Jeremy Railton chats with Production Assistant Amber Caras.
JEREMY: Amber, how did you hear about EDC ?
AMBER: I heard about EDC because Tim Swiss (who was Alex Calle’s former professor at CalArts and my former professor at Saddleback College) told me that you guys were looking for people in the management vein of work. I then looked up everything I could about the EDC on the internet and saw all of the amazing work that you’ve done and I knew I had to jump on this opportunity.
JEREMY: When were you hired?
AMBER: May 18th 2015 was my first day. Although I first applied in January of that year. I maintained constant email contact and had several interviews in the time between but it was worth it because here I am!
JEREMY: And what did you do?
AMBER: When I was first hired I was tasked with maintaining the offices general needs. Making sure all basic needs of an office were always in stock as well as a nice array of snacks and goodies. I was also in charge of tracking and documenting employee hours on the Motiongate projects. After that project wrapped I asked to still come in once a week to maintain office needs and remain a part of EDC and in the company of wonderful people.
JEREMY: You come in to EDC on a part time basis to keep the office wheels keep turning and it seems like every time you come in you have a new theater piece you are working on! Would you share the names of the pieces you have been working on since you left EDC full time?
AMBER: Ha! It seems like that to me too! My most recent show that I was working on was really special. I was the Production Stage Manager of Species Native to California, a new work by Dorothy Fortenberry produced by IAMA Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre. They are an incredible group of people that I look forward to working with again in the future. I Stage Manage at other small theatres (Marat/Sade at Long Beach Playhouse, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Curtis Theatre with Southgate Productions) I’ve Assistant Stage Managed some shows at South Coast Repertory since then (Vietgone, Pinocchio, District Merchants, The Seigel). I also have worked on the Deck Crew of A Christmas Carol the last 4 years for SCR. Recently I also learned how to operate automated Scenery (Flora and Uylsses). For the last 7 years I have worked as a Carpenter on KTLA5’s Live broadcast of The Tournament of Roses Parade. The thing that I have really gotten into lately is Props. I have done a lot of Prop Mastering since I left full time (Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, You Can’t Take it With You, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and I have really been enjoying being able to combine my love of organizing things and crafting things together. In fact, I am Prop Mastering 3 new shows for the OC-Centric New Play Festival Later this Summer. Currently I am Stage Managing Shrek The Musical at Saddleback College.
JEREMY: Wow you are really making a living in Los Angeles in theater!! How are you managing to do it?
AMBER: Never saying no to a job unless I have a better one confirmed. Working as hard as I can all the time. Being in the job 100% no matter how small of a show it may be. I try to be someone people enjoy being around. Networking (I’m always looking for new opportunities). I also use all of my skills to obtain jobs (like carpentry, scenic artistry, model making, properties, or general management) which makes it easier to find work that fits in my schedule. Stage Management jobs are at least a month or two long while a carpentry or crew position might be a day or two and I can easily overlap them. Properties is the most flexible because most of my work can be done on my time. EDC is incredibly generous in that I am allowed to make my own schedule of when I come into the office which allows me to take all kinds of gigs and still come to EDC.
JEREMY: What was your training?
AMBER: I started in Theatre in Middle School and got into the technical aspects of it in high school. It wasn’t until I was a student at Saddleback did I really start to learn the crafts I enjoyed and excelled in (carpentry, props, paint). I Stage Managed my first show at Saddleback (Bat Boy: The Musical) and really enjoyed it. I transferred to Cal State Long Beach after I got my AA and continued to study theatre. At Long Beach I focused on Scenic Design and Stage Management. I graduated a year and a half later and then went on to complete the Stage Management Internship at SCR.
JEREMY: When you graduated did you feel equipped to be able to jump right into your chosen profession?
AMBER: Well I was working as a Carpenter and Crew member at multiple locations before I graduated. With Stage Management I did really feel ready to go into the world with what I had learned from Sarah Borger at CSULB. But 5 years out of college I know that there is something to learn from every one you work with and improving your skills is always a good idea.
JEREMY: For those of us who have doubts about making a living in local theater in LA as someone who is doing it can you give any advice to those who might want to do the same?
AMBER: Know that working for your love of the art and working for your paycheck are very difficult to find in the same job, and there is no shame in making money the way you can to fuel your passions. Know that one person’s opinion should never break you, stay true to who you are, nothing is worth losing yourself over. If you care about your work and work hard, people will notice.
JEREMY: What excites you most about theater?
AMBER: I love watching the creation of a world in the rehearsal room. I love putting all the pieces together in tech to complete it. I love watching each different audience become an inhabitant of the world we created and react to the performance. I love how each show is different so even though this is my like 200th show, it’s still all completely new.
JEREMY: Do you have any desires to be anything other than a stage manager– in my opinion one of the most difficult jobs on a production? Left and right brain hemispheres have to work at optimum levels at the same time. Creative and practical sparking equally. Can you give us a bullet point list of what your typical production? Don’t forget the props and costumes!
AMBER: I really like Stage Managing, but I think I could be very happy running my own prop shop somewhere.
On a typical show as a Stage Manager I am responsible for being the center of communication for the entire production team from Pre-production (before we even have a cast) all the way through Strike (when we take it all down).
- In order to communicate well in a timely manner, I will send out a daily report to everyone on the tech side of the production (costume designer, lighting designer, scenic designer, director, Technical Director, Master Electrician, Production Manager, properties master, etc.) This report has notes organized by department so it is very easy for people to find the notes for them. This way there is a log of notes and changes throughout the process too.
- I also work with the director to make the rehearsal schedule (which sometimes can be quite the puzzle to try our best not to waste anyone’s time) and that gets sent out to the entire cast every night.
- I also maintain a contact sheet (with all contact info for the production), a rehearsal Calendar, a Prop List (an up to date list of all prop items needed for the show with all notes that have been given about the prop listed as well),
- a Costume Tracking Chart (A Chart that shows what costume each actor is wearing in each scene. The one I use I also use as an Entrance and Exit tracker. That way I know where each actor enters, what they are wearing, and where they exit for each scene.),
- A Pre Show Checklist (This is a list of everything used in the show with every detail about how it needs to be for the show. Before each show I or my assistant will use this sheet to insure that we are completely ready to start the show), and
- a Run Sheet (This is a sheet that has every action on the deck in order. It states actor’s entrances and exits, notes props and costumes. It also is used as backstage paperwork for the run crew. Each crew member is given a copy and they use it to know what they need to do for the show in order.) As the production moves into Tech I am the one who is in charge of writing down where all light, sound, and deck cues happen in the script and then “calling” (telling the board ops when to GO!) the show.
The Stage Manager is in charge of the show after opening night and makes sure that everything stays in order and that the performances stay true to the director’s intentions. In smaller theaters I am typically responsible for more as I am either the only crew member or one of 2-3. It’s a lot of work but I really enjoy a well formatted excel sheet with 100% accuracy.
JEREMY: Really a deep congratulation from me to you Amber.
AMBER: Thank you very much. It means so much coming from you.