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Kiana Pinder draws many lessons from stint as ‘Wellesley Girl’ stage manager


Florida SouthWestern State College student Kiana Pinder has her sights set on a career in theater. But there’s more involved in that career path than just acting, and that’s why Theatre Professor Stuart Brown tapped Ms. Pinder for stage management duties in connection with FSW’s production of Brendan Pelsue’s disturbing futuristic political drama Wellesley Girl.

“There will be times when you don’t have a role to play but you still need to earn money,” Pinder sagely observes. “So it’s good to have tech skills. ‘If you don’t want me for this part, I can also do lights, sound, stage management or X, Y and Z,’” she says, conjuring an audition interview with some future director/producer.

Whereas lights and sound are narrowly-defined specialties, stage management places a premium on organizational abilities and people skills. Stage managers not only provide practical and organizational support to the director, actors, designers, stage crew and technicians throughout the production process, they are also the director’s representative during rehearsals and performances, making sure that both run smoothly.

“You have to be really organized, which I am. I think that’s why [Professor Brown] asked me to take this on,” Pinder says candidly. “But more, the stage manager is the communication hub between the director and the cast and crew, including tech, costumes, props and set design. Everyone contributes their patches to the quilt, and the stage manager puts them together in the way the director wants.”

But Brown is a man of ulterior motives, with an agenda for Pinder that stretches far beyond the skill set he needs for the success of just this production. There are lessons he hopes Pinder will draw from her stint as Wellesley Girl stage manager.

Pinder does not disappoint.

Another job of every stage manager is recording the director’s decisions about blocking and taking notes to review with the actors.

“You have to learn the entire script … to the point that I could replace just about anyone in the play. I know a lot of the lines. I know the order of the scenes. I know where all the sound cues go and where all the light cues go. I know where all the scene changes take place and where the different sets come in and out,” Pinder elaborates.

The words tumble from her tongue in her excitement.

But, here too, there’s more involved than mere satisfaction over having mastered the many diverse components that comprise a theatrical production. Observing the interplay between director and actor has given Kiana a keen appreciation for the dynamic involved in taking direction and applying the director’s guidance in bringing a character to life.

“When you’re in that moment, dissecting the character and trying to bring her to life, it’s hard to give up your preconceptions about who the character is and how she should act,” Pinder remarks, her chocolate brown eyes narrowing beneath her gray-framed glasses as she assesses what she’s seen and learned observing Brown and the cast in rehearsal over the past handful of weeks. “Standing on the outside, it’s so obvious what he wants. Having seen that, it will be easier in the future for me to give up my own preconceptions and embrace the director’s vision without getting flustered, to create a character that’s more in line with what the director wants. I’ll be able to think on my toes, apply [the director’s suggestions] quicker and let the character expand.”

What director wouldn’t want an extremely talented, highly enthusiastic actor who is eagerly malleable and coachable? But Pinder has derived yet another kernel of theatrical wisdom from her stint as the Wellesley Girl stage manager: a newfound sense of respect for the playwright’s words and art.

“As stage manager, I noticed that people sometimes paraphrase their lines, but even changing one or two words can alter the whole meaning that the playwright intended,” Kiana utters, her tone suddenly deeper and a bit hushed from her seat in the back of the Black Box Theatre. “How many times have I done that to a line? How many times have I changed the complete meaning of a line? You can’t paraphrase your lines! You have to know them verbatim! If you change one or two words, you risk changing what the play is actually about. The tone and deliverance is up to the actors and the director, but never the words. The voice and the words have to stay the same as a matter of respect. It may seem like a tiny little detail, but if you don’t respect what the playwright has written, you’re changing his words, his voice, and his art. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from being the stage manager for this play.”

Kiana also has a deeper appreciation for what she put her own directors and stage managers through.

“It’s not an easy job.”

While Pinder has clearly expanded her theatrical resume and improved her skill set as an actor by dint of her stint as Wellesley Girl stage manager, her focus going forward remains musical theater. But, interestingly, she doesn’t have a wish list of roles she’d dearly love to play.

“Having been cast in roles I never imagined playing has proven to be such a positive experience that I’m no longer interested in having dream roles since that would actually mean I’m typecasting myself,” she sagely concludes. “Why put myself in a box that’s could turn out to be way too confining?”


Regrettably for area producers, directors and theater audiences, Pinder’s long-range plans do not include Florida. After she obtains her Associates degree in the Spring, she’ll pursue higher education out of state, possibly in the Austin or Houston area, where theater in general and musical theater in particular is just beginning to blossom.

“Sometimes it’s easier to start in a place that’s just starting to pop than in a place that’s more established,” Kiana muses. “So I’m considering places where I can pursue theater opportunities while I’m still in college and then take those experiences to L.A. or N.Y. or wherever I end up going.”

Wherever she lands, this woman has the talent, training (including dance and baller),drive and intelligence to go as far as she wants.

And all who know her wish her every success.

Past credits include Tilly in She Kills Monsters (FSW Theatre Program), the Assistant Choreographer Lara in A Chorus Line (Florida Rep Conservancy) and Claire in This Random World (FSW Theatre Program). Kiana is a product of the Center for the Arts at Cypress Lake High School.

November 11, 2018.


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