On the Record with Kestrel Felt and Olivia de Toma, Pericles Stage Managers

Vida Weisblum, Arts Editor

This week, the Review sat down with Pericles stage manager and College junior Kestrel Felt and assistant stage manager and College sophomore Olivia de Toma to discuss their involvement in the upcoming adapted main stage production of Shakespeare’s Pericles. They were excited to share news about transitioning onto the main stage, Renaissance literature and 20-foot puppets.

I’ve heard you’re both pouring your hearts and souls into Pericles. Why is Pericles so exciting and important?

Olivia de Toma: Olivia nods vigorously! [Laughs.]

Kestrel Felt: I care a lot about Pericles because I am also an English major, and I have been focusing a lot on Renaissance literature and trying to combine my interest in that with my work in the theater, and so stage managing Shakespeare gives me an outlet to do that. I have found myself caring about Pericles because it’s a play not many people know of and they especially don’t know that it’s Shakespeare. And it’s very rare that it’s performed. I’m trying to make it as good as it can be and make it exciting for the Oberlin community.

OT: I like plays and I like [our

entire] cast, and I like [our director] Paul Moser. And he’s really invested in it, Kestrel is really invested in it, and that makes me really invested in it and just wanting our cast to have the best time.

What has your involvement been in Pericles, and what has your role been aside from your designated titles?

KF: We are “team stage management,” which is a really important job in any theater production. Stage managers are really in charge of the organization of the play —organizing rehearsals, sending out rehearsal reports every night, making sure that there is communication between the cast and director and also between the director and the design team. So I’ve been kind of doing that for the past few months. Then, during rehearsals, making sure the space is set up, making sure the actors have everything they need and recording everything that happens so that we can do it again, and then when we move to Hall [Auditorium], moving more into production mode. I’m the one that calls all the cues for the show; Olivia is taking care of props and making sure everything is in the right place every night. It’s kind of making sure the director’s concept and vision for the show can actually [come to fruition] and create it every night.

OT: Without stage managers the show does not happen, and a lot of people do not realize that.

Have you had any personal influence over how the play has unfolded or been adapted?

KF: [The] stage manager’s job … is less of an artistic job and more of a technical job. It’s more like a management job, so I’ve been working really hard to make sure that what Paul wants [to happen] actually does.

OT: We usually pipe up when we think something technical needs to change. Like if something about a prop isn’t working, we’ll help them voice that and work with the director to switch that around.

How do you think Pericles fits into the realm of Oberlin? Does it?

KF: I was actually thinking about this biking over here. I think at a liberal arts college, it’s really important to experience as much as you can, even if it’s things you don’t really focus on. I think Pericles combines a lot of things that can draw an audience.

OT: From an actor’s standpoint, there’s a lot of things that they might not have been able to do, like with huge puppets. We have puppets!

What kind of puppets?

OT: Big puppets. 20-foot puppets. We need stage crew to help get them on stage because they’re so big. We don’t have any sound cues.

KF: The cast does all the sound for the show with their mouths —

OT: That’s why I call it “a cappella-cles.”

KF: And to have it here in this setting, where we’ve had professional designers build this incredible set and these puppets — it’s such a cool experience. [Paul] also adapted Pericles for the setting, so it’s a fun show to watch because there’s a lot of mask work.

How difficult will it be to shift from the rehearsal space to Hall Auditorium? How does being in Hall differ from other performance spaces you’ve worked in?

KF: Usually we rehearse in Warner [Gymnasium] and we move over to Hall [Auditorium] about three weeks before the performance, so we’ve been there for a while now. Generally, once the set is up, we start having rehearsals onstage.

OT: I like going into Hall and seeing the actors’ faces when they see their set for the first time.

KF: The first day is really exciting, because in rehearsal they just have tape on the floor, and then when they walk in [to Hall] it’s, like, dimensional. And our set is very cool with a lot of different levels.

OT: It is not flat.

KF: I’ve worked on a lot of student shows in a lot of different spaces. I’ve done shows in Wilder [Main], I’ve done shows in Little Theater, and the biggest difference for me is that when you work on a main stage show you are more directly in contact with faculty designers and directors — sort of communicating with them and operating with them on that level is really great.

OT: It’s kind of like training wheels for a professional show. It is, in a sense, kind of professional work. It feels pretty legit to me.