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Michele Teevan came to Boston from Harrison, New York to study Stage Management at Emerson College. While an undergraduate, she signed on as a Production Intern for SpeakEasy’s New England premiere production of the hit musical [title of show] and has since worked on over a dozen SpeakEasy shows, becoming a permanent member of the staff this past September. Michele has also worked with other Boston performing arts groups, including Northeast Youth Ballet, Centastage, Happy Medium Theatre, Imaginary Beasts, and New Repertory Theatre.
She recently took a break from working on SpeakEasy’s current production of Other Desert Cities to talk about life in the theatre, backstage chaos, and performing for the President.
What got you interested in Stage Management as a career?
The first show I ever saw was Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway when I was 13, and it is the show that made me fall in love with theatre. After that experience, I tried to see as much theatre in New York as I could.
When I was 15, I went to Stagedoor Manor, a performing arts sleep-away camp in the Catskills. There I got to take a Stage Management class with a professional Stage Manager who taught me all about the basics of Stage Management and the professional opportunities available in theatre. I always knew I wanted to work in a career in which could use my organizational skills, but what really attracted me to theatre management was the collaboration among designers, directors, managers, actors, and technicians to create the final product of a show.
You are now SpeakEasy’s first Production Associate. What does that job entail?
I take care of scheduling meetings, deadlines for design elements, rehearsals, tech, and performances, plus help with the hiring and contracting all of the actors, directors, designers, stage managers, and technicians. I also help coordinate the entire production team for each show to make sure everything happens when it needs to. I love working for SpeakEasy in this capacity because I greatly enjoy the people that I get to collaborate with every day.
What’s it like backstage at a SpeakEasy show?
Opening night is always pretty chaotic. Everyone is excited about getting to perform the show for an audience for the first time, but everyone is also really nervous because the show is still so new that it takes more effort to remember what comes next. Once everyone settles into the show and you know your track, it becomes more exciting than hectic. It’s always fun to be backstage, especially when there’s another show in the theater next door and you get to interact with another set of theatre professionals.
What are your goals as a theatre artist at this point?
Well, my first goal is to get my Equity card, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to do that just yet. I’d like to get more experience outside of SpeakEasy before I take the plunge into union work. The thing that I love about theatre is that it is constantly changing; and in the past two years. I have been offered jobs and given opportunities that I could never have dreamed of. Right now I work a lot in the Fringe Theatre scene and I am really enjoying the work they do. Thus I feel like, if I get my Equity card, I will be closing that door before I am ready since fringe theatres typically cannot afford union stage managers. Overall, I want to continue working on a wide range of shows. Recently I assistant stage-managed a production of The Nutcracker and I really enjoyed it. I have such a respect for dancers and would love to work on more ballet.
You’ve been a long-time member of a touring competitive drum corps. How did you get involved in that?
I spent four years marching in the Color Guard for my High School Marching Band, and then went on to march two years with a senior drum and bugle corps called the Bushwackers from Harrison, New Jersey. After that, I decided to audition for a junior drum and bugle corps called the Boston Crusaders when I was a sophomore in college.
It takes teamwork, patience, perseverance, dedication, and hard work to march and perform at the level that the Crusaders do every summer while touring the country. I found the opportunity to further develop these skills to be extremely rewarding.
You recently performed in the Inauguration Celebration in Washington, DC. Were you nervous to perform for the president?
In the 9 years that I spent doing Color Guard, I have never been as nervous as I was for this parade. Part of it had to do with the fact that I was a little out of practice and we only had about 8 hours of rehearsal time over the weekend to learn our flag work, clean it to counts, and put it to the music with the rest of the corps.
How long did you have to prepare?
We learned that we were performing in the parade on December 18th and the parade was January 21st, so we had a little over a month to prepare everything. The parade music and color guard work was all received prior to the weekend rehearsal camp, but we only had those three days to put it all together including getting the corps into uniforms and equipment. It was a huge undertaking by everyone.
How big was the crowd?
This was by far the largest crowd I have ever performed for. Over the summer we perform in around 30 competitions to a combined total of 300,000 people, but this parade alone had 600,000 watching live and almost a million watching on TV. At first, it didn’t feel like there were a lot of people as we marched thru the streets; but once we turned onto the block with the Presidential Reviewing stand, I was shocked by how many people were crammed into that one block.
What has been your most satisfying theatrical experience to date?
My most satisfying theatre experience to date was working on Next to Normal last season. It was the first show that I got to work on as production assistant that Paul Daigneault directed, and we had an amazing cast and crew. The show ran for 7 weeks, which is the longest run of a show I have ever done. In addition, the show was extremely well received by audiences, which is always a plus.
Why do you think people should support SpeakEasy Stage?
We fill an important niche in the theatre community here in Boston. We present premieres of shows that are relevant to people of all ages and that make a statement about what is going on in the world. We are also one of the few theatre companies in the area that has subscribers of all ages. I think that says something about the work we produce.