Theatre Alumna Earns Major Honor at Region II Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival
Alison Wieder, a December 2018 summa cum laude technical theatre graduate from Coopersburg, Pa., became the third ESU student since 2014 to be named a National Stage Management Fellow at the Region II Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). In April, she will join seven other winners from across the country at the national KCACTF conference in Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1969, KCACTF is a national program that serves as a catalyst to improve the quality of college theatre through its network of more than 600 universities throughout the United. organized into eight geographic regions. Region II includes colleges in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Western New York, Northern Virginia, Ohio, and West Virginia.
A stage manager is responsible for coordinating all elements of the production, making it one of the most important leadership positions in the theatre. “The stage management award is very competitive,” noted Yoshinori Tanokura, interim chair of ESU’s theatre department. “Our students go up against their peers from larger institutions, who often produce winners in this category.”
“Ali joins our growing list of theatre students who have earned honors at KCACTF,” noted Margaret Ball, D.M.A., interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of theatre. “Both ESU’s previous national stage management fellows, Kelsey Pulzone ’14, and Rebecca Roeber ’16, are now working in regional theaters in the United States and Canada.”
Sarah Bauch, a senior theatre major from Effort, Pa., who earned the Region II stage management award twice is now focused on pursuing a graduate degree in stage management. In recent years ESU theatre students also have earned a national KCACTF award for sound design excellence and won the regional musical theatre initiative.
Ironically, Wieder’s stage management career began by chance two years ago. “I was supposed to be an assistant stage manager for The 39 Steps,” she said, “but the stage manager wasn’t able to do the production, and I was asked to step up.”
“Initially, it was a trial by fire,” Wieder added. “I had no experience as a stage manager and this was a complicated production. The 30 scenes used all spaces in the theatre, and had very quick set and costume changes. We even had actors changing in the elevator as they went from floor to floor.”
Wieder credited the show’s director, Stephanie Daventry French, professor of theatre, with understanding it was her first time as stage manager and working patiently with her. She also praised Roeber, for being a huge resource for all kinds of information and encouragement.
“The theatre department’s student stage managers have developed an impressive tradition of mentorship,” Dr. Ball noted. “Our alumni who are now working in the field look forward to returning to talk to our stage management classes.”
From stage managing Godspell in spring 2018 for Ball, Wieder “learned how involved musicals could be” because “both the choreographer and the musical director need time with the cast, but you can’t keep the actors here 24/7.” Last summer she attended the Broadway Stage Management Symposium where she interacted with working professionals in the field.
As stage manager for the fall, 2018 production of Working, Wieder was the on-campus liaison for guest director Bill Mutimer, “communicating all the information about the department to him so that he could get his bearings and get to know everybody.”
During the fall, Wieder also served as a teaching assistant for the stage management class taught by Christopher Domanski, associate professor of theatre and the department’s technical director. She collaborated on lectures and served as a resource for the class assignments. “With Ali’s stage management experience,” Domanski said, “she was the ideal person to communicate ESU’s stage management philosophy to the class.”
Stage management was only one of the technical theatre fields in which Wieder took leadership roles at ESU. She did scenic and projections design for The Library and projections design for The Laramie Project; and The Crucible. Wieder was a lighting assistant for Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf and Almost, Maine; box office manager for several shows; and worked as a scene shop assistant for three years.
“Both Professor Tanokura and Dr. Ball kept urging me to enter my work at KCACTF,” said Wieder, “and I had to do it this year because it was my last chance.” For the contest, she submitted her prompt script and production book for Working. All of the entries were reviewed by festival respondents, and each competitor had a 10-minute question and answer session with one of the respondents.
“My respondent was particularly impressed with my production analysis, notes on the initial reading of the script that indicate where problems might occur and how they could be addressed,” Wieder said. “The analysis was something the respondent hadn’t seen before, but, at ESU, all the theatre professors stress the importance of that document.”
Wieder has been hired to stage manage Northampton Community College’s summer theatre season. A workshop she attended at KCACTF on technical job opportunities in the live event industry has her thinking about the next step in her career.
“In high school, I did a lot of work with video production,” she noted. “I came to ESU to explore different areas of technical theatre, and with what I’ve learned, I now can put everything together to investigate the many options open to me.”
“With her exceptional combination of stage management and technical skills,” Domanski added, “Ali is in a strong position to succeed in the growing field of technical theatre.”