Behind the Scenes: Stage managers provide backstage balance for "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo"

At first glance, the production team of “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” is a well-oiled machine. Stage crew members are a vital part of the inner workings of every production, but the extent of their work and fun isn't always easy to see from the audience. The production, sponsored by the department of theatre and dance and GENseng, is based on an under-the-table article from The Associated Press about two inebriated American soldiers who, after being injured by a Bengal tiger, shoot and kill the animal in the Baghdad zoo. In the play, the tiger rises from the dead, creating a unique ghost story. It's a witty and profoundly metaphorical interpretation of America's involvement in the Middle Eastern conflict.

The story behind the scenes is equally interesting. While the full stage crew won't start rehearsals until two weeks before opening night, stage manager senior Kate Mandracchia and assistant stage managers juniors Lauren Costello and Hannah Rody-Wright have begun preparing to coordinate the backstage team.

“It's a different kind of feel, because all Veg S.O.U.P.s are student-run and this is very much faculty involved, and I wanted to do something like that,” Mandracchia said. “I wanted to experience main stage from that perspective instead of being an assistant stage manager.”

The opportunity for the trio to help run the Main Stage production came about in THEA 225: Production Stage Management. The class requires students to serve as stage manager or assistant stage manager for a campus production, and all three of them were attracted to this one.

While balancing other projects like Musical Theatre Club productions and stage management positions, the trio will soon begin working with each of the smaller stage crew committees that cover entities like props, costume and sets.

With the start of tech week, Mandracchia will begin calling all cues to the crew committees including light, sound and projection changes based on the lines said by the actors. The addition of tech cues will bring rehearsals to a new level dynamically, and will capture director senior Kimberly Olsen's overall aesthetic for the show.

Costello said that she and Rody-Wright will be backstage “making sure no one does anything silly, no props break, our fake blood isn't everywhere and our gun doesn't accidentally go off - being in charge of the crews backstage.” The result of these stage management collaborations will create a cohesive production that is sure to be breathtaking.

“We're in the groove; we know. It's a fun show; it's an intense show, but we have a good time. It's about doing a good job, but also, this is fun,” Mandracchia said.

“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” is set for shows at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 through Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 and at 2 p.m. Oct 27 in the Robert Sinclair Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $10 general admission.