Ready or not, here the actors come!
When performers hear a stage manager call, “Places!,” it’s akin to runners being told, “On your mark, get set, go!” Places is a simple yet effective prompt that lets actors know it’s time to take their positions for the beginning of an act or scene.
If you’ve never done theatre, you may wonder why a stage manager needs to yell, “Places!” at all. After all, your boss doesn’t remind you every time you have an appointment or task to complete. Aren’t cast members just sitting backstage, waiting at attention to go on?
Um, no. Performers often have a lot of downtime between their various scenes. If they get involved in reading a book, checking their email, or even catnapping, they could easily miss a cue if not reminded.
And even when a stage manager says, “Places,” some actors still space. Take Joey McIntyre (yes, from NKOTB, aka your ’80s boy band crush): When he was playing Fiyero in Wicked on Broadway, he totally blew one of his entrances, and his costars had to improvise as the stage manager tried to locate him! As he explained: “Basically, I thought I had done the scene already, so I thought I was done for Act One and proceeded to unbutton my shirt and loosen my tie, etc. I was in the crew room watching Sunday football and suddenly, one of the crew guys runs in and says, ‘You’re late. You’re REALLY late!’ And instantly, I realized I hadn’t done that scene yet…Lord knows what Idina [Menzel] and Jennifer [Laura Thompson] were doing for two minutes, but I finally got to ‘the train station’ and said something like, ‘Oh, I’m so glad your train hasn’t left yet.’ The crowd was thoroughly entertained as they were in on the joke, and that is live theater, folks. Our stage manager was merciful with me…stern, but merciful.”
Guess McIntyre wasn’t hangin’ tough after that! He learned that when a stage manager yells, “Places!,” you heed the command.