This week’s installment of Women in the Arts takes us into the realm of theater, but not in a way you might expect.
When attending a performance, it’s easy to forget there’s an entire world that exists backstage. Though our focus is typically drawn to the spotlight, the reality is that without costumers, lighting designers, prop managers, sound technicians, and stage managers, the show would literally not go on.
Just ask Rebecca Gossett, who has served as a stage manager for Springer Opera House for the last eight years. Gossett is known for her gift of meeting the needs of talent and crew throughout the rehearsal and performance process. She’s so gifted, in fact, that the Springer has just created a new role for her to continue her work on a more in-depth level. Gossett will serve as the organization’s new Company Manager.
Read on to learn more about this dynamic young woman in the arts, and the many ways her new role will enable her to continue making an impact in our community.
Q: How did you find stage management?
A: Well, I was a freshman at Shorter University in North Georgia and I had chosen to study English. I was working for a literary magazine called The Chimes. I hav always loved writing, but I also knew that I've always been attracted to theater.
I'd grown up watching Shorter's theatre department. Attending their shows was my favorite part of life back home. I had family that was in that department, so I'd grown up going to watch them a lot. While I was a student at Shorter studying English, I just kept finding myself going down to the Theatre department and asking how I could help. I'd find any little job I could do. And eventually I said, I don't know how I'm helpful, but tell me what I can do to be a part of the team.
Q: Are you an actor?
A: I acted in high school and I was pretty good. It wasn't that I wasn't good, it just wasn't for me. I don't memorize well.
So longterm, I knew it wasn't a great fit for me. But I also knew I wanted to be a part of theatre in a different way. College helped me discover what that might look like.
Q: And you found stage management?
A: Yes. I've always been very organized. I'm also very passionate about cultivating and nurturing talent. I love helping somebody find the talent lying within themselves. And to me, that's what stage management is and has always been. Sadly, though Shorter didn't have a stage management track. So I transferred to Columbus State for their stage management track. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It led me to so many wonderful people - both at CSU and at Springer Opera House - who helped me discover the fact that I could have a successful career in theatre without needing to be an actor full-time. Stage management is what I've done for twelve years, and I've absolutely loved it.
Q: Many of your colleagues have commented on how wonderful you are at your job, Rebecca. It's my understanding though that the Springer just created a new position for you. Is that correct?
A: It is! Yes. I've just been named the new Company Manager.
Q: Congratulations! What does that mean?
A: Well, it's really thrilling. This promotion means the world to me. I've had such a wonderful time being in stage management and I'm so sad to leave it. But this new position will allow me to take my favorite things about being a stage manager and utilize them more fully on behalf of the entire cast, crew, and staff.
Rebecca Gossett as captured by Brax Lee Studios
Q: How so?
A: My new role is really about solidifying the Springer as a place that cares for and nurtures artist. When we go to these conferences and we're in these wide auditions, we're often approached by artists who say things like, "I've heard about your company. I've heard that you are all so kind, and I'd really like to work for you."
At the Springer, everyone really preaches the idea of being kind. I can honestly tell you that's true. But my new role is about extending that idea into better serving our guest artists, our cast, crew, CSU students that come up and work with us, and I'll even be working inward with our staff to ensure everyone on site has the tools and support they need.
Q: How wonderful and exciting!
A: It really is. The Springer is filled with a lot of really wonderful, passionate people who love the Springer and are pouring their whole lives into it. Some of those people haven't been able to live their own lives to the fullest because of that fact. So that's one of my goals to help provide some support for them so that they can live a little bit more. And for myself too, You know, I've spent almost all of my twenties in the rehearsal hall. I love it, but I never get to go out and see other things. So I'm excited to see some more art events in town, and I'm going to encourage our staff to do the same.
Q: How wonderful knowing that your staff and your company is going to have someone looking out for them! It seems like you're going to be so good at that, Rebecca.
A: Thank you. I sure hope so. It's exciting to be able to take the skills that I developed as a stage manager and apply them more fully here. It's truly what I've always done - take care of people in high stress situations. I mean, you know, I've always been the first person actors see when they come off stage. When Ariel comes off after singing 'Part of Your World', I'm the one holding the bag for her to throw up because she's got a stomach bug. You know?
Q: Yes. Many people don't realize what all goes on backstage.
A: Totally! The audience doesn't see how hard acting is on the actors' bodies, their minds and the struggle and the hustle that's involved with being a performer. I've always sort of made it my mission to help them keep it together.
When COVID first started. I had several people text me and say things like, "I just want to hear you make a call or send me an email or whatever." And so I did! I sent an email out to a bunch of our favorite actors. It just said, "Hey, this is your stage manager forever and always. Your call tonight is 10:00 PM to get in bed and spend time for yourself and make sure you bring your water, take your vitamins, and call your mom." I always try to remind the people I work with about the importance of taking care of themselves.
In this new role, I'm excited to get to take care of the people that have also been taking care of me. You know what I mean? The Springer is such a supportive staff and everyone has been so kind and supportive about everything I've ever done there. So I'm excited to help them not just do their jobs better, but live their lives with a supportive environment, and live their lives even more to the fullest.
Q: That's beautiful, Rebecca. Now, let me ask you something else. What does it mean to you to be a woman in the arts?
A: For me, being in a woman in the arts means there's a bit of a weight to carry. There are expectations of women in a professional world and there are expectations of women on the stage and the way we look, the way we talk. They've always happened in this industry. It's really unfortunate.
Thankfully though, there are also some women throughout the history of the Springer, that have defied that stereotype of how a woman can be involved in the arts. For me, I, the more I learned about them, the more I feel like I have to carry on the work they began, if that makes sense. There are women who paved the way for me to be here and I'm not going to take that for granted.
These women were constantly being told, "That's not gonna work, that idea's not going to happen. You don't have the money to do that. You don't have the support to do that. You don't know how all of these things..." but they just kept fighting and building and creating. I intend to do the same.
Being a woman in the arts also means that we don't have to run away from who we are as women in order to be successful.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Being a women in technical theater, I was told a lot that I didn't meet the expectation of the job title. People said things like, "She wears heels. She wears lipstick. She's not a real technician." There's this idea that if you're a woman in technical theater, you are definitely a certain kind of woman. Which is crazy to me! Why would anyone think I can't use a chop saw with lipstick on?!?
I always just found that to be very strange. And there are actually a lot of women technicians in Columbus right now. They are here and they are embracing who they are and it's teaching me that being a woman in the arts doesn't mean you have to be one kind of person.
I think, I think that's super exciting to see that the generation that's at CSU right now has completely abandoned the concept of having to fit in some box. It's amazing and I love it, and I'll keep encouraging women to step up and do what they do well. ◾️
Rebecca's Local Favorites
Favorite coffee shop: There's this weird thing in Columbus where you are either a Fountain City person or an Iron Bank person. I'm sorry, that's ridiculous. I am both, and I will go to my grave saying I love both for different reasons. Don't put me in a box!
Favorite place to go for a walk: Old Town.
Place to go to dinner: Bodega. It's so ridiculously good. The first time I went there, I told the waiter to tell the chef I'm going to put him in my will.
Favorite Piece of Local Art: I love Vertigo, and Jory Kent's mural is so beautiful. I think even if I didn't know Jory, I I would be obsessed with her art, but also knowing Jory, and having her like grow up in our Academy? She's such a kind, humble, beautiful person. Seeing such a fierce piece of art come from her is amazing. I just love it and I go there to stare at it often.
Favorite Local Business(es): The Lee Tones, Provisions at Old Town, and 13th Street Tattoo.