"If we're doing a good job, no one really knows we're there," says Cherie B. Tay, speaking of the oft-invisible role of the stage manager. That was not the case for Pride weekend, when the stage management team from A Strange Loop came out (pun intended) from behind-the-scenes and took the stage for a panel discussion at Pride in Times Square, presented by Playbill and the Times Square Alliance.
Erin Gioia Albrecht, Victoria Whooper, and Tay make up the all-queer, non-male management team at the Tony-winning musical, and although they've had opportunities before to participate on panels, they've mostly been educational or stage-management specific. "But this more public experience—and specifically about Pride—it's exciting for us and for this show," said Albrecht. "We talked a lot about representation on Saturday, representation on stage and back stage," she continued. "Representing stage managers is also really important to me. Just shining a light on what we do, which is often not a recognized position."
"Most of the general public understands the concept of a crew," adds Whooper, "but they don't necessarily know how integral our role is to the entire process."
In terms of queer representation backstage, those identities have become integral to the day-to-day job at A Strange Loop, a show that's billed as "a big, Black, queer-ass American musical." "For the cast, to be able to come into our stage management office and know that you have a receptive audience is really helpful," says Albrecht. "I did have an understudy say once, just out of the blue, 'Oh, it's so nice to be in a queer space.' And I think they said that because I had said 'Ok, everyone, heads up,' instead of 'ladies and gentlemen.' It's just that tiny difference that makes a big difference everyday."
The Rainbow Squad—as they were dubbed by the show's social media director who'd seen a photo of the three together on stage bathed in rainbow lights during tech week—are so much more than the people who run understudy rehearsals or call the light and sound cues for the show. "We're like guardians, caregivers, mothers, supporters, cruise directors, gophers, nurses...there's so much more we do than just 'look at this nice schedule,'" says Tay.
The panel was just the beginning of the Pride-filled weekend. Even with a weekend full of shows, the Rainbow Squad was able to attend the NYC Dyke March together, chronicled on Tay's Instagram via a 360 camera on a 9' selfie-stick. (Stage managers have everything.)
To top off the weekend, the Squad (in their cruise director roles) organized the show's own onstage Pride parade, with cast member Jason Veasey serving as Grand Marshall. And, although Tay says the job is more than just 'look at this nice schedule,' they of course visually mapped out the parade route for marchers.