& Juliet Stage Manager Danielle Ranno Says Swings Are the Backbone of the Theatre | Playbill

How Did I Get Here & Juliet Stage Manager Danielle Ranno Says Swings Are the Backbone of the Theatre

She is also the one who puts those white slips of paper into the Playbills when a cast member is out.

Danielle Ranno Graphic by Vi Dang

Danielle Ranno is currently on the stage management team for the hit Broadway musical & Juliet, which opened at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in November 2022 and went on to earn nine 2023 Tony nominations, including one for Best Musical.

Ranno has been with the David West Read-Max Martin musical—which flips the script on the William Shakespeare classic, pondering what would have happened had Juliet not taken her own life—since its 2022 out-of-town engagement in Toronto. Her prior Broadway credits include The Lehman Trilogy and Six.

Ranno has also worked extensively in the world of opera and even published a textbook entitled The Beginner's Guide to Opera Stage Management: Gathering the Tools You Need to Work in Opera.

In the interview below for the Playbill series How Did I Get Here—spotlighting not only actors, but directors, designers, musicians, and others who work on and off the stage to create the magic that is live theatre—Ranno details why she switched from acting to stage managing, and her favorite day job.

Danielle Ranno and Mark Danni at the opening night party of The Lehman Trilogy

Where/how did you train to become a stage manager?
Danielle Ranno: I am mostly self-taught. I started out as an acting major at Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts. We were working on a class project in my theatre history class, and our group needed someone to act as the stage manager, so I volunteered. I didn’t have much knowledge of what a stage manager did… I knew that they called cues for lighting, sound, etc. and wrote down blocking. 

After that, I did not revisit stage management until I was in college. My sophomore year I went to USITT [United States Institute for Theatre Technology]. To help pay for the conference, I worked a few hours a day in the computer lab. On a break, I was walking through an exhibition floor and saw a booth that caught my eye for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. I interviewed for a summer internship and later found out I got in! I told myself that if I could survive the 12 weeks and still enjoyed it, then I knew that stage management was what I wanted to do. Since my college was a BA program and (at the time) did not offer any SM specific classes, I did a lot of faking it until I made it. I spent all my free time looking at different types of paperwork and recreating it. I attribute a lot of my early SM education to this summer program.

Was there a teacher or a person who was particularly impactful? What made this person stand out?
Three people come to mind when I think of my career and how it started. The first is my technical theatre teacher at Florida Gulf Coast University, Anne Carncross. She was the one that planted the seed that I should give stage management another try. If it was not for her piquing my interest, I would not have ended up at USITT and then at STNJ.

The second person is Christine Whalen, who I consider one of my biggest mentors during my internship. I learned so much from her which I still put into practice to this day. Funny enough, seven years after my summer at STNJ, she reached out to me and asked me if I was interested in talking to her ASM class at Mason Gross (Rutgers) about opera stage management. She said that she had been following my career (at that point, I had been stage managing in both theatre and opera) and would love to have me in as a guest speaker. It was after that email that I started looking into the MFA program at Rutgers, which opened new doors I would have never thought to open on my own.

The third person is Mark Danni. I first met Mark when he came in as a guest director at FGCU [Florida Gulf Coast University] for Our Town, which I was stage managing. At the end of the run, he told me about his theatre company, TheatreZone, in Naples, Florida, and offered me an open invitation to reach out if ever I wanted to shadow or intern on a show. A year after our first meeting, he offered me my first AEA contract as an assistant stage manager on No, No, Nanette, which soon after turned into a resident ASM position the following season. It was also Mark who got me involved with the local opera company, Opera Naples, which became a huge part of my career. Opera was a surprise to me. If you asked me 20 years ago if I ever saw myself working in opera, I would have laughed it off as a joke. Today, I cannot imagine my life without it!

Anne, Christine, and Mark saw the potential I had before I noticed it myself. They presented me with opportunity, cheered me on, and continue to support me to this day.

Danielle Ranno and Anne Carncross Dania Maxwell

Can you detail the nightly duties of a stage manager?
This could change on a nightly basis depending on who is in the show, whether I am calling the show, running a track backstage, or doing an office track. The SMs arrive at the same time as the rest of the crew, which is one-and-a-half hours before curtain. After the IN/OUT text goes out (this tells the company and crew who is out for the evening and who will be performing for them that night, whether it be an understudy or a swing), I will put together the hard copy of the IN/OUT to post around the theatre. Then I prepare, print, and cut the stuffers that get placed into the Playbills (you know, those little slips of paper that everyone loves to see in the center fold). If I am running a deck track that night, I will check in both back and onstage and make sure everything is pre-set for the show.

Once all pre-show duties are complete, I will try to get a head start on any work I have for the week or upcoming weeks. Currently, we are in the middle of spring collection for Broadway Cares, so any free time I have before the show is spent organizing the signing of posters and programs and prepping for the evening’s collection. If I am calling the show, it is my lovely voice you will hear over the PA backstage throughout half hour giving the calls (half hour, 15, 5, places). After the show, the team gathers back in the office. The calling SM will work on the report, and we will go over any notes from the show. As the saying goes, stage management is always one of the first in the building and last out at night.

