This week in Stage Management Types and Styles class, we were visited by a guest lecturer, Tareena Wimbish. Our introduction to Tareena was that she was a stage manager who had recently moved to Boston from San Diego, and had an interesting background in event work – including “Zombie Runs.”
We met Tareena, and she filled us in on her diverse stage management experience. She works as an Event Coordinator for The Walking Dead Escape , does local theatre in Boston (Speakeasy, ART, CommShakes, and others), and has worked internationally in Germany and the United Arab Emirates. One of the first things Tareena told us was that she likes to do “things that are weird.” She also told us, “I’m a happy stage manager.”
Tareena described some of the most challenging experiences she had had so far as a stage manager, which surprised me at first. More often than not, stage managers tend to guard our “mistakes” – the situations that didn’t work out the way that we wanted them to, or that we would approach differently if given a second time around – because we don’t want to be perceived as a bad manager. When we do discuss things that challenged or tested us in Stage Management Colloquium, it is with a critical eye – what could we have done to avoid this? Particularly when meeting a group of stage managers for the very first time, it was bold of Tareena to tell us so frankly about her challenges. But as I listened to Tareena’s stories, I realized that she did not see her stage management challenges as mistakes. She did not see them as difficult in the negative context. Challenges were exciting to her. She told us later in the conversation, “I always have to be challenged, because if I’m not challenged, I get BORED.”
But even beyond embracing challenges, Tareena described how she leaned in to situations that scared her or made her uncomfortable. She told that working in Abu Dabi, UAE was scary for her, and that she desperately wanted to go back. Tareena’s mindset was fascinating to me. I thought, here is a fearless and independent stage manager.
I thought, then, of the challenges and difficulties I have experienced in my own work. For example, this summer I did a show that was definitely the most challenging for me as a stage manager thus far. It was a production of Much Ado About Nothing set on the trails of the Lynn Woods reservation outside of Boston. Our performance took place in a public woods that was not closed to the broader public during performance times, so we needed to be extremely inventive in order to coordinate props tracking and the many quick costume changes that needed to happen. We needed to be as invisible of a “tech” presence as physically possible to preserve the illusion for the audience. One of the most challenging elements of the process for me was having a volunteer crew that was swapped out for every performance and was not trained in or familiar with theater. With so many other things on my plate, it was daunting to try to explain tasks to them, and I could not have them work off run sheets because there was so much swapping in and out of roles and crew members. This caused some headaches for me. Tareena, on the other hand, told us how during a Walking Dead Escape event she will receive 20-60 volunteers with no training, and will have to direct and assign them on the spot while the event is happening. Then in several hours, still while the event is happening, she will receive an entirely new round of volunteers and will have to put them in on the spot. In addition, if my attention was pulled away on Much Ado to handle a crew situation, the worst that could happen is that a cue for actors or musicians might be a little late. In Tareena’s case on the Walking Dead, people may break their bones, get cuts and scrapes, vomit, slip or fall in another’s vomit, or otherwise create a situation in which they may harm themselves or others – the stakes of the race are pretty intense. Thinking about all that terrifies me, but Tareena meets the challenge-head on.
I am totally inspired by this way of thinking. If I could learn to embrace and even seek out the opportunities that challenge or scare me, I can only imagine how I would grow as a stage manager. And Tareena’s loving and buoyant attitude towards all of these challenges and complexities only made her attitude resonate even more. I would like to work to implement this mentality in my stage management work going forward.