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SMNetwork Member Spotlight Interviews (now with text transcription!)

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Here's our first Member Spotlight SMNetwork Interview . . .

Maribeth Chaprnka!!!!

Please see PDF Attachement

Edit: Faffing with title - PSMK

Very nice!!

FYI, this will be a series. Matthew already has a full slate of interviewees culled from the top contributors to the SMNetwork community. If you want to be interviewed, post more. :)

Maribeth's SMNetwork profile: [link]

Plain text transcript of the PDF for folks on mobile & indexing in the site search:

Hello! My name is Matthew Shiner, and I have been a SM Network member for over 12 years (and something like 2400 posts). I am currently on tour, and I thought it would be interesting to interview some of SMNetwork members. One, I thought it would be good to get to know a bit about these individuals I have gotten to know over the years online. Two, I thought it would be good to give a little spotlight to stage managers, sharing a bit of information.

I do have to say with my first stage manager, I am cheating a little bit. Not only do I know her in real life, I have actually worked along side her. I brought Maribeth onto a show I did when I was the Resident Production Stage Manager at Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC, on a huge production of As You Like It – directed by Maria Aitken – with something like 140 quick changes, massive amounts of projections, and new score. In the piece, we changed period constantly, going from black and white films to a big Hollywood number at the end. My assistant and I both knew we were going to bring someone one to help put the show up. I remember being very impressed with Maribeth’s resume when she came in, but more taken by her work style and attitude – she instantly got the style and rhythm of what my assistant and I had found. She was a great addition to that team.

So, given I know her personally, and she is a very active member of the SMNetwork I thought she would make a great first interviewee – so, I reached out to her via email, and here are her responses.

Biographical Information

Real Name: Maribeth Chaprnka

Professional Name: same (not a lot of Chaprnkas out there- if you know one, they are almost certainly related to me).

Marriage Status: Unmarried, in a long-term relationship

Children: None yet, but one cat- Henry Percy

Where do you live now / homebase?: Just outside of Washington DC

How do you feel about DC as a place to be based out of?
I think the DC area is a great place to live and work. There's a vibrant theatre community here, and it's possible to make a decent living. I recommend to young SMs interested in the area to do an internship or apprenticeship here. It's a great way to make connections, as well as build a relationship with the theatre where you intern. I feel like I lucked out a bit- I hadn't chosen a major when I started college, but quickly found that my theatre program had so many connections to the community here. The faculty and staff work professionally in DC (as well as teach) so I found myself with a lot of great working relationships coming out of school. DC is also close enough to a number of other cities (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philly) with their own theatre scenes, and it's just a train or bus ride to NY. I do occasionally travel or do out of town shows, but for the most part, I am pretty rooted here.

Downsides to the area include 1) a high cost of living and if you don't drive, you're limited to theatres accessible by public transportation. 2) There are a number of theatres doing good work that can be great for building up your resume, but don't pay enough to offset the cost of living around here- many people have day jobs. 3) It can be hard to break into some of the larger theatres - knowing someone who works there can be a huge "in". Working there first as an intern or a PA can help you down the line.

If anyone is interested in the area I'm always happy to talk to them about it.

Where did you grow up? North of Baltimore, MD

Where did you go to college? (Undergrad / Grad) University of Maryland, College Park ( just outside of DC.

Did you do a professional internship, if so where? Yes- I was a stage management apprentice at Round House Theatre, a LORT theatre in DC, for the season after I graduated college. It was basically a non-AEA ASM gig, with a few other responsibilities. Doing an apprenticeship was a great way to get the experience I needed at that age, while making connections in my area. I learned so much from the PSM, and she's become a valuable friend and colleague.

What are you currently working on?
This season is all about children's theatre for me! I'm about to start prep for "Flowers Stink," a collaboration between the Kennedy Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden. It's a new musical that will perform at the Garden in a small outdoor amphitheatre. Right after that, I go into rehearsals for the remount of "Elephant and Piggie's We Are In a Play!" - I SMed the original production 2 years ago. The remount will be at the Kennedy Center Thanksgiving through New Years, and then I'm going on tour with the show January-March. Very excited to get my feet wet with the whole touring experience!

Flowers Stink:
Elephant and Piggie's We Are In a Play!:


1. Why Theater? Why Stage Management? You are at a cocktail party, and someone asks what you do for a living – how do you answer that question?
I've always loved theatre, but didn't intend on pursuing it as a career until college. I found that I loved how involved stage management is with all aspects of the production, and with all of the different collaborators- you get to work with everyone, and at the end of the day you're the one who's holding all of the different elements together. When I describe my job to people, I tell them that the stage manager helps run rehearsals and facilitate communication between all of the different members of the production, and during performances they maintain the production that we rehearsed and teched. And of course, call the cues, because everyone seems to understand that part of it. :)

2. What was your favorite production and why?
Right after my apprenticeship, I was an ASM on a production of A Prayer for Owen Meany at Round House- it was a big, epic production, with a large cast and crew, and many large scenic elements to manage. The cast and crew were great and I made friends on that show that I feel fortunate to work with now and again. We did potluck dinners on two-show Sundays and really enjoyed each other's company.

