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Navigating a career in stage management

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Navigating a career in stage management

Beonica Bullard says her job as a stage manager chose her. Photo by Christian Hicks

Beonica Bullard says her job as a stage manager chose her. Photo by Christian Hicks

Beonica Bullard says her job as a stage manager chose her. Photo by Christian Hicks

Beonica Bullard says her job as a stage manager chose her. Photo by Christian Hicks

by Kayleigh Venne, Staff Writer

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Sometimes our passions find us in the most unconventional and unexpected ways. San Diego State television, film and new media senior Beonica Bullard never wanted to be a stage manager until the position chose her.

“I’ve always loved theater,” she said. “I actually always wanted to be an actor until I came here. [During] orientation someone came in and asked ‘So, who wants to do stage management?’ and no one raised their hand.”

That someone was Hannah May, a then TFM senior, who would become one of Bullard’s biggest inspirations and friends.

“She gave me an in depth tour of the theatre department and a breakdown of what stage management would entail,” Bullard said.

May told her that not many students were interested in stage management, but that she was willing to take Bullard under her wing to teach her as much as she could if she was up for it.

At this moment, Bullard decided to take the plunge and dive into the unknown.

She recognized a role that needed filling and could provide job security while also maintaining her passion for theater.

At SDSU, stage management is not it’s own major, but is still vital to every theatrical production. The university does offer one 400 level stage management class. During her first semester, Bullard took it and fell in love.

“I realized that I had a new direction in life and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.

Stage managers are at the very heart of a production and are responsible for making sure the show goes on, no matter what.

“We are the go-to people of the theatre,” Bullard said. “We are almost on the same level as the director. We are the director’s right hand man and act as the mediators for everyone. We make sure that everything is going smoothly at all times.”

The entire process to produce a show only takes three months, at the most. The first month is full of weekly design meetings with the directors. Next, comes about a month and a half of rehearsals. The rehearsals lead into tech week, dress rehearsals and then the final production.

Bullard’s first show was “The Jungle Book,” by Margaret Larlham.

It was her first role ever as an assistant stage manager and enjoyed the entire experience.

Although the grueling production felt like an eternity, Bullard said she found it extremely rewarding.

She went on to be an assistant stage manager for “Water by the Spoonful,” by CJ Keith and “ALICE: Curiouser and Curiouser,” by Margaret Larlham.

Bullard dropped her “assistant” title and had her debut as a stage manager during her junior year.

She managed “Into the Woods,” a full-fledged musical by Paula Kalustian. Bullard said this was her most difficult show and her biggest learning experience.

“So much went into (Into the Woods.) This show was very hard, because I had to know all of the choreography and call over 600 cues,” Bullard said. “I stayed in the building until 3 a.m. to get the rhythm and everything down.”

Bullard also had the opportunity to stage manage director and playwright Margaret Larlham’s last on-campus show, the “Big Friendly Giant.”

Bullard works alongside Jay Sheehan, the school of TFM’s faculty-production manager.

“Beonica works very hard at trying to be the best that she can,” Sheehan said. “As a stage manager, she works with directors exceptionally well and is well liked by her peers, which is one giant trait that a good stage manager must possess.”

Sheehan said he is especially proud of Bullard’s off campus work at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

Bullard works with the Department of Community Engagement and helps to produce art festivals for families. For someone who never planned to become a stage manager, Bullard is making great strides in navigating her future career.

She said her dream is to stay here in her hometown of San Diego with her family, but she isn’t opposed to moving back to where she lived in high school, Las Vegas, if an opportunity presented itself.

“I could see myself working at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza, downtown,” Bullard said.

She recently spent a day participating in a stage reading at the theatre and had the chance to discuss future opportunities with an employee there. Bullard is interested in joining the Repertory Theatre’s fellowship upon graduating, which would be a full-time position.

“The employee said that he would love to interview me and if that goes through I would love to stay here and become a professional stage manager in San Diego,” Bullard said. “The Repertory Theatre seems very interested in me, and if I could stay [here] I would love that so much.”

As far as big Hollywood dreams go, Bullard isn’t interested. The idea of moving to New York or Los Angeles intimidates her. The theatre community in San Diego is smaller than it seems.

“San Diego is the biggest, smallest town ever,” Bullard said. “I’ve worked with a few of the theatre companies here in San Diego, and everyone knows everyone.”

Bullard feels that SDSU has given her a strong network of people who can propel her to success.

“There is always someone that I can go to,” Bullard said. “I think it’s a really great network here.”

Bullard just finished up her last production at SDSU, “Julius Caesar.”

“I’m shocked that it’s been four years,” said Bullard. “It’s exciting to close a chapter and open a new one, but it’s scary and sad. Julius Caesar was the most lovely show, and I’m proud to call it my last.”

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