Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Interview With Unfiltered's Stage Manager Eileen Lalley

Eileen Lalley is the Stage Manager for Unfiltered. With only 3 shows left in the 21-performance run, she kindly used her lunch hour for a little GChatting about what she's learned in the process.

Chiara: Okay: You just opened 5 (!!) Unfiltered shows. HOW DO YOU FEEL?

Eileen:  like i just ran a marathon! proud, exhausted and ready to do it again....after sleeping for a month straight

Chiara:  it's been the same crew, right? for all 5 shows? same design team?

Eileen:  yep- we had two costume designers that alternated shows and the rehearsal SMs have been different but other than that

Chiara:  are you sick of each other yet.

Eileen:  i'm not? they might be sick of me

Chiara:  lol
I have to say that
I feel like there's an enormous sense of relief, from the writers and the director, when you step into the process? Cause you sort of come in right when things are starting to get really stressful
And you just have a REALLY calming and authoritative presence in rehearsals
is that something you're aware of/try to cultivate?

Eileen:  thank you!
absolutely-- being that I'm running the room, my energy can have a huge effect on the rehearsal.  can you imagine if I came in cranky and spent the whole tech snapping at people and bitching about the tiniest problems? i've been in the room with an SM like that, let me tell you, it's ugly. my "game face" is something I learned mainly from bad experiences ha i make a point to leave everything else going on in my life at the door so that i'm fully present
whew that was a wordy stream of consciousness

Chiara:  Ha no that's super interesting and it's something that I think everyone notices/appreciates
What was the hardest show to tech?

Eileen:  hmm
i thiiiink Bird, not because anything was going wrong but simply because it was the most complex. Although Myrna was a close second because it was specific
*so specific

Chiara:  easiest?

Eileen:  going out and coming back

Chiara:  ha

Eileen:  we were able to dry tech it--huge help

Chiara:  What was it like watching every performance? Did you notice a big change in the shows from opening to closing nights?

Eileen:  YES

Chiara:  ha tell me more!

Eileen:  that was one of the most rewarding parts of this process-- watching the plays find their footing throughout performances
It was fun for me too, cause you could feel it when things were discovered with an audience. having seen each show every night, the moment when the show "clicked" was always evident in a great way- know what i mean?
when moments in the show clicked i should say-- by the time we got to closing with each one it felt like were ready to open

Chiara:  could you always tell? Like, "AH, there! It happened!" Like, was there a distinct moment with each show?

Eileen:  yes and no-- there were certainly some "aha!" moments, but more often I'd be watching a play i'd seen a dozen times at that point and start to hear lines for the first time in a scene or have my own discoveries as an audience member of sorts and all of a sudden the room would become charged
because everyone who was watching who had also seen it a dozen times would be feeling the same thing-- it's exciting!

Chiara:  I think all of the writers who worked on Unfiltered think that THEIR process was the most difficult, or had the most setbacks, or the most roller coaster experience. As stage manager for all 5, you're the best judge: what was the biggest hurdle/setback/obstacle of Unfiltered 2012?

Eileen:  well, its hard because i'm trying to think from a full production standpoint instead of my own experience-- and to be honest, there really weren't any HUGE fires to be put out after we weathered the schedule changes from sandy.
i can tell you what my biggest hurdle was/is

Chiara:  k

Eileen:  weathering the playwrights-- what  i mean: I love new work, among the many reason I love EST. Unfiltered is FOR the playwright-- so I naturally want to give them the world in any way that I can, but the reality of my job is that it also involves a whole team of people who obviously also have their needs.  For instance-- you have rewrites during performance. great, let's try find time to work them-- however, the actors have x y and z conflicts, so I'm just not sure we can find time to put them in.  Another example: you decide after the final dress that you hate a piece of music being used in the show and that it must be changed or you'll never be happy again(yes, you are all that lovably melodramatic)--however, our sound designer is unavailable to make the change at this point.and it's unfortunately my job to make that point. it's like watching a 6 year old be told Santa isn't real. it hurts!
my point is that I on occasion give a little too much of a shit for my own good-- makes it hard to say no

Chiara:  What advice would you give to playwrights about to do Unfiltered?

Eileen:  Just know, the shit is gonna hit the fan and you're going to feel like everything is falling apart and that the play is a disaster. this is will absolutely happen. so stock up on your whiskey or pints of ice cream or whatever you need to get you through a hard week.
that it WILL all be ok in the end
trust the people working with you
because we're all here for you and will find a way together for everything to work
all of you asked me if the other shows were in just as bad of shape

Chiara:  hahaha

Eileen:  the answer is yes, it was just a different form of bad shape for each of you

Chiara:  Graeme said yesterday in the curtain speech that everyone cried......I didn't cry, for the record.

Eileen:  but you did the silent treatment, no?
much more effective than tears

Chiara:  lol no I "went for a walk"
Eileen:  they said it in another curtain speech (not specifically about you) but i asked afterwards who told     graeme to go to hell and who gave them the silent treatment
i think the wording was just "stopped speaking to us"

Chiara:  Ha yeah that was like. Half an hour. But yes. Guilty.
Now, the most important question. What was the best party of Unfiltered 2012

Eileen:  I think Bird/Myrna closing. It's almost unfair, cause it was a double closer

Chiara:  I KNEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW you were going to say that

Eileen:  that week, Chiara, that week was INSANE. It was the only week where shows actually ran in rep-- the design and production team almost died trying. and Bird was such a crazy ride and Myrna was too but in a vastly different way-- by the time we got to the dance party at the end of that ridiculous week everyone was in such desperate need of release that it just exploded

Chiara:  haha. Yeah. EVERYONE was talking about that party. It seemed amazing.
Are you gonna MISS IT WHEN IT'S OVER? Admit it. You're gonna miss us all.

Eileen:  i was so sad last night. cause it was the last opening. and that means that closing is coming. i wish it wouldnt. i could do this forever.
[3 more chances to catch Unfiltered this season, with Ryan Dowler's Stiff performing tonight, Friday, and Saturday!]

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