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CAL students: Practicing stage management skills

June 6, 2018

Brianna Kubiak is a sophomore stage management major with a minor in arts and cultural management. Emily Toppen is a sophomore interdisciplinary humanities major with a focus in theatre, arts and cultural management, and public relations. Shelby Eppich is a junior double majoring in theatre and special education. In May, these College of Arts and Letters students practiced their stage management skills by helping out on a high-profile, high-budget New York City launch event hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx.

Tina Newhauser, a faculty member within the Department of Theatre and the Arts and Cultural Management program, asked the students to serve as her assistant stage managers for the NewFront event, which was a celebration of the brands represented by Oath, a communication media company.

“I knew I wanted to be a stage manager,” Kubiak said, “and this [experience] just made me fall in love with the field even more.”

During the NewFront event, the students each were given a performance stage to manage and oversee. They worked with the talent, director, deck managers and fellow stage managers, and were exposed to the high energy and pressures that typically surround such a massive corporate promotional event.

“Being physically engaged in a setting of our type of work is great experience,” Eppich said. “Our learning curves aren’t easily found in textbooks or through observing, it’s simply through experience. One of the best things about Tina and her work in the Department of Theatre is that she is still heavily practicing her professional work, constantly on the move with new events and projects.”

Newhauser, who last fall helped launch and now leads the BFA in Stage Management program, believes that stage management is not something you can learn in just a classroom or from a book. She tries to bring as many students as possible to events to gain first-hand experience.

“As head of this program, I feel it is my responsibility to expose my students to every facet of the performing arts industry,” she said. “Corporate theater is an exciting environment that most students are unaware even exists. So it’s important to me that I expose them to every opportunity that awaits them once they enter the professional world. The more broad their understanding of the entertainment industry and the opportunities that await them, the more successful and fulfilled they will be as artists, managers and advocates.”

MSU’s Stage Management program provides highly focused coursework devoted to professional and practical skill development and production process and collaboration. Having a wide network of professional colleagues helps Newhauser to get her students connected and ensures an easier transition to the profession after graduation.

While in New York City, Newhauser also had the opportunity to take the students to The Broadway Theatre, one of the oldest Broadway houses on the Great White Way, for a tour of the facility and to meet some of the staff. This behind-the-scenes look at where they could potentially work one day was exciting and inspiring for the students.

“[Stage management] combines theatre and business beautifully, and it gathers hardworking individuals who are dedicated to a gorgeous final project,” Toppen said. “I can’t wait to learn more about event planning through my arts and cultural management classes along with the stage management course.”

Above photo from left to right: Tina Newhauser, Shelby Eppich, Emily Toppen and Brianna Kubiak during the NewFront event.

Story by Caroline Johnson. Reused with permission from the College of Arts and Letters