Saving trees, one stage manager at a time
Saving trees, one stage manager at a time

This project explored how the stage management profession can go paperless by digitizing the bulky and extensive prompt books currently used for stage productions. However, in finding that the current digital technology was unable to meet the demands of such a project, the pairs focus shifted to developing that technology for themselves.

Student researcher: Lisa Hardt (B.F.A. ’12/A)

Faculty mentor: Amy Hutton, assistant professor, VCU Department of Theatre

Hardt: I was working on two shows during the summer, and professor Hutton and I talked about which technologies we could try using, so I spent the summer testing out different programs and applications we could potentially use to go paperless. After that, we got together and talked about what our dream technology would be like, and we imagined an iPad application that would be able to house a digital database that other people involved with a production would be able to access. Basically, it’s doing everything a stage manager needs to do in one program.

I needed the extra challenge of doing something like this. I love taking classes, but I’m really interested in advancing the theater industry. That’s really important to me. If this software that we’re working on actually comes to fruition, it will make my job easier in the future. Scheduling, making reports, meeting the demands of the show, a digital application would hold all this information at my fingertips.

Research is so important to help foster your passions. If you’re passionate about something and you want to learn more about it than you can find in textbooks, then there are all these resources here at VCU that you’re not necessarily going to have once you graduate, especially for students in the arts, where, although were not typically thought of as researchers, there’s important research that needs to be done.

Hutton: The project really started with Lisa, and the idea was to look into how technology could be used to better the stage management profession. Through iPad and laptop technology, we began exploring new methods to make our prompt books digital. But this turned into a bigger question, asking, can we develop the technology ourselves? Thats what were doing right now. Were in the early stages of a prototype to turn that binder into something that can fit on an iPad, which would be fabulous.

We were really on the same level, and it was a good give and take. She would bring ideas to the table, and I would bring ideas to the table, and together we really took it to a level we never expected. Starting this project, I never dreamed that we would actually be developing technology, and thats a testament to Lisa. Shes very dedicated, willing to do as much as it takes, to explore new avenues, and if this has the impact we hope it does, her name will be on it, which could really jumpstart her career and make her more marketable as a stage manager. Shell be a terrific stage manager no matter what, but this could really take her to the next level.

Research creates a different mentality with students. It opens their eyes to the amount of opportunities they have here at VCU, which then in turn gives them a thirst for knowledge long after they graduate.