TOUGHEST ROLE IS BACKSTAGE
Just outside of the Northwestern College theatre lobby, citizens of Orange City speed through green stoplights and ride by on bicycles. Bass-heavy Broadway music pounds the thin walls of the lobby as students rehearse for an upcoming cabaret night.
But a few steps away, inside the dimly lit Allen Black Box Theatre, theatre director Jeff Barker and junior theatre major Becky Ochoa are safely secluded in their own created universe.
It is the last week of rehearsal for NW’s production of “The Glass Menagerie,” and although the audience may not realize it, Ochoa’s work as stage manager has been instrumental in bringing this show to life.
According to Jeff, the stage manager’s attitude and approach determines the success of the production, as he or she is responsible for “making the environment one that’s a great environment in which to do art.”
Serving as stage manager for two NW productions prior to “The Glass Menagerie,” Ochoa is well versed in the nuances of what makes a successful stage manager.
“It’s kind of like this: if you’re in a train station, I view stage management as the rails because you keep everything in line and you keep everything on track,” Ochoa says. “You’re moving things from place to place, but you’re the central hub of communication and it all goes out from there.”
The director himself does not claim to have a more crucial or difficult job than Ochoa’s.
“A stage manager really is the toughest and most selfless task in the whole company,” Jeff says. “Actors have to be selfish. They have to worry about their job, and Becky is able to be a multitasker who is worried about everybody’s job.”
Acting alongside three students in the show, theatre professor Karen Bohm Barker expresses her delight to be collaborating with Ochoa.
“The relationship between the cast and a stage manager, especially in a small cast like this, has to be one of trust, and Becky is on top of things,” Karen says.
Ochoa plans to intern at a theater company in Chicago during the fall 2018 semester and graduate in December. Ochoa is interested in pursuing careers in stage managing, directing, playwriting and costume design.
“If I can get a job in any of those four areas, I will be over the moon,” Ochoa says.
“The Glass Menagerie” will be performed at 2 p.m. on April 21 and at 7:30 p.m. on April 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 in the Allen Black Box Theatre.
Looking ahead to opening night, Karen expresses her utmost faith that the show will succeed in performance — a faith that comes from knowing Ochoa can be trusted to keep everything on track.
“I think that the trust that needs to happen to make the show work is there, and I don’t think I can overstate the importance of that or the fact that that’s not a given,” Karen says. “We’re dealing with students. They’re not always on top of it — but Becky is.”
Karen pauses as if searching for a better way to describe why Ochoa is so good at her job, but in the end, merely shrugs and repeats, “She just is.”