Meet Arkansas Light, Christmas Revels Production Stage Manager
Between the music, the costumes, the lights, and the actors, it takes a lot of coordination to run The Christmas Revels. Luckily, we have the incredibly talented Arkansas “Ark” Light, our resident Christmas Revels stage manager, to keep the wheels spinning and the curtain opening on time. We got to chat with Ark about her work backstage and her favorite moments from her years at Revels!
The Welsh Christmas Revels in 2015 was my first year. So I’ve done 5 years of Christmas Revels now.
The Christmas Revels is really its own animal. You come in pretty late in the Revels process, so it’s more about managing the different parts that have already been created and just getting them all to mesh together. The chorus already knows what they’re doing, everybody knows their blocking, and someone has already worked out who gets what props when, so I just have to come in and make sure everyone plays well together. I also help layer the technical elements on top of what the actors are doing. It’s always exciting to figure out what language I’m going to learn to speak each year. My first year, I showed up for the final rehearsal and they gave me a script to follow along. That first year was the Welsh show, and the Welsh language doesn’t look anything like it sounds. All of a sudden I have this script in front of me that has no vowels and I just have to follow along. I have to say there was a pretty big adrenaline rush after the first invited dress when I was able to say “I did this, this works, we’re good.”
You know, there’s something I love about each one.The Welsh show is always going to be close to my heart because of the dragons, and because it was my first one. The Acadian show had a lot of really special people in the cast and crew. The Venetian show was a hoot with the fake Morris men leading a prison break in Venice, I thought that was great. We had so much fun with that one. For the Nordic show, I think I learned three different languages. And the American celebration was really awesome too because it had such a big, diverse cast with so many different elements in it. You know, I don’t think I could pick a favorite, because each one has its own special thing. They all feel like my children.
I fell into it by accident. I performed in my high school theatre company, and really loved my time there, but I very much understood that I was a big fish in a little pond there and would be a little fish in a big pond if I went anywhere else. When I went to college, I wasn’t really doing any theatre – I was studying science. Then a friend of mine had to back out from stage managing a production for the multicultural performing arts group on campus and she thought that since I had theatre experience, maybe I could step in and support them. I’d never been a stage manager before, but I thought I could handle sitting in the chair and calling cues. It ended up being a really great experience, and I realized this was really where I wanted to be. Then I realized I could actually stage manage for a living. So I fell into it by accident, fell in love with it, and just stayed.
I actually got licensed as an EMT, and am pursuing that as well. And I had to deal with a bloody nose at a rehearsal not too long ago, so the skill sets are more related than you may think.
The most exciting part is always the tech portion. I like to say that I make magic for a living, and that’s where we start to layer in the magic. Sometimes that’s also the most challenging part, like in the case of The Merchant of Venice, which I’m doing now at Actors’ Shakespeare Project. I’m running lights and sounds together and there’s a LOT of both. My right hand and my left hand have to play pretty well together. Another challenging element is dealing with the people you’re working with and trying to get the personalities to mesh.
The Hotel Nepenthe, produced by Actors Shakespeare Project. It was written by a local playwright, John Kuntz and directed by David Gammons, and then we remounted it a few months later for the Huntington’s emerging artists program at the Calderwood. It had parallel universes, funky little stories, amazing lights and sound, and a great cast of four – it will always hold a very special place in my heart.
As I said, I’m working on The Merchant of Venice at Actors’ Shakespeare Company through October 17th. I also have The Inheritance booked for the spring at Speakeasy Stage Company.
I have this inside joke with Revels people who know me from years past, – it’s all about having a good time and trying not to suck.
Don’t miss Ark and the rest of the Christmas Revels team LIVE in Sanders Theatre this December!