Video: Stage manager offers a look behind the wings

Clare Heller
Oxford Stories

What exactly does it take for a spectacular musical filled with bold chorus numbers and heartfelt solos to come to life on the stage in front of a live audience?

Without the expertise of someone like Jodi Rushing calling the shots backstage, it would not be possible. Rushing, who is currently a fifth-year senior at the University of Mississippi studying theater arts, recently became the stage manager for the Ole Miss Theater and Film Department.

After fostering a love of theater in high school, Rushing decided to try her hand at something different upon entering college. She left the world of performing and design behind and studied nearly seven different majors before realizing theater was her calling.

She initially became involved with the Ole Miss Theater and Film Department as a makeup designer for the productions. Her work with design continued until she became stage manager for a Mississippi Dance Company performance in 2018.


Rushing looking at makeup designs. Photo by Clare Heller.

Not having experience managing a production, let alone a main stage production such as this, Rushing quickly had to learn the ropes of the new job. Stage managers are essentially responsible for calling all of the shots during a show. This includes lighting cues and sound cues, scene changes, and generally ensuring that the whole operation runs smoothly. Successfully making it through her first attempt at stage management, Rushing then worked for a Tupelo dance company over the summer.

This semester she took on her first Ole Miss main stage musical production “Assassins.” After months of putting the show together, her role of stage manager changed and evolved.

Early on, she took part in production team meetings, planning sessions, and kept things organized at the first few rehearsals. As the show began to take shape, she became the go-to person to solve any problems and to begin making final decisions about how the show would look. After months of work and hundreds of hours spent preparing the show, Rushing assumed her puppet master role and called the show cue by cue.


Jodi Rushing. Photo by Clare Heller.

Her experience as a stage manager has taught her many things about all the hard work and dedication it takes to produce a high-quality show. She hopes to apply the lessons she has learned when she begins her next stage management project in the spring, “Eurydice” for the Ole Miss Theater and Film Department. Rushing uses these values in her everyday life, as she works toward her ultimate goal of continuing to work in theater after graduation.

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