The flair q&A

Marci Skolnick

If you know (or have worked with) any stage managers, you know they are the rarest of breeds. They "run" live performances with a combination of organizational skills, brains, charm, humor, juggling prowess and magic. Enter Marci Skolnick who, in this regard, is a Jedi master.

Tell me about your business or specialty.

I’m a stage manager, road manager and show caller in both theater and pop music. I ground creative people and help them tell their best stories using good organizational systems. These days I spend a lot of my time working on music residencies in Las Vegas. The residency is a tricky beast. It’s a hybrid of popular music and theater. It’s a concert with huge automation and big theatrical effects. As a show caller I direct the moment to moment flow of the show, both for the safety of the performers and audience, and to give the audience a consistently high quality experience. It’s a unique kind of high pressure and I love it.

How'd you get to where you are now?

I said yes. I went to school to be a classical actor, only to learn that I was more organized than castable. So I threw myself into organizing all different forms of entertainment, and I learned that there are endless types of entertainment in the world. It’s all storytelling. And I’ve come to believe that the ability and desire to tell stories is what makes us human. With that unifying idea in mind, I sought to work on all kinds of different things: from my beloved Shakespeare, to dance, opera, immersive theater and eventually, pop and rock music residencies and tours. I loved all of it, to varying degrees.

And every time I tried something new, I was absolutely sure I wasn’t qualified to work in that genre, would be seen as a fraud, and would eventually fail. Just this morning I was telling an industry friend that I nearly turned down my first pop music residency because I was sure I had no idea how to succeed. But I said yes. I asked questions, did my research and worked really really hard. It was a great success, which lead to the next success, and the next.

How has the Covid crisis affected your work or business? Any new ideas or approaches…or lessons learned so far?

I was on tour with a rock band, doing shows in major U.S. arenas and generally having the time of my life, when the pandemic shut entertainment down entirely. Sadly, performing for 20,000 people seemed dangerous back in March of 2020. We didn’t resume that tour until the summer of 2021.

Entertainment was one of the first industries to shut down, and one of the last to return. Just this morning I saw a tour postponed because of Covid protocols. We aren’t back to normal, at this point I don’t think we ever will be. Covid taught me all about technology. If I couldn’t work live and in person, I had to find a new strategy. Enter zoom and all the related technology. I wouldn’t consider myself incredibly tech savvy, but I had to up my game in the face of Covid. I’ve written many a post on LinkedIn about zoom tips and tricks, as well as my thoughts on zoom and similar platforms.

In general, however, I think the energy one feels while attending live entertainment, no matter how big or small the offering, is irreplaceable. I appreciate that zoom has its place in the industry. It helps us reach colleagues and audience members all over the world, but it’s a tool of augmentation, not something that will replace being in a space with other humans.

What surprises you in your work, now or in the past?

I’m surprised every day, in all the good and bad ways. I’m constantly surprised at the cool technological toys that get invented to make my shows look bigger and more impressive. The advances in video technology alone in the last 5 years blows me away. I was going to say I’m surprised that the cool kids club is still pervasive in my industry, but it’s not true. It’s not surprising. I will simply say that I wish entertainment workers would give a new generation a chance. There’s work enough for us all and somebody has to call the shows when I am gone.

When I was a young stage manager, every method and template of paperwork was a closely guarded secret. Unless you were lucky enough to find a talented stage management mentor to assist and learn from, you wound up reinventing the wheel. I made so many wheels. Nowadays there are online resources like the Stage Managers Association, and various Facebook groups, that decode some of the mystery surrounding what we do. It’s helpful. But I still feel that the older generation is resistant to change and new faces. I wish that the old guard, who we can all learn so much from, would bring in some younger blood and share some knowledge.

I am noticing a more diverse group of young stage managers studying the craft in undergrad, and I’m excited to see those faces find a variety of opportunities. The radical changes to the profession during the great pandemic zoom time did create some moments of free sharing. We were learning zoom etc together. Matthew Stern’s SM tech Fridays were a great example of sharing and learning. We need more of that across the board if we expect the profession to grow and flourish.

What drives you crazy?

People who don’t take pride in their work. At a certain point in my career, I realized that everyone around me, generally speaking, was really good at their job. It’s a given. But what separates the cream of the crop is those who go the extra mile because they care about what they do.

Who inspires you? (it can be anybody you know, or don't know)

My mother, and Billie Whitelaw. At age, my mother is living her best life. She is quick, classy and always looks put together. She is a great audience, makes great coffee and is the strongest person I know. Billie Whitelaw was an actress and the muse of Samuel Beckett, inspiring many of his later plays. Those plays remind me that I can do anything if I keep it simple and precise. Both my mother and Ms. Whitelaw taught me that sometimes the bravest thing I can do is get up and put on my lipstick.

You're a trailblazer - what are some highlights in your career to date?

Show calling Gwen Stefani’s Just a Girl residency at Caesar’s Zappos Theater will always be a highlight. That was a truly special residency. Also, helping Usher to create his residency at Caesar’s Colosseum was an amazing opportunity to work alongside a very intelligent artist. And, of course, being able to tour all over the country with the Eagles has been an amazing gift. I’m a small cog in their juggernaut of a show but I love every minute of it.

Words of wisdom or thoughts?

To quote Katherine Hepburn: “Never give up. Always be yourself. Don’t put too much flour in your brownies.”


Marci Skolnick is a production stage manager and show caller based in New York and Las Vegas. Amazing theaters she has worked at include the Public Theater, Goodspeed Musicals, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the Kitchen, Adirondack Theatre Festival, and Opera House Arts. In Las Vegas specifically, Marci has worked with Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, Spiegelworld and the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels and Casinos. Her show caller credits include Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl, Christina Aguilera: The Xperience, both at the Zappos Theater at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, and Usher: The Las Vegas Residency at Caesar’s Colosseum. She is thrilled to resume her incredible pre-pandemic job of road managing the Orchestra and Choir on the Eagles: Hotel California tour in February of 2022. 
Marci is the chair of the Actor’s Equity Las Vegas liaison committee, and the Stage Managers’ Association Western regional representative for Las Vegas. She is a proud cat mom to Pico de Gato. Find her on LinkedIn (marciskolnick) and Instagram: @dreadfullyun

(published 2022)