Under The Surface

Former Rider Alumni's dreams take the stage in Nickelodeon’s first ever Broadway production ‘Spongebob: The Musical’

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Under The Surface

Rider Alumni Katrina Olson works as a stage manager on and off Broadway.

Rider Alumni Katrina Olson works as a stage manager on and off Broadway.

Rider Alumni Katrina Olson works as a stage manager on and off Broadway.

Rider Alumni Katrina Olson works as a stage manager on and off Broadway.

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Piece by piece the puzzle comes together. Only
one thing remains. Hours of planning turns to days
of preparation, which becomes weeks of rehearsals,
which slowly fades into months of putting everything
in place. Now, as the lights shine on the stage, the
actors take their marks, the crew positions themselves
and the curtains reveal the final piece: the audience. All
the time and work is now complete.

This is the result of the work of Rider 1997 alumni Katrina
Olson who is now a stage manager on Broadway.

“The stage manager is the conduit, making sure all
the information flows between all the crew, the master
communicator of all the pieces,” she said.

Theatre has always been part of Olson’s life beginning
in middle school during her years in Budapest Hungary,
where she got her start at opting and backstage work.
She returned to Wichita Falls in high school where she
got heavily involved in Backdoor Theatre, even doing
some acting in Backdoor Theatre’s production of Annie,
where she played Ms. Hannigan.

After that came college.

“The pressure was on,” she said about that time.
Olson attended the Yale School of Drama, where she
earned her Bachelor’s in theatre and MFA in Stage Management.

She started out at the school as an actor and
had stage management as an elective. As time went
on, she realized that stage management is what she
really wanted to do and became lead stage manager
from there.

“Dedication is key to the job,” she said.

Then six years ago New York became her home and
her passion became her career, eventually bringing her
to the big time, Broadway itself.

Olson has worked on many musicals such as Cleopatra
and Thoroughly Modern Millie. The musical that
was big for her career wise was The Book of Mormon,
where she was one of five stage managers and even
got to meet the writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker, also
known as the creators of South Park.

“Interaction is such a great experience of the job,”
Olson said.

Katrina has also worked with other people huge in
the entertainment industry such as Kathleen Turner,
Brian Denaghy, and Kate Mulgrew, though there’s much
more interaction than with just the stars of the musicals
or the celebrities she works with.

She enjoys working with all people of the crew, even
if behind the scenes people can be volatile at times.

“It’s always fun to finish one play, then a few months
later you get to see people you’ve worked with before,”
she said.

Olson said another wonderful aspect of her job is
the musicals themselves. Even though there are mixed
feelings of sadness or readiness when one play ends
and another begins, it’s always rejuvenating to go from
show to show.

One of her projects has her working with an international
icon as she is working on Nickelodeon’s first ever
Broadway production with Spongebob: The Musical.

It’s scheduled to be on stage in Fall 2015. Pena Landall
will direct the show and it will be an original story
written by a professional book writer outside the television
series. It will also have composers who are huge
in the music industry with many popular artists ranging
from a mixture of genres from classic rock to modern
pop–exact names aren’t permitted to be released at
this time.

“I was over the moon when I found out,” Olson said.
“Spongebob is an icon that has been seen on so many
things, even toothpaste. It is such a privilege to work
with this franchise on its very first musical, something
that has never been done before.”

Olson said the stage managing job is a lot more than
just telling people what to do, and she said it’s very
time consuming.

“I get to see the entire production process before my
eyes.”

The first part of this is the workshop where she finds
out what musical she will be working with, who and
what she’ll need, and the scheduling for the rest of the
steps.

From there a typical day is usually heading to work
at 9 a.m., making sure everything is set up for whatever
they are going to work on for the day, making sure
everything is in schedule and in line, and making sure
they’re ready to go for the entire day of work and making
the environment comfortable for the crew.

“Time is not your own, but everyone else’s,” she said.

Next comes rehearsal days, which go from 10 a.m.
– 6 p.m. She takes notes of everything that everybody
does, and everything that goes on. After everyone goes
home, she stays with the director to discuss what is
going to happen the next day. The director then leaves
while she stays to write notes and letters to send to
everyone but the actors.

Technical rehearsals are when they practice the
entire play as if they were already performing. These
days often run from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. or 12 a.m. – 12
p.m., but Olson comes in an hour before everyone else
to prepare everything and stays an hour later to finish
up whatever work needs to be done.

Lastly comes what everything builds up to: the
performances. These days she just comes in for the
show to perform her duties. These range from using
the lead up, or the 30 second warning, calling the show,
and making sure all props and lighting are ready to go.
Performances are eight times a week over 6 days, then
one day off. Luckily, this is her period of free time since
she doesn’t have to show up until the performances, so
the day is hers to do with whatever she wishes until she
has to be at the theatre.

Even though she spends so many hours on the clock,
Olson said she feels lucky that she gets to do this as a
career and wouldn’t think of doing anything else. She
gets to tell stories in an interesting way most other
forms of media don’t.

She is currently working on rehearsals for The Medicine
Showdown, written by Adam Copeland, directed by
Jessie Hill, and produced by Flying Carpet Theatre. But
in typical theatre fashion, on the first day of rehearsal,
she was called to join the touring musical Miss Saigon.

Hours after the call she was packed and ready to go.

“One of the things I love about my job is that I always
know where I’m waking up but never know if that’s the
same city I’ll be going to sleep in,” Olson said. “It keeps
things fresh and exciting.”

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