• Natalie Wisdom

Bonnie Becker- Broadway Stage Manager

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

[Interview Date: November 11, 2020]

Photo credit: Sara Krulwich/NYT

Once Upon a One More Time, Billy Elliot, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Nice Work if You Can Get It and more.

Where were you on March 12, 2020? And what was the week leading up to it like?

I was the PSM for Once Upon a One More Time, the Britney Spears musical, slated to have opened in Chicago in April. We were two weeks into rehearsal, and I was about 10 days out from heading to the Shubert in Chicago for dry tech.

Did you anticipate Broadway and other theatre productions to be closed for this long?

At the time of the shutdown, I optimistically thought we might go back to work in the fall.

As a Stage Manager, what were the biggest challenges for you when you saw things were shutting down?

The uncertainty of it all was perhaps the most challenging. There was growing uncertainty about the safety of our rehearsals, whether we would be able to continue, whether we would go ahead and go to Chicago etc.

Were there any specific challenges relating to but not limited to things like load-out, cast morale, etc.?

Our producer was as forthcoming as possible as decisions were made but, for everyone, it was a swiftly changing situation. We rehearsed on Thursday as Broadway shut down. The company was encouraged to stay home if they did not feel safe coming to rehearsal on Friday. We did rehearse on Friday with several cast members staying home either because they did not feel well or had to plan for a shutdown.

Morale had been good up until that last day but there was a growing sense of unease as the day went on. We dismissed the company at lunchtime with the stage managers and production assistants staying on to pack everything for load out. We completed the breakdown and packing of everything by about 5:30 and left it all to be loaded out by our technical supervisor on Monday.

What precautions have you discussed or heard discussed in regards to innovating ways to come back to safe rehearsals and performances? How do you think this will make your job different when you return?

I have heard a few things from Stage Managers who are now working on the few workshops that have been approved. COVID testing in 2 weeks prior to the start, masks required, smaller groups called to rehearse, an assigned lunch space with restrictions as to length of time in the room and cleaning requirements, a COVID PA assigned to taking temperatures and cleaning props etc.

It will be a lot to get used to. It also makes the discussion of people calling out sick a very different experience. There does seem to be an effort to not make the Stage Managers the “COVID police” which was something I had heard Stage Managers discuss.

What have, you, personally, been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?

I am fortunate to have been able to come out to our lake house in NJ. We have had an endless list of projects for years, and now we are doing them. It has been great to stay outdoors (with) projects, but I am a little worried what will happen now that it is getting colder.

What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?

Having no idea when this will all be over and if we will ever get our lives back in the way we knew them.

What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?

As I said, all the improvements to my yard are amazing, and I am in pretty good shape from all the heavy lifting I’ve been doing.

What is your biggest concern?

That I will never work again!

What do you miss the most about theatre/your job/the arts?

The camaraderie and collaboration.

What’s your favorite theatre memory?

My dad took me to see a summer stock production of Show Boat when I was a kid. I drove him crazy asking him how they made it all work.

What is the first thing you’re going to do when theatre is back?

Call my team and say “We’re in. Start the car!!"

What advice do you have for young Broadway/Stage Manager hopefuls during this time?

Keep the faith.

Lightning Round:

Favorite Broadway Musical: A Chorus Line

Favorite Broadway Play: Crimes of the Heart

Favorite Movie Musical: Singin’ in the Rain

Phantom or Les Miz?: Phantom

Music Man or Oklahoma?: Music Man

Stephen Schwartz or Stephen Sondheim?: Sondheim

Andrew Lloyd Webber or Andrew Guettel?: ALW

Favorite Theatre Ritual: The Gypsy Robe

Favorite NYC Restaurant: Haru

Favorite Theatre Superstition: Not saying the name of the Scottish play

Favorite Stage Manager Gadget (glow tape, spike tape etc.): All my smart assistants who keep up with the latest gadgets

Best Personal Superhero Stage Manager Skill: Reading a room

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