PCS Blog

Spotlight: “A Small Fire” Stage Manager Kelsey Daye Lutz

Posted by Alice Hodge | 10 March 2014

From left to right: Tony Cisek (Scenic Designer), Rose Riordan (director), Ben Courtney (Lighting Supervisor), Diane Ferry Williams (Lighting Designer) and Kelsey Daye Lutz (Stage Manager) gather around the tech tables before dress rehearsal for A Small Fire. Photo by Patrick Weishampel
Director Rose Riordan called her "absolutely unflappable" and that she "calls a beautiful show." Kelsey Daye Lutz (pictured above, far right - blonde braids, headset, purple sweater) is the newest member of our resident stage management team and A Small Fire marks her first full production as a bona-fide Equity stage manager. We chatted with her before, during and after the tech rehearsal process about her experiences and how a dairy farmer's daughter from a North Carolina ended up a professional stage manager in Portland. 

Hi Kelsey! Tell us a bit about how you ended up in stage management?

Kelsey: I didn’t want to kiss a boy in freshman year of high school! [laughs] My high school was tiny, in the middle of a nowhere town in North Carolina where we shared a theater with the whole community, and so we had one classroom that had to do everything. I had one line, so I just spent the whole time backstage running around getting everything done. By the end of my junior year, I was stage managing all the shows that happened in the small little town I lived in. Then one day my mom said ‘you know people get paid to do this." So, I decided to major in theater.
Where did you study theater?

I went to University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It’s really close to North Carolina School of the Arts. There was kind of this unsaid competition between the two schools, and when you’re competing against a conservatory school with tons of tobacco money, and you have no budget, they expected a lot out of us. I have a lot of friends who are in grad programs right now and they say that the first year is basically a review of undergrad. My friend and I had a competition going to see who did more shows, and I think I beat him. I did 20.
After undergrad, you were in the Professional Internship program with the Actor’s Theater of Louisville and then worked in New York City for a period of time?

After I graduated college, I spent a year there. It’s a great program and I got a ton out of it. When that was over with my friend convinced me to move to New York. It was a lot of fun. I applied for one job stage-managing a 24 hour festival and the rest just snowballed. At Actor’s Theatre, I did a whole lot of fancy shows with fancy people, and in New York, I wanted something a little different, so I just sort of stayed with Off-Broadway. And then Shamus, my boyfriend, moved out here and I found out about the JAW Festival, and I was like oh, that’s like the Humana Festival and I
love the Humana Festival. So I moved out here and started bugging PCS about hiring me. [laughs]
What do you like about stage managing?

I like that I’m good at it. This is something that works with me. I like being able to see a project, see a piece of art from the very beginnings become a show at the end. I love doing new works most of all because of that. I feel that with stage management having your attitude is probably the most important thing because anyone can watch something and write it down. It’s actually a very basic job if you think about it. But where it really comes in is
how you interact with people, and how you help make art happen without actually painting it yourself. I love that it’s always evolving, it’s always a different challenge because there’s always a different set of people you’re working with; I love the challenge of it. I love the feeling that you can see your work happening, and you can tell when you’re not doing a great job pretty easily, and you can tell when you’re doing a great job.
What are your thoughts on A Small Fire?

It’s a wonderful play. I think the humanity of it really helped me as a stage manager, because it’s all about these people’s relationships. During the rehearsal process, there were only seven of us in the room - the actors, director, myself, and Jessica, [Production Assistant Jessica Bania] and you have no choice but to be open with everyone. The actors always have to be open, but so does stage management, because if you’re sitting behind the desk stone cold and not really involved, it doesn’t create a good atmosphere for realizing these very human things that we all have. A big part of my job is to be sure that they have what they need, and energy is everything! And especially in this show, energy really is everything. It’s about having the actors feel comfortable to really let these emotions that we all have out. It really starts with your attitude and your energy. 
2/19: You just finished day one of tech week. How are you feeling?

I’m excited about tech week. Tech is always like a marathon - one day could be fantastic and then the next day can be just terrible. It’s a balance. It’s a fun balance. Nothing makes me more excited than to get through a show early in the tech process. Most of my experience previous has been stage managing shows where we have to tech a show in four
 hours. And my attitude for those kinds of things is completely different. I don’t give a crap how much time you need, I’m going to talk in your ear, we’re going to move forward, and those have also been some of the most magical tech times I’ve ever had.

Appropriate preparation is all the world. As a backstage person, I’ve always started the run sheet from day one, because no one wants to sit for 7 hours putting together a piece of paperwork when they can just work on it every day for like 5 minutes. It’s so much less stressful. You learn the show so much better by just starting your work early and just doing your job on time. 

2/28: Tech is just wrapping up. What has running your first equity tech week been like?

Tech was pretty straight forward. I had a good time and there weren't really any surprises. The play itself is constructed in such a way that makes it easy to technically break down. Because of that, and the speed of the designers and programers, we were able to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. This made it possible for us to see the bigger picture earlier in the process so there was time to edit and perfect. 



 3/5: Congratulations on opening your first full equity show at PCS! What was opening night like for you?

Opening night was actually a bit surprising. To have so many people congratulate me was, well, awesome. The fact that everybody was so excited for me made me more excited than I thought I would be. 

Now that we are open I get to do my favorite thing in stage managing — calling a show. Calling has always been where I'm most comfortable.  I love the nerves I get leading up to a big scene shift and knowing that any minute something crazy could happen and its up to me to coordinate the solution. 

You grew up on a dairy farm in North Carolina, what was that like and how did that shape you?

I love the fact that I grew up on a farm; it’s helped me more than anything else.
 I grew up in a world where if you didn’t do your chores it wasn’t like you got in trouble, it was like that animal didn’t eat that day.  I can’t just not do my work. [laughs] Growing up with that mentality of "this is your job, this needs to happen even if it's something like 4 hours of shoveling poop." I've got a great work ethic, and I'm also physically strong because of it. That has helped me when I started out as a PA [production assistant] and backstage person because I could do all this stuff, carry everything and I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty to get the job done because it was what I was raised to do. 

It also made going into the arts not a scary thing because I grew up on a farm and you don’t make money when you’re a farmer, so I never grew up with this illusion that I’m going to make millions because that’s not what happens in the real world. And my mom wasn’t really freaked out because she was like "At least she’s not a farmer!" 
What do you do when you’re not at work?

I go hiking a lot. I have two big dogs and we like to try and go out into The Gorge. Because my family farm was 180 acres, I would spend almost every day just out in the woods wandering around. And that was a big adjustment when I moved to New York because I didn’t really have a woods and coming out here I have woods. It’s really relaxing. I feel like that also helped me with stage management because I spend a couple hours out in Mother Nature basically meditating.

And then you deal with organized chaos for 8 to 12 hours, in a dark room, so you get the opposite!

It’s good to be zen for that!

A Small Fire runs now through March 23.


Kelsey Daye is a North Carolinian dairy farmer’s daughter. New York credits include off-Broadway work with The Actors Company Theatre; off-off-Broadway work with Theatre for the New City and The Internationalists. Regional credits include production assistant for: Clybourne Park, Venus in Fur, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The North Plan and Anna Karenina at PCS; stage management intern for Hard Weather Boating Party, Shipwrecked, A Raisin in the Sun and 43 Plays for 43 Presidents at Actors Theatre of Louisville; and assistant stage manager for A Beautiful Star and A Christmas Carol at Triad Stage.

Get to know our resident stage management team!

Bo-Nita & Othello Stage Manager Emily Wells

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