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Spotlight’s on Schaan behind the scenes

Village Arts stage manager has key role

June 18, 2010
Theresa Mack

When the lights dim and the music starts, all eyes turn to the stage at Rugby's Tilman Hovland Auditorium.

For nearly the next three hours, audiences attending the Village Arts summer musical will see the product of weeks and weeks of rehearsals and preparation by the actors on stage.

However, those efforts would be nowhere without one essential and unseen role - the stage manager.

Since 1989, Sue Schaan of Rugby, has filled that role - and filled it well.

She has dedicated many hours backstage to make Village Arts productions run smoothly and is well-respected and much appreciated.

"I think maybe I just like being bossy," Schaan jokes.

Fact Box

About the performance

The 43rd year of Village Arts features the much acclaimed Broadway musical "The Pajama Game" which will be performed Monday, June 21 through Thursday, June 24 at the Tilman Hovland Auditorium at the Rugby High School. Showtime each evening is 8 p.m.

The plot of the musical follows a 1950'S dispute over a 7.5 cent raise. When the bosses urge workers at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory in Iowa to "hurry up," disgruntled workers stage a "go slow" and a strike is imminent.

The new superintendent Sid (Gary Fullesbakke), and Babe (Michele Lind), the Union Grievance Committee leader, begin a romance while trying to remain loyal to their opposing points of view. The story is played out with songs that include "Hey There" and "Hernando's Hideway" and includes a number of energetic dances.

Advance tickets for "The Pajama Game" are on sale at Backstage Gallery and Gift Shoppe downtown Rugby and can be purchased there or by phoning 776-ARTS. Tickets will also be available at the door on a first-come first-served basis.

Yet there is a lot more to being the stage manager of a full-length musical than bossing people around. Schaan recalls some of her more daring jobs, including carrying 10 foot tall set pieces on and off stage during a blackout and rotating a two-sided platform with people standing on it.

Part of her role is building relationships with the actors.

"She is so helpful. Without Sue, I'd never know what to do," said Anne Schmaltz, a member of the cast of this year's production.

Schaan knows at all times what is happening on stage and what needs to happen next. Her organizational skills are put to the test as the action on stage relies heavily on her muscles and her brain.

Even during off-time, Sue can be seen running from room to room, checking that all things such as set pieces, props, and sometimes even people are in place.

Known for her famous yells of "Quiet!" and "All the way off!," Schaan makes sure the people on stage, rather than those off stage, are who the audience hears.

Actor Marne Johnson describes Sue as "a lifesaver."

"She's the only reason I remember my cues Sue is the mother of our cast-family." Johnson said.

Emerald Collins, a new addition to the Village Arts family, quickly undertstood the key role Schaan plays.

"She's the nicest loud person I've ever met,' Collins said.

With over 18 musicals under her belt, Schaan's reasons for continuing every year to be part of the the Village Arts' production are easy to explain.

"I love being a part of the different casts...the relationships I've built in Village Arts are unlike any other,' she said.

And there is no one quite like Schaan - an integral part of Village Arts.



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