There were moments in the show that made me catch my breath night after night- every performance, I ran from the basement to SR to watch
(perfectly timed to the music) a giant black silk drop to reveal the back wall of the theatre painted with the American flag, as Owen rode a forklift carrying on a plain pine coffin onstage. It was one of my favorite theatrical moments, ever. I had a lot of responsibility on that show, with a lot of technical elements to coordinate, including flying actors. Overall an incredibly rewarding experience, and a lot of the things that I learned on that show have really stuck with me, including how to manage a large crew of mostly young people, and how to handle larger technical elements safely.

3. What’s your favorite part of the process and why?
Tech! I love putting the pieces together and seeing the fully-realized production emerge. It's really satisfying to see the prep work that you did pay off- something you noted in rehearsal come together, or a problem you saw ahead of time be avoided. In a weird way, I also really love prep week- it's the time when I learn the show and prepare myself for what's ahead.

4. What do you look for in an assistant? And, what do you look for in a supervisor?
In an assistant, I want to find someone who can be a collaborator and a contributing member of the team. Their job is not just an extension of mine- it has its own responsibilities, and I like working with someone I trust enough to really delegate tasks to. My favorite ASMs have been proactive- they solved problems on their own, but kept me in the loop, and took the initiative to take care of problems before/as they come up. A positive attitude and a good sense of humor is important to me as well- I'm going to spend a lot of time with this person, so I don't want someone who's going to be constantly complaining and/or miserable.

I like to work for people who trust me, who value my opinion and see me as a colleague and collaborator. I have no interest in working somewhere that doesn't see me as a team member. My favorite supervisors are ones who I feel I can bring problems to, knowing that we'll handle the issue and that I'll have their support with the solution.

5. What frustrates you about this job or this career? What are some the biggest challenges we are facing in the job or this career?
The uncertainty- I've spent most of my career freelancing, and always looking for the next production. I've had to scramble for work when shows have gotten canceled, and look for filler work when shows don't line up well.

I'm not great at networking- I hate schmoozing, and I don't really like being on social media. I'm sure there are opportunities I've missed because of this. I think people who excel at networking use these tools to get the next, better gig, and I find it frustrating since I'm not really interested in that.

As I've gotten older, my priorities have shifted a bit. When I first started, I really didn't care about making money- I just wanted to be able to support myself, and do what I loved, and I sacrificed a lot of time with family and friends to make that happen. I have other priorities now- a home, a partner, family events, etc- and I think one of the biggest challenges in this profession is making enough money to support yourself, enough health weeks to keep you insured, all while having enough time for yourself and your other life priorities to make you happy.

6. What do you to keep life and work balance?
It took me a long time to get to a place where I feel like I have a work/life balance. I used to work, work, work, as much and as often as I could. I spent a lot of time with other theatre people, and seeing other shows - theatre was my whole life. Now I have a lot of other hobbies, and frankly, I don't see much theatre outside of work. I miss it but it helps immensely. I
also try to keep work at work- I don't stay up late doing paperwork or replying to emails. I'd rather come in early the next day, and have some time for myself at home.

The biggest thing is that I don't take as many jobs as I used to. I'd rather have a few weeks off here and there- and I was surprised to find how many “filler” jobs have come up to make that more manageable (workshops, sub/takeover gigs, etc). I don't feel as busy as I used to- and if I am working on multiple shows at the same time, it's because I choose to.

7. How do you find work?
I start to look for my next season's shows in January-March, when theatres in my area are starting to announce their seasons. My first step is to get in touch with theatres I know I enjoy working at and see if they have anything for me. At this point I have a couple of theatres where I am a “regular”, and can usually fill at least 60-80% of my season that way.

I also keep tabs on job postings- there are a number of websites that I keep track of, and an email listserv for the DC area, and I'll apply when I see something I'm interested in. It's also a good way to keep track of the local market- who's hiring, what kind of jobs are out there, etc. I used to do (and occasionally still do) a big resume mailing in Jan/Feb- it's not my favorite way to look for jobs but it never hurts.

The best way that I get jobs is through other people! Putting it out there that I am looking for something for a particular time slot, or interested in working at a particular theatre has opened up opportunities for me. Once, I mentioned to a fellow ASM that I was interested in working at a theatre that I saw in his program bio. He forwarded my resume to them, and 3 years later, they called me about a job opening- I've spent the last 4 summers there.

8. What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Gah, only one! Own up to your mistakes- embrace them, learn from them. My natural inclination is to be defensive about why I made the mistake - when the better option is to embrace the lesson learned and to endeavor not to make the same mistake again. I'm constantly learning from other people, and I would remind myself to stay open to that idea, and really learn from your mistakes.

9. If you were to stop stage-managing tomorrow – what would you do?
I've always thought about going into business for myself- when I was a teenager I thought I would own/run a bookstore, but these days I could really see myself opening a nursery/garden center. Gardening is my number one passion these days and I fully believe in doing what you love and finding a way to make a career out of it. (It's why I got into theatre).

10. What’s your favorite drink (Alcohol or otherwise)?
A French 75- gin, lemon juice, champagne, and simple syrup. Love it and make it whenever I can find an excuse.

Thanks Maribeth!!!

Maribeth’s current resume can be seen on the last page of the PDF. For more interviews and information about stage managers, visit

M. (Matthew) William Shiner is a freelance stage manager, currently on the road with a big old musical. Born in California, working all over the world, currently keeping his couch and dogs in New York City. For more information on Matthew, check out !!!

Looking forward to seeing the other interviews in this series!

Fantastic! I am very excited to see the other interviews too.


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