Way down Hadestown: an interview with Stage Manager Cherie B. Tay

How did you first get into stage management?

I started in high school. Someone asked me to pull curtains for a play, and I did. Then that led to just stage managing the rest of the shows in high school, like the fall play and the musical.

When did you decide that you wanted to stage manage professionally?

I mean, I knew that this was something you could do professionally in high school. So probably toward the end of high school.

Did your parents ever object? Because I know I have some friends whose parents aren’t the most comfortable with careers in the arts, so what was your experience?

So surprisingly not. My mom was actually the one who found all the stage management colleges. She was like, here’s a list like Webster, Emerson, UArts, Penn State. We moved from Singapore, and you know that there’s not a lot of arts there. So coming here, she was like, This is clearly a passion. You’re not going to stem, so here’s to this.

What do you do on a daily basis as an Assistant Stage Manager at Hadestown

It depends whether it’s a two show day or whether we have rehearsal. Things that are constant are things like doing stuffers if need be. You know, when you go to a show and then you open your playbill, and the slip falls? Those are called stuffers. Yeah. If an understudy is on, we have to do those. If they’re not, if they’re in a principal role, we have to do the house board. Then depending on the show, I either call the show, or I run the deck, or I do an office day where I’m updating the calendar or doing the band sheets.

So what do you think your favorite moment as a Stage Manager or Assistant Stage Manager, throughout your career, has been so far?

There’s been many, many moments.I think the coolest feeling is when you’re doing something for the first time and you’re like “Oh my god, like, this is cool.” You know, when I did my first Broadway show I was like “holy crap, I’m on Broadway.” Yeah, and then it was like do your job, you know? Go immediately back to “okay, what’s the next cue?” Or when I was working for the New York City Ballet, I was like “wow,” and then I was like, okay…great, so coming up next, I have to make sure this is safe.

Is there a part of the rehearsal or performance process that you enjoy, especially? Do you have a favorite part?

I love calling the show. I really, really love calling the show. It’s so cool to like, see all the elements come together and collaborate with the people who I’m giving the cues to. It takes so many people to make the show look good, right? It’s not just the people on stage it’s like “are the turntables turning on when they’re supposed to?” It takes a good operator to press that button when he needs to. You know, same thing with the lighting, and the spotlights, and the sound, and wardrobe. It takes so many people to make a show happen, and it’s cool to call all the elements.

Now Hadestown has a pretty diverse cast. Do you think that’s at all impacted your experience there compared to like other shows?

I think I think it’s really, really great because it brings so many different perspectives into a show. At the same time, it’s not like everyday we’re like, “yeah, we’re diverse!” These great people are really, really, really awesome at what they do. They’re so good at what they do, and at the same time, they’re also a person of color. 

What type of leader would you consider yourself as Stage Manager?

I don’t deal with every situation in one particular way. I feel like within collaborating, different people respond to different types of communication. So some people you have to be super direct with, some people you can take a more casual approach. You see them as a person. You see what they need and approach it the way you would approach another human being.

If there’s one piece of advice that you could give to someone looking to get into stage management professionally, what would it be?

Keep learning and keep getting better at what you do. Watch YouTube videos, go out and shadow, you can read books on it, join Facebook groups, and don’t worry about being perfect. There’s no such thing as perfect. You keep doing the best you can and trust that. Hopefully, everyone else is also trying to make the show the best that it can be.

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