way theater works. When you are the star of the show, you do not really see much of what is happening behind you, but once you step back into the world of tech, it is a whole different perspective that you get. I think I definitely have a lot more appreciation for tech people because before I just thought, ‘Oh, they are here to do their job and stuff,’ but I did not realize how much work they really put in until I was there myself putting that work in.

Is there anything else you want to say to those who may want to be stage managers in the future?

It is definitely a hard job, but it is so rewarding. Although I definitely had some hiccups when it came to the musical, I do not really regret it because of the relationships that I formed. I am definitely interested in directing and stuff like that, so being able to see something come together is very, very satisfying. It brings a sort of closure to that. So if you are interested in being a stage manager, reach out, and I will answer any questions. There are so many opportunities available to you if you do not get into production here at Metea. Do not hesitate to join. Do not think it is scary. Everything is scary, but nothing is worth doing if it is not hard.