is a member of our stage management staff. Jimmy joined the company in 2010 as a Rehearsal Assistant in the company's Rehearsal Department. Jimmy has been on the production staff as an Assistant Stage Manager for the 2013/14 Season and has worked on the productions Mefistofele
, Dolores Claiborne
, and this summer La Traviata
and Madame Butterfly
. He has also worked as an assistant stage manager and assistant stage director for Opera San Jose, Opera Omaha, Opera Santa Barbara, and Cal Performances. We sat down with Jimmy to discuss his work at SFO and to learn more about what it's like to be in the heat of the action backstage.
You’ve been on the Stage Management Staff at San Francisco Opera for a year now but started as a member of the company’s Rehearsal Department in 2010. Can you tell our readers a little bit about what the Rehearsal Department at SFO does and how your role in the department helped prepare you for your work as an ASM with the company?
The Rehearsal Department is an awesome place to work because it allows you to interact with every department within the company. People sometimes refer to it as the “heartbeat” of the opera house because the office is right off Stage Left and it tends to be a congregating place for singers, production and music staff. They manage the daily schedule, check in with artists each morning before shows to see that they are healthy, accommodate and account for all backstage visitors during performances as well as manage any supernumeraries or children in the productions. It’s a front row seat to all of the action! It was a great way to get my feet wet, meet everybody, understand the nuts and bolts of what was going on and the arc of the rehearsal process for an opera.
(Above: Jimmy Marcheso with one of Jun Kaneko's designs from Madame Butterfly.)
What does a typical day look like for an ASM at SFO and how do you balance having to work on two or more assignments at one time?
The intensity of repertory theatre is something I am still adjusting to. It can be alarming when you go from working 60 hours a week for months on end, to suddenly all of your shows open and you have all of this free time! Your days can go from being very structured and full to fairly light once the shows have opened. While we are rehearsing multiple shows, it’s pretty common to be at work from 9am to 11pm or longer, and when you have two shows rehearsing at the same time, you have to rely on your team mates to help communicate notes and changes (via email, meetings and sometimes just post-it’s on your desktop) because you can’t be everywhere at once.
You’re also a musician and actor who graduated from the SF Conservatory of Music – does your training in those areas play a big part in your work as an ASM? Does it set you apart from many of your colleagues?
My performance background and music degree definitely help me do my job. I may have complained about theory and diction in college, but those are definitely the things that help me follow a piano vocal score during a crazy chorus staging when a million things are happening at once! We have such an incredible staging staff here, and everybody brings something different to the table. It’s a fantastic cross section of skills, personalities and backgrounds. We all put our brains together every day to problem solve and try to make things run as efficiently as possible. So because of my performance background, I am incredibly grateful for my colleagues that have more technical theatre backgrounds – I continue to learn so much from them.
(Above: Jimmy Marcheso takes a "selfie" in the War Memorial Opera House.)
You’ve also dabbled a bit in stage directing, right? Are there any works you’d love to direct on the operatic stage?
Becoming a stage director is one of my long term goals. I feel fortunate to be on the Stage Management team at SFO, because it allows me the opportunity to work with so many different directors. Every process is always so different, so there is always much to observe and learn. It’s hard to narrow it down to just a couple pieces that I’d like to direct, the repertoire is so massive! Generally I really love contemporary works in English (Menotti, Adams, Glass, Sondheim) and I’m a big Wagner fan. Working on Dolores Claiborne
last year was a dream come true (a Stephen King opera, how cool is that?) and I’m really looking forward to working on Susannah
in the fall. It’s always exciting when you get your assignments for the coming season and there are new stories and composers to get acquainted with. The ideal situation is that you fall in love with each piece that you get to work on, and if it’s a repeat, maybe you love it in different ways than you did before.
You are a self-described Cali boy -- what do you love most about the Bay Area? Are there any specific spots in the city that you just can’t get enough of?
The best thing about the Bay Area is the FOOD! My husband (SFO staff Conductor Joseph Marcheso) and I just moved to Berkeley, so generally on my days off you can find me getting a slice at the Cheese Board or buying flowers and avocados at the Temescal Farmer’s Market and eating Liba Falafel. As far as the arts are concerned I’m a huge fan of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre – the work they do there is so consistently good, I try to see as many shows as I can. Wild Bride
last year at Berkeley Rep with Kneehigh Theatre is one of my favorite audience experiences of the last couple years – I saw it twice! Dolores Park is my favorite spot in San Francisco and Pink Saturday is my favorite event of the year – I’ve never missed one since I moved here!