PC Michelle Hromin

Letter from an Amateur Stage Manager

“I’m on the next shift” Setting the [Cultural] Stage

Letter from an Amateur Stage Manager

“I’m on the next shift” Setting the [Cultural] Stage

I wouldn’t call my part-time job as a stage manager at a small London church a side hustle. I probably wouldn’t even call it a hustle, unless you count my weekly speed-walk down High Street Kensington to avoid being late for my shift. Our performances begin at 1:05 PM on the dot — no late seating.

Before then, music stands need to be placed, pianos need to be moved, performers must be in their waiting positions, and audience members need to be quietly guided to their seats, programs in hand.

This job is one of the many hats I wear as a clarinetist, composer, improviser, teacher, curator, and artistic director. Admittedly, I took the Friday gig for the paycheck, plus an added bonus of live music with my lunch. I didn’t expect to find profound meaning in the repetitive elements of my job, which help me reflect on performance practice, collaboration, and growth.

As I place microphones in front of musicians for the required pre-performance speech stipulated by the concert series, I wonder what would happen if no one said anything at all like most of the concerts I go to. Even as someone who is a firm believer in verbally connecting with audiences, I’ve found the most recent concert at Wigmore Hall and the shows at Iklectik more musically and aesthetically satisfying than any of the concerts I have worked at the church.

I often find myself rolling my eyes at the same impersonal facts and dates being read to audiences like a prescription for cough medicine. I know Beethoven was born in 1770, and quite frankly, I don’t care. I want to hear about performer’s artistic practices and their relationships to music. This outdated practice of reading factual information about composers reinforces a hierarchy that I am tired of existing within.

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