CAMBRA OVEREND: STAGE MANAGER (ON AND OFF BROADWAY)
New York City
WFU Class of 2004
Major: Theatre and Religion
Minor: Gender Studies
Cambra Overend is the Production Stage Manager for the play Children of a Lesser God. You may have heard of her stage managing plays such as, Tony Award Winning August: Osage County, Oslo, This is Our Youth, and many more. We recently got her thoughts on her stage managing experience and the theatre scene!
DeacLink: Can you please walk me through your path from graduation to your current job?
Cambra Overend: I started working towards my career while I was still in school. I spent a couple of summers at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts. They do a lot of professional theater work during the summers which often later ends up in New York. After I graduated, I applied for internships at various theaters around the country. I got an internship offer in Baltimore at a theater called Center Stage. I decided to take it because they had a great program and because of its proximity to New York. After a year at Center Stage, I obtained another internship in NYC at an off-Broadway theater called Playwrights Horizons. Technically I was a production assistant, but I worked backstage like an assistant stage manager; and I started freelancing from there. After that year, I got a couple of small jobs off-Broadway, working as a production assistant and assistant stage manager. A big break for me was when I landed a job on a play called August: Osage County. In 2008, it won the Tony Award for Best Play. I have just been working my way up the ladder ever since.
DL: What was your favorite production to work on?
CO: Gosh, that is hard to say. August: Osage County was really important to me because it was such a success - artistically and critically. August was also my first Broadway show. I recently did a play at Lincoln Center called Oslo by J.T. Rogers. It was very special for me because I started with it off-Broadway and then it transferred to Broadway. Last year it also won the Tony Award for Best Play. And I am still involved with it to a certain extent.
DL: How much did your studies and your general experience at Wake Forest University drive your career path?
CO: I went into college thinking that I might do something in the theater, but I was not a hundred percent certain. That uncertainty is why I chose a liberal arts school instead of a conservatory. I also am a firm believer in a liberal arts education generally. I think 18 years old is a bit young to know what you are going to spend the rest of your life doing, for most people. The Theater Department at Wake gave me a really great foundation for my professional career. I got a lot of opportunities. For instance, I got to travel to Europe to study theater. And I got to participate in my first professional theater production the summer of my freshman year -- at eighteen, I got to stage manage a production in Los Angeles. They also helped me find my way to Williamstown. It was a great introduction to the world of professional theater. Wake Forest was what led me to decide theatre is what I wanted to do.
DL: What's the most interesting thing going on in the theater scene at this very moment?
CO: I think one of the most exciting things happening in the theatre scene right now is the social movement happening around “MeToo” and the current state of politics in general in the country. It is bringing to the forefront the concerns about representations of diversity generally, but women in particular: the need for more female directors, female playwrights, female designers, and in higher levels of the theatrical industry. Of course, it’s not just happening in the theater, it’s happening across all levels of management in all the industries - higher and better levels of representation overall.
DL: What is your favorite part about working as a stage manager?
CO: The best part to me about being a stage manager is that you are the only person in the room with the actors and the director from the very beginning -- as opposed to being a general manager or a company manager or being a producer. Being a stage manager gives you the most intimate, immediate access to the heart of the process. Even after the director leaves, you are the one who is there all the way through to closing night. It is you there with the actors every single night, maintaining the artistic shape of the show, seeing the show's growth, seeing the show change, and making sure it doesn’t change too much! That is something you don’t get much practice with in the educational theater world, because the productions do not run that long and the directors are usually still around.
DL: Any advice for our readers?
CO: I think you have to start to look ahead a little bit while you’re in college. Try to do as much as you can to get some experience outside of the educational realm - work somewhere during the school-year if you can (on or off campus, or pick up some hours in your department of study if suitable), look for internships or jobs during the summers. When you start to apply for jobs after college, it will show you have been using your time valuably. Aim high. Search for internship programs. There is always something you can be doing. And if you do not know for sure what you want to do, then just try things. If you find you hate it, do something different the next summer. Whatever you can do to get yourself out of the educational world and get an eye on the way the professional world works. The experience will always be valuable because it will help you hone your skills and better sort out what you want to do next after you finish your education.