Stage manager of Fox Chapel Area musical thrives working behind the scenes

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When the musical “Guys and Dolls” takes the stage at Fox Chapel Area High school this week, the lights will shine on months of preparation and work, along with a kaleidoscope of talent.

The cast will take the bows at the Thursday-night through Sunday matinee shows. However, the crew hidden behind the curtain doesn't mind being out of the spotlight.

Stage manager Shannon Monahan said: “No one ever claps for you. No one knows except the people who are involved. It's hidden praise.”

Putting on a high-quality production is Shannon's goal.

It is a goal shared by her fellow crew members and the cast.

“Everyone's No. 1 goal is a great show,” she says.

In many ways, the show is in Shannon's hands.

As stage manager, she began organizing the production in December.

She scheduled the choreographer, director and producer before casting took place.

After auditions were complete, she scheduled rehearsals and attended them all.

After winter break, show prep kicked up, so Shannon began leaving her home at 7 a.m.

She attended her high-level classes, went to musical practice and returned home at 9 p.m. to complete her homework and exercise before falling into bed.

Show week, which actually started with the senior citizens dress rehearsal on Tuesday of this week, gets more hectic.

During the show, Shannon is in the production booth at the rear of the auditorium, where she cues the lights, curtain and sound.

Her apprentice, sophomore Claire Durr, is stage left, and her assistant, junior Reegan Curry, is stage right.

“I'm not moving at all. It's my word that starts things,” Shannon says.

More than most stage managers, Shannon knew what to expect because her older sister worked in the position.

A member of the concert choir and Madrigal Singers, Shannon didn't try out for the cast as a freshman.

Instead, chorus director Craig Cannon offered her a backstage position.

She apprenticed under Cate Markert and Martina Laux, previous stage managers.

Even though Shannon loves making music, she is proud of what she does backstage.

“We put so much energy into the shows, it's heartbreaking when it's over,” she says. “It becomes your baby. It's a passion.”

While organization and perseverance are important, management is key to the job.

No matter what breaks loose, Shannon works to maintain her calm so those around her are cool, too.

“These are the three fastest months of my life. Yeah, it's a lot of work but we're having fun,” Shannon says.

The active girl who works at a local boutique and volunteers for mission trips prefers to be busy.

Next up is organizing the concert choir invitational April 9.

“I feel under pressure 95 percent of the time,” she says. “When it clears up, I fill it up with more. I love to feel busy and love the responsibility — that's my personality.”

With the end of the musical, Shannon's current job is done, and next week, she is off with classmates on a trip to Puerto Rico.

Her long-range plans still are up in the air, even though she knows her major will be in business administration.

She plans to keep singing with a college choir no matter where she goes.

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer with Trib Total Media.

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