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    Paul “Pablo” Mills Holmes’ tiny office is like the ghost of plays past, plays present and plays yet to come. The Actors Theatre stage manager has left no wall uncovered. Rows of postcards and pictures. Posters of backdrop mock-ups. Prop lizards crawl across a wall. Holmes keeps endless supplies at the ready: gaffer tape, pencils, yardsticks. There’s a photo of Actors artistic director Les Waters in a captain’s hat. There’s the handwritten memo “CONCERNING EMPLOYMENT IN THE FALL.” As crisp as it was 27 years ago.

    Random, Holmes thought back then. The only time he’d been to Actors was to pick up a friend and take them back to New York. For years, Holmes had lived in NYC, where he’d wanted to be since age six, after first seeing the splendor of West Side Story. He worked as a stage manager for Off-Broadway productions and was an understudy at the Royal Shakespeare Co. He’d spend summers at Pennsylvania’s Totem Pole Playhouse, where he first got into theater at 19. There were the other stretches in L.A., Israel, Japan and Germany with Little Shop of Horrors, like a five-year college. “That’s where I learned to be a stage manager over the long haul,” the 67-year-old says. Three decades ago, when he started at Actors as a guest stage manager, he ended up doing five shows that first year.

    This summer, he and his crew — three other resident stage managers, four apprentices and two production assistants — were gearing up for the pre-production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Sept. 18-Oct. 10), a story about an autistic boy’s investigation of a dog’s death. His “script bible” — a binder with the script and the Pamela Brown Auditorium stage map on each page — has stage directions highlighted, pages tabbed. He’ll note when an actor moves left or right, or sits down in a chair. He’ll follow along with the lines, give one when an actor forgets. He always has his laptop close by. “I’m like a conductor,” Holmes says. “I give a downbeat and it’s lights up, lights down, a track coming on, this lift coming up, curtains closing. It’s like someone is pushing a stick back there and 17 things happen at once. Like an illusion.”

    This originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine on page 95. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photo by Mickie Winters,


    Part of "33 Reasons We Love Our Arts Scene."

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