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Behind The Scenes
With...Maureen Spanos


How did you get started in theatre?  What hooked you?
I was a latecomer to theatre.  In 1990, I accompanied my friend Julie Hoffman to an acting class at Theatre Three.  I had no interest in the class but Julie wanted to go.  I planned to stay until she was comfortable and then just drop out.  However, I found that it was something I couldn't just walk away from.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
The first involvement I ever had with a show was in 1992 when we did Zorba.  Having married into a Greek family, I knew a great deal about the culture and I volunteered my services as a consultant.  I attended rehearsal and really fell in love with the process.

What was the first show you ever saw?
In the early sixties, there was a summer stock theatre in Northport called the Red Barn Theatre.  I used to walk there to see whatever was running.  I remember seeing The Fantasticks there.  I think that might have been the first show I saw.


What is your position on a production?
I am the production coordinator at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.  I am also one of two resident production stage managers.  

Describe what your job entails.
This is a very involved question.  As production coordinator, one of my duties is to train new stage managers coming into Theatre Three.  I work from a three page job description which lists no less than seventy specific items.  I realize that the job is very different in other theatres but I think a fair general definition of stage-managing might be to record and facilitate all directorial choices and decisions.  This would minimally include running auditions, hiring actors cast, handling paperwork of all kinds, taking blocking and making sure it is followed, communicating needs to all departments and getting them met, organizing backstage storage and scene changes, supervising running crew, handling personnel problems, and being responsible for the building.

Did you go to school to learn what you do?
No, I learned my job by working in various helping positions with several different stage-managers.


What has been your favorite show to work on?
I like big musicals the best.  There is enough going on to really absorb my attention and challenge my ability to keep it all organized.  Some of the musicals I have really enjoyed are Grand Hotel, Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees, Evita, and Victor/Victoria.   

What motivates you to keep doing what you are doing?
I enjoy watching the words in the script come to life on the stage.   I love the challenge of solving the problems unique to each show.  

How do you feel about pre-casting?
Due to the tremendous competition for talent among the many Long Island theatres, I feel that pre-casting is often a wise choice for a director to make.  I understand that all actors want the opportunity to audition for every part but I further understand that we audition to serve the needs of the production.   If a role is pivotal and the opportunity to pre-cast exists, it might even be considered negligent of the director to allow that opportunity to go by.   Pre-casting should be announced and actors made aware of which roles are no longer available.   To do otherwise is counterproductive and wasteful of both the actors' and the production staff's time.

What was your worst theater experience?
I have never had any truly bad theater experiences.  One evening that sticks out in my mind, however, as especially stressful was a time when there was an electrical problem in the building.  All the stage lights began to disco in the middle of a performance.  I was running the lightboard and I was on two different telephone lines trying to get technical assistance.  The TD was talking to me on his cell phone as he was racing towards the theatre and  the crew person was running up and down the back stairs following directions that I was relaying through the headset.  It was a frantic time but we survived and no real harm was done.   That audience is still probably trying to figure out what the lighting designer had in mind when he put that light show on stage!

What was your best theater experience?
Another very difficult question!   The first time I ever ran sound was for Frankenstein.  I worked with a sound designer named Jim van Bergen who taught me a great deal.   I ran over seventy sound tapes in five separate tape decks, often simultaneously and at different levels.  It was very difficult and I really enjoyed the challenge.

If you could give one message to ALL of the actors out there, what would it be?
Call me if you are going to be late!

If you could give one message to ALL of the producers out there, what would it be?
Talk to each other.

If you could give one message to ALL the directors out there, what would it be?
Plan ahead.

If you could give one message to ALL the techies out there, what would it be?
Thank you.

Why do you work at the theatres that you do?
I work only at Theatre Three because it is the theatre I know and love.  Close to my home and close to my heart.


Do you think Long Island theater will continue to grow?
I think that the quality of theater on Long Island will continue to grow but I think that Long Island audiences can support only a limited number of theaters.  I don't believe that it is reasonable to think that many more theaters could exist on Long Island without creating a negative effect on all of our financial pictures.

What brings you greatest joy?
People.  Positive, nurturing interaction among people.

What irks you?
Lack of commitment and responsibility.  Intolerance and intentional harm.  Selfishness.

If you won lotto tomorrow you would.
Endow the theatre..of course.

Is it true you would rather be rich than good-looking?
Sure, you can do a great deal of good in this world with a little extra money.  I can't think of any time in which good looks solved any problem.

What's your favorite word?

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
"Come in!"


Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like the readers to know about?
No, that's not my style.  I'll tell you all about it once I have done it!

What is your dream theatrical project?
As a stage manager, I serve the director's vision so I don't really invest in dream projects.  I guess it would be something with a huge cast, lots of movement and special effects. With fun music, tap dancing, lots of good laugh lines, a plot that has something to say.   And NO consummable props!