JACQUELINE LAWTON: How long have you lived and worked as a stage manager in DC? What brought you here? Why have you stayed?
KERRY EPSTEIN: I’ve been stage manager for almost 15 years, 8 of them in the DC area. In 2005, my husband, Robbie Hayes, got a fantastic job opportunity at Georgetown University and we decided to make the move from Chicago to DC. I was in the process of sending my resume to the local theaters when I got a phone call from the director of one of Signature Theatre's upcoming shows. A mutual friend had told him I was moving to the area and he requested me as his stage manager. After the show closed, I was asked to stay on for the season and beyond. Incredible luck. I adore working on musicals and Signature does them very well.
JL: What excites you most about being a stage manager? What do you feel your greatest challenges are?
KE: Magic happens when I say “go.” Plus there is immense personal satisfaction in calling a cue at just the right second to perfectly coincide with a cymbal crash.
Part of the job is to solve problems before they occur but there are times when the best thing for the show is to be a silent observer while others find their solution. That can be frustrating to wait when you want to leap in for a quick save.
JL: What traits do you feel a successful Stage Manager should have to support the health and growth of a production?
KE: A sincere respect for the script and artists. A sense of fun and flexibility. The peripheral vision of an owl. A slightly unhealthy fascination with checklists and spreadsheets.
JL: Does your work as a Stage Manager pay the bills? If not, what other work do you do and how do you find a balance?
KE: I am extremely lucky to have a full season at Signature not to mention a supportive partner so I am living the dream. It is pretty much “all theater all the time,” which can be a double-edged sword. Again, I’m very lucky, not complaining!
JL: Looking at your body of work as a stage manager in this community, how conscious are you of selecting plays by women or people of color when deciding your season?
KE: I am not involved in play selection - Signature chooses its season and I am offered specific shows/timeslots. It’s something I notice but isn’t ultimately a deciding factor. This season does contain two world premiers with book and lyrics by women: Crossing by Grace Barnes and Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart.
JL: How do you feel the DC theatre community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to work?
KE: It’s an ongoing conversation. Just when you think progress has been made, you overhear a passing “women aren’t strong enough to be on a crew” comment that is just patently untrue. So you shake your head, move the scenery, and keep going.
JL: DC audiences are ...
KE: … very smart and supportive. Not afraid to share what they think, good or bad.
JL: DC actors, designers and directors are ..
KE: …adventurous, dedicated to their craft and each other.
JL: DC critics are ...
KE: …part of the show-audience-critic trifecta. Each one needs the other two.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming DC based stage managers?
KE: There are so many good companies in DC, all doing different kinds of work. Find the ones doing shows that match your artistic sensibilities and talents and make them your home. Also, never run out of pencils.
JL: What's next for you as a stage manager? Where can we keep up with your work?
KE: You can find me in the booth at Signature Theatre for Gypsy (through January 26), Beaches (February 18 - March 30), and Threepenny Opera (April 22 - June 30).
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!