Photo courtesy Capilano University
Elyse Wall grew up in Richmond, dancing her way onto the stage.
Now, studying in her first of a two-year program, she’s learning stage management from the ground up as part of Capilano University’s Technical Theatre Program.
“Just learning about how stage managers track things like costume changes and actors’ schedules during a performance; where they have to be; when they are available for rehearsals—all the things that a stage manager has to know that I never really thought of before,” Wall says.
Now, with Cap U’s current production of “9 to 5 the Musical,” Wall is the assistant stage manager responsible for props.
“I pretty much gather rehearsal props and make sure we have all the props for the show, so I’m in close contact with the props department,” she says.
“I have worked with our head of props and just hearing her talk about all the different places they have to go and the people they speak with, just to find things that are period specific that match the colour of the set and match what exactly what ‘9 to 5’ is and being able to use those specific props in a musical setting versus just a stage play.”
The musical version of the famous movie ‘9 to 5’ follows the 1970s story of the intelligent and capable “gals” from the steno pool who work for an abusive boss. One day, they take charge. His hilarious comeuppance follows.
Wall elucidates the difference between a stage play’s and a musical’s properties needs: “For example, with all of our desks, we have to think about moving the desks during musical numbers so have to think about what needs to be bolted to the desks what we can can and can’t have on the desk that might be a danger to the cast, what might fall off.”
Wall says she also has to think about: “How props might work in a dance number such as with large props like a purse or a cane. They need to be a specific style to work with the movement of the piece—a lot of things. This is my first time stage managing a main stage play, prior to this I stage managed dance and smaller works.
“Then stumbled upon stage management with my dance studio that I danced with and thought it would be a pretty cool career path.”
Wall danced with the Defy Gravity Dance Company in Richmond, behind Ironwood Shopping Centre, while attending Henry Anderson Elementary and Hugh McRoberts Secondary.
“I was in the pre-professional program so I trained in all style from ballet and jazz to contemporary. I grew in the performing arts on stage,” she says.
Talking to the Sentinel just before opening night, Wall says with a laugh, “We’re in the middle of our build for ‘9 to 5’ so I’m living at the school right now.”
Wall loves her studies at Capilano University: “The program focuses on pretty well everything behind the scenes like professional lighting, sound, stage-building as well as stage management and we learn how to fly thing things in and out the theatre. We learn how to rig things up so when you see set pieces drop in from the ceiling, we learn how to work that—pretty much everything that goes on behind the scenes of a theatre production.”
She says she’s learning to consider the impact of each staging choice she makes: “What it will look like from the audience’s point of view–that’s always something we always think about—what is the audience seeing and how are they going to track that?”
Of the actual choice of production, Wall says: “With the #MeToo movement and more changes coming with gender equity, particularly in the theatre, it is a particularly important and exciting time to put on ‘9 to 5.’”
And what’s ahead for Elyse Wall?
“I really hope to blend my passion of dance with my knowledge of stage management and if I’m able to find work where I’m able to involve both, that would be really, really great.”
“9 to 5 The Musical” with words and music by Dolly Parton runs through Saturday, March 23 at the BlueShore [Jaana: that’s how it’s written, one work, with two caps] theatre, at Capilano University, 2055 Purcell Way, North Vancouver. For tickets click. [JAANA: https://tickets.capilanou.ca/TheatreManager/1/loginevent=0]