I Never Wanted to be a Stage Manager
by Christina Flint Grossman, Class of 1987
Coming to Vassar from New York City, I felt I knew exactly what I wanted out of the college. I wanted to act in plays and I wanted to study Art History. I had had a high school internship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in European Paintings, had been in high school plays, and had been exposed to some remarkable stage productions and museum exhibitions in New York. At Vassar, I chose to double major in Art History and Drama.
I thought I had my academic plan all figured out, and felt confident that I would be able to do the work and do well. Theoretically, I knew that as a Drama major I would be required to do back stage work, yet I never knew how great an impact this part of my major would have on me. In my junior year, when several of my drama classmates had gone for a semester abroad, I found those of us on campus had a fair bit of weight to pull. I took costume history and costume design, and for the first time designed costumes for a play, and enjoyed it all thoroughly.
Second semester junior year, [Senior Lecturer in Drama] Bill Miller selected me to stage manage an Avery Theater production, “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.” At first I was overwhelmed. I was in charge of props, sounds cues, light cues, taking notes for who crossed the stage and when, etc. But by the time the show was in production, I was having the time of my life. Sitting up in the stage manager’s booth, outside [Professor Emeritus of Drama] Evert Sprinchorn’s office, I felt a sense of pride in my work like nothing I had experienced before. Who knew how fun it was to sit there in the dark with huge headphones on and call cues? Certainly I didn’t, until now.
I went on to stage manage “The Skin of our Teeth” my senior year, and also to received a senior scholarship as the stage manager of visiting play readings from New York. I saved most of the money for living expenses, but treated myself to two hard cover volumes of the plays of Eugene O’Neill.
Although I did not become a stage manager professionally, that experience was one of the most enriching I had at Vassar, and it helped shape me as an adult. I had to step outside of my comfort zone to do the job, and was happily surprised that I could not only pull it off but also enjoy it.
I have had several careers: as an actor, as an admissions and financial aid officer at Harvard, running events and fundraising for the Harvard University Art Museums, as an elementary school teacher, and most recently as a mom and step-mom. In all these roles, I have had a lot to juggle. Vassar helped prepare me to call the cues and keep the show going.
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