Christy Ney shares with us about her ten year long work as a Stage Manager for WICKED on BROADWAY. Ney has been a stage manager for over 20 years. She is a theater loving mother of two who loves teaching and guiding the next generation of theater professionals. She is also a book lover and is a books consultant for Usborne Books and More in her spare time.
Photo Credit: Don Hamerman, https://www.hamerman.com/
Q: Ten years as a stage manager for WICKED on Broadway is no small feat, can you tell us about how you got involved with this production to begin with?
A: I have been a stage manager at WICKED for just over 10 years now. A stage manager that I worked with at the Paper Mill Playhouse was an original SM on Wicked and rose through the ranks to become PSM. He is the reason that I have the job. We kept in touch for many years and in 2007, he called and said “I’d like to hire you on the Broadway company” and I couldn’t believe the timing as I had just decided to leave the First National Tour of THE LION KING and had no job to come back to!
Q: I imagine there are a lot of technical elements to manage with a show this large. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of running this show?
A: Running a show like WICKED in many respects is the same as running “any other show, ” while in some respects it is very different. I think the most important differences come with the longevity of the show and the nature of it being a Commercial Theater production. As with “any other show,” we as SMs are responsible for maintaining the look, sound and feel of the show so that the story is told well and that the original artistic integrity of the show that the creative team wanted is maintained. We run rehearsals, call and deck to run and maintain the show, do paperwork, etc. But- keep in mind that we are in the perpetual state of “running the show.” There is no pre-production happening, we don’t create and rehearse the show in studios each day, we aren’t teching the show and we aren’t loading the show out. We are always in the phase of “running the show.”
Technically it is a big and complicated show. We do many rehearsals for consistency and safety- whether it is for dance lifts or flying effects. We also rehearse to get new folks used to the stage and automation components, quick changes, etc. You have to study the show and get familiar with it on all sorts of levels- technically, creatively- so that you feel comfortable with teaching and maintaining the integrity of the production.
Q: What would you say has been your ultimate highlight over the years of working for WICKED?
A: Ultimate highlight- this is a very difficult question- there are so many wonderful things that have come from my work on the show. I think the main things are: I get to “put on a play for a living”- how awesome is that??? I have made many incredible friendships with colleagues and co-workers who are very much family at this point. I have gained confidence as a SM and as a person. I have been able to get married and raise two incredible children knowing that I have a “home” and a job to come back to at the Gershwin 6 days a week.
Q: You also worked on the First National tour of THE LION KING how did working as a stage manager on this show compare and contrast to WICKED?
A: My work on the First National tour of The Lion King is something that I am very proud of. It will always hold a special place in my heart. I spent 4 years on the road with the show as a SM (after 2 years of involvement with the show when I was a student and then as a PA on the tour.) I think that the work that I did there completely prepared me for the work that I do on WICKED on Broadway. Both are very big shows with lots of people, automation, light cues, costume changes, etc. Both shows are complex and complicated to call. Both shows are traditional musicals in size and scope and in the way they are structured. The main differences between the 2 experiences are that one show toured the country while the other is stationary (it changes a lot about my duties as a SM as on the road you are constantly loading in, teching, getting familiar with a new space, temperatures, building, crew, etc. and then you run the show and load out.) On WICKED, you have the same space to work in, the same crew, etc. LION KING had the added layer of puppets and children! WICKED has flying monkeys, but we never have to deal with puppets or children too!
Q: What is your advice for those who wish to pursue a career as a stage manager on Broadway?
A: For anyone who wants to pursue a career as a Stage Manager- you have to love it. You have to be willing to work hard. Be involved as much as you can in theater in any capacity (a SM needs to know what everyone else is doing to understand and appreciate their work and to manage more effectively.) Do internships- they are invaluable for making connections and learning. And always do your best work! Prove yourself and folks will want to hire you and recommend you time and time again.