Jen Noterman, assistant stage manager on Disney's The Lion King in Las Vegas.
Jen Noterman is a professional stage manager and a pleasure to speak with. She is currently working as an assistant stage manager on Disney's The Lion King in Las Vegas. Previously, she lived in New York where she worked on The Little Mermaid on Broadway. She reminds us of how important it is to maintain relationships, both personal and professional, as well as to keep one's commitments and write things down.
What advice do you give to graduating students? "If you're going to take a job, you need to do your best work at all times. It doesn't matter how small or insignificant the job feels at the time, you never know who you might meet on that job or how they may help or hurt you in the future. So you want to always impress because this is a very, very small world. You need to always present yourself in the best possible light to anyone you work with. Most jobs usually come from people who you've worked with in the past or from people who have recommended you or whatnot."
If you could go back in time and speak to your college self, what would you say? "I would say you want to try to keep your friends close to you. Keep that support group. You're moving to a new city, but generally [even if] you are going to have some people there, it's going to be harder to keep in touch with them and to see them and to keep them close. You're going to be living and working in different parts of the city. I regret my first year, I didn't know how to keep everybody close, and it was pretty lonely. It wasn't the greatest first year out of college for that reason. I personally would want to tell myself to make that a priority, to keep my friends a part of my life as much as possible. I've finally figured out how to do it."
What was your biggest mistake in your career? "It's hard to call anything a mistake because everything leads to something else. That being said, I was offered a production assistant job on the national tour of Contact only a month after coming into New York. I didn't take that job, and I kind of regretted it. Yet PAing was what ended up giving me a break into the bigger Broadway world later on. At the same time, I don't know if it was a mistake, because it might not have lead to anything. I don't know what that would have brought me, if it would have brought me to Broadway five years sooner or to a dead end if I hadn't been ready for it."
Where did you get your first job in the theater, and what was your big break? "My first job in theatre was while I was still in college, at a local regional theater called, The Kitchen Theater in Ithaca, New York. I was filling my time with doing stuff there. It paid I think $100 per week, but I was happy. My big break was getting a production assistant job for The Little Mermaid as it was developed for Broadway, and that lead to subbing on the show. But speaking of contacts, I got that job because four years previously, I had done a little fringe show called Sluts where I got along really well with the producer on that show. Four years later, she was working at Disney and submitted my resume which has completely lead to where I am now in my career."
What are three habits that contributed to your success? "1) Well, I think just my general attitude for stage management. I really see it almost as a service position. I'm there to service the show. You have to maintain good relationships with everyone and at the same time service the show by requiring discipline and a high standard of work from everyone, making sure all involved are doing their jobs properly, keeping the big picture, and always trying to anticipate problems. And to do everything for the show to make the show better and to keep that focus.
2) Another habit that's good is that I'm really intense about keeping any commitments. I follow through on everything. I can be counted on, and it's reflected in my work. I get job offers from the same people again and again. There's always going to be a time where you have to leave a show, but you don't leave anybody in the lurch.
3) One more literal habit is that I write down everything. I keep lists of anything that comes up. I'm always asking myself, 'What have I forgotten? Did I forget anything?' I'm constantly trying to make sure that I've covered everything."
How do I get my first job? The Kitchen Theatre job, I honestly don't know how I got it, if I submitted my resume or if a friend introduced me to the artistic director. The Mermaid job was through the contact from four years ago who eventually submitted me, and so I went through the interview process and lucked out."
What are you working on now? "I am working on The Lion King in Las Vegas. I'm the assistant stage manger, but we do all the deck tracks. There are three. And then calling, and we all go to rehearsals. It takes four people to run a show on any given night, but we're a five-person team in case something comes up. I've been working on that since I moved to Vegas in 2009. Our team all opened it together, and we're all going to close it together. It's closing in December. I remember crying the first time I saw it on Broadway."
1. Do Your Best: No matter how small or insignificant a task may seem, you never know who is watching you.
2. Stay In Touch With Friends: After you graduate, make it a priority to visit and call your friends no matter how busy you are.
3. Follow Through: If you make a commitment, stick to it. It's that simple.
4. Write Things Down: Even if you have a razor-sharp memory, you're bound to forget something every now and then.