I’ve always worked in live entertainment—running backstage crews for Fashion Week in New York and stage managing live events and theater,” recounts General Hospital stage manager Crystal Craft.
How she arrived in Hollywood from Brunswick, New Jersey, is another story. “A friend in L.A. was going to Chicago to work on a movie, and said we could use his place rent-free for six months. We had two kids and about $10 when we moved to California, so when I got the chance to work in wardrobe on General Hospital in 1995, I never left,” says Craft.
The “we are family” vibe at the long-running soap has always meant easy lateral movement, so after six years on the show, Craft created her own hybrid role: relief stage manager and on-set costume designer. “Then when my good friend Kathy Ladd decided to retire [in 2004], I became one of two full-time stage managers,” Craft says with obvious pride.
The self-described “short-timer” (some GH department heads have logged more than 20 years) says she’s the director’s voice and ears on the set. “They’re in a control room with the technical directors, lighting directors, and ADs watching the fl oor on their monitors,” Craft explains. “And budget cuts have meant our directors only have time to block out multiple scenes on the floor without coming back to give notes to cast and crew. So they place a great deal of trust in the stage manager.”
Craft still gets teased about her most embarrassing moment on set, which happened fi ve years ago. Actor Jason Thompson exited into an enclosed elevator from a scene being blocked on the big Metro Court Hotel restaurant set, Craft recalls. “We work very fast, jumping into the next rehearsal, so as we’re ready to start taping, Jason’s nowhere to be found. I’m getting irritated because it’s my job to have actors there when the directors need them. Finally I yell out, ‘Has anyone seen Jason Thompson?’ and we hear a polite voice say, ‘I’m in the elevator.’ He couldn’t get out if he wanted to.”
Craft, who likens her days to being a pit boss at an IndyCar race (the show shoots 130 pages a day), was never more challenged than during last summer’s “fundraising carnival” story line, shot over four days in the ABC parking lot. “We had 200 background players and a car crashing through and running people down, all in 100-degree heat,” she smiles. “I’m not a screamer, so any day where I’ve lost my temper and stopped being the show’s cheerleader, I consider a really bad day.”