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Strings Music Festival: The superpowers of a stage manager

Upcoming events

• Saturday, June 20, 8 p.m. — The California Honeydrops

• Tuesday, June 23, 11 a.m. — Essence (Youth)

• Thursday, June 25, 12:15 p.m. — Catalyst Quartet (Music on the Green)

Stage managers have the world’s most boring superpowers: laser-precise scheduling abilities, the power to create detailed organizational tools from snatches of overheard conversations and anonymous notes scribbled on napkins and the ability to multi-task in the face of diva drama, needy roadies and gaff tape emergencies.

Confession time: I cannot multi-task. I am one superpower down, right from the start.

Upcoming events

• Saturday, June 20, 8 p.m. — The California Honeydrops



• Tuesday, June 23, 11 a.m. — Essence (Youth)

• Thursday, June 25, 12:15 p.m. — Catalyst Quartet (Music on the Green)



Multi-tasking ability would really come in handy at Strings when I have eight fashion show models lined up to enter on a music cue, and the second pair realizes they’re only wearing underwear while everyone else has on parkas and wool hats.

Or when the concertmaster is already tuning in front of a full house, and the soloist asks me if he could please have a different music stand … and possibly also a light and a glass of water. The announcer’s pants have split down the side, revealing a mile of skin. And my mother is leaving me a message — “we haven’t heard from you in a while, honey.”

Or when rehearsal starts in five minutes; three musicians are testing chairs for something harder, softer or just right, two musicians are missing and the conductor is breathing fire at the delay. The flute solo will be just ruined if the flutist can’t find his lucky rabbit’s foot, the harpist doesn’t care for her positioning onstage and is actively plowing through the cello section looking for better real estate and I have to find the restroom.

I know it’s not rocket science, but I struggle. So much backstage is vying for my attention, and there’s so little of that to start with.

Although I’m sure there are many ways to tackle the inability to multi-task, I have discovered only two:

I pretend to be multi-tasking, which mostly means panicking, repeatedly switching tasks and immediately forgetting what I was doing in the first place. I get nothing done quickly, but I look very busy. I live in fear that I will accidentally ignore something important in favor of something stupid, but immediate. In my flailing, I often giggle hysterically and hope no one notices.

Or …

I don’t do it at all. I address the most pressing issue to its end, then the next, then the next. And some things just don’t get done.

This means the underwear models don’t go onstage at all, and the parka models have to do a few extra turns to fill in the music gaps.

It means that I hastily patch the announcer’s pants with gaff tape, and the soloist lives with the stand already onstage. A light and water will appear at the first music break. I will call my mother back tomorrow with many apologies for being a terrible daughter.

It means that I help the harpist move the harp safely around the cellos. The Three Bears musicians get two minutes to decide on a chair, then I remove any chair without a butt in it. I can’t do anything about missing musicians, so I just suggest that the conductor begin rehearsal without them. I tell the flutist that he’s lucky I’m letting him live, so just sit down and play. He can find the rabbit’s foot later. I never get to go to the restroom.

Stage managers are prized precisely for the mundanity of their expertise. Let’s face it — if someone else was really, really good at something that’s rather dull and unlikely to deliver accolades of any kind, wouldn’t you want to keep them around so that you could do the interesting stuff? I would. So does Strings … which is why I hesitated to reveal my non-multi-tasking Achilles heel. Let’s just keep this between us, OK?

Ali Mignone is the stage manager for Strings Music Festival. When she’s not telling roadies and musicians what to do, you can find her hiking, biking or skiing around the Yampa Valley.


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