Behind the Scenes: Llyr Heller - Stage Manager

Uploaded by LABitterLemons on 06.05.2010

My name is Llyr Heller and I'm a stage manager
and I've stage managed in Canada, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
I started stage managing,...
I was film and theatre major at UC Santa Barbara
and they didn't have the best theatre program
so I went abroad to Canada, Vancouver,
where they had a really good theatre program
and I assistant stage managed a few shows
and the main show was Caryl Churchhill's "Top Girls"
and we had like,... we were under the stage,
we were all over the place and I thought "This is fun! I like this!"
'cause I don't act, so I'm like "I like this back stage"
so then I got to do my own stage management
and I did this little six person piece called "The Disappeared"
about Argentina's Disappeared,
and that's what I think started me on the "I think I can do this as a little side gig.
I like this stage managing thing."
My last show was "The End of Civilization"
by SkyPilot Theatre, with SkyPilot Theatre
and I think it was my favorite one that I worked on so far because first of all,
the cast, everyone was very nice, there was no drama,
and secondly it was the first time I got to use a computerized console,
instead of the usual... oh take a picture of that,
something like that. It was all computerized
and that was very exciting and much easier!
Let's see...a normal working evening usually consists of me coming in
about an hour to two hours ahead of the cast,
usually about an hour, and then first I sweep, then I mop,
then I make sure everything is clean and tidy, and then,
by then the actors are coming in, so I take off my music that I've put on,
and either they put on some music, or it's silent.
And then I run through all the queues, I practice them all, and I make sure
they all go up when they're supposed to and then I basically stand by each actor,
and with them go through their props, and towards the end of the run
I trust them when they tell me they've checked their props but if not
I just stand with them and have them go through it with me,
and then just any last minute things with the box office or anything like that,
and then I try to get the show started 5 or 10 minutes after.
That's the other thing, like actors have to prepare and I understand that,
and I respect that, so I don't need to bother them with anything,
unless it's checking props.
Like I don't need to make small talk, and I don't need to,...unless they want to.
If that's how they release, that's great. But most people do yoga, or meditate or
run their lines or what-have-you, smoke a cigarette, so I,...
you know it's nice, as long as they're around and I can see them visually,
they just do what they do.
I worked on a production of Closer, not a bad play, but uhm,
it was financed by our lead,
by a woman lead
and I remember one time she was on the phone and it was at "places"
and that was the only time I ever had to yell at an actor
to get off the phone, or, you know,
cause we were ready to go and she was on the phone,
so I offered to throw the phone out the window, (laughs)
or that something to that effect.
But, she got on and the show was great.
And then I remember, sometimes it's funny when you have,
(speaking to Enci behind the camera)
what's that word when you have the alternate come on,
like you take turns?
(Enci: understudies?)
Oh, okay, the understudies come on, because during Closer again,
we had this really great actor and then the understudy was there for a show,
and they were typing to each other and I was projecting what they were typing,
but they were saying it while it was showing up behind them,
and so one guy didn't know the lines very well,
so he was saying things as the typing appeared and it was completely different.
The audience was hilariously laughing and he wasn't sure why (laughs).
That was a good one. (laughs)
And that show also, one of the lights blew before the show started.
I had to get out in front of the audience with the latter and change the light.
So, there is always adventures in small theatre. (laughs)
So, The Black Rider with Tom Waits was very inspirational as well as
any theatre that Ray Bradbury puts on,
he has his own theatre house in Pasadena
and sometimes he puts on performances in Santa Monica.
And anything he writes would be such a joy to stage manage,
because as a stage manager sometimes you get tired listening to the same lines
over and over, but if it's the best writing in the world, I just don't think you would.
In the theatre world, I started out wanting to be a background painter,
but I realized I'm not very good at it, so I chose stage managing
'cause I'm good at organizational and all those things.
But if not, I think directing would be fun,
uhm, but really, I'm about to get my masters in Library Science,
so what I really want to be doing is
being a librarian for young adults and children
One of the downfalls of being a stage manager
is that the producer and or director might expect you to give notes to the actors,
which I feel is not my job, it's the directors job.
So I remember in one show, the director came up to me during intermission
and told me notes to give to them.
And I said "They know what they did wrong, you can tell,
and they feel bad enough already,
maybe you can save the notes for later. That's not part of my job."
Cause I think it's important that the notes come from the director
because he has the vision of the play and I just don't think it's right
for me to tell actors what to do, unless it's literally
"You missed the queue, or please step in the right zone."
Those are more action notes than how one should read a line.
One of the best jobs I had, it was still while I was in college in Canada,
was my first solo stage managing experience.
It was a little play called "The Disappeared"
and it was about the Argentinian dirty war.
1976-83 where 30-40,000 people disappeared because of political reasons
and what not, and you can look it up on the web,
there is still people hunting for the people who did this,
war criminals such and all that,
and I picked that project because my mother and my family on that side
is Argentinian and Jewish so I thought it would be an interesting thing,
and they have little bit of Spanish in there with Spanish speaking people performing
and it was really interesting to me.
And one of the reasons I liked it because it was a bi-lingual play and I,
oh and I was one of the few people in the theatre area to speak Spanish as well,
The advice I would give to upcoming stage managers
so that's why they chose me and I chose it as well.
would be, uhm, if you have any questions,
ask the producer or the director, they usually know, and if not,
there is usually some other type of tech person there to assist you,
whether it be a lighting person or sound person.
And just be organized, remember where everything goes,
make friends with the actors, and just make sure the actors have
what they need so that the show is successful.