Photo courtesy of Melissa Dooley.
The magic of the stage can’t happen without a stage manager. From cueing imaginary moonlight to blizzards of paper snow, Joelle Tucker oversees the enchantment of live theater for Alabama Ballet.
“Basically I’m like a play caller and bring together all the moving pieces of the show,” she said. “I call for lights, sound to go, for scenery to move and the curtain to open. I literally talk the whole show – it’s kind of like my own little performance.”
As a teenager, the Birmingham native knew she wanted to be involved in theater arts. But when she didn’t get the role she wanted in a production at her high school, she decided to try out a new skill: stage managing.
“I took right to it,” she said. “I found it a lot like math … just kind of breaking down the factors that go into balancing the equation of the show.”
Tucker thrived on it and went on to earn a theater degree at UAB. It was there that she first got plugged into Alabama Ballet. Her professors, Kelly Allison and Ed Zuckerman, worked for the company as production director and technical director.
“The company production manager position became available, and I moved into it with their help and guidance,” she said. “It was kind of a lot of responsibility for a 22-year-old … so I really credit them and their amazing leadership and patience in helping my transition be a successful one.”
Before any production hits the stage, there are hours, days, months of preparation and rehearsals. Now company stage manager, Tucker is there for it all.
Her position at Alabama Ballet also encompasses the day-to-day duties of company management at Alabama Ballet’s studios in downtown Birmingham. She posts casting and rehearsal schedules on the call-board and takes roll call for company ballet class. She checks the studio floors for slick or sticky spots. She observes rehearsals, documents choreography and takes notes about the lights, props and sounds that will be used in performances. And she checks in with the dancers, the costumes, prop and sound departments and with Artistic Director Tracey Alvey and Associate Artistic Director Roger Van Fleteren.
When the magic brewing in the studio comes to stage, the show becomes Tucker’s sole focus.
“I am set against all odds to keep the show moving seamlessly, no matter what else is happening backstage or, for that matter, the world around us,” she said. “The only world that matters is the world of the show. It must go on.”
Tucker’s next work is in the Alabama Ballet’s Feb. 17-19 production of “Giselle” at Samford University’s Wright Center.
In this classic love story-meets-ghost story, a German peasant girl’s life is animated by her love of dancing and her love of a mysterious new suitor. Her world is shattered by the revelation that her beloved, Albrecht, is actually an engaged nobleman in disguise. The shock proves too much for Giselle. After she dies, she is swept into the realm of the vengeful Wilis, the phantoms of women who died before their weddings who haunt the woodlands at night. The grieving Albrecht falls into their hands, but the spirit of Giselle, still moved by love, tries to save him.
Editor’s note: This article was produced in partnership with artsBHAM. To learn more about them, visit artsbham.com.