(BFA, Theater, ’03)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
Stage managing Romeo and Juliet on the scale re-creation of the Globe Theatre at the Adams Playhouse was a highlight. I was just learning what it was to be a stage manager, and working on a big production with so many technical elements was an amazing learning experience. Jean Dobie Giebel, Rych Curtiss, and all my other professors from the Drama and Dance Department gave me so much hands-on instruction and support. Plus, I’m a Shakespeare nerd. It was a gift.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing learned in that position?
In November 2002, while still in my senior year at Hofstra, I was offered the production stage manager role on the off-Broadway production of Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding. TNT at that pointhad been running in various locations in New York City since 1988, so there was a great deal of history to absorb. I jumped on the train years after it had left the station and had to learn the nuance of professional stage management as I went, all the while juggling a full load of classes at Hofstra.
TNT was an immersive show (created by a group of artists that included a lot of Hofstra alumni). The members of the audience were wedding guests, and as such were fed dinner at the reception. Part of my job was to give the nightly head count of guests to the chef, so he knew how much food to make. One day I walked into the kitchen and gave him the count without preamble. He cut me off mid-sentence and, while brandishing a very large meat cleaver, said, “Don’t you EVER walk into this kitchen and say anything before starting with ‘hello Chef Ray. How are you today.’” And he was right. We are people first, and everyone deserves to be treated as such. Jobs come second. I’ve never forgotten that lesson.
We actually closed TNT the day I graduated from Hofstra, but I still think of it as my first real job in the industry.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I’m a theatrical stage manager, show caller, and road manager working in all areas of entertainment. At Hofstra, I was originally studying to be a performer. But I found a niche organizing things. I’m good at it. I like it. It allows me to work with all kinds of entertainers in all kinds of situations. From my first job at Tony ‘n’ Tina’s to my current job show calling Usher: The Las Vegas Residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, I’ve been in the right place at the right time, and then worked incredibly hard to prove my worth.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
Dream big. Bigger than you thought possible. And then prepare for the long road to get there. I love the work I’m doing right now, and I didn’t start doing it until my mid-30s. The hard work pays off eventually. Be polite. Help when you can. Ask for help when you need it. Be curious. Find joy. And in the words of Katharine Hepburn, “never give up. Always be yourself. Don’t put too much flour in your brownies.”
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- What was the most rewarding production you have been a part of?
I’ve worked as a stage manager at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival on and off for many years. I love that company, and working there made me a better stage manager and person. I was the production stage manager for the 2017 season and, as part of that season, I stage managed HVSF’s rolling world premiere of The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Davis McCallum. My father passed away suddenly at the end of the first week of rehearsal. Book of Will is a play about grief, and redemption from grief, set in the framework of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio. That process became my own grief. And I came through something, while learning that it’s ok to be a person myself in a profession where I am advocating for others.
- How did you find your passion in show calling and stage management?
It was a journey that evolved over time. I’m still on this journey. I’ll always be figuring it out. In college I was a performer that wasn’t getting cast, but everyone wanted me to organize things. And I began to really enjoy it. But things really clicked when I was asked to show call Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl, the Las Vegas residency. I was absolutely convinced this was something I could not do. I almost turned it down. But I said yes, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Show calling is about keeping a show with giant production values consistent so that the artists are safe, and the audience sees the best possible show every single night. It’s a gift and a great responsibility. I take it very seriously. It’s an honor to do my job every night.
- How did your time spent studying at Hofstra propel you into your career?
The Drama and Dance Department actually bent over backwards for me in allowing me to stage manage Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding, my first union production, while also finishing my senior year of classes. Without their total support, I would not be where I am now. And years later, Jean Dobie Giebel, a professor and mentor of mine, introduced me to Neil Miller, a Hofstra alum working as the executive director of entertainment at the Venetian Palazzo in Las Vegas. I went to Vegas to work for Neil on a musical called Baz: A Musical Mash-Up. Neil and Las Vegas changed my life. Working on Baz led me directly to show calling for Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, and other amazing things. I would not be where I am without Hofstra.
- What is a typical day like for a stage manager?
I don’t think there’s any such thing as a typical day for a stage manager, even on a long run of a show. Once we are up and running, the morning is full of phone calls and emails in service to the producer, the creatives, and other behind-the-scenes entities that make up a show. Rehearsals to keep a show consistent happen several days a week, as well as rehearsals to put new performers into new roles. Stage managers are the link that keeps departments working together and talking to each other so there is a lot of checking in with various people and various roles to make sure everyone has what they need. And on show days, if I’m lucky, I get to call a show, which means directing the moment-to-moment beats with performers, lighting, sound, special effects, moving scenery, confetti, you name it. Post show, there are more emails and communications about how things are going, and what we need to accomplish for the next day. And that’s the days when everything goes according to plan!
- Who was the person who most influenced you, and why?
I always say it takes a village to make a show. I am awed and inspired by everyone around me, and each new experience is an opportunity to learn from and be influenced by everyone around me. The constant change drives me to find new ways to be better at my job. It certainly never gets boring!
Marci Skolnick is a production stage manager and show caller based in New York and Las Vegas. Her professional career began when she stage managed the off-Broadway production of Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding while still in her senior year at Hofstra. Since then, she has stage managed in theaters across the country. Some of her favorites include the Public Theater, Goodspeed Musicals, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the Kitchen, Adirondack Theatre Festival, and Opera House Arts.
In Las Vegas, Marci has worked with Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, Spiegelworld, and the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels and Casinos. Her show caller credits include Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl, and Christina Aguilera: The Xperience, both at the Zappos Theater at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino. She is thrilled to resume her incredible pre-pandemic job of road managing the orchestra and choir on the Eagles: Hotel California tour in August 2021.
Marci is the chair of the Actors’ Equity Las Vegas liaison committee, and the Stage Managers’ Association Western regional representative for Las Vegas. She is a proud cat mom to Pico de Gato.