GLAMoms had an opportunity recently to speak with a Stage Manager from the Broadway musical, MEAN GIRLS – Emma Ramsay-Saxon.
Learn more about Emma, her husband Bryan and their adorable son. Emma shares how life on the road has changed since having a child, how her life in the theater has evolved from the days of community theater growing up and what it is like behind the scenes of a hit Broadway musical.
MEAN GIRLS begins at Wharton Center this week and runs through March 6! Welcome to Greater Lansing Area Moms, Emma!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in 2 places. Born in Wales in the UK and lived there until I was eight and moved to Florida and spent all of my school years here.
The UK….? Do you remember when you were small, before you moved to the United States?
Oh yes, absolutely. The part of Wales I grew up in was very rural and I remember visiting my aunt in a cottage on top of a hill; farmland and sheep as far as you can see and you would have to walk along very small roads. It is a really beautiful part of that country if you get the chance – visit South Wales.
So you remember the move?
I have quite vivid memories. This was back in the ‘90s and I do not recall the luggage requirements on airlines but we were trying to carry as much as we could with us and the rest of it was shipped. We had these giant, canvas bags and each of us were pulling them along as we went through. It was definitely a formative experience getting to travel that much when I was young and I think was a very unique opportunity.
How did you get started in theater?
My whole family is very artistic and I would say the rest of my siblings are the more on stage type and one of the first things we did when we arrived in Florida was finding a community theater and we started doing shows. Pretty quickly I realized I didn’t like being on stage but I liked being in theater; it took me a while through high school to figure out what it was I wanted to do. Once I found out what a stage manager did I knew that is definitely how I want to spend my life – stage managing.
Your son. How old is he?
My little boy is 15 months old.
Are there any other people that are part of the company that have (or travel) kids?
For a while during the pandemic it seemed like we were going to have a few parents travel with their kiddos but one by one they each got opportunities that made more sense for them to stay in one place. One left just last Sunday. He went back because he could not be away from his kid which is completely understandable.
We do have the head of wardrobe and she is traveling with her teenage daughter and they have been on tour as a family since she was very young.
How did you and your husband meet?
While on an internship in Italy I was working for an opera company and he was an opera singer in the show I was working on.
Your husband is an Italian opera singer?
He is not Italian, he is from Georgia. We ran into that when we came back. I met someone in Italy – and friends were like, oh an Italian opera singer, no, an opera singer from Georgia. Yet it was pretty magical.
What does he do now or while traveling with you for MEAN GIRLS?
He actually had done some career pivots and right now he works for a company that does virtual volunteering events. His job is all virtual now.
How has life changed on the road since you had your son?
This is kind of a hard one to answer because it coincides with coming back to work after having a child during a pandemic. I definitely do not go out as much but I do not know if that is because I have a kid or because we are still trying to limit our exposure to COVID.
I certainly love what I do so much and having the balance between going home and being able to focus on my family and then coming to work and being able to focus on work makes me enjoy both things so much more. When I am with my husband and my son I am so happy to be with them because I miss them so much while I am at work and then while I am at work I enjoy what I do because it is such a change of pace from being at home.
What is a typical work day for you?
Today we have 2 shows so it is a little longer than a single show day. Stage Managers come in with the crew so we are here about an hour and a half before the show starts. We come in and sort of check on what is going on, if there are understudies on, arranging any last minute costume fittings, or rehearsals that need to happen.
During the show there are 4 stage managers on our team and we rotate through different tracks or duties during the show. Yesterday I was calling the show and today I will be running the stage-left side of the stage. Post show we write a report about who was in/out and any technical issues and because today is 2 shows we will do the whole thing all over again.
Also, since we don’t have a nanny with us my husband is working full time and a lead parent – all from a hotel room. I truly couldn’t do this without him.
How many hours is that for you today?
It will probably end up being an 11-ish hour day with a dinner break.
Is there always a set number of stage managers?
We travel with four. Four is becoming more typical of big musicals; Broadway shows like a play will have two, maybe three. Harry Potter I think has five. Lion King has five. It is a smaller group of people – than say the cast – where there are 30 cast members at the moment with MEAN GIRLS..
What would you say to someone – school aged – to someone who was interested in theater but not necessarily interested in performing – What other jobs would there be for them to do/behind the scenes jobs?
Almost anything you can imagine is a job in theater. There are the obvious backstage and on stage crew – carpentry and props and audio and lighting and wardrobe and these types of opportunities are usually accessible at the community theater level.
I do Stage Management and simply put, we are the bridge between all of these departments. We help departments communicate their needs to one another and the needs of the cast to these departments.
We also travel with our musicians and that is a great way if you want to have that hands-on artist role and our company managers what they do is absolutely incredible. They are partially handling all of the business stuff – the catch all for anything when we are traveling – flights, hotels, kind of more our human resources department as well.
There is all of the front of house stuff too. Each venue has their own house managers, ushers, ticket sales and marketing as well. There really are endless opportunities and what you see on stage is only the tip of the iceberg.
What are some other productions you have worked on?
My Broadway credits are Tuck Everlasting, which was a number of years ago now; the revival of CATS and then Mean Girls on Broadway and the Prom on Broadway.
What are some must haves you must have when you travel to make it feel more like home?
We always travel with our own pillows; that is an absolute must. It feels like home but also practical. We travel with humidifiers – you will need while in Michigan – we also travel with our own water filter, a more convenient thing. It feels like home.
Has your son been traveling since you returned to work?
Yes, he has been traveling since he was 9 months old. And the past few travel days he has been trying to help pack and unpack which is very sweet and sometimes I think he gets the idea but sometimes we are trying to pack and he is pulling stuff out and we are trying to unpack and he is trying to put it back in.
Do you have all of the baby “stuff” you travel with as well?
Yes. A crib and a tent to go over a kid since we are usually in studio hotel rooms; we have everything SharkTank could think of.
Although this may have changed since COVID and having a child, yet is there something you like to see or try to find at every destination?
I used to collect postcards. I love postcards – they travel well and they are everywhere. Now with our tour schedule and being a mom I have decided that instead of doing that this time I am going to commission an artist to do a postcard of our fictional location – although not a fictional place – North Shore just outside of Chicago and I think that will be my memento of this round of the tour – we will be performing at like 36 cities this year!
— A little Chicago North Shore Moms shout out to our sister site 🥰 —
What is something we absolutely need to know about the show, we are going opening night – something(s) that we may not notice?
Of course the things I think of are weird, quirky, technical things; we change scenes every 2.5 minutes which is extremely quick and I would say keep an eye on the costume changes especially the actor that plays our adult woman, she plays 3 different people and so she has some really incredible quick changes.
Emma – thank you so much for meeting with us! We hope you have a great time working at Wharton Center and enjoy your visit to the Greater Lansing area! 😊
All images were provided by Emma Ramsay-Saxon and with permission via her social media accounts.