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Posted: Friday, January 11, 2019 7:35 am

The stage is set. The lights go up. The music plays, and the costumes are beautiful. It’s the magic of theater.

What’s on the stage attracts the eye — but behind the scenes, a miracle worker known as a stage manager quietly orchestrates every detail.

At Playhouse 2000, director Ginny Shaw and stage manager Devon McLaughlin, along with seven actors, have been in rehearsal for weeks for their new show, “Things My Mother Taught Me,” a romantic comedy by Katherine DiSavino, which opens Feb. 1.

The show — which involves a young couple moving from New York to Chicago into their first apartment and some intergenerational humor when the potential in-laws show up — will run for three weekends, with performances running until Feb. 17.

“Things My Mother Taught Me” will be performed at the VK Garage Theater at 305 Washington St.

Though McLaughlin has been a part of the creative process since before auditions, she said the director is always the chief visionary behind the production.

“Ginny Shaw is a delight as a director,” she added. “She is bright and positive and has a clear vision and focus for the show. Her approach is collaborative and respectful of her actors and appreciative of the crew.”

But, according to McLaughlin, it’s the stage manager who has to execute the director’s vision.

“The director is going to give you the big picture, but then the stage manager has to make sure all the details happen,” she said.

During rehearsals, the stage manager organizes the schedule, takes extensive blocking notes and is on book as actors learn their lines.

And once the show opens, the director steps back and usually isn’t present at every performance. It becomes the stage manager’s show, explained McLaughlin.

Although there’s a costume designer in charge of costumes, it ultimately falls on the stage manager to ensure that when an actor goes onstage, he’s wearing every last accessory — and it’s also her job to coordinate props, set pieces, lights and sound.

“It’s the stage manager’s responsibility to make sure that things happen as they’re supposed to, and consistently night after night, so that regardless of which show you go to, you’re essentially seeing the same show,” she said.

McLaughlin noted that, although there’s always a slight variance from performance to performance, it’s important that everything is scheduled, organized and predictable for actors so that they can focus on performing — that their props are in the same place every night and they can come to expect a routine.

McLaughlin has been an active volunteer in local community theater for at least 12 years, she said, and in addition to her duties with Playhouse 2000, also works with Hill Country Arts Foundation’s Point Theatre.

In the past, she has worked as a stage manager, costumer, backstage crew, usher and house manager. She also has performed at the Point Theatre but said she prefers backstage roles, noting that the audience often doesn’t realize how much support the backstage crew is providing.

“I really do strongly believe that the arts are essential to us as human beings, so I feel very blessed that we’re in a community where we have strong community theater, and I feel very lucky to get to participate in it,” she said.

McLaughlin added that seven actors in “Things My Mother Taught Me” come from a variety of backgrounds: Three are veterans of local community theater and two are brand-new to the stage, while two more have played supporting roles but are performing in their first lead roles.

“It’s kind of fun to work with people who have different ranges of theatrical experience,” she said.

McLaughlin said she finds it most rewarding when everything clicks into place, the actors are able to go out and perform and the audience enjoys themselves, because she finds satisfaction in knowing she put those pieces together.

“Stage managers really get an appreciation of what goes into a production and how challenging it is, and then you get the full reward of being able to be there for every performance and see it through to the end,” she said.

McLaughlin said she enjoys working at Playhouse 2000 because everyone — from the executive director, Jeffrey Brown, to the directors to the actors to the front office staff — is very supportive and positive.

“Jeff Brown — I’ve watched him work with more than one director, and I really appreciate how supportive he is of directors being able to execute their artistic vision and being able to get to do their own thing,” she said.

McLaughlin added that Playhouse 2000 is a very positive environment, and she always feels appreciated when she volunteers there.

Although stage managers are one of the most important people in the theater, they often fly beneath the radar — and that’s the way most of them like it.

“You don’t get to go out and take a bow and all of those things, but you’re such an integral part of the team, and it is a team effort to put a show on,” McLaughlin said. “It definitely is the one job in the theater that’s intrinsically rewarding rather than extrinsically rewarding. (But) there isn’t a single cog that you can take out of the machine and have it work.”

For more information about “Things My Mother Taught Me” or to purchase tickets, readers can contact Playhouse 2000 at 830-896-9393.

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