Currently playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, the Philip touring cast of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s hit show “Hamilton” has visited multiple theaters, each stage different from the one before. The stage management teams are often the unsung heroes of any play or musical, as they have a crucial role in the success of the show. Those in charge of this particular production are Anna R. Kaltenbach, production stage manager (PSM), Rolando A. Linares, stage manager (SM) and Garrett Kerr, assistant stage manager (ASM). Hosted by the New York based Stage Manager’s Association (SMA), the May 25 event “In Conversation with the Hamilton Stage Management Team” allowed each manager to share their own story of how they found their stage calling.
Held in the Contemporary Arts Center at UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, an audience gathered for the panel of three, moderated by the SMA Western Regional Director Joel Veenstra. He introduced the association and its goals to empower and support stage managers throughout the country. Once each attendee was fully introduced, Veenstra asked the crew what it was like to be working on such a popular and successful show. Kaltenbach and Linares described the “tremendous privilege” of working on the show and being able to witness how “truly impactful” each performance was for its audiences. ASM Kerr discussed how watching the audience was one of his favorite parts of staging a show. SM Linares also brought up the opportunities the cast and crew of the Hamilton tour recieve, based on name recognition and the amazing people they work with. Kerr brought about the moments of revelation he’s witnessed on the many spectators’ faces on show nights or at the stage door.
But once the conversation was underway, the managers moved on to the broader topic of working as stage managers, specifically on the road. As “Hamilton” is another show to work for and the job remains the same, being on tour helps the job keep its puzzle solving aspect, Kaltenbach says. Having been on the road for 15 years (Hamilton is her eighth Broadway show) Kaltenbach has loved the travelling feature of the job and getting to know the different destinations. She and Linares continued to speak about the quick thinking of being a travelling stage manager, having to adapt to the different theater spaces.
“People like it and people don’t. I do,” he said. Laughing, they all mentioned the different places they had started but were happy to leave; Chicago, Florida and New York City to name a few. Linares joked about staying in Chicago for a year and hating it, which makes his many years on tour a welcomed adventure. With this in mind, Kerr discussed the fun in “teaching a whole new group of people how to work the show. There’s a lot more engagement with the setting.”
Being in the business of broadway, the stage managers continued in commenting on the company culture of “Hamilton.” Linares discussed the language of the show, and how hard-working and talented the ensemble is. Kaltenbach jumped in to discuss her constant flow of insight each time she watches the show, especially in the writing. Throughout the conversation, the famed EduHam performances where local students are invited to see the show for $10 a ticket were brought up in relation to discussing the great inspiration and charge of the higher-ups, or the lottery available to anyone to sign up for the same $10 tickets for the front rows. They quoted director Tommy Kail: “We made this story about everyone — it belongs to everyone.”
They went on to discuss schedules, rehearsals and job responsibilities when it comes to moving the show from venue to venue. The honorees were able to describe the experience of all five companies having the show down to an artistic science. Kerr honored each company’s different touches saying, “They still allow room for the actor to be an actor.” Creative discovery is still a possibility. They also complimented the rest of their management team, and the successful approach to their leadership. Kerr was thankful for “returning a human element” to the world of commercial theater. “A hit with heart!” an audience member shouted. When asked about calling cues during the performance, the managers mentioned how much fun it is to call a scene with several cues, like the second act number “The Room Where It Happens.”
Overall, as each stage manager shared their journey to “Hamilton,” Linares, Kaltenbach, and Kerr constantly attributed their experiences to the different people they connected with over the time of their careers, from interns to old managers at dinner theaters.
“Be good to everybody,” Linares commented, since you’ll never know who you’ll work for or with in the future. Both SM and ASM praised Kaltenbach for being an amazing PSM who can get the job done while keeping her kind and caring demeanor as manager. The experience was filled with inspiration and advice for those aspiring to follow in their footsteps or create their own path in the stage management universe.