Sarah Southerton – our Community Stage Manager

Many of you will have seen Sarah with her head sets making sure everyone of our performers makes the right entrance. Sarah has been our volunteer stage manager for the last five operas and we hope she will return for her sixth in 2015.

Here is Sarah’s experience of being part of the Stage Management team for Blackheath Halls Opera:

‘Whether it’s been cuing 22 nuns onto the stage, scouring Lewisham’s pound shops for props or making champagne with apple juice and sparkling water, my work backstage at The Adventures of Count Ory has certainly been varied.

Acting and singing has never been my forte, but having helped backstage with plays at school, I have always enjoyed the buzz of helping to bring a production together from the wings. It was by chance that I found out about this exciting project, seeing an advert in the back of a Blackheath Halls leaflet, but I’m really glad I did.

This is now my fifth Blackheath Halls Community Opera and each production brings its own challenges. Each year I’ve had the opportunity to work with a different professional stage management team and learn something new from each one. And it’s great to come back each year and catch up with members of the chorus who, like me, return to be a part of this event.

I tend to arrive mid-way through rehearsals, so it’s fun to turn up and hear the chorus already in full voice on what is my first day involved. I then get a sneak preview of what the audience has lined up for them, when the professional opera singers arrive to rehearse the principal roles – always a treat for myself and the chorus alike. And while I don’t get to see the opera, I certainly get to hear it, whether directly from my position behind the curtain, or through the radios as the Deputy Stage Manager gives us cues.

For The Adventures of Count Ory the main challenge has been ensuring props are where they need to be, and get to the people who need them in time – particularly for the start of the show when every chorus member has their own character to assume, and at the start of Act two when the sopranos and altos are busy undertaking their various activities, whether that’s mending or ironing dresses, reading, playing cards or painting their nails. And of course, no Blackheath Halls Opera would be complete without a mini-heatwave halfway through the run and this year’s been no exception. So I’ve been very lucky to have been working with Sasja, Maryann, Mimi and Rosanna who have not only ensured the actors get to where they need to be, but me too!

So Blackheath Halls Opera is not just for aspiring actors and singers – and I would advise even those who don’t fancy getting on stage that they still have a role to play, and would recommend that they too get involved.’


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