Most stage managers don’t have to worry about rogue squirrels, dogs doing their business on stage and inattentive joggers interrupting scenes, but for Laura Brinton, it’s part of life at Halifax’s Shakespeare by the Sea.

“You just have to go with it,” she shrugs. “We’re outside. I don’t control the weather, I don’t control nature, I don’t control the crazy squirrels up in the trees throwing nuts at us.”

She does control the stage, though, and everything that goes on in and around the plays at an old fort in Point Pleasant Park.

Brinton studied theatre at McMaster University and fell into stage management because she’s organized.
“I’m a bit of a control freak. You need to know everything and be in contact with everyone,” she explains. The stage manager oversees all aspects of the play, making sure costumes and props are ready, that actors know when and where to be and that effects go off without a hitch. That means long hours:

Stage managers are the first to arrive and the last to leave, and they attend every rehearsal and performance.

Brinton writes a detailed report for each show, noting changes to script, blocking and lighting to ensure continuity. Otherwise, mini disasters can occur: One of her first shows, two actors collided due to a blocking mix up.

“If one of your plates drops, they could all come crashing down,” she sighs.

“Actors are on a lot of adrenaline going into a show,” Brinton continues. “You really need to be a calming, authoritative supporter. You’re there for them and everything is going to be okay, even though they feel like they’re going to puke.”

Brinton is also tasked with the most crucial task of any outdoor theatre: Making the weather call.

Hundreds of people descend on the park each night and it’s Brinton’s job to decide if the show will be outside or in.

“I tend to stand outside a lot looking at the clouds,” she laughs. “You go with a gut feeling and hoping Environment Canada knows what it’s talking about.”

If she gets it wrong, the audience ends up seeking shelter in the woods.

“You just have to go with it,” she repeats with a shrug.

Many universities offer a degree in theatre that includes stage management, but the University of Alberta is the only one offering a four-year BFA in Stage Management.

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