Behind Jennifer Balestra’s sensational stage work
The theater program at Ponte Vedra High School requires great talent on and off the stage. Senior Jennifer Balestra is the stage manager at PVHS. When it comes to what she does for the shows at Ponte Vedra, it is nothing short of amazing. Recent shows done at PVHS, including Sister Act and Seussical, all were made possible by Balestra. The questions I asked her shows how taxing yet rewarding a stage manager’s job is, making Jennifer Balestra an irreplaceable component to PVHS theater.
When did you first start teching/stage managing?
Officially I started my freshman year, but I was always in charge backstage in middle school shows.
Did anyone inspire you or tell you that stage management is for you?
Mr. Nettle and an alumni named Dylan Howick told me freshman and sophomore year that I would be great at [stage management] one day, and it took me a long time to believe them since I never pictured myself in Howick’s league. I still try to be as good as him every day.
What is the most challenging aspect of what you do?
The most challenging thing is balancing everyone’s needs while keeping a level head. The stage manager has to be the mediator between everyone, cast and crew, actor to actor, etc., and it can be overwhelming to always try to be calm and collected. It’s still something I’m learning.
What is your favorite part about stage management?
My favorite part is getting to watch the finished product, that the show runs smoothly, and the audience’s reactions.
Which shows at PVHS have you been stage managing for?
I have teched Guys and Dolls, Rumors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Footloose, A Brief History of Theater Abridged, A Christmas Carol Parody, Our Town, Seussical, Shrek the musical at Players by the Sea, Sister Act, as well as a dozen pageants/dance recitals/concerts.
Which was your favorite show to manage?
My favorite was probably Shrek because it was a professional setting and I learned so much about the industry.
What are the steps to getting ready for shows as a stage manager?
The stage manager is involved in literally every aspect of the show. They coordinate rehearsals, designer meetings, and the building schedule. At school, I often take the lead in building the set along with an incredible team. We then gather a crew for the show and delegate responsibilities for moving set pieces and operating light/sound boards. The stage manager also calls all cues.
Do you plan on continuing stage management after high school?
I do plan to pursue stage management in college and in life.
What made you want to continue stage management?
I actually only realized my true passion this past summer during Shrek. I realized I would never be happy doing anything else besides this insanity. The idea of doing this for the rest of my life makes me so happy.
What advice would you give to underclassmen wanting to go into stage managing?
I would advise underclassmen to take risks. No one is going to hand you any opportunity of responsibility. You have to reach out and grab them yourself.