And now a word from the Stage Manager
04 Tuesday Sep 2012
Well, not THAT Stage Manager, but the lovely Morgan Keyes, whose novel DARKBEAST is now out in stores. She’s here to let you in on a few backstage bits of information about stage management and writing!
Many thanks to Lisa, for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
When I wrote Darkbeast, I needed to research a lot of things – herblore, animal behavior, ancient pantheons…. But one thing I didn’t research was the Travelers.
Not because I ever journeyed with gypsy performers in wagons that rolled along rutted roads, carrying all of my physical possessions. Not because I ever staged open-air productions, setting up and striking a stage night after night after night. Not because I struggled to organize a troupe of traveling actors, balancing their personalities, their onstage needs, their offstage demands, all while entertaining hordes of paying, entertainment-starved villagers.
Rather, I knew the Travelers because I used to be a stage manager. Sure, I did my work in contemporary theaters, with modern proscenium stages or black boxes. I relied on a Timex to call time before each show, and electronic headsets to call cues (even if some of those headsets were voice-activated, requiring me to hum for a full five seconds before I could issue the next order to my lightboard operator).
But there are elements of stage management that transcend the ages. Stage managers understand how to bring order to chaos. We know how to predict emergencies and how to lay in supplies against those disasters we can’t avoid. We know how to soothe tempers, how to cajole exhausted colleagues, how to make outright demands when actually necessary. We know how to mark precipices with reflective tape, to keep everyone safe and secure and solidly on track.
Stage management taught me my time management skills. It gave me a crash course in dealing with difficult people. It allowed me to set my limits and to test them, expand them, test them again.
There is a magic in the theater, the power of creating imaginary worlds, of sharing them with sometimes-jaded audience members. As a stage manager, I got to control those illusions. I literally brought them into the spotlight.
Huh. Stage management is a lot like being an author – revealing the story in controlled bits, managing the characters, measuring out the tale. Perhaps that’s why theater figures so prominently in so many fantasy novels.
Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including:
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.