Behind the Scenes at Guelph Dance: A Stage Manager’s Story

In the weeks leading up to the GuelphDance Festival, the Guelph Dance blog is showcasing intimate glimpses into the artist’s process. We also recognize that none of the artistry on stage could happen without a dedicated and talented team backstage. Today, we introduce you to Dorothy Fisher, our valued and trusted stage manager. Thanks, Dorothy—we couldn’t do it without you!
Dorothy: The Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival is 15 years old!  “Happy Birthday”.  Due to the vision, sheer drive and desire to see dance in their own backyard, two young women gave birth to a festival for contemporary dance. Fifteen years later, Catrina and Janet ‘s baby has transformed into a lovely, sophisticated teenager called Guelph Dance. 
It has been a privilege and a delight to watch this evolution even though it has been done in the  “black”. As stage manager for On the Stage and Youth Moves, I have had the opportunity to work with many talented choreographers and dancers. Their passion and dedication to the art form is a most enriching experience. The privilege of watching Peggy Baker exhibit her incredible talent up close or Denise Fujiwara transform from a youth to a woman of old age is spell binding, even from the wings.
Meanwhile, the Youth Moves dancers, 18 and under, show a wonderful, professional demeanor—a credit to their passion, their teachers, and their training. Their enthusiasm and responsible attitude make my job so easy and my love of working with youth so satisfying.
Along the way, the technical challenges are always interesting. How much time will it take to set a birdcage in position so that when it is flown in it will be in exactly the right spot for the dancer to access? How much time will it take to determine the specific height and placement of those Japanese lanterns? Oh yes, and what about those feathers that need the perfect lift as a floor fan provides the air!
Then there is the white dance mat that had the entire crew scrubbing away the scuffmarks with magic erasers. The logistics for installing a full sheet of heavy plastic downstage to act as a shower curtain was particularly challenging. However, after much agonizing, the final product was extremely satisfying and a thing of beauty.  In addition, I still remember gingerly striking egg yolks from the stage without breaking the yolks.  I could go on, but I don’t want to give away all the fun!
As this year’s festival is fast approaching, I feel the anticipation and energy building. “Let’s make some Magic”.  I can’t think of a better place to be than in the “black”.

Dorothy Fisher is a dedicated arts advocate, administrator, volunteer and occasional stage manager.  She has extensive experience in board governance, fundraising and theatre production.  She enjoys working with Guelph Dance, Guelph Arts Council, River Run Centre, Guelph Symphony Orchestra and Guelph Chamber Choir.  Dorothy feels particularly fortunate to be involved with Guelph Dance for so many years.
In honour of Dorothy and the inimitable backstage team, the following is a personal note from Guelph Dance Festival Co-Artistic Director, Catrina von Radecki:

Catrina: Dorothy Fisher has been the Stage Manager for Guelph Dance since its inception in 1998.  We don’t even know what the dance festival would be like without her—and Taras Cymbalisty, our lighting designer who has also been with the festival from the beginning.  They are an incredible team, which we rely upon, trust, and respect and about which festival artists continually have great things to say. Thank you, Dorothy and Taras, for always being there behind the scenes, for doing your very best to meet everyone’s needs when there is so much going on during the festival weekend, and for being there again this year!  Happy 15th anniversary year to you too! Thank you also to Jill Grantmeyer who has been at Dorothy’s side over the years as the Assistant Stage Manager. Many of you know Jill from the River Run Centre box office, yet she still finds time to steal away and volunteer for the festival. Truly incredible!

Do you want to be involved backstage?  We offer mentorship opportunities with these incredible people—just let us know if you wish to be involved!

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