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Backstage at Ignite Phoenix

I had the pleasure of speaking at Ignite Phoenix #5, and I fell in love with the organization. My role at Ignite Phoenix has always been backstage. I was a runner at Ignite Phoenix #6 and I’ve been the assistant stage manager since Ignite Phoenix #7. I’ve volunteered at every Ignite Phoenix event since 2010 with the exception of Ignite Phoenix After Hours #2.

One of the few pictures of Andy and I holding still at Ignite Phoenix #12; photo by Devon Christopher Adams

I love working at Ignite Phoenix. Andy Woodward is our stage manager and we have running the show down to a science. The show starts at 6:30pm which means the core team has to be at the venue usually by 3pm to start setting up. Andy and I spend most of that time in the theatre. We draw a box on the stage in tape so our performers know where they have to be seen by the video camera. We set up the confidence monitor – a screen that shows the performers what’s on the screen behind them. We work with the venue’s crew to set the lighting and sound levels and to determine which performer will use which microphone. We also set up the area backstage so our performers are comfortable when they’re not on the stage.

I’m a big fan of the mantra “Be prepared,” so my bag backstage is full of all kinds of stuff I or a presenter might need like my clipboard, pens, highlighters, Sharpies, mini flashlight, safety pins, caffeine, ibuprofen,  Kleenex, my lucky handkerchief, and my Swiss Army knife.

A little over an hour before the show our performers arrive and we take them through their orientation. We want them to be comfortable with the stage, backstage, their green room, and we tell them for the first time what order they will be in during the show.

During the show, Andy is at the edge of the stage making sure that each performance goes well and he does the final prep with each performer right before they go on stage. I’m in charge of most of everything else backstage. It’s my job to put the microphones on and take them off of each presenter and to keep track of everyone when they’re backstage.  I’m constantly counting heads, making sure I know where everyone is.

It’s my job to be there when presenters need me and to stay out of their way when they don’t. I respect each person’s need to do their own thing when they’re nervous. It’s fun to watch who paces, who reads through their notes, who brings their laptop to go through their slides, and who hangs out in the presenters’ green room downstairs. I want each presenter to feel excited and secure when they step out onto the Ignite stage. I try to instill a sense of calm confidence when I’m putting on their microphone and congratulate them when they finish.

I’m really looking forward to Ignite Phoenix #13. We have an incredible cast, an awesome team of volunteers, and amazing people at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts who help make it all possible.

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