Gabrielle Norris: Sound Cue 38. Go!
Gabrielle Norris, Clemson graduate and stage manager for Richard III sat down with us recently to talk about the “life” you don’t see during a show…backstage life and booth life! She’s joining us after stage managing for Norwegian Cruise Lines over the last year working with such acts as Cirque Dreams and Dinner and the Blue Man Group. Here’s what Gabrielle had to say:
WHT: Great to have you with us for the first time.
Gabrielle: Thank you very much!
WHT: Where did you receive your training?
Gabrielle: Clemson University. Production Studies in the Performing Arts with a concentration in theatre.
WHT: And you are sort of a local kid, right Gabby?
Gabrielle: I was a military brat, so I was born in Michigan, but traversed California, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. My parents make fun of me because I always complained about the lack of stability in my life and now I’m jumping from one show to another. However, I graduated from Travelers Rest High School in the end and have spent the last five and a half years in and out of the Upstate between college and theater work.
WHT: How many shows have you managed at The Warehouse?
Gabrielle: NONE! It’s actually rather surprising. I’ve always been an audience member even though I know the majority of the staff and designers working here. I remember my first show I saw was Clean House and had a beautiful talk back with the cast. I even sat on the tech rail during the first edition of The Rocky Horror Show.
WHT: Do you have a favorite production with which you physically worked?
Gabrielle: Each show is such a different beast. It would be like me saying I love a golden retriever more than a black lab. I’ve worked on giant Broadway musical tours and Cirque shows, but also love the immediacy of a straight play.
WHT: Is there someone’s work that you greatly enjoy? Or sort of admire in stage management? Any field?
Gabrielle: This question is so open ended! I’m fascinated by photography and follow too many great people on Instagram to name them all, but especially travel photographers hold a special place in my heart. When it comes to stage managers I admire, I think we all have our different approaches, and working with so many different people has allowed me to take the best of each and implement it into my work.
WHT: Person you haven’t worked with yet that’s still on your wishlist?
Gabrielle: I’m getting to “boss around” Kerrie Seymour, my past acting professor at Clemson. I don’t think it gets any better than that.
WHT: Person that has influenced your acting or your process the most?
Gabrielle: My process…hmmm…I think one of my past Production Managers, Woody Moore, at Clemson. He used to tell me that Stage Managers were the last to get thanked in the room, but how essential they were to a good show. Woody never sat down and told me point blank how to stage manage, but rather influenced the person I needed to become to be a great stage manager from my compassion, hard work, and eye for detail.
WHT: Do you have a routine that you go through before a performance? Superstition, etc.?
Gabrielle: I go to the bathroom. When I go to shows and cues are being called too quickly, I blame it on the stage manager needing to use the restroom. Ruins the entire show for me and I never want to do that for some other stage manager watching a show I’m calling.
WHT: How many Shakespeare’s do you have under your belt now?
Gabrielle: I actually acted in As You Like It years ago, but that was before I realized I couldn’t act, but this will be the first one stage managing.
WHT: Favorite thing about diving into Shakespeare?
Gabrielle: The honesty of the characters. Shakespeare doesn’t play around with subtext much and the characters say things out loud (even in Old English) that most people only think about in their heads. Come on, who hasn’t thought of murdering someone to rise to power? Oh, just me. Sorry.
WHT: What has been your favorite part about Richard III’s rehearsal process or show’s progress?
Gabrielle: A lot of my job is on paper. Tracking props, writing down blocking, making sure actors are saying their lines properly. Don’t get me started on the amount of e-mails I get, but my favorite part has to be getting to see discoveries happening in the moment. Whether it be in the rehearsal room or discussion amongst designers. Being a facilitator or even influencing that moment is where I find the most joy in doing what I do.
WHT: Anything you learned during this process that sticks out?
Gabrielle: Getting blood out of clothing is actually pretty hard.
WHT: How many windsprints did you have to do to prepare to work on this incredibly lengthy stage?
Gabrielle: I just watch the actors do it and try not to complain when they need to have it freezing in the rehearsal room. I’m looking at you, Jason D. Johnson!
WHT: You would have an interesting take on this, since you aren’t “on” stage. Moment in the show that has changed the most during the rehearsal process for you?
Gabrielle: The ending, but I can’t talk about that in this interview!
WHT: Do you have a piece of advice for audience member coming to see Richard III?
Gabrielle: This isn’t Evil Dead and there are no splash zones (intentional splash zones anyway). Sorry to disappoint. Don’t be scared about the language. If I can understand it, so can you.
WHT: Any question you didn’t asked that you wish you had?
Gabrielle: I feel like “non-theatre people” don’t know what stage managing is. I compare it to a conductor in an orchestra, but instead of instruments, it’s lights, sound, actors, projections, etc. If you see a change of light onstage, it was because the stage manager was “conducting” the light board operator to go to another light cue. That’s my job during the actual show. Beforehand, I am in the rehearsal room with the director and actors making sure to inform designers of our progress and needs while also tracking movement of props and actors. One of my previous directors once called the stage manager position the lynchpin of a production.
See Gabrielle’s work without actually seeing Gabrielle in Richard III playing through May 2nd!