Like many college freshmen, Caitlin Cain ’15 wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she got to college. Unlike many college freshmen, it didn’t take her long to find out – one play, to be exact.
“I just had a really, really great time,” the Atlanta native says of her gig as assistant stage manager for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, “and right after I did that the cast book came out and I was cast in my first show.”
That sealed it, and Cain soon abandoned her plan of going into communications. She became a theatre arts major before her sophomore year, which, truth be told, is what she wanted to do all along.
“That’s where my passion was,” she says. “Not necessarily where the money is, but definitely where my passion is . . . I acted in a lot of shows in high school, and my aunt was actually an actress so she was an inspiration to me. I’ve been wanting to be in theatre for a very, very long time—since I was a little kid.”
By the time Cain graduated last month she had acted in four shows and stage-managed five others. She knew she’d like the former; the surprise was she may like the latter even more.
While acting is all about being seen, being a stage manager is almost exactly the opposite.
“It’s really cool how you can be in charge of everything back stage. It’s a really selfless job,” she said. “You don’t really get a lot of recognition, but you get the opportunity to help everyone . . . It’s kind of neat to have two passions in the theatre that are very different, because most people have a specialized area.”
As busy as Cain was with productions, she devoted nearly as much time and energy to a rapidly growing department thanks to a $2 million grant from the Duke Endowment in 2011. She was integral in organizing a hugely successful “SNL Skit Night,” which played off the show Saturday Night Live, and was vice president of the “Order of the Furman Theatre” her senior year.
“We had a very, very small department, but we were given Duke funds . . . and we started a scholarship program so our program has been growing ever since,” she said. “We went from having maybe 15 majors my freshman year to having 35 this year.”
That’s still an intimate group, which Cain bargained for when she chose Furman. She ended up getting even more out of her experience, however.
“I’ve always been drawn to the passion and excitement of being on a stage and how awesome that is,” she said. “I had not been exposed to stage managing before I came to Furman, but I really, really love stage managing.”
So much so that, with degree now in hand, Cain wouldn’t mind making that her professional life. She attended the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Greensboro, N.C., in March and is currently a technician intern at Actor’s Express in her hometown at night while working as a photo double during the day for the character Marcy in Tyler Perry’s television series If Loving You Is Wrong.
She won’t turn down a full-time job if it’s offered, but the exposure to television has only shown Cain how much she loves theatre.
“In theatre, you are constantly working towards a final product, and the entire process is more fluid. Even during actual performances, it is still a learning process and each night is different based on the variety of audiences. In film, you maybe do a scene five times, and then it’s finished. The scenes are often filmed out of order, and you don’t get a sense of finality with your work. There’s no coherency,” she said. “My honest opinion so far is that I prefer theatre—acting and stage managing alike—to film work.”
The Furman theatre department’s 2015-16 season gets under way Oct. 15 with Hair, followed by God of Carnage, Rumors and Arcadia.