McClellan ready for a future in stage management

Maggie McClellan has spent four years perfecting her craft as a stage manager within the Cornell College Department of Theatre and Dance, and now she’s excited for what the future will hold.

Maggie McClellan
Maggie McClellan

The 2021 grad is working to build a career in stage management with plans of pursuing graduate schools on the East Coast. Her goal is to work for a long-term production, perhaps on Broadway someday.

“Being a stage manager, I’m backstage calling the shots and telling people what to do, like the light cues,” McClellan said. “It’s nerve-wracking but it’s so exciting and so rewarding. I really feed off of the vibe and energy that I get from the audience.” 

McClellan has fulfilled the role of stage manager, assistant stage manager, and production manager in so many shows during her time at Cornell that she couldn’t put a number on it. She started tackling her dream right when she arrived as a first-year student.

She didn’t start small either. First-year theatre students can take on big roles right from the beginning.

“When I first came to Cornell, right off the bat I was the assistant stage manager for ‘The Rocky Horror Show.’ Then, the first time I was the head stage manager for a department show was for ‘Rent.’” 

She enjoys working with musicals and says opening night is her favorite part.

“There’s just energy in the air, and it makes my heart really full,” McClellan said.

But even when there would be no more opening nights, in the traditional sense, with audiences filling the seats in Kimmel Theatre’s auditorium, she powered through.

The pandemic that put a hold on so many theatre productions didn’t stop Cornell’s Department of Theatre and Dance and it didn’t stop McClellan either. She kicked off the work on the first production during her free time over the summer of 2020.

“We were working on “House Party,” so we were writing the script and planning for filming over the summer,” McClellan said. “And as soon as we got on campus we held auditions and did as much as we could to prep for filming.”

Professor of Theatre and Dance Scott Olinger says McClellan was indispensable to not only the production of “House Party,” but all of the productions during this strange pandemic year.

“When the decision was made to produce four films this year, something we’ve never done before, Maggie became my right hand, helping to think through the challenges of converting the stage into a studio, scheduling location shoots, and coordinating actors and dancers into small slots where we could film one or two at a time,” Olinger said. “She’s incredibly sharp, focused, and driven (not to mention funny), and I couldn’t have made it through the year without her. She has a very promising future in the world of entertainment.”

Looking back at her four years, she says she’s grateful to have picked up skills to deal with conflict among groups of people, grown close to the theatre and dance faculty, and learned a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

She also has enjoyed being able to fully focus on her stage management roles while learning on the block plan, especially when she has taken independent study blocks to fully immerse herself in the role of stage manager or production manager during large productions.

As for her advice to incoming first-year students: she says to take advantage of the many opportunities Cornell offers.

“If you do have something going on or you are in a hard class and need something or just need a friend, it’s a small school and we’re all here and hoping for the best for everybody.”