Are there any particular challenges of being a stage manager for & Juliet?
There aren’t any challenges that are coming to mind that revolve around & Juliet specifically. Every show has its challenges at times, but as a stage manager, it is all about how you deal/resolve them.

What is the most memorable day job you ever had?
This would not come as a surprise to anyone who is friends with me on Goodreads, but my favorite day job was working at Barnes & Noble as a bookseller. I started in high school and worked through college and then on and off after. My favorite perks of the job were getting to check out any of the hard-cover books (they did want us to be well read and be able to sell the product) and occasionally getting advanced/unedited copies of books. Yes, I was that high schooler who spent all her time in the theatre and weekends working at the bookstore. To me, it wasn’t work, it was heaven!

Danielle Ranno's 1st call at & Juliet Kelsy Durkin

How did you get your first job in the theatre? How did this current job come about?
I got my first professional job in theatre from Mark Danni. It was my junior year in undergrad—I ended up graduating after my third year with my Communications/Public Relations degree. I was sitting at lunch with my friend Armando, and I remember saying to him, "How funny would it be if Mark called and offered me my first AEA job." About a week or so later, I got the call with the offer to assist on No, No, Nanette and Blood Brothers. I was TheatreZone’s resident ASM for four seasons before moving up to the PSM position.

As for my current job at & Juliet… I worked with David Lober, the PSM, on The Lehman Trilogy, both on the Broadway and L.A. productions. I reached out to David on a whim when I was working at Opera Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, on Gianni Schicchi. He was still on the road with Dear Evan Hansen, and they were coming through and playing the Ohio Theatre the week before we moved in. I contacted him not expecting to hear back, but luck had it, he got back to me and said he’d love to meet up if he had time after load-in. We ended up grabbing tacos on his dinner break and chatting. That was in the fall of 2019. 

Fast forward to the summer of 2021. While working at the Glimmerglass Festival, I received an email from David asking if I would be interested in interviewing for the [replacement] ASM position for The Lehman Trilogy. After multiple rounds of Zoom meetings, I got the gig! Prior to our stint in L.A., David called me and asked if I would be interested moving onto a new show with him, & Juliet. I had already heard of the show and knew the music fairly well (it was the music of my youth) and was very excited by the opportunity!

Is there a person or people you most respect in your field and why?
I have the utmost respect for everyone that I work with. There would not be a show without all the talented people behind the scenes. I also really respect our swings. Not only do they know multiple tracks (plus some of them even understudy principals), but there are times where they will go on for one track one night, and a different one the next day. If we end up doing a split track, they could be switching between multiple tracks within one show! In order to do this, it takes a lot of focus and knowing the show really well from multiple angles. They really are the backbone to the show!

What advice would you give your younger self or anyone starting out?
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh! Have fun every day! Do not think that you have to mold yourself for the job. When a production manager or PSM is interviewing you for a spot on the team, they want to see what you can bring to the table. They already know you have the basic skills or else you would not have made it to the interview. Do not be afraid to be your true, authentic self. They want to see your personality and how it would fit with the rest of the team. We all have weaknesses… don’t be afraid to share them. Oh, and always have a joke in your back pocket… It may be the thing that gets you past the finish line!

Danielle Ranno with Eric Sean Fogel in Songbird rehearsals at Glimmerglass Karli Cadel

What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?
The job is not worth sacrificing your mental health and well-being. When we start out, we will do everything and anything to stand out in the sea of young stage managers because we want to keep getting work. We will stay up to put together the prettiest and most perfect paperwork. We will work through meal breaks without even realizing it in order to finish something we were working on during rehearsal. It is not worth it. Take the break, eat the meal (or bring snacks to supplement). Get the full night’s sleep, and be OK with setting boundaries. Do not be afraid to put yourself first. Now, I am not saying that you sacrifice the work. You have to find the right balance between the two.

What is your proudest achievement as a stage manager?
The hardest (but most rewarding) thing I have ever done was write my textbook, The Beginner’s Guide to Opera Stage Management. When I was interviewing for grad school, I had mentioned to department head, Leslie Lyter, how there are really no additional resources out there for opera SMs. You can walk into almost any bookstore, or surf Amazon and find multiple versions of "How To" guides for theatre/musical theatre stage management. She looked at me and said, “Well, why don’t you write it?” I really thought she was joking and responded with something like, “I am stating a need in our industry, not that I want to be the one to fill it.”

A year later, in addition to putting together a curriculum for an opera SM class that I may one day teach, she helped me put together a full treatment. A few months after graduation, I was sitting in the airport between gigs and decided to reach out to Taylor and Francis (an imprint at Routledge) to see if there really was any interest. After many emails of trying to get in touch with the right department and person, I got an email back from my now publisher saying that, “We’ve been wanting to commission something like this.” 

I think what made it hard at times was my trying to fill the void of education I did not have access to when I was first starting out in the opera world, while at the same time keeping it user friendly so it could be multifunctional. I wanted it to be a reference guide, a learning tool, or something that someone with piqued interest could pick up and understand. I so proud of how the book turned out and owe a huge thank you to all my friends and colleagues who supported me, offered up their stories, experiences, and work for the book. Like theatre, it was a collaborative piece!

Photos: & Juliet Celebrates 500 Performances on Broadway

Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting playbill.com with your ad blocker.
Thank you!