Ending Up In Las Vegas: A Stage Manager’s Story
By Mary Barnett
My nightly commute home from work includes walking past the line for a Las Vegas nightclub and wondering why so many young women have such terrible friends that let them leave their hotel rooms looking the way they look.
I have lived in Las Vegas for 12 years (at the time of this writing), and it still feels weird to say that I live in Las Vegas. Growing up on the northeast side of the U.S., Las Vegas was always one of those places that only existed to me in movies. I didn’t visit this strange city until I joined my first tour while they were playing at The Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood), at the tender young age of 22. I had no reason to venture off The Strip since food and alcohol are literally everywhere. And what more does one need than food and alcohol when living out of a suitcase?
Only three years later, I found myself moving from New York to Las Vegas to be an Assistant Stage Manager for “Avenue Q” at The Wynn. When that show closed after 10 months (far shorter than the expected run), I had to look for a new job in Vegas since I couldn’t afford to move back east.
Aside from an office temp job here and there in Manhattan, I was fortunate enough to have worked steadily on musicals and plays since graduating from college.
I went old-school with my job search in Vegas and mailed hard copies of my resume to every production in town. The wonderful PSM at Penn & Teller was the only one to respond and hired me to be an on-call SM, thus becoming my first non-traditional theatrical show.
During my time at Penn & Teller, I interviewed for a stage management job for the soon-to-open Las Vegas production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” That was one of the few interviews I’ve had that felt like a complete waste of time. All of the questions centered on my experience with automation, of which I had none.
Literally, ZERO experience, unless you count the flying puppet beds in “Avenue Q.” A short time after that interview, I was hired as an ASM at “The Beatles LOVE,” which was Cirque du Soleil’s newly opened show and where my boyfriend (now husband) was already working. I had no idea if I would like switching from musical theatre to French-Canadian circus, but for me, it’s always been the people that make theatre what it is.
Thankfully the people at Cirque are just as enjoyably crazy as the people in musical theatre.
I do miss a good old song-and-dance number that involves jazz hands and a time step, but I get my fix at plenty of other local professional theatres. (Side note: We have WAY more Automation in “Love” than in “Phantom.” So there.)
When I graduated from college with a B.A. in Theatre, I had no idea how someone could have a normal life while working in this industry.
My good fortune and work in Las Vegas have allowed me to get married, buy a house, have two kids, live near many family and friends, and have as much stability as it is possible to have while working in entertainment.
I don’t think anyone dreams of living in Vegas and raising a family, but I’m sure as hell glad it worked out this way.