Behind the Scenes with Elizabeth Salisch

A great production can transport its audience to another world. The actors, set pieces, costumes, lighting, props and sound all fit neatly together to create a captivating and cohesive story. If one element falters, the illusion can be shattered. While it takes the efforts of many designers, actors and artistic staff to create this magical and delicate balance, it is maintained by one of theatre’s greatest assets, the stage manager.

As the linchpin of marrying the technical and artistic aspects of a production, it is the stage manager’s job to troubleshoot any problems that may interrupt the world of the show. A truly excellent stage manager’s work often goes unnoticed, unless you know what to look for. Every taped spike mark on stage, every precisely timed lighting shift and every perfectly orchestrated scene change is thanks to a stage manager. Here at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, our thanks go to Elizabeth Salisch.

 Stage Manager Elizabeth Salisch*. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors' Equity Association.

Stage Manager Elizabeth Salisch*. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors' Equity Association.

Elizabeth joined the Greenbrier Valley Theatre family this season and is currently stage managing her third show here, Moon Over Buffalo. She first discovered her love of theatre at the age of five when she saw the Broadway production of The Secret Garden. At 12 she began performing at the YMCA and later chose to study Theatre Arts at the University of Pittsburgh. She got her first taste of stage management as the assistant stage manager for Dancing At Lughnasa in her sophomore year of college. Elizabeth reflected, “Since then I realized that I wanted to be a stage manager because not only does it fit well with my personality it is one of the few positions in theatre that see the process from the very beginning to the very end at the ground level.”

 Stage Manager Elizabeth Salisch* at the table reading of  Moon Over Buffalo . Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors' Equity Association.

Stage Manager Elizabeth Salisch* at the table reading of Moon Over Buffalo. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors' Equity Association.

That process begins in the rehearsal hall. Elizabeth works alongside the director and actors tracking the blocking and necessary elements of the production to communicate with the rest of the production team. “During the rehearsal process I take extensive notes so I can answer questions or foresee any problems that may arise. I also create and maintain any paperwork that tracks set, props, costumes, sound, and any other needs of a show,” said Elizabeth.

Her favorite part of her job begins when the show opens. “It is the stage manager who is in charge and maintains the artistic integrity of the show by giving notes to actors and crew… I love when the show is routine and in your bones.”

 Elizabeth Salisch* preparing for  Pippin , the second show in GVT's 50th season. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors' Equity Association.

Elizabeth Salisch* preparing for Pippin, the second show in GVT's 50th season. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors' Equity Association.

While Elizabeth masterfully executes her role as a stage manager, in her words, “things still may happen because it is live theatre after all.” Elizabeth recounts her time stage managing a production of Our Town that went awry one night when a loud party was held just outside the theatre.

“In Act 3 when Emily is doing her big goodbye world speech in the grave yard, the music slowly kept getting louder and louder so that by the time George knelt by her grave My Heart Will Go On was playing in full blast so the audience thought it was part of the show.”

Since Elizabeth began working with GVT, she has found she “like[s] the sense of community [here] and how genuinely nice and caring everyone is.” From The Importance of Being Earnest's high brow humor and complicated set changes to Pippin's flashy chorus dance numbers, Elizabeth has enjoyed challenging herself to solve the unique puzzles each production presents. Up next at GVT is the fast-paced, quick-witted farce, Moon Over Buffalo, where you're sure to see Elizabeth's hard work once again!

Laura Kastenbauer