Jane Kuipers: Stage Manager – Theatre People
By Mitch Stark
Hello again, Theatre People! This week I’m so excited to introduce you to stage manager Jane Kuipers!
Jane has worked in an array of theatrical performance arenas and companies, including Opera Grand Rapids, the San Diego Opera, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Dance Theatre and most recently the Atlanta Ballet.
I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did!
Jane Kuipers, Theatrical Stage Manager at Atlanta Ballet and the San Diego Opera.
Jane, what’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
I have worked on many shows (30+ years!) and in a variety of positions, so when I boil it down I come up with a type of show more so than a particular production. A show with more than entertainment, that has a message (even a feel good one), that the audience really gets all at the same time can keep me going for a long while. I guess a recent example would be Dwight Rhoden’s ballet Sunrise Divine. It is a powerful piece that combined the Atlanta Ballet with the Spelman Glee Club performing gospel and spiritual songs. Amazing collaboration. Another is a very safety-conscious production, in a tent, that I worked with The Atlanta Opera in October 2020. The cohesion of the artists, technicians, crew, audience and administration was amazing and we created a much needed live performance.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
I think my happiest moments are when an audience of school-aged children, some who have never attended live theatre, are invited to watch a final dress rehearsal or special children’s performance. That audience is the most honest and open of any, and will give such tremendous energy back to the stage. Even a show that I have done many times gives me and the cast a jolt from all of the reactions and applause.
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
There are so many! The biggest one would be when I had to stop a ballet performance of Cinderella because a soft drop got caught on the hard drops downstage of it during a scene change. We had to close the grand drape, free the drop, then continue. This happened on TWO performances. Getting on the God mic and saying “Ladies and Gentlemen….” is always fun (not!).
Why do you love theatre?
I thrive on the combination of so many different art forms into a final, live performance that relies on human communication and interaction to be complete. Take opera – instruments, voices, staging, libretto, dance, costumes, makeup, wigs, lighting, scenery, acoustics, performance space – all of these must combine to create a final offering for an audience, and even with problems and differences it is amazing to see it happen. Every single time.
Theatre is for…
Theatre has been a vehicle of communication for thousands of years, to present feelings, ideas of reform, explanations, protests, grief, joy, enlightenment, teaching, beauty, control, political messages and simple entertainment. The stage can have an astounding effect on people.
More about Jane
“My love of theatre began when I was a child in St. Louis, MO, when we attended the Muny Opera outdoor performances in Forest Park. We had a glimpse of children preparing backstage before a show and I was hooked. After a slight detour towards Physical Therapy in college, I worked as a stage manager in whatever I could find – opera, outdoor drama, rep theatre, musical theatre and dance. Companies I have worked with include Opera Grand Rapids, the San Diego Opera, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Dance Theatre and most recently the Atlanta Ballet. I have had the opportunity to work in some great theatres as well – old, restored vaudeville theatres, the Kennedy Center and the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I’ve been in the business a while (35+years) and hope to continue once we can open again. I credit my theatre instinct to my grandfather, who traveled with a small vaudeville troop connected to the Belmont School of Acting in St, Louis (circa 1903). He was a performer and a stage manager.”