Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Technical Production, Theatre and Live Events
Year of graduation: 2015
Setting the Scene: Technical production graduate Sara Allison on her experience at the Shaw Festival
Backstage at most performances, there’s typically a flurry of activity and organization needed to manage the action. Technical production graduate Sara Allison gets to be a part of that experience at the Shaw Festival’s Dracula as an apprentice stage manager, joining other Sheridan alumni working behind the scenes and onstage – including Michael Therriault, who stars in Me and My Girl this season.
Born and raised in Welland, Ontario, Allison thought she would try acting in high school. “When I originally tried to perform, that didn’t work out,” she laughs. “But as soon as I explored Sheridan for Technical Production and saw the campus, I was hooked.”
At Sheridan, Allison developed her talents in stage management, wardrobe – where she discovered a new love when she learned to sew – and scenic paint. Allison drew inspiration from Professor Denise Lisson in scenic paint class. “She just came at it from a very real angle. She taught us how we would do it if we were doing it by ourselves, and explained all the circumstances,” recalls Allison. “I still think about the things she taught me, and will still call and ask for help.”
After graduation in 2015, Allison wanted to end up at Shaw for stage management someday, due to her roots in the Niagara region and a previous internship at the festival. Along the way, she worked as an apprentice stage manager at the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company, Obsidian Theatre Company, and Upper Canada Playhouse, on shows ranging from Driving Miss Daisy to Up The Garden Path.
Now that she’s back at Shaw, every day is a little different for Allison, from running lines with actors to dealing with unusual props such as a blood transfusion machine, exorcism box, garlic and a crucifix. “Dracula is a 30-scene play with 14 actors and many things flying back and forth,” she says. “There’s no set, technically — the stage is completely clear and everything gets wheeled on and off by actors.”
Due to the play’s many moving parts, Allison sees herself learning skills that will serve her well as her career progresses. She loves that her role allows her to help ensure that actors have the tools and elements they need to perform. “One of the main things about stage management is consistency — actors do the same show every night, so you have to make sure they can do that,” she says.For those looking to follow her path, Allison encourages new graduates to be open minded when entering the industry. “You may have to do some jobs you may not be interested in, but I advise you to try to keep in the theatre industry,” she says. “If this is really what you want to do, people will recognize that and finding the work you want to be doing will just get easier.”