Behind the Bright Lights

LYNN CAMILO, WHO HAS WORKED AS A STAGE MANAGER FOR LARGE-SCALE SHOWS LIKE “THE LION KING” FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS, SHARES HOW SHE BUILT A SUCCESSFUL CAREER.

December 2016—The opening lines of the song are immediately recognizable: “Nants ingonyama bagithi, baba!” (“Here comes a lion, father.”) The actor who plays Rafiki uses her sonorous voice to lead the movement in the room: giraffes gracefully cross the stage, gazelles leap, and a pride of lions gathers on the stage. “The Lion King” has opened.

This stunning scene only aligns when a meticulous stage manager like Lynn Camilo is at the ready, cueing actors, props, and lights—hundreds of individual calls per hour—in a calm, clear voice into a headset, allowing every actor and crew member to move into the right place at the right time, all following a master script.

“It’s a calling,” she says of her passion for live theatre. It started in the 1990s at the College of Santa Fe (now Santa Fe University of Art and Design). When a classmate said the theatre department needed hands on a musical, Camilo stepped in to be a runner, organizing props backstage. Although she began her undergraduate career as an English major, she immediately knew theatre was where she belonged.

As a senior, she accepted an internship in New York City for the show “Songs for a New World,” meeting legendary director Hal Prince and cementing her passion. “No one could stop me at that point,” she says.

After graduating in 1996 with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Technical Theatre with an emphasis on Stage Management, she moved to New York, launching her career on Broadway with shows like “Victor/Victoria,” “Blue Room,” costarring Nicole Kidman, and “Amy’s View,” led by Judi Dench. As a young stage manager in a new city, she dedicated herself to learning everything she could about her new profession. “I’d go to backstage doors and wait to talk to the stage managers. I picked their brains about their lives.”

After spending several years on Broadway and coordinating several national tours, Camilo accepted a role as an assistant stage manager for “The Lion King,” which led her to crisscross the country for almost six years. In 2005, she accepted a new challenge as a stage manager by going to Las Vegas, first at the Wynn and then with “Cirque du Soleil.” Even if a show requires more than 12 hours a day to produce eight shows a week—for weeks or months—Camilo can’t step away. “I get to do what I love,” she says.

To remain successful—and regularly change which shows, companies, and venues she supports—Camilo makes a point to regularly reconnect with colleagues she’s worked with throughout her career, whether it’s as straightforward as sending a holiday card or emailing someone when she sees they’ve been promoted or joined a new show. “I’m constantly networking,” she says.

Her current schedule could be described as frenetic to anyone not in her role—but it’s a combination of everything she loves. She acts as a vacation substitute stage manager for “The Lion King,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Jersey Boys.” Her primary role, however, is as the production stage manager at “BAZ - Star Crossed Love” at Palazzo Theater.

What’s next? “I opened the first national ‘Lion King’ tour,” she says. “Long-running shows like this one allow you to go back, and I’ve been asked to return to help close the tour. It’s a nice ‘circle of life’—ending the show as the advance stage manager.” —Claire Blome