Lights, camera, action.
For performers, this is their cue to hit the stage and perform, but for stage managers like Olivia Ramos, who recently graduated from Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen, the action has been happening for quite a while before the performers ever take stage and will continue well after the final curtain call.
Ramos, a Charlotte native who studied entertainment design and technology at WCU, knew she wanted to do something involving the arts, but her small high school did not offer a theater arts program.
“I knew that I wanted to be involved in the arts and do something where I could help people,” Ramos said. “My senior year I joined our local theater and ran the one spotlight they had and got my first introduction to what happens backstage and thought this might be a career opportunity.”
During that time, Ramos had not even begun looking at colleges when she attended a production at WCU’s Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center and really connected with the idea of studying to become a theater tech.
During her time in the program, Ramos helped with backstage duties such as lighting, sound, scenic painting when needed and stage management, which was her concentration.
“A typical day as a stage manager can be one of a thousand things,” Ramos said. “It just depends on the day and what the production schedule looks like; but a typical day involves paperwork, sending out daily calls, making sure the actors know when they need to be in here and get their hair and makeup done and in costume on time.”
When it is showtime, Ramos’ duties shift from daily calls to calling cues.
“I make sure that everybody's arriving on time and everything is going well and there are no fires to put out,” Ramos said. “I call cues, check on hair, makeup and wardrobe and also check-in with all of the different departments.”
When asked what her favorite show was, Ramos said she could not pick just one, but there was a show that was very memorable for her.
“One of my most memorable experiences was working on ‘Heathers the Musical,’ because it was my first-time stage managing,” Ramos said. “Though I was stressed with being new to this program and position, I found out that it was something that I really enjoyed and wanted to make a career out of. So that show for me is just super special because it was the first time that I thought maybe I could do this.”
When asked about her time at WCU outside of the theater, Ramos shared her experience of reconnecting with middle school classmates and trying new things.
“I think one of the most memorable things about being here at Western has just been the people I've met,” Ramos said. “I actually ended up becoming really great friends with people that I went to middle school with but I never really talked to. So just finding those people that truly are just there for you, through your biggest things, your smallest things, your saddest things and your happiest things was a very happy surprise from my journey at WCU.”
Ramos also shared that reaching out and finding resources, knowing it is ok to ask for help, and also trying out a new hobby or activity was key to getting the most out of your college experience.
“Get out of your comfort zone and try new things,” Ramos said. “Lots of students come in thinking they have to do a particular program or a particular extracurricular activity but be open to whatever comes your way. Embrace the unknown.”