Brian August, Des Moines Metro Opera

Brian August of Atlanta, Ga., is stage manager for "Wozzeck." He has been coming back to Indianola for nine years and likes to catch up with friends like Jesse Forbes of The Zoo when he comes to town.

Where you are from: I'm originally from Michigan, but I live in Atlanta now.

Opera you are working on: This summer I'm stage managing Wozzeck

Role/Job: At both Des Moines Metro Opera, and The Atlanta Opera, I am the production stage manager. I'm responsible for many things outside of just the show I'm stage managing. Starting in November, Danielle Taylor and I look at staffing the shows, and hiring new staff who are not returning.

I also start diving into the repertoire that we're doing, looking at all aspects of all shows, such as the set and costume renderings, to figure out how to staff my department to give the shows what they need to succeed. I also start to look at the show I'm stage managing in greater detail.

Once we're about a month out I really dive into preparations for my show, working to clarify who is in what scenes, learn what costumes everyone is wearing for what acts, how the scenery transitions, etc. Once we're at DMMO I do all the scheduling for the stage management department, and budget tracking.

I have to look at the master schedule and decide which assistant stage managers and interns will be in what rehearsals that day, as they are all often overlapping. A few days before we start shows, we "tape the floor" — we look at ground plans (like blueprints) and a scale ruler and put different colored tape on the rehearsal room floor to indicate parts of the sets.

In staging rehearsals for the show I'm stage managing, we are working with the director to cue entrances, do scene shifts in the rehearsal room, and figure out prop and costume tracking.

We divide responsibilities amongst the team. The stage manager tracks all the scenery moves, one assistant stage manager tracks costumes, one tracks props, and our intern tracks any lighting or sound moves that happen on deck. I am also responsible for writing the Rehearsal Report, where we update the other department heads on things discovered in rehearsal. For example, we might know ahead of time between scene 1 and 2 that a character has to change costumes, but until the director stages it, we don't know how long they have to change! Once it's staged we can send out a report explaining that the character will have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to change into their next look.

Another example is the director deciding they want to add 2 more cups to a scene than we have previously called for. We have to generate all this paperwork ahead of being onstage to hand to the crew so they know when to do things!

Once we're onstage, we have several technical and dress rehearsals, with piano and orchestra, to bring it all together. As the stage manager, I'm responsible for saying GO a lot! Any time you see something moving onstage, it's because I've said "Go!" - this is called "calling a show". Everyone gets a standby, to get ready for their next move, and then the go.

I call every lighting cue, scenic move, flying move, and more. The ASMs work on deck with the crew to make sure they're in the right places, keep the singers safe, make sure people are where they need to be for costume quick changes and prop handoffs, and more.

Unlike in theatre, our performers wait to go onstage until the ASM cues them on. As the stage manager, I page each performer to the stage, but the ASM makes sure they're there, in the right costume, holding their props, and cuing them to enter on a specific beat in the music.

At the end of every performance, I write a report that includes the timings of every Act, intermission, and then a list of technical things to fix (ie a cup was dropped and broke, we'll need a new one for the next performance please). This report also lets the director and designers see how the show is running after it opens and they leave. Once we're into running the shows, we all update our paperwork to a "final version" for archives, in case another company wants to remount the production!

What kind of music do you listen when don’t listen to opera? My playlists are always varied! I'll go from Nicki Minaj, to Philip Glass, to Destiny's Child, to Mozart. There's very little music I won't listen to...though I do still love the radio in my car, and often have it on "Old School Hip Hop and R&B" or a "Top 40 Pop" station.

What’s your favorite thing to do other than work? I really enjoy spending time with my friends, or alone time on my couch reading or watching Netflix. I recently adopted a dog, so I've loved playing fetch with little Rupert, though he might like the couch more than me!

What made you decide to work on the stage? In high school, I started assistant stage managing, and called my first show when I was a sophomore. I really took pride in the work, and read books on it on my own. When it came time to choose a school and major, I went to Boston University, within their theatre conservatory with a BFA major in Stage Management. I've been working professionally since 2009, graduating in 2010, and haven't ever stopped stage managing since.

What’s your favorite kind of production to work on? I really love working on new cinematic-style productions. At DMMO I work with director Kristine McIntyre almost every summer, Wozzeck will be our 10th show together! She is great at creating new productions that work so well in the Blank Performing Arts Center, that really push the boundaries of opera. We're no longer doing dated productions one might think of when they think of opera, but every detail is carefully planned out as a cinematic viewing experience for the audience, and sometimes it's even broadcast on Iowa Public Television!

What do you like best about Indianola? I love the town so much, and the people in it! This is my 9th summer at Des Moines Metro Opera, and it's so nice to come back here every year, it really feels like my summer home. Everyone here is so kind, and I've truly made friends here with people outside the opera, and have loved watching them succeed. For example, Jesse Forbes, owner of the Zoo Bar on the square, and seeing photos of his daughters and hearing their successes over the 9 summers, it's really magical.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why? I would love to go to Italy! I've never been to Europe, and would love a chance to explore all the amazing culture, food, and more that Italy has to offer! I just need to find time in my busy stage management schedule...or somehow we can convince Michael Egel to coproduce a show with a company over there and we can all go over together!

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.