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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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Beonica Bullard worked on several SDSU productions as a stage manager. (Photo: Christian Hicks/The Daily Aztec) Beonica Bullard worked on several SDSU productions as a stage manager. (Photo: Christian Hicks/The Daily Aztec)

Navigating a Career in Stage Management

A simple question at orientation changed SDSU student Beonica Bullard's life.
By Kayleigh Venne, The Daily Aztec

“I realized that I had a new direction in life, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Sometimes passions find people in the most unconventional and unexpected ways. San Diego State University television, film and new media student Beonica Bullard never wanted to be a stage manager until the position chose her.

“I’ve always loved theater,” she said. “I actually always wanted to be an actor until I came here. During orientation, someone came in and asked ‘So, who wants to do stage management?’ and no one raised their hand.”

That someone was Hannah May, a then-TFM senior, who would become one of Bullard’s biggest inspirations and friends.

“She gave me an in-depth tour of the theatre department and a breakdown of what stage management would entail,” Bullard said.

May told her that not many students were interested in stage management, but May was willing to take Bullard under her wing to teach her as much as she could if she was up for it.

At this moment, Bullard decided to take the plunge and dive into the unknown.

She recognized a role that needed filling and could provide job security while also maintaining her passion for theater.

At SDSU, stage management is not its own major, but is still vital to every theatrical production. SDSU only offers one 400-level stage management class. During her first semester, Bullard took it and fell in love.

“I realized that I had a new direction in life, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.

Stage managers are at the very heart of a production and are responsible for making sure the show goes on, no matter what.

“We are the go-to people of the theatre,” Bullard said. “We are almost on the same level as the director. We are the director’s right-hand man and act as the mediators for everyone. We make sure that everything is going smoothly at all times.”

Bullard’s first show was “The Jungle Book,” by Margaret Larlham.

It was her first role ever as an assistant stage manager, and although the grueling production felt like an eternity, Bullard said she found it extremely rewarding.

She went on to be an assistant stage manager for “Water by the Spoonful,” by CJ Keith and “ALICE: Curiouser and Curiouser,” also by Larlham.

Bullard dropped her “assistant” title and had her debut as a stage manager during her junior year, managing “Into the Woods,” a musical by Paula Kalustian. Bullard said this was her most difficult show and her biggest learning experience.

“So much went into it,” Bullard said. “This show was very hard, because I had to know all of the choreography and call over 600 cues. I stayed in the building until 3 a.m. to get the rhythm and everything down.”

Bullard also had the opportunity to be stage manage director for Larlham’s last on-campus show, “The Big Friendly Giant.”

Bullard works alongside Jay Sheehan, TFM’s faculty-production manager.

“Beonica works very hard at trying to be the best that she can,” Sheehan said. “As a stage manager, she works with directors exceptionally well and is well liked by her peers, which is one giant trait that a good stage manager must possess.”

Sheehan said he is especially proud of Bullard’s off-campus work at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

Bullard works with the Department of Community Engagement and helps to produce art festivals for families. For someone who never planned to become a stage manager, Bullard is making great strides in navigating her future career.

She said her dream is to stay here in her hometown of San Diego with her family, but she isn’t opposed to moving back to Las Vegas, where she lived in high school, if an opportunity presented itself.

“I could see myself working at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza downtown,” Bullard said.

She recently spent a day participating in a stage reading at the theatre and had the chance to discuss future opportunities with an employee there. Bullard is interested in joining the Repertory Theatre’s fellowship upon graduating, which would be a full-time position.

As far as big Hollywood dreams go, Bullard isn’t interested. The idea of moving to New York or Los Angeles intimidates her. The theatre community in San Diego is smaller than it seems.

“San Diego is the biggest, smallest town ever,” Bullard said. “I’ve worked with a few of the theatre companies here in San Diego, and everyone knows everyone.”

Bullard feels that SDSU has given her a strong network of people who can propel her to success.

“There is always someone that I can go to,” Bullard said. “I think it’s a really great network here.”

Bullard just finished up her last production at SDSU, “Julius Caesar.”

“I’m shocked that it’s been four years,” said Bullard. “It’s exciting to close a chapter and open a new one, but it’s scary and sad. ‘Julius Caesar’ was the most lovely show, and I’m proud to call it my last.”

This article originally appeared in The Daily Aztec.