Meet the Staff

StageNotes

Meet the Staff: Nicki Berger and Rachel Canowitz, Production Assistants

By Melinda Graber, Marketing Apprentice

Rachel Canowitz and Nicki Berger

Rachel Canowitz and Nicki Berger

Tell us a little about yourselves.

Nicki Berger (NB): I grew up in Clearwater, Florida and fell into theatre in high school. That led me to The University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, where I studied Technical Design and Production with a concentration in Stage Management. Since graduating, I have worked at Fox 19 as a content specialist, interned at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and have stage managed several shows at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont.

Rachel Canowitz (RC): I grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio; and to this day, I’m still very aggressively Midwestern. I moved to Boston for college and worked in and around the area. Last season, I was a Production Assistant at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA. I moved to Connecticut to join Hartford Stage last August.

Tell us about the first time you experienced live theatre and how it impacted you.

NB: My grandma took me to see The King and I tour in Minneapolis when I was 8. I loved getting dressed up and seeing the show. It was much more of an event than any other entertainment I had seen before. I loved the experience!

RC: My parents always had season tickets to the local Broadway series, so really all of this is their fault. I can’t tell you the first time I experienced live theatre, but I certainly have very early memories of seeing musicals—Seussical, Annie, The Lion King—and becoming absolutely enamored. I loved watching magic happen in front of me, coupled with the visceral, joined experiences of everyone in the audience. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years actively seeking out live theatre and being involved in whatever way I could.

Take us through your day-to-day responsibilities as Production Assistants.

NB: We start our day by making coffee and distributing the daily schedule for each production team member. Our responsibilities may vary from production to production. On shows with large consumable props like food, glitter, or paper products, our job can include preparing an entire dinner like I did for Seder or filling robes and aprons with an assortment of glitter and confetti like in A Christmas Carol. We help ensure that our cast and crew are safe, both on and off stage, and that they arrive in the right costume, with the right props, on the right set in the allotted time.

RC: We arrive before everyone and depart after everyone. We provide hospitality (coffee, water, etc.) for our artists, help set up the room, and we work with the Stage Management team while a show is being shaped and built. We, along with the Assistant Stage Manager, keep track of every single thing that happens on and off stage—be it a scenic shift, a costume change, a prop handoff—and we help generate paperwork to prepare for performances. We also keep track of and distribute script changes, coordinate pieces going back and forth from the costume shop, and help actors run lines.

What drew you to working in the production side of theatre?

NB: ‪I was drawn to stage management because it allowed me to use my softer skills of organization and communicating to put on art and help artists feel cared for.

RC: I love watching the whole process, from start to finish, of putting theatre together. Working in stage management gives one insight into every single part of the process—the design, the rehearsals, the tech—and a key part of your job is organizing all the pieces of the puzzle so they function cohesively and consistently. Also, at the end of the day, I love a good spreadsheet.

Do you have other talents or passions outside of working in theatre?

NB: ‪I really enjoy yoga and painting. I'm currently working on a portrait of my grandparents and still working toward my headstand.

RC: I try to see as much theatre as I can when I’m not working, no matter how difficult my schedule may make it. Otherwise, I spend a good chunk of my time watching Netflix, finding places to eat in Hartford that are open on Sundays, and sitting quietly in various coffee shops pushing through my long reading list–really living that glamorous lifestyle.

What are your personal mottos in life?

NB: ‪“Do the most with what you have where you are.” It really helps tame my anxiety about not saving orphans in Africa because instead I'm helping actors and the community on the east coast.

RC: “Time is money, money is power, power is pizza, and pizza is knowledge.”