Episode 24 – It Takes a Village to Raise a Play with Liza Vest

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Every Monday evening I talk to people about making original work for a live audience. Episode 24 features professional stage manager, Liza Vest. Liza is a long time friend with Broadway experience and a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama. She’s also a former Tulsa Holland Hall student.

Liza had so much good stuff to share that I ended up with 10 pieces of great advice. She’s humble, she’s fun, and she’s at the top of her field. One piece of advice stands out for being excellent, yet often forgotten: Make good contacts and stay in touch with people in your field. This is true whether you’re a stage manager or a restaurant manager.

People in performing arts are like people in any other profession. To succeed, they need to make connections. Liza has done a great job staying in touch. Despite the fact that I did not have a job to offer, Liza has always been one to reach out, return calls, and keep tabs. In the performing arts, you never know when someone from your past will be able to answer a question, make an introduction, or just have a glass of wine.

Stage Manager Liza Vest with Sally
Liza with a little egg from her sister’s pet chicken

Luckily for Tulsa, Oklahoma where I lived and taught for many years, students have options when it comes to performing arts training. I mention Clark Youth Theatre during the podcast, as well as Holland Hall School. But we also have Spotlight Children’s Theatre and Edison Eagle Theatre with Amber Harrington. That’s where all three of my kids got amazing performance opportunities. This might be a good place to tell you, I am a huge fan of performing arts education. Theatre skills include acting, stage management, lighting, house management, sound technology, set building and carpentry, event planning, and a host of other skills that translate to the world at large. As a kid, I had opportunities in church, school, and the communities where I grew up to learn about theatre from different angles. My family has always supported my passion just as I encourage you to support the young people you know who are hungry to learn. It’s about so much more than getting a job backstage.

Speaking of theatre jobs, you can still get your 20-page FREE theatre resource. It’s a glossary of live performance support you’ll need for your show. It’s useful, entertaining, and you have my permission to copy pages and trade with your friends. If you’re a drama teacher, this is a great resource to get students thinking about all the areas where a person might contribute to a show’s success.

Concise Advice from the Interview: a short version of tips from my guest, stage manager Liza Vest. The advice is geared for Stage Managers but it’s actually  great advice for life:

10 – To make theatre work, you must be part of a community.

9 – Once a show starts, it’s a fast-moving train and the stage manager’s job is to keep that train on track and not stop.

8 – Find ways to practice calling cues before calling an actual live performance.

7 – Remain present and keep going no matter what happens. You must be focused and in the moment.

6 – If you are a stage management student, most stage managers on Broadway will allow you to watch them call their show.

5 – To find out how to contact a stage manager, get a copy of the Theatrical Index to look up shows and stage managers. Be professional and polite when you ask.

4 – Stage managers must be adaptive because theatre is a generative art form and new ideas constantly change the needs of the work.

3 – Get as much experience as you can – but you do not need a master’s degree to stage manage.

2 – Ask people who are doing what you want to do for their advice, or simply ask how they got there.

1 – Talk to people and maintain your contacts. 

Next Monday I’ll post my conversation with the founder of New York’s BodyStories -Teresa Fellion Dance: Teresa Fellion. I’m super excited! Check out this blog for articles and podcast episodes. And sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join.

Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, and thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’ll be here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us. I want to help you create original shows for a live audience… All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination… Now go support a kid who wants to perform!

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