Emily Tabachuk Q+A
Emily Tabachuk is our spectacular Operations Manager – since joining the company in 2013, she has stage managed scores of shows and kept the communications between teachers, parents and schools flowing. I bow down to her knowledge of google spreadsheets, classic Greek theater, and blocking notations. I sat down to chat about her job at Child’s Play NY, what exactly stage management is, and learn all about her essential role in the company.
You wear many different hats at Child’s Play NY – what does a typical day look like for you?
Usually it’s a fantastic mix of office work in the morning and rehearsals in the afternoon!
My office hours are focused on different things, depending on the season – staffing teachers, working with Jocelyn to decide on what courses we’re offering next, shopping supplies for summer camp or scheduling birthday parties.
Our administrative offices are only about a fifteen minute walk from our Brooklyn Heights rehearsal space, so there’s also a perfect excuse to get outside for a second in the middle of the day!
It’s great having the afternoons in rehearsals with students. It always ends the work day on such an upbeat (and screen-free!) note.
You’ve had some interesting other jobs along the way to becoming Operations Manager & Stage Manager here. Tell us about some of your faves and how they shaped the unique skill-set you bring to this company.
I loved my time as the Assistant Production Manager at the Atlantic Theater in their Stage 2 space. I learned so many things about how companies work – from the big picture artistic decisions through the nitty-gritty financial record keeping. Having that perspective of how a reputable Off-Broadway non-profit theater runs taught me so many valuable lessons about how to run a company in the day-to-day, while also thinking about the future.
I also have quite a bit of event planning experience from freelancing with a few different wedding + event planners! Those long days taught me so much about multitasking and how to prioritize tasks.
Being an Operations Manager also involves a lot of customer service skills – face to face with parents and communicating with schools – that I honed working at J.Crew for a few years during college!
You went to Fordham – where a lot of our other teachers came from. What were the big take-aways for you from that school’s fantastic theater department?
When I was there there was a major focus on collaboration – we even took two semesters of a class called “Collaboration”!
All of the actors, directors, playwrights, designers and stage management majors took this class together, which helped create a common vocabulary between all the artists you worked with during your time at school. For the most part, it succeeded in fostering a “Best Idea Wins” philosophy, which I think is really important in general, but especially when you’re working with kids.
Sometimes the best idea for something (like a dance move, or a motivation for a character) will come from a kindergartener, and the practice of making sure the space feels comfortable enough for everyone to share their ideas was instilled in me at Fordham and is vital to the ethos of Child’s Play NY.
It was a game-changer for our production classes when you started coming on-board as a Stage Manager. What is that job (for folks who might not know) and how is it different – or the same – doing it with kids vs adults?
As many of our students would say – a stage manager manages the stage! At its basic level, it means I document everything that happens during rehearsals so that, in case any of the performers forget where they stand on stage or what their dance moves are, there’s written notes and I can remind them. There’s also plenty of paperwork involved – character breakdowns (to see what roles can be doubled), and props lists.
As rehearsals inch closer to performances, I also organize the props and costume pieces alongside our designer, Charlotte.
It’s really the same between working with kids and adults! Sometimes the kids are a little more open to change and adjustments than adults I’ve worked with in the past…
What’s an estimate on how many shows you’ve stage managed since you started working here in 2013? And what are some of your all-time top experiences/plays to work on?
I was almost afraid to count… Including the shows currently in rehearsal this semester (fall ‘19), it’s 64 shows with Child’s Play NY! Some of my favorites have been Seussical Kids and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr. I have also loved all of our productions of Romeo + Juliet and Hamlet – it’s so fun to work on Shakespeare plays with middle school students.
Outside of Child’s Play NY, I loved working on Found and Animal at the Atlantic Theater. I also worked on a production of Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play in college that was a beautiful experience every step of the way.
What’s your favorite thing to do on your day off?
I love to drop into a bookstore and grab something new to read – Word in Greenpoint and Books are Magic in Cobble Hill are my favorites. I also like needlepoint crafts, this year I’ve made quite a few cross stitches and bargello earrings!
Some people find it hard to make conversation with young people – not you. What are some tips for the rest of us on talking to kids?
I think for me it’s making sure that I’m not talking down to them. I search for common ground (a movie we both maybe saw recently, or a book we’ve both read), and then I talk to them the same way I’d speak to any other adult! Offering up my own opinion and also asking for theirs makes them feel like they have an ally.
Talk to us about you and Harry Potter. What can a student expect when they sign up for a Harry Potter camp or class with Child’s Play NY?
I love Harry Potter. I was in elementary school when they started coming out, so was in that perfect age range that grew up with the later books.
Our Harry Potter camps and classes are such a fun mix of scripted scene work from the movies or written by teachers, and devised pieces that the kids come up with themselves. What was a day in the life like for Rowena Ravenclaw? Who was the real Sir Cadogan? What’s at the other end of a secret passage out of Gryffindor tower? The Wizarding World has so many characters and locations to explore that there is no shortage of stories for the kids to generate themselves
We’ve had students interested in more behind-the-scenes work. What advice/thoughts would you give to kids who might want to do the program, but also want to learn about other aspects of theater-making?
Child’s Play NY always approaches theater from the performance side of things, but we do try to introduce the other jobs in theater to the students. Many of our production classes have a stage manager and a production designer that are a vital part of the process of putting up the show. Students in our musicals work with music directors and dance choreographers, and many Shakespeare classes involve a fight director to safely choreograph fights and battles. If your child is interested in learning about other responsibilities in addition to acting, please have them communicate that to us! We are always happy to pair them with one of our faculty members so they can learn a little more about the other side of theater.
You are an avid reader, what are some of the YA books on your shelf that you love and why?
As mentioned, Harry Potter is my all-time favorite. Lately I’ve been working through the Rick Riordan books too. In addition to his wonderful Percy Jackson series about Greek gods + myths, he’s got a fantastic trilogy about Norse Gods. For the older middle school/high schoolers, I loved both of Angie Thomas’s books (On The Come Up and The Hate U Give). I’ve been meaning to check out Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James too!