[NEohioPAL] Berko: Lynda Lavin, professional stage manager extraordinaire

Roy Berko royberko at gmail.com
Sat Jan 25 10:00:35 PST 2014


Former Clevelander, Lynda Lavin, professional stage manager extraordinaire

Roy Berko
(Member--Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association)

When most young theatre geeks think of what they want to do in the world of
entertainment, they picture themselves on stage before adoring fans.  Not
Lynda Lavin. The Mayfield High School class of '71 grad, who attended
Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State, decided while working as a
high school student at Musicarnival, the legendary Cleveland tent theatre,
that being a stage manager was her ticket to a life in the theatre.

Lavin, who admits to being a "good organizer" and possessing "fine
management skills" worked as the stage manager for the 1978 national tour
of "ANNIE."  As she indicated in a recent interview, "I got hooked on being
an off-stage star."

What does a production stage manager do?  According to Lavin, "I sit in on
rehearsals, work with understudies, and watch each performance, keeping an
eye on the production time and insure that the performances stay true to
the vision of the story.  My job is to maintain the artistic integrity.
I'm a maintenance person, a jack of all trades.  I work with the sound,
lights, load in, manage the crew, coordinate all the departments.  I'm a
little bit of a psychologist and mentor."

One of the highlights of the "ANNIE" tour was the show's run at the Hanna
Theatre.  Coming "home" gave her an opportunity to visit her brother who
lives in Geauga county, and to hook up with other family members who live
in Ashland and Columbus.

A highlight of coming back to Cleveland with a show is "being able to work
in the Playhousesquare complex."  As she said, "I was here when everything
was all closed up.  I'm thrilled to come back to see what has happened in
the area.  Its such a joy to have a city and community make it work.
Actors and production people look forward to coming to the complex.  These
buildings are theatre palaces.  Not many of those are left in this country."

Spending months and months living out of a suitcase fits her personality
and desired life style. "Touring, being away from home, is a way of life
for me.  I don't need a lot of stuff.  I'm not a collector of things, not a
shopper.  When I need a break, I go home to my place in Las Vegas.  This
life style isn't good or bad, it's just different.  It's opened
opportunities to travel.  I've been in  every state in the U.S. and spent
time in Japan, Australia, Mexico, Europe, and the Middle East."

She was in Dubai just before she came to Cleveland with the touring company
of "CHICAGO," which recently played the Palace Theatre.

The challenge of a touring show is making sure that everything gets where
it's supposed to be in time to open the show.   For Cleveland's showing of
"CHICAGO," the cast had to fly16 hours.  They arrived on Sunday afternoon
for a Tuesday evening opening.  Some replacement cast members had to be
integrated into the show.  The set and everything from post-it notes to
computers to musical scores had to get here.  It was Lavin's responsibility
to organize all of this and make sure the show remained fresh.  (It was.
For a review of the production, go to http://www.royberko.info

What's the best way to learn the skills of stage managing?  Lavin says that
she gained her skills by contacting stage managers of touring shows, ask
them for advice, and watch them call the shows.  She says, "Education is
important, but real life experience is necessary."

How does she find her jobs?  "I do a lot of networking.  I meet other stage
managers, follow the Broadway season, connect with production managers, let
shows know that are going to tour to contact me.  I go to NY once a year
and put in bids."  Fortunately 35 successful years in the business has made
her a commodity who is sought after.

Her response to her being mistaken for the "other" Linda Lavin (Linda with
an "i" rather than a "y"), the famous television and theatre star, included
tales of gaining from the similarity of names.  She laughed as she said, "I
get nice hotel rooms, it helps in making dinner reservations in LA and NY,
gets me through to deal with secretaries and theatre people."  Ah, what's
in a name.

Life is never dull for Lavin.  She likes it that way!

For more information on this dynamic woman go to:  lyndaalavin at gmail.com

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