Getting to Know You: 20 Questions for Stage Manager Veronica Aglow

I came across a quote from actor, musician, all around celebrity Henry Rollins, which is very fitting today. Clearly, Rollins has a healthy respect for stage managers: “Listen to the stage manager and get on stage when they tell you to. No one has time for the rockstar bull****. None of the techs backstage care if you are David Bowie or the milkman….They were there hours before you building the stage, and they will be there hours after you leave tearing it down. They should get your salary and you should get theirs.”

Ah, if only we could all get paid a rock musician’s salary…but I digress.

You’ve heard from Veronica Aglow on this blog before, so you already know that she sometimes has to solve problems – very quickly…and today, you’ll find out a little bit more, with 20 Questions for Veronica Aglow:

JW: Give us your basic details – who are you, where are you from…Veronica Aglow
I am Veronica Aglow, 28, and I am a stage manager here at Geva. I grew up in a Philadelphia suburb called Doylestown in Bucks County, PA. I had never been to Rochester until I came to Geva in 2010. However, my stepmother grew up in Gates so I had been hearing about the strange place called Rochester for most of my life.

JW: What’s the first play you remember seeing?
When I was 5, my parents took me to see The Secret Garden on Broadway, but I have little more than a few images of recollection of that. However, when I was 8, my dad took me to see Phantom of the Opera and I definitely remember that. My parents listened to a lot of musical theatre and I had memorized all of Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon by the time I was 6. One of my mom’s favorite stories to tell is that I started singing “Lovely Ladies” from Les Miz in the doctor’s office one day when I was 6. All the other parents started looking at her like she was a terrible parent because of the content of the song, but at 6 years old, I had no idea what I was singing about.

JW: That’s a fantastic story! Where did you go to school? Did you study theatre?
I went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA where I graduated with a BFA in stage management. I absolutely loved it there and received great classroom and hands-on learning in stage management and all aspects of theatre arts.

JW: When did you know you were destined to work in a theatre?
Growing up, I loved musicals because of my parents and I tried my hand at acting throughout school, but never really enjoyed it. It wasn’t until senior year of high school that I ended up getting involved with a theatre called the Bucks County Playhouse where I discovered technical theatre. I immediately fell in love with the backstage aspect of theatre and became a technical theatre intern there where I learned the basics of lights, sound, carpentry, painting, and rigging. It actually wasn’t until I started college that I really discovered stage management. I entered college as a lighting design major, but during the first class of stage management 101, I realized that this was what I wanted to be doing and switched majors.

JW: What would you say is the best part of your job?
Calling the show and watching the “magic” happen as a result of what I’m saying. This is especially fun when lights, sound, and set moves are all happening at the same time. Though someone else designs these things and other Geva staff members are pushing the buttons, I feel like a conductor orchestrating what is happening on stage, which is a really great feeling.

JW: Tell us about a favorite project.
My two favorite shows in my career, both at Geva, have been Next to Normal and A Christmas Carol. This is because of what I was talking about above. Both of these shows have a lot of cues and a lot of moving parts. In Carol, one of my favorite moments is Christmas Past flying in from the grid. Lights, sound, projections, and the crew member flying the young actor in all have to line up perfectly to make the moment happen as it should. In Next to Normal, there were a lot of awesome light cues and automation cues that were fun to call. I really enjoyed at the very top of the show when the front wall of the house would open like 2 doors right on a loud bass chord in the overture. I actually needed to call that cue a whole measure early because there was a delay in the automation response time – things to be aware of as a stage manager. Also, I got to listen to that great music every day which was definitely a plus.

JW: Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Which theatrical giants’ shoulders do you stand on?
My personal mentor is a man named Bob Bennett, who I was fortunate enough to assist for the first time in 2009. He consistently stage manages on Broadway and is currently working on The Trip to Bountiful. He has always been there for me with advice, recommendations, and occasionally work. I also look up to Frank Cavallo, the other Geva stage manager. He is such a wonderful person and a great stage manager. And finally, a man named Erik Reid, who was the technical director at the Bucks County Playhouse when I started there as an intern. He is really the one who made me fall in love with working behind the scenes in theatre.

JW: If you had a job in theatre that wasn’t the one you actually have, what would it be? (Talent for this role is not required…)
I would probably want to be a music director. I’m glad talent is not required since I cannot play the piano, but it always seems so interesting to me how the voices all come together to create beautiful music. Or maybe I just want to be Don Kot, our musical director at Geva, because he is one of the most fun people I know.

JW: When people ask you to describe Rochester, what do you say?
Summers are great but winters….ugh. We certainly get snow in Philly, but the thing is, it goes away. It seems that in Rochester, the snow just exists from January through April without ever really leaving. But I have grown to love Rochester. I also like to tell people about all the parks, the festivals, Charlotte Beach, and all the great things to do in the warmer months.

JW: What’s your favorite Rochester-area attraction?
Definitely the Strong Museum of Play. It makes me feel like a kid. I’ve been there three times with different casts that have come through Geva and they always love it too.

JW: If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only bring a playwright with you (I know – that’s sort of random, isn’t it?), who would you bring?
Harold Pinter. He’s one of the only absurdist playwrights that I actually like and I would just love to grill him about what he thinks his plays are actually about. I have my own theories but it would be nice if he could confirm.

JW: Hmm. I’m curious about what your theories are! Is there a place you haven’t yet been that you’d most like to visit?
A lot of places. I love to travel! I guess the top of my list right now would be New Orleans, but I’m going in October after Pump Boys and Dinettes closes with Kelly Foster from the box office. Can’t wait!

JW: What books are on your nightstand right now?
I’m about to start the 5th book in the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series, A Dance with Dragons. I also just finished a fantastic short read called Wonder by R.J. Palacio, which I recommend to everyone. My new favorite quote is from that book – “Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world.”

JW: I love that. What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming season?
I’m excited for The 39 Steps because I’ve been hearing wonderful things about the play for years but never had the opportunity to see it. Plus, I’m not working on it so I’ll be able to actually view it as an audience member.

JW: There’s been a rash of kitten and puppy adoption amongst the Geva staff this summer. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
I’m a dog person! I had both growing up and I like cats well enough, but there’s something so heartwarming about the enduring love of a puppy. I want a dog so badly but it wouldn’t suit my lifestyle right now.

JW: Our first production of the 2013-2014 season features pie – what’s your favorite kind?
Chocolate peanut butter pie. I’m a real sucker for those 2 flavors blended together.

JW: That does sound great. Imagine you are placing an order at a restaurant, and they ask your name for the order. You don’t give them your real name. What name do you give?
Callie Winters – she’s the main character in a book I started writing. I may never even finish the book, but it’s something I’ve been doing in my free time.

JW: What would we find in the backseat of your car?
I try to keep my backseat pretty clean. There’s some bugspray that I used at yesterday’s Geva Company Picnic. Also, I think there’s an old SELF magazine on the floor.

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