An Interview with Alumnus Blake Kile on Stage Managing The Servant of Two Masters

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12-Dec-16
 
Blake Kile ‘16 is the assistant stage manager for Theater for a New Audience’s The Servant of Two Masters, a new production of the classic commedia dell'arte adapted for today. The 18th century play by Carlo Goldoni tells the story of a desperate servant working for two different masters. This contemporary adaptation mixes the original text with actor improvisations, making no two performances the same. The spontaneity of the performance also creates a unique challenge for the stage management team. We sat down with Kile to talk about the production and life as a stage manager after graduation.
 
What is unique about The Servant of Two Masters and your experience of working on this show?

What’s nice about it is the ability to adapt the story for where we’re playing. This production has been done about 6 times across the country and they change about thirty-three percent of the show for each location and what’s going on in the current news. And then each night the show is ten percent different because of the improv nature of the show. So it keeps the stage management team on their feet.
 
There’s a specific moment during the call of the show where there’s a light switch that turns on and off the lights, and the monologue during that cue is completely improvised around what [the character] Truffaldino is thinking that night. Calling that cue requires being in the moment with the actors and predicting what they’re going to do. Really, in that moment we’re acting with them. We have to be in tune and in synch with the actors.
 
One of the things Columbia taught us was about adapting to different rehearsal styles. The rehearsal room for this production was really open and fluid. That helped to develop a relationship with the actors, allowing us to really get into their minds and predict what’s coming up with them.
 
How has your experience at Columbia influenced your career so far?

I actually met the production stage manager of this show, Sonja Thorson, on an internship that I was doing for one of my requirements for the program. We work a lot together and that development has been nice. So the connections that Columbia offers has been a major influence. Also, we played a lot of “what if” in our classes, and the ability to constantly be thinking on my feet is really helpful on this style of show.
 
How did you adjust to leaving Columbia and moving into the New York theater world full-time?

When I came to Columbia I was coming from working full-time in the industry, so it was nice to jump back into that and get my feet wet again. This show is my fourth since graduating [in spring of 2016].
 
What is your favorite type of show to work on?

I like the big musicals. I like having a lot of moving parts, whether it’s technical elements or a lot of actors or anything like that. I like when it’s a puzzle and we have to figure out how to get from point A to point B and how to do that the most effective way.
 
How did you decide to be a Stage Manager?

I started in high school. I really enjoyed being in the creative room with the director and actors, and I always had a nerdy side for the tech side of theater. I liked figuring out how things happen and who is in charge of making those things happen. In stage management, I get to dabble in all those worlds and foster a safe and inviting space for all in rehearsals so that the art can happen every night.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.