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  • Writer's pictureLisa Baldacchino

Ann-Marie Camilleri

Heeelloooo Beautiful People!! I hope you're doing well. So a couple of weeks ago we featured a Stage Manager in the industry. This time we are going to feature an Assistant Stage Manager. For those of you who are not sure what an Assistant Stage Manager is, this person is the Stage Managers right hand person. This person calls the show whether its lights, sound, set, cast anything and everything. The show runs thanks to the Stage Manager and the Assistant Stage Manager.

Do you remember Il-Kbir Ghadu Gej! That massive Maltese musical done by Teatru Malta at the Meditteranean Conference Centre? Or the recent production of The Importance of Being Ernest?

These shows including others were all in the hands of one person

Ann-Marie Camilleri

Ann - Marie Camilleri is a 31 year old Primary Teacher who is a freelance Assistant Stage Manager. This week we got to interview her and find out what it really means to be an Assistant Stage Manager.

Photo taken during Raymond Fight Beck

How would you describe an Assistant Stage Manager’s Job?

Compared to how it’s perceived in theatre

productions abroad, being an ASM in Malta is more of a handful than one sure expects. You assist the director with all that needs to be done – anything from schedules, running errands, setting up meetings, being present to all the rehearsals, being book, running the show and making sure the well-being of the whole creative team, cast and crew is all well. The role of Production Managers and Stage Managers do work hand in hand with such a role, but I consider the ASM to be a production-mummy and the underdog of the show.

How and When did you start working as an Assistant Stage Manager:

It was quite a funny thing how this happened. This time 5 years ago, I was in my school’s staff room cleaning my mug and minding my own business, when my then assistant head and now dear friend, Dr Tyrone Grima, came up to me and told me if I wish to be book for his upcoming production Children of a Lesser God. Back then I had no clue or inclination to theatre, so my first reaction was, “What is book?” He calmly explained and I told him I’ll just pop by a rehearsal and see if I can do what he’s asking. 5 years late, and I never looked back since. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I owe it all to Tyrone.

Photo taken during The Importance of Being Ernest.

What is the rehearsal process like for an Assistant Stage Manager?

One word: intense. I am a primary teacher by profession, so being organized, constantly on the go and always on top of everything is an instilled skill and talent you must have. Putting all that strength and focus onto a rehearsal process is a bonus. You are first there and last to leave. You write down blocking, take down notes, meet director/creative team/cast/crew needs and make sure everyone is doing his job right. One slip, and a rehearsal session can be a bit of a mess. Prior to rehearsing, you need to schedule and make sure all the cast is available, which let’s face it, in Malta it’s always a headache. However, all worth it.

What is the Production Week process like for an Assistant Stage Manager?

You become one with the theatre space. You spend most of your evenings (and sometimes days) there. I am dedicated, so I go in early, make sure my headspace is right and get the show on the road as fluently and productively as possible. The ASM needs to be in constant communication with the SM since during that week, the big bulk of work is handed over to them. Also, lighting, visual and sound cues need to be up and running by then, and knowing the show inside out, but by then, you end up saying the lines yourself and cuing with eyes closed due to the constant presence in the previous weeks of rehearsals.

What skills do you feel are necessary for a person in your position?

You need to be organized, good at crisis managing, a people-pleaser, alert, constantly available and most importantly, committed. You cannot do anything without your full commitment. Not doing something which you enjoy is unworldly. Do what you love, and you never work a day in your life – or something like that.

Photo taken during: Robin Hood u Marian together with the production and creative team.

As an Assistant Stage Manager what do you think is the biggest challenge you face when working on a show?

Production Week as technical issues are always a headache and it makes you spend longer hours at the theatre. This leads to trying to make people happy and aid different strands of the production to problem-solve stuff as efficiently as possible.

What do you love about your job?

I always say this: the fact that you see a script, pages of text, come to life is so satisfying! Knowing you are part of it makes you feel super proud. Seeing your name on the programme is always an honour. Also, the constant meeting of new people and spending time with amazing people you had already worked with.

Can you mention some of the shows that you have ASM’d?

So many to mention, but if I had to mention my favourite and proudest five, I would have to say: Mela Hawn xi Manikomju?, Raymond Fight Beck, Boulevard, The Importance of being Earnest and Il-Kbir Għadu Ġej!

What is the difference so between a Stage Manager and an Assistant Stage Manager?

I did discuss this a bit earlier in a previous question, but if I had to pin it down, according to Maltese standards, a SM take mostly care of backstage and the running order taking place there, including the assembling and disassembling during production week and post show, whilst the ASM takes care of the front of house activity and running the show from there.

Any advice for anyone who would like to start Assistant Stage Managing?

Just go for it, be present, be focused, be committed, but mostly, ENJOY YOURSELF!

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