She’s cute, she’s sweet, she’s oh so petite! That tiny tart from Texas Sasha Dahl! Sasha has had a fever for all things theatre since 1999. She has studied at St. Edwards University, and has worked in community theatre for years both on stage and behind the scenes. She is well versed in technical theatre, dance, performance, and is a classically trained vocalist. You name it this pint size power house can do it. She caught the burly-q bug in 2007 with the debut of her doll number at the Mohawk. Since then she’s performed in Austin, Dallas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. She regularly stage manages shows, works production crews around Austin, and hops on stage to shimmy and shake as often as possible. She is the technical director and stage manager for the Texas Burlesque Festival, as well as stage manages for various productions around Austin, Houston, Dallas, and For Worth. She is also a proud instructor at the Austin Academy of Burlesque. Sasha loves to play with gender stereotypes, tongue and cheek humor, and to approach the world with a strut.
1 What’s the hardest thing you have ever been asked to do?
Every show brings its own challenges. I’ve gotten fairly used to wearing multiple hats and doing some sort of double duty over the years. Be it kittening/ stage managing, stage managing/ performing, stage managing/ playing sound queues. For one show in particular I had a rather challenging house sound engineer. For this particular show we were short handed, so I was going to have to manage and kitten at the same time. No big deal. Well to add to it said engineer insisted he would be unable to hit the queues correctly and asked that I do it. Given that it was thirty minutes before doors when this conversation occurred there was really nothing else to do. We set my computer up to run the sound stage left while he managed the levels from the back of the house SO! Kittening, managing, and hitting the queues turned into running laps in heels. Clean up one act, run down stage left arms filled with beautiful costume pieces, hit go on the next number, bolt back stage to deliver costumes, make it back in time to hand on props or get ready to pick up the number on stage. Rinse repeat for the entire show in heels no less. A particularly funny moment for me was balancing a huge Catherine D’lish duster one performer wore, while hitting a very specific sound queue. I’m very tiny, buried in layers of voluminous red fabric and managed to hit go at the right moment, and then scampered back stage like a giant red cloud. I didn’t tell the producers until after the show as two were performing, and one was running the spot light. When short handed you do the best you can, and everything went off without a hitch.
2 why do you love Stage management
For me the most important thing is the show itself. The audience, the performers, the entire experience. I love all of the moving parts to deliver an unforgettable experience. When stage managing its like conducting. At times there are the literal hand movements of a conductor calling queues. It’s a glorious chaotic dance. I love being a part of it from start to finish, and seeing everything culminate in a job well done. And even while running around like a chicken with my head cut off I still have the best seat in the house. I get to see performances, and audience reactions.
3 what are the top 3 tips you would give a new stage manager starting out.
1.) The Oh Shit kit is your friend. Performers will forget something. Costumes will break. Have something to account for every scenario if you can. I pack disposable pasties, more pins than the law allows, tools, tapes (bonus spike and gaff tapes are you friend. While expensive they are well worth the cost.), flat irons, curling irons, steamer, etc. It all packs down into a duffel bag or tool box.
2.) When it comes to call times lie. Remember yours is the only clock in the room that matters. Run it like bar time. Don’t say 5 minutes when you’re really at 30, but give yourself and your performers a good five minute cushion. If you’re on a hold keep that one to yourself and the emcee and producers if it’s only about 5 to 10 minutes to get the audience in. If something goes terribly wrong with the box office or anything like that play it by ear. Performers will take as much time as they have. Remember once the house is open it is your responsibility. Manage the time accordingly.
3.) Create a safe space for your performers.
This goes back to being in charge. You are not only running the show on stage you are running the back stage as well. While you are not their mother/father you want them to feel safe, secure, and for them to know you have everything under control including their well being and comfort. That isn’t to say you clean up after everyone, or are a doormat. But you want to listen to their concerns even if it may sound silly. I have a round up with all performers and staff before every show. I call it family time. We take a few minutes to come together and establish the house rules. Photography, no one in the dressing room, no shaming of any kind, communication, and so on. Then we turn it over to the producers or emcee to say a few things. Let the performers ask questions, voice concerns, etc. There’s a hug, a shimmy, or an otherwise rally to get the performers amped just before doors. I quite literally have “We Got This” tattooed on my forearm. Remember its live entertainment, and if they feel you have everything in hand your performers can breath a little easier and not sweat the small stuff.
4 What is your go to checklist?
1.) Prep tech sheets ASAP – I have a template I put together that I can edit depending on the show and fill in quickly with info
2.) Check music and playlists several times on several devices – have a billion back ups
3.) Line ups printed and ready to go – plastered everywhere visible or performers
4.) If possible build a tech schedule
5.) Check over the acts again and make sure the oh shit kit can accommodate anything new that may come up.
5 What do you alter for different shows?
The tech sheet is the most malleable piece. Sometimes the formatting, the information included, etc. The time schedule gets adjusted a bit depending on what numbers are happening in a show. I pack my oh shit kit according to what performances look like, etc.
6 What are the best tips and tools for a stage manager.
1.) Gaff tape – it’s gold
2.) Spike tape – it just makes everyone’s life easier
3.) Be as organized as inhumanly possible.
4.) Know that something will go sideways and roll with it. Your audience and performers need never know if you handle it correctly
5.)Communication is key. Always have open lines of communication between yourselves, the techs, the performers, the emcee etc.
6.) Never if avoidable make someone feel like an asshole, especially if they are getting on stage. If an emcee flubs who is on next then no harm no foul the second you hit the stage to correct you are also performing. If you rip into an emcee for making a very human mistake then you are doing your emcee, your performers, and your audience a disservice by making a them uncomfortable in the moment. Be professional at all times
7.) Remember you are in charge
8.) Be prepared for any and all possibilities. Some you’ll learn as you go. There is a creative solution to any problem
7 whats the main differences / problems between managing a normal show compared to a festival.
Festivals are more of a marathon both in the planning and the running. In some cases its over several days rather than a single evening. Your crew is going to be bigger. Where in a regular show (in a perfect world) I’ll have a sound person, lighting person, kitten, and myself. If I’m lucky there’s a stage hand as well. In a festival I have sound and light engineers, more than one kitten, a stage hand or two, an assistant stage manager, a rigger if there are aerials, a back stage liaison and depending on the venue if they are union I’ll have a few more crew spots like a carpenter and props master. I even have an intern depending on the show to offer a full behind the scenes experience for people who may be more interested in the back stage ins and outs.
8 How do you deal with glitter?
On the clean up front in the dressing room I’ve found there are 7 steps
1.) Sweep up what you can
2.) Apply liberal amount of foul language
3.) Break out the baby wipes or makeup wipes.
4.) Apply further cuss words, more in the vein of punctuation
5.) Move on to a surface cleaner of some sort
.6.) Yep more cussing, really mix up the phrasing, get creative!
7.) Resign yourself to the fact that it shall leave an indelible mark on your soul, and the carpet.
8 – If you are cleaning it off a stage and it is not the glorious chunky glitter you can sweep the stage will be redecked at some point, and after a period of time as the paint fades again it will remind you that like a good memory it’s always there.