Q & A with John Raymond

Catalyst Theatre profiles members of their creative team in their e-newsletters.  John Raymond has worked with Catalyst Theatre since The Blue Orphan and they look forward to working with John again next on The Soul Collector.

In what ways are Catalyst productions particularly demanding in terms of stage management and what does that require of you?

Catalyst productions are particularly demanding and exciting for stage management, especially in the initial rehearsal period of a production, because so much needs to happen in a relatively short period of time. Working on a new work is always more demanding for stage management than working on a published script. When the work also includes new music, stylized movement and choreography, and bold, unique design choices there is simply more to do and manage. Catalyst’s work is very detailed, and always ambitious, especially considering resources are limited. We tend to use all our available rehearsal time, and this includes rehearsals after our first Opening of a production to keep refining the work.

Figuring out and running the backstage business on a Catalyst show is always a major feat for stage management, and I have been very lucky to work with Candice Charney, who has brilliantly run the backstage for Frankenstein, Nevermore and Hunchback when I have been stage managing these shows. Once Jonathan has introduced music, either a song or underscore into rehearsal I begin to play music cues on a lap top computer and that is when my work starts to become particularly challenging. Jonathan ends up creating hundreds of music cues for a typical Catalyst production and this means that when I call a show that usually has hundreds of lighting cues and some set cues I am also playing hundreds of music cues. Sometimes there are dozens of music cues in a song, and in order for the music to be seamless with the action on stage I am required to connect with the actors almost as if I were there onstage with them, as if I were their “orchestra”. It is a joy for me to take on this additional responsibility on a typical Catalyst production and it keeps me challenged and “on my toes”.

Working with the actors is a big part of a stage manager's job, how do you go about creating a safe space for actors, and what would you say is the primary responsibility of the stage manager in terms of relating to actors?

If you mean “physical” safety, I work hard to ensure that actors work in spaces that are safe and healthy: clean, tidy, well organized, and free of hazards. I am also responsible for making sure we are working in a safe manner in the rehearsal hall or theatre. “Safety” is at all times my top priority. It is my job to speak up immediately if I have any questions or concerns about safety.

On another level I help create a particular tone in rehearsal and I hope this tone makes actors feel safe in a broader sense. I believe actors do their best work, are the most creative, will take the most risks, when a Director and Stage Manager work together to create an environment where “respect” is always a given, it is understood that work is collaborative but led by the Director, we are all there to offer our best, work hard, and collectively BELIEVE. In my experience, this is the kind of “safe” space or environment that helps produce great theatre.

When a director entrusts their show in my hands after opening, I am also aware that I have earned my actors’ trust and that my actors continue to feel safe “in performance”. They know I have closely followed the creative process in rehearsal and that I am fully engaged in the show, and capable and eager to maintain the show both artistically and technically.

In terms of relating to actors my main responsibility is simply to fulfill the role and responsibilities of a Stage Manager to the best of my ability. By performing specific tasks and supporting the creative process, Stage Management allows both Director and actors to focus their attention on what they must do to create powerful and meaningful theatre that can be recreated in performance.

What are the important factors in a successful relationship between a director and a stage manager?

I personally am biased here and think that the stage manager has to be a “director’s stage manager” for the relationship between a director and a stage manager to be truly successful. What I mean by that is the stage manager must be a person who loves theatre, and is truly interested in both the director’s process and the actors’ process and how they work together. Only this type of stage manager is capable I think of maintaining a show artistically and can fully earn a director’s trust.

That said there are also some other very important factors. I believe that the relationship is successful when the director and stage manager work as a team to reach their goals, and fully support one another. Communication and respect are very important. A director that has successful relationships with stage management is one that consciously includes stage management in the creative process and considers them important contributors to the success of a show.

First appeared in Catalyst Theatre's E-Newsletter on March 14, 2013. 

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Jonathan Christenson (MFA Directing '96), and with the ongoing collaboration of Resident Designer Bretta Gerecke (MFA Theatre Design '96), Catalyst Theatre is know for its highly identifiable aesthetic. Read more about Catalyst Theatre and their focus on creating new work at www.catalysttheatre.ca