Backstage with one of Canada’s greatest stage managers
Whenever You’re Ready is an intimate account of the career of Nora Polley, who — in her 52 years at the Stratford Festival — has learned from, worked with, and cared for some of the greatest directors, actors, stage managers, and productions in Canadian theatrical history. In so doing, Nora became one of the greatest stage managers this country has ever seen.
Here is an account of the Stratford Festival’s history like no other. From her childhood forays into a theater her father, Victor, worked tirelessly to help maintain, to her unexpected apprenticeship and the equally unexpected 40 years of stage management it ushered in, this is the Stratford Festival seen exclusively through Nora’s eyes. Here is an immersive account of a life spent in service of the theater, told from the ground floor: where actors struggle with lines and anxieties, where directors lose themselves in the work, where the next season is always uncertain, and where Nora — a stage manager, a custodian, a confidante, a pillar, a rock — finds her rhythm, her patience, her perseverance, her love, her consistency, and her invisibility. These are the qualities that make a stage manager great and, whenever you’re ready, this book will show you why.
Shawn DeSouza-Coelho is a writer based in Toronto, telling stories in whatever form they demand. He’s also a theater theorist/practitioner, professional magician, scholar, and sometimes poet. Shawn spent two seasons in the Stratford Festival acting company.
“An intimate glance into an interesting life . . . a tribute to the astonishing career of a dedicated professional.” — Quill & Quire
“Taking an original approach to biography, Shawn DeSouza-Coelho pieces together Nora Polley’s personal stories from decades of work at the Stratford Festival and other theatres across Canada and ultimately reveals a deeply moving picture of a life blessed with generous mentors, loving parents, and brilliant fellow artists who became true friends. Whenever You’re Ready is a valuable addition to the literature on Canadian theatre and a must-read for loyal patrons of the Festival. I highly recommend it.” — Ted McGee, Professor of English, University of Waterloo
“This is a delicious book, chronicling one of the greatest stage managers of all time, Nora Polley. Stratford Festival lovers will adore the inside look at the backstage of productions and burgeoning stage managers will discover how the exceptional ones think and operate. Nora Polley’s unerring instincts and skill create wonder both on page and stage. You will swallow it in a sitting.” — Martha Henry, Head of Michael Langham Directors’ Workshop, Stratford Festival
“I laughed, cried, and couldn’t put it down. Stage managers are not usually the centre of the story, but Shawn DeSouza-Coelho has put them in the spotlight, bringing the insecurities, flaws, worries and exultations of a stage manager to life. I could feel myself in Nora’s story. Whenever You’re Ready is theatre history as a novel.” — Janelle Rainville, Executive Director, Stage Managing the Arts
“Nora’s reputation is legend. She is a smart, resourceful, quick and fantastic woman and her intimate and powerful anecdotes are part of the history of Canadian theatre. But what also comes through in this book is her heart, that unmeasurable energy that is larger than any rehearsal room or theatre. It was our beacon and helped guide us through this strange and wonderful world of ‘life upon the wicked stage.’” — Cynthia Dale, Actor