The Personality of a Stage Manager

Katherine Gehrlein working backstage at Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

Katherine Gehrlein is in her second year with the MFA Stage Management program at UMKC. When she is not out in the field, exploring and enhancing the world of stage management, you can find her doing office hours at the Olson Performing Arts Center on campus, always ready to help out when needed. While Katherine has found success within the UMKC Theatre program, stage management was not her initial career choice. 

“While in undergrad, [stage management] was something I fell into because in that theatre program you did everything. I loved it, but I felt like it was too late for me to drop my Education Major by the time I realized it was something I really enjoyed.” 

Katherine spent the four years following her graduation teaching theatre at a local middle school. While her job title did not specify “stage manager,” the tasks she was performing and the requirements of her teaching position brought out many of the same personality traits she remembers were flourishing while she was doing stage management jobs at her undergraduate school. “A stage manager needs to be confident and approachable. Everyone in the show is looking to you for organization.” 

Once Katherine realized stage management was where she would flourish the most, she left her teaching job to pursue her MFA at UMKC. “It’s important to emphasize I am always an educator. Don’t be afraid to take the risk and be open to change and changing the way you do things.”

Katherine’s success through UMKC was made possible by the hands-on opportunities offered by the stage management program. Sadie DeSantis, Assistant Teaching Professor of Stage Management and head of the program, believes that becoming a stage manager is possible for anyone with the right personality. Sadie graduated from the program herself and works to enhance the experience for her students.

Skill sets and professionalism can be learned, experience can be gained, but a stage manager needs a certain adaptable personality no matter their background. The hands-on experience gained from the program is the best part, because you are able to work with several companies and stage managers from different demographics and experience levels in only two years. Because they work with a wide range of professionals, students can observe the kind of personality and confidence that is needed to become a professional stage manager. Confidence comes from feeling secure in one’s own knowledge, which in turn allows students to showcase their true talents, true selves, and not be afraid to get out there and make connections.” At UMKC, students get to work with professional American Guild of Musical Artists and Actors Equity Association stage managers from venues across the city and earn weeks towards obtaining their Equity Card. 

Within her first two years of the program, Katherine has had the opportunity to work as stage manager or production assistant with such professional theatres as The Unicorn Theatre, Spinning Tree Theatre, and the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Her choice to shift her career by attending graduate school will continue to enhance the future she has as a stage manager: “Don’t be afraid to take the risk. It is going to be what you make it, but if you never take the risk you will never know.”

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