Stars Behind the Stars: Alison Savino
BY Robbie Armstrong, October 13, 2020
Stars Behind The Stars is a bi-weekly series featuring theatre makers behind the scenes.
This week, we sat down with Stage Management student Alison Savino. Savino is a Pisces whose recent work includes In Our America: A Concert for the Soul of the Nation with Broadway For Biden. Savino is the Production Coordinator at The Argyle Theatre, on Long Island, and she and I both worked on The Argyle’s production of Cabaret, which closed early due to the pandemic.
Tell me about your first time in Theatre.
Alison Savino: My first theatre experience was in sophomore year of high school. I was doing the job and role of a stage manager for Camelot the musical but I wasn’t called a stage manager. I basically would help in every part of the show. I would assist the director, paint sets, organize backstage. When the actual stage manager joined the show, during tech, she changed everything I had done, and that’s when I realized that I was stage managing. That led me to find opportunities in local community theatres and start my theatre journey.
How does being a Pisces appear in your work?
AS: Pisces are very dedicated and sensitive people. A Pisces is all in when doing a project. I recently started a producing project for class and I realized how much I have to be all in on that project and a nurturer of the art I’m creating.
Tell me about working in Regional theatre and New York theatre simultaneously.
AS: When I was at New York Theatre Workshop, I felt like I was really a part of the community and I knew everyone really well. I find that same feeling when I work at The Argyle Theatre. I started working with The Argyle on the last show of their first season and I’ve now been with them for almost two years. I knew the Technical Director of The Argyle and he got me in as a stagehand on The Producers. I was asked to join the next show as a Prop Handler and then became an Assistant Stage Manager. I continued to get asked to do work for shows which has evolved into my consistent role as a Production Coordinator. I assist the Technical Director and I am heavily involved with acquiring Properties for shows. I do so much traveling to and from Long Island. Some days I’ll have class at Columbia and then have to run back to Long Island for tech. It can get crazy, but I love coming back to the community out at The Argyle.
Is it true that The Argyle is doing summer camps?
AS: Yes! Right now we aren’t doing shows, but we’re still able to do youth Theatre Intensives and we’re hoping we can start small concert and comedy events. We’re also considering opening our theatre for educational rentals so schools can come in and teach their students how to use more advanced theatre technical equipment.
Okay I just have to know, is the set from Cabaret still standing?
AS: Yeah it’s still there. We already put the money into it and the props rental company we were using went out of business so we went ahead and bought all the props too. We have everything ready to go for that show so it’s possible we could remount it once live performances indoors are allowed. We’d like to bring that show back.
How was working for the Broadway for Biden campaign and In Our America?
AS: It started when my professor, Matt DiCarlo offered me the opportunity to work as a Production Assistant on the show. In Our America: A Concert for the Soul of the Nation is a one-night only, all-star virtual event to benefit the Biden Victory Fund, presented by Broadway for Biden and directed by Tony Award® nominee Liesl Tommy. It’s being filmed all over the city. The show brought together more than 75 artists from Broadway and beyond, featuring original material, never-before-seen stagings of Broadway musical numbers, previews of Broadway-bound productions, and speeches that acknowledge the stakes of the present moment with a hopeful eye toward a better future. I assisted the stage managers and managed crowds so they didn’t interfere with the dancers. It was really cool to see the Broadway community and Columbia community come together. Rachel Zucker ’17 and Daniel Vaughn ’17 were both a part of the production. Our professors were there too: Diane DiVita was a Stage Manager for the show and our Production Management professor, Ryan Murphy was the COVID Compliance Officer. I already finished my part of working on the production but Kelley Moncrief and Lila Mullins are both shooting some upcoming footage.
What was your favorite part of doing the show?
AS: I loved when the streets would get really quiet and all the dancers would just nail the choreography. Our speaker was low but you could always hear the choreographer clap on the beat. It was kind of magical in some moments, when all you could hear was a choreographer clapping on beat, the faintest of music in the background, and the dancers shuffling through the movement. It was so quiet in Times Square and that’s how you knew everyone was really in it.
What’s a lesson you learned from your time at Columbia?
AS: I love learning about the industry because it allows me to be a better facilitator for other people’s voices. I want to make sure their voices are heard and don’t get lost. I also have been reminded that you have to find joy in the theatre and the art. Our jobs are very complex but we still have to continue to educate and value the people around us.
What kind of art do you think the world needs right now?
I knew you saw that and I was so jealous. I considered making the trip but it was too last minute for me.
AS: It was so lovely, staged outdoors with the gentle lighting, the sound of the bugs, and people on the lawn experiencing art. Rebecca Miller Kratzer staged the show so well. Nate Janis starred alongside Ida and they both had really great performances. My classmate Eden Mullins was their stage manager. Everyone brought their lawn chairs, sat in their little boxes, wore masks, and experienced a really beautiful show. Theatre started outdoors like this and this is the perfect time to return to that.
What’s your favorite play/musical?
AS: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder. It encompasses everything I love about classic musical theatre and everything I love about contemporary theatre. It’s stylized, wildly funny, and entertaining. It’s also the only show I’ve won lottery tickets for. I had the thrill of finding out I won the tickets at 4:00pm and had to run to the train from Long Island and I barely made curtain. The whole experience was exhilarating, especially because the show was closing soon.
What’s next for you?
AS: I’m producing a choreopoem called Time (Is) by Josh A. Campbell, an artist from Philadelphia. It’s a beautiful poem about how we find the beauty in the mundane around us. We’re going to have a collaboration with BIPOC artists in a virtual presentation of music, dance, and performance art. It will help young emerging artists collaborate with one another and have a platform for producing their work. I love Josh and was thrilled to be able to work with him on this project together.
And of course I’ll be watching the streaming of In Our America. It will stream on October 21st, on YouTube and Facebook.