Brian August, DMMO’s Production Stage Manager, answers questions about working behind-the-scenes, organized chaos and the many voices inside his head(phones)!
Q: How long have you worked with DMMO?
Seven seasons! I started out in 2011 and here we are today!
Q: How did you start out in the industry?
I started out stage managing in high school, went to school at Boston University for stage management (go terriers!) and have continued ever since graduation in 2010. I made my professional opera debut in 2009 with A Little Night Music where I was the 2nd ASM, so this show holds a very special place in my heart. Right after college I had a brief stint away from opera where I worked at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, where I managed 500 people, developed the procedures for the fireworks shows, and more! After Busch Gardens, I went back to doing opera and have been doing it ever since!
Q: What exactly are you hearing on your headset during performance? What do you say into the headset?
I am giving all the various operators all their warnings, standbys, and go’s. Nothing happens on that stage unless it’s cued via myself, or a member of my staff. My headset hears all departments, and their headsets only hear their own. It can be a bit disorienting if you’re not used to hearing 10+ voices constantly talking while having to listen to the music in your other ear! We also have a separate paging microphone to give warnings through the entire backstage to any scene changes to crew not on headset, to costume quick changes, ends of acts, and calling singers to the stage for each entrance.
Q: What are some of the challenges with the shows this season?
This season is very large! In addition to calling Billy Budd, a large part of my day is scheduling my staff, as everyone is working on more than one project. I need to make sure that all the assistant stage managers and interns see each scene at least once before a run-through, and that all the large rehearsals have the appropriate staffing. Keeping all the puzzle pieces in play for all shows is quite tricky. Each of these shows are very large. On either end of the spectrum you have two massive chorus shows, and sandwiched in the middle is A Little Night Music which has many scene changes, props, costumes, and never stops moving. Turandot and Billy Budd have great periods of staged chaos followed by small intimate scenes. It’s quite the contrast!
Q: Where have you worked and what has been your favorite production to work on?
I am currently both the production stage manager for The Atlanta Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera. Aside from these two companies, I have worked at a total of 13 opera companies. Favorites (and formerly regular gigs) include Michigan Opera Theatre and Sarasota Opera (which is how I know Stephanie Sundine). I don’t think I’m able to identify one favorite show, but I would have to say it’s either Eugene Onegin or Dead Man Walking at DMMO, or Silent Night or María de Buenos Aires at The Atlanta Opera. Those shows were incredibly special to me. Coincidentally, both shows at DMMO were directed by Kristine McIntyre and those at The Atlanta Opera by Tomer Zvulun. Both Kristine and Tomer are the directors I work with the most, and we have an incredible level of trust built up over the years; it’s quite remarkable!
Q: What part of the production process excites you the most?
TECH! It’s stage management’s one shot to do what we do best! It’s by far the most intensive four hours you’ll ever experience, but in the end it’s just another rehearsal.
Hometown: Franklin, MI
Education: BFA from Boston University
Favorite composer: I tend to like early music or contemporary opera
Favorite singer: Beyonce
Favorite opera: Eugene Onegin, Dead Man Walking, Silent Night, Jenufa, Don Carlos, Così fan Tutte (I can’t pick one!)
Favorite book: Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Cronica de Una Muerte Anunciada) by Gabriel García Márquez – I’ve read it both in English and Spanish
Favorite foods: Hummus
Favorite color: Blue