The Stage Manager

Augustana’s campus is 1,360 miles away from the sights and sounds of Broadway. For Sean McCain ‘09, it’s been the journey of a lifetime.

Sean McCainSince graduating, Sean McCain ‘09 has been part of 35 different theatre projects, most of them in New York City, where he’s lived for the last four years.

Q. Can you tell us about your career?
Two years ago I had the opportunity to join the Actors’ Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers, which opened a lot of doors for me, and allowed me to earn a living wage doing what I love: stage managing.

I particularly enjoy stage managing new works. They add an additional challenge, as I have to also maintain script revisions and rewrites. Plus, the dynamic of having the playwright in the rehearsal room truly makes it one of the most collaborative kinds of projects to work on.   

Q. What are stage managers tasked with doing?
It really is hard to describe exactly what my job is. Some would say that my job is to send out reports, manage the rehearsal schedule, coordinate the backstage crew, run the show during performances, and oversee the general day-to-day operations of the production. While that is all very true, I like to think of it a bit more big-picture. I facilitate the collaborative process and ensure the process is smooth and that everything comes together to make one cohesive production that is true to the director’s vision.

Q. What’s been your greatest achievement so far? And, what’s next for you?
In my line of business, not even a crystal ball can tell you what is coming up next. Recently, I have been involved in some really exciting readings of new musicals including “Wallenberg: the Musical,” which is about the life of Raoul Wallenberg — an actual person who saved an estimated 100,000 Jews within a six-month period during the Holocaust. It’s such an epic story with beautiful music, and there is a lot of momentum behind this project which will hopefully result in a Broadway production. I also recently worked on “Jack: A dramatic Musical About the Life of JFK,” which will hopefully also have another life in the future. Most recently, I stage managed a developmental workshop of a new musical adaptation of “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief,” which will being going on tour with Theatreworks USA sometime in the next year or so. The 2014 Winter/Spring season brings some more stability for me, as I am going to be working on two new plays Off-Broadway at City Center, with The Women’s Project Theater. Other than that, I plan to continue living and stage managing in NYC, or wherever else my work might take me.

Q. What are your memories from your time at Augustana?  
My experience at Augie was fantastic. The theatre department at Augie is special in that I wasn’t pigeon-holed into just acting or just stage managing. The theatre department is designed to give students a well-rounded theatre education, which ultimately makes their students more marketable in the theatre job market. Theatre students who have a strong desire to specialize in a particular area have fantastic faculty who can guide them into a deeper, more specialized study one-on-one.

During my time in the Augie theatre department, I was able to learn carpentry, lighting, props design, sound engineering, acting, stage management, scenic painting, costume construction, stage makeup, and the list goes on and on. All of these skills help me be a better, more informed stage manager when I communicate with my production teams. I have been in their shoes, so I understand what can help them the most. My time there was invaluable, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am without the skills I learned at Augie.

In my junior year, Augie brought Anne Hamilton, a dramaturge from New York City, to help finish developing former theatre professor Dr. Ivan Fuller’s play “Eating Into the Fabric.”

During her time at Augie, Anne and I talked about my plans to move to New York. She gave me advice and suggestions as to how to go about it. Anne and I kept in touch, and when I moved to New York, she asked for my assistance as a stagehand for a short play festival for The League of Professional Theatre Women.

That festival introduced me to the producer who gave me an internship at The Broadway League, and who ultimately got me my union card. Despite being so far removed from major theatre cities, Augie brought in numerous artists to Augie during my time, which ultimately expanded my network and helped lay the groundwork to my career in New York.

Q. Any advice for future graduates of Augustana?
Don’t give up on your dreams because it is easier to be comfortable. It might be scary, but in the end, you’ll end up having the adventure of a lifetime and will learn so much about yourself, which makes it all worth it.