Dance stage manager On September 13, a gala event took place at the Joyce Theatre in New York City to honor Maxine Glorsky's 60th birthday and her 40 years as a dance stage manager. As a girl in Toms River, NJ, she saw Danilova dance and began ballet lessons; as a teenager she joined the Ocean County Playhouse as an apprentice. "I was looking for something other than what I saw around me," Glorsky recalls. "With summer stock they change the programs weekly, so that was fascinating. There was a lot of work to do, with the scenery and all of that, and that was fun. But when I stuck to the dance thing, that was more magic to me."
At 18 she went to Jacob's Pillow on a scholarship, immersing herself in the backstage work, assisting during summers while working toward a degree in speech therapy at NYU. "At that time there were people from all around the world," she says of the Pillow. "It was this little anthill bursting with the microcosm of dance."
She was especially attracted to lighting, running an old, sparking board and working with legendary LDs such as Tharon Musser and Nicola Cernovitch. The designers she assisted in the summer also called upon her for their New York seasons, and she has worked extensively with Jean Rosenthal, Gilbert Hemsley, Beverly Emmons, Clifton Taylor, and many others, touring with more than 100 dance companies to over 30 countries. Over the years, Glorsky has seen and learned many things. Here are some nuggets of wisdom from her four decades in theatre.
Why she loves lighting "Lighting for dance, the designer has a canvas with that stage. It can be like fast-action painting, it can be more classical and softer, and I think it's a great opportunity for a designer with great imagination, and hopefully musicality, to change the entire atmosphere of the place. It makes a great deal of difference to the work, to the dance; it adds a dimension that's very important.
"I feel the kind of thing a designer does, all that stuff that's in their head, I can learn from someone that's quite young, just because their imagination is so layered, and if they can possibly get it out of themselves and onto the stage, it's wonderful to behold. To me it's like any painter, you discover their color palettes, the way they like angles, the way they focus."
Why she is not a designer herself "I think I'm so much better at the other end of it, working with the artists. I think a designer has got a mission to accomplish, and I can help them by setting the proper schedule, making sure the directors of a company understand what they're doing, that if you don't give them time maybe you can't get everything out of them that you wanted; that it's give and take, you can't just rip away the lighting budget. In a way, I help designers do that, which they don't even realize it's going on, because they're thinking about what they have to do. Their concentration is a little different, because they're not there for the whole length of a production and I am, therefore I get to know the people better than maybe they do. They're the last ones to work on a project, which can have a lot of tension to it, because of time, communication, budget."
Her stage management philosophy "I've always liked to learn. I feel like I learn every time, and I think that's what helps to keep you young and excited about what you're doing. The next person can teach me something I never even thought of. That whole thinking you do in theatre, to solve the problem, it just pushes out of you another solution that you don't believe you can get to, and I think that's great, and that's what's exciting about doing that every day.
"There are technical things that are under your belt, but I feel the human part is very important, to make the crew a team, to make the designers a team, to make the artistic and the dancers understand what the whole is. I like when dancers say thank you to a crew. Jean Rosenthal always said thank you, no matter what went on. And maybe if it wasn't so good it would be better the next time, because instead of isolating you could say those very simple words. That's when it isn't technical anymore, it becomes the psychology of dealing with the human being.
"I think it's very important for lighting designers to give stage managers the opportunity to go with them in rehearsal and talk about light cues, even if it's just placement cues, and I'll tell you why: When you get to the theatre, you don't have much time, and if that work isn't done then the stage manager has very little to help you - you haven't given to them. Even if it's every cue that you ever even thought you might do, that's important knowledge, because the stage manager will help you keep the cue. Or give them your notes, if you don't have time to talk, whatever your hieroglyphics are, just give them a copy, let them try to figure out what you're thinking of. You can change all you like, and you can cut and you can add, but that initial conversation, I feel, needs to go on. It's nothing too big, is it? But, you know, simple details like that make a big difference."