Meet the Legally Blonde Stage Management Team

We spoke to Hope Killen (Stage Manager and third-year student) and Katie Browes (Assistant Stage Manager and first-year student) about their experiences in the stage management team for Mountview’s upcoming Musical Theatre show, Legally Blonde (1-7 April). Keep reading for an insight into the life of a stage manager, as well as to hear about Hope and Katie’s time at Mountview so far.

Why did you decide to train in stage management? 

Hope: I’ve always been interested in drama and acting. I studied drama at college and chose a stage management course to fill up my timetable, as I heard it would work well with acting. I also enjoy exploring my creativity, so the arts and crafts side of stage management appealed to me. I soon realised I didn’t have the confidence to be an actor and I was enjoying my stage management course so much that I decided to pursue it further and applied to Mountview.

Katie: I was very shy as a child, so started attending a local drama school to boost my confidence. I never wanted to be on stage: I struggled through it for 2 years, but couldn’t do it after that. I started helping out backstage instead and found that I really enjoyed it. I then studied stage management at college before coming to Mountview. 

Hope: Like a lot of other people at Mountview, we both came to stage management from a background in the arts. Job roles behind the curtain can be hard to get into and if you don’t know a lot about theatre it can be hard to comprehend what happens backstage. Having that initial involvement in theatre and finding out that there are people who source props or design and operate the lighting opens up new possibilities for those with the skills and interests for backstage roles. 

What has been the highlight of your time at Mountview? 

Hope: I love every show I’ve worked on! My first show at Mountview, Betty Blue Eyes, was a huge achievement for me. It was much bigger than any show I had worked on previously and it was a magical experience. It sold me on the course and showed me I had made the right decision by pursuing stage management. I’ve also enjoyed how varied the stage management course is. I’ve had lessons on lighting and sound so I can operate a full show if needed. I’ve had some great external opportunities too, such as a 6-week work placement on Moulin Rouge! in the West End. 

Katie: It’s only my first year at Mountview, but one of the highlights for me so far has been getting the opportunity to work on Legally Blonde. I love musicals and panto, so I was so pleased to get this show. 

Hope Killen as Deputy Stage Manager for Company, Mountview 2022. Photo by Cesare de Giglio.

What are your key responsibilities as the stage management team for Legally Blonde? 

Hope: As Stage Manager, I lead the stage management team and liaise with the production’s creative team. My key tasks currently include managing health and safety, looking after the budget and balancing this with the creative decisions of the director and supporting my ASM team with sourcing and making props. At the end of the rehearsal period, we will move into venue (The Mack), where I will lead tech and make sure everything is running smoothly. When the show is on, I will be floating around the SM team to support where needed. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for injuries and will be on-hand in the unlikely event of a show stop. 

Katie: As an ASM, I’m mainly working on props at the moment. This involves both finding and making them and making sure all props stay within budget. I’ve been having a lot of prop ‘adventures’ recently: for example, I travelled to Lewisham to pick up a salon chair for Legally Blonde, which I had to transport back on the bus! During the show, I will have cues to make sure the show runs smoothly and that everything is where it’s supposed to be. 

Hope: Stage management isn’t all just paperwork! We get to go on little adventures too, such as going to prop houses owned by professional theatres like the National to hire out props and furniture to be used in our shows.​ In my first year, I had to bring a wheelbarrow back to Mountview on the tube… I definitely got some funny stares.

Do you have a favourite part of Legally Blonde? 

Hope: My favourite part at the moment is ‘What You Want’. It’s performed much differently to how I’ve seen and heard it previously, so I’m excited for audiences to watch this section.  

Katie: This production is so satisfying to listen to and watch. The singers are all incredible. There’s also a constant stream of props being thrown at the ASMs in the wings, which will be a fun challenge for us during the shows. 

Hope: I’m also looking forward to working in The Mack. It’s such an easy space to transform and it’s amazing to see the variety of shows we’ve put on there. I also recently worked in the Backstage Theatre on Company and enjoyed the new challenges of a smaller venue.

Katie: I’m excited to work in The Mack too. When I came to Mountview, I was surprised by the high standard of the facilities. When I graduate and work professionally, I will have experienced most of the aspects of a professional theatre space, which I wasn’t expecting. 

What are the challenges of being a stage manager? 

Hope: Managing a budget and carrying out the vision of the director and designer can be tricky. They might want something that would normally cost £1,000, but we have to make it happen for £10! The health and safety side can be tricky too, as the team have to ensure props and furniture are safe to use while also fitting in with the creative needs of the show. It’s hard being the person who says no to certain props because of safety, but my creatives trust in the stage management team to keep everyone safe.

Katie: One of the most challenging things for me has been fitting my vision with that of the designer. Sometimes if they say a prop I have picked isn’t right, I feel a bit guilty about it. With experience, I’m learning that it’s not about me and I just have to keep trying! It’s also shown to me how important research is in sourcing props, as it makes for a much quicker process. 

Hope: A challenge for us recently has been making a fake cake that will look real to the audience. People think stage management is just about budgets and paperwork, but there’s a fun creative side to our role as well.