Alumni Adventures: Katherine Belyea, Stage Manager

MYOpera alumna, Katherine Belyea, stage manager for Béatrice & Bénédict (2015) and The Rape of Lucretia (2016) shares her summer adventures!

Hello! My name is Katherine and I was the stage manager for MYOpera’s The Rape of Lucretia and Béatrice et Bénedict. This August, I am working with Highlands Opera Studio, which is a summer opera program in Haliburton, Ontario run by Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka. The operas being produced this year are Gounod’s Faust and Dean Burry’s The Brothers Grimm and The Bremen Town Musicians, all performed at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion. My job is two-fold: I was stage manager for the Burry operas and I am apprenticing on Faust.

For most of this month, we’ve been rehearsing two productions, both double-cast with singers shared between casts and the two productions. Additionally, singers and staff have to be scheduled for workshops, classes, masterclasses, individual coachings, and concerts. I am in awe of how Faust and overall HOS stage manager Dana Paul works everything out.

When it’s possible, I like to familiarize myself beforehand with a DVD/recording and score of operas I’m going to stage manage, in order to get a sense of structure, pick out difficult bits to follow, and get some preliminary stopwatch timings. I watched a DVD of Faust. But while I had encountered composer Dean Burry’s name before, I hadn’t heard or seen a note of Grimm or Bremen until we started rehearsals. The scores from the Canadian Music Centre were in Haliburton and no commercial recordings are available. Ah, the fate of Canadian composers!

The two Burry casts, director Richard and music director Julie Gunn, and I rehearsed for two weeks. Even though these two operas are often performed for children, the music is challenging! They are charming, touching and incredibly funny. I especially admire the concise way the music paints a picture of each character. Like the best material aimed at family audiences, while there’s lots to please children there are also loads of references and jokes designed to sail right over their heads.

When I stage manage for MYOpera, the director and music director run most of the rehearsals. I basically watch a few runs, broadly familiarize myself with the props, and then go into tech where I focus on calling the lighting cues. In the case of the Burry operas, while it was a short rehearsal period I was present for the whole thing, so I also performed other typical SM duties like taking blocking notes, tracking props movement, communicating with the production team, and working with the backstage running crew.

Here are some photos of The Brothers Grimm and The Bremen Town Musicians.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

Tech rehearsal for ‘The Brothers Grimm’. Pictured L to R: Mathieu Abel, Bradley Christensen, my arm. Photo by Adanya Dunn.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

The Brothers Grimm are very excited indeed about grammar and bibliographical style. Pictured L to R: Samuel Chan, Mathieu Abel. Photo by Bradley Christensen.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

The Miller’s Daughter realizes this Rumpelstiltskin fellow means business as the Brothers Grimm write in the background. Pictured L to R: Keith Lam, Lara Secord-Haid, Bradley Christensen, Mathieu Abel. Photo by Adanya Dunn.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

Backstage at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion. Pictured L to R: Music director Julie Jordan Gunn, Keith Lam. Photo by Kjel Erickson.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager)

‘The Bremen Town Musicians’: The Cat is in trouble for letting a mouse chew the Poet’s books, witnessed by the Dog and Donkey. Pictured L to R: Emma Char, Samuel Chan, Adanya Dunn, Kjel Erickson. Photo by Bradley Christensen.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

The Bremen Town Musicians (Dog, Donkey, Rooster, Cat) head into the forest with trepidation. Spot the tenor joke! Pictured L to R: Danielle MacMillan, Bradley Christensen, Mathieu Abel, Lara Secord-Haid. Photo by Adanya Dunn.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

Second backstage area behind the giant book–no passage between the two backstages! Pictured L to R: Adanya Dunn, Andrew Derynck. Photo by Kjel Erickson.

Now, we’re just finishing the run of Faust, directed by Valerie Kuinka and conducted by Maestro Philip Morehead. I mostly learned this opera and backstage tasks “on the fly” after the Burry performances, based on notes Dana kept in rehearsals. In my experience, apprentice stage managers often perform the duties of an assistant stage manager, which is how HOS does things too. I’m backstage assisting the singers, supervising set changes, managing props, and paging curtains. It’s a fun change of pace to be right in the thick of things, and a pleasure to hear the beautiful music up close rather than through a monitor.

Here are some photos of Faust rehearsals.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

Faust and Mephistopheles spy on Siebel as he collects flowers for Marguerite. Pictured: Danielle MacMillan, Kijong Wi, Dylan Wright. Photo by Keith Lam.

Katherine Belyea Stage Manager

A photo I took to record how to preset props on Faust’s alchemy table

← Return to Blog