Carter on the very right with the whole cast and crew of Northwestern's 2018 production of "Vinegar Tom." The primary color palette is black, blue, and red.

I came to Northwestern for theatre, but I never in my life thought that I’d have an opportunity in my first year to work on a main-stage production. When you’re looking at theatre schools, the majority of them restrict involvement in the technical fields to second- and third-year students. The majority of roles go to these upperclassmen, whose grade within their acting track is entirely dependent on getting cast. Northwestern, however, is different.

As a part of my fall quarter, I had the opportunity to take on one of the most sought-after theatre management classes at Northwestern, “Introduction to Stage Management.”  The role of a stage manager is incredibly multifaceted, but ultimately it boils down to managing schedules for rehearsals, facilitating communication between design staff, and running the show as soon as the rehearsal process ends. It’s the job I found myself loving in high school, and it only made sense to pursue it further on-campus.

As one of two first-years in the class, I definitely had no idea what to expect. I didn’t come in with the knowledge of Northwestern theatre like my friends who did Cherubs (the theatre summer program for high school students.) This didn’t prove to be a barrier at all; in fact, when it came to stage management, having a variety of different experience can help you to effectively problem solve. The most practical way to learn the intricacies of Northwestern theatre, however, was simply to get involved. That’s where Vinegar Tom comes in!

The major nexus of the class was the practicum: the application of the skills you learn in an actual show process. I had the pleasure of being placed with the Vinegar Tom team in Winter quarter as the only Assistant Stage Manager on a very large show. My mentor, Barbara, had the utmost confidence in our abilities; she encouraged pushing ourselves further than ever, failing, and trying again harder. Jumping headfirst into a show definitely required a healthy amount of failure.

That first day of rehearsals was  terrifying. I was working with a professional stage manager who was so good at her job it made my head spin; the cast were some of the most talented people in and out of the theatre program. The amount of dedication from the entire team on addressing women’s issues was dizzying. I had a lot to prove, and it required putting my head down and working to the best of my ability to become a person who knew the answer before the question was asked. When it came to opening night, I found myself surrounded by some of the closest friends and hardest workers I could have asked for.

At the end of the day, many of your new experiences in college will feel like you’re flying blind into the night. That’s the exciting and fun part of coming to a new school with new freedoms; you get to learn more about yourself in the process. You may end up on headset backstage or onstage singing in front of a sold-out house! It’s the hard work that will get you there; it’s the friends you make along the way that keep you there.