Aug 13, 2020
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Emilea Paulson, stage manager for university theater productions, outside of the University Theater at Fresno State.

Student Spotlight: Fresno State student is literally behind the scenes

When you watch a play, movie or show, it’s obvious how hard the actors and directors work to make the show come to life. One component many audience members forget about is the stage manager.

Fresno State senior Emilea Paulson is a theatre arts design/technology major who works as a stage manager on theater productions on campus.

“The major basically encompasses all of the people who work backstage,” Paulson said.

Paulson, originally from Lancaster, California, said she didn’t come to Fresno State with intentions to get involved in theater.

“I actually came in as a music major and I did marching band in high school,” Paulson said. “I did marching band here for a year but I never actually took any music classes, and then I got involved with the Experimental Theatre Company, ETC, because I took a theater stage management class.”

That class would be the start of Paulson’s journey with theater.

“One of the girls I took the class with called me the next year saying, ‘Hey, I’m looking for somebody to be my assistant stage manager for this thing,’” Paulson said. “I had done it in high school, so I thought it would be fun. After I did that show, I was like, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be.’”

After this show, Paulson changed her major and went on to become stage manager for more than eight shows at Fresno State.

“My favorite thing about theater is working with people,” Paulson said. “I’m not a creative person myself…but it’s cool to be a part of the creative process but not have to do it all myself.”

Being a stage manager is no easy job. Paulson said there are several roles she plays behind the scenes.

“The biggest aspect of a stage manager’s job is communication. I’m basically the main hub of communication between the director, the designers, the actors, the crew members, everybody that’s involved in a production,” Paulson said.

Though Paulson’s job is to assist the director, there’s a point during production where she makes the decisions.

“During the rehearsal, it’s basically the director’s show. But once it gets to tech week, the week before show week, it’s my show now,” Paulson said. “Basically I do everything. I call the show, and I’m on headset. So I say when lights go, sound go. I make sure everyone is on time.”

With a degree in theater arts, Paulson has many career options.

“I would want to work in theater, film and television, or go into the music industry and be somebody’s manager or manage somebody’s tour,” Paulson said. “I was always positive that I was going to move to L.A., but I really could go anywhere.”

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