Responsiblity on The Road: Life as an Ensemble Supervisor

Hi there! Rena again. As I’m writing this post, RagTag has just passed the half-way mark of its summer tour. So far it has been an incredible summer, filled with beautiful sunsets, circus family from far and near, and a lot of hummus and ice cream (not at the same time). Since we hit the road, I’ve been thinking a lot about how different this summer has felt in comparison to last year while I was in StarStruck, and I realized that this is largely due in part to the fact that this season I am more than just a performer. This year, I’ve also been acting as Ensemble Supervisor for the RagTag cast, working closely with our Tour Manager to make sure day-to-day operations run as smoothly as they can. It has been an eye-opening transition, and it has made me appreciate being a part of this cast and company so much more than I could have imagined.

Photo by Steve Sarafian

So, what does an Ensemble Supervisor do, exactly? Great question. When I first agreed to take on this role, I don’t know if I myself really knew. I had a general understanding that I would help organize and run rehearsals on the road, give show notes as needed, and be on-call to help with administrative tasks and support our super-hero Tour Manager as needed. However, it wasn’t until we left our rehearsal world in Ithaca, New York and began touring RagTag that I started to understand what this position really meant. I never would have anticipated how much more responsible I would feel for the way our days went, although perhaps this should have been obvious from the start. For example, when I was simply a performer in StarStruck, I was more than happy to make myself available and be helpful with loading in and out of our venues, setting up the sound system, etc. At the same time, however, I definitely took for granted the fact that I could focus on just my presets and my personal warmup once the collective tasks were done- I could sort of ‘tune-out’ and focus on preparing myself for the show that day.

Photo by Steve Sarafian

This year, it feels like I do the exact opposite. Rather than ‘tuning-out’ to only focus on my own needs, I ‘tune-in’ to make sure that my castmates are able to do what they need in order to do their jobs as best they can. I think a lot more about what I can do to make sure their needs are met- how much time do we need for warming up? What acts need extra rehearsal time on the stage? When is a good time to eat? Questions like this remind me that it’s no longer about me doing my personal best in the show- it’s about the show being its best each time we perform, and the show is comprised of six unique bodies in space, one of which just so happens to be mine. 

At a much broader scale, I’ve also noticed how much more pride and ownership feel over RagTag. Not to say that I was not proud of StarStruck, but the role I played in its existence was much less integrated. As an artist in StarStruck, I felt most accountable for the two acts I personally had created and performed. This year, I feel this way about every minute of RagTag. Being able to witness how the extra rehearsals paid off, the notes were taken to heart, and the scheduling made everyones lives a tiny bit easier (hopefully), is priceless. It is hard not to feel proud of these people and the thing we’ve made, knowing how much effort and time and love has been put into it. To be honest, I feel lucky to even be a part of it all, regardless of the role I’ve played in its happening.

Photo by Steve Sarafian

As the summer winds down, another season gone-by, I’m feeling a lot of things. I’m feeling tired, and very sweaty, and sometimes a little crazy, but at the same time incredibly full of love and hope. I’m excited for the future of RagTag and Cirque Us, and more than anything so incredibly lucky to be a part of this company, with these people, in this moment in time.


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