I love the work, don’t get me wrong, but stage management (that’s what I’m doing these days) is… the unsung hero job of the theatre. In a full production, with more than 2 actors, costumes, sets and props, you really need a stage manager to be the eyes and ears of the team, and who can communicate any changes to anyone involved in any production area (cast, lighting, sound, video, set design, etc,) . But the stage manager, as the job requires, has to be discreet, almost invisible, and has to accommodate the team as much as possible while at the same time being a disciplinarian if need be. She/he works closely with the director, but has to respect the director’s vision, without necessarily giving contradicting opinions, unless what is suggested by the director is completely impossible to do. But then, a good stage manager should really think as creatively as possible to find a way to make what the director wants work. It’s a lesson in humility, basically. And I truly respect Touchstone’s resident stage manager, Emma Chong, for her grace and calm under pressure. She’s in the cast of The Pan Show, and that’s why I’m working her usual job. Fortunately, she gives me tips and suggestions to make the whole process as smooth as possible. It’s all about communication, baby. But communicating can be pretty darn exhausting sometimes.
That’s why tango is such a haven for me these days. Tango is also about communication, but in a more visceral sense, which shouldn’t involve much conscious thinking on the follower’s part (the lady). The Lehigh Valley tango society had its Spring Milonga a few weeks ago. A Milonga is a time for tango dancers to meet up and dance the night away. It’s different from a Practica, where you dance to learn and refine steps and techniques. The Milonga is the real thing: you’re on the dance floor, and anything goes. You and your partner just have to find a way to make it work. Our teacher had told us that we would, at one point or another, have a “tango moment” and thus become inevitably hooked. I already had a real appreciation for the dance, and enjoyed going to class every Wednesday, but my “tango moment” happened at the Bethlehem Milonga. Joaquin Canay, an Argentinean tango teacher who now lives and works in Syracuse NY invited me to dance. I was intimidated, since he’s a teacher and, obviously, very skilled. So the first dance really, well, it sucked. I wasn’t letting myself go, I was thinking every move, and just wasn’t in the moment. The song ended, he said ‘thank you’ – anytime one of the dancers says “thank you”, it signals the end of dancing together – and I went back to my seat to watch. But thankfully, he asked me later to dance again. And that time, I let go, I trusted his technique, and really tried to follow. Which, actually, was incredibly easy once I turned my brain off, since he’s such an incredible lead! And that’s when it happened – the tango moment, the great dance, the peaceful 15 minutes (for he didn’t say thank you after the first dance, I was doing something right!) – and now I will keep on dancing to collect more moments.
There’s something old-fashioned about the whole thing. The dressing-up, the class, the politeness, the ceremony. Structured, peaceful, pleasurable, necessary.