New York City has always been a bustling hub of artistic expression and creative energy. Among the myriad talents that contribute to the vibrant tapestry of the city’s theater scene, Mariko Takizawa stands out as a dedicated stage manager with a flair for seamlessly orchestrating diverse productions. Specializing in musicals, plays, immersive theater, opera, and traditional Japanese performing arts, Takizawa has amassed an impressive portfolio that includes award-winning shows and collaborations with renowned artists. From Off-Broadway hits like Anthony Rapp’s “Without You” to immersive experiences like “Sleep No More” and traditional opera productions, Takizawa’s expertise knows no bounds.
But what led this talented stage manager to pursue a career in the theater? For Takizawa, the answer lies in her lifelong love for the art form. From an early age, she found solace and inspiration in the world of theater, fueled by her passion for music. As a trumpet player, she had the opportunity to explore a wide range of musical genres, including various musicals and operas. It was a natural progression for her to be drawn to the theater, where she could combine her love for music and her desire to be a part of something larger than herself.
Takizawa’s journey into stage management truly began during her freshman year in college when she served as an assistant stage manager for a college production. It was in this role that she discovered her aptitude for using her diverse skill set to support and contribute to the production process. Drawing on her fluency in reading music, honed through years of playing the trumpet, she found that she could understand and collaborate effectively with musicians and performers. Her experience as a sales associate in the fashion industry taught her invaluable communication skills, while her time as a store manager in Japan cultivated her organizational prowess. Recognizing the sense of belonging and fulfillment she felt behind the scenes, Takizawa embarked on a journey to develop her stage management skills and forge a career in the field.
As a stage manager, Takizawa’s role is multifaceted, encompassing a wide range of responsibilities that are vital to the success of any production. From pre-production to the closing day of the show, she is responsible for ensuring the smooth and safe operation of the production. This involves creating schedules, coordinating with directors, designers, and choreographers, setting up props and stage sets, documenting every detail of the show, calling cues, and running the show itself. However, beyond the technical aspects, Takizawa firmly believes that her primary purpose is to support everyone involved in the production. She adapts her approach based on the specific needs of each project, whether that means taking on a leadership role, lending a listening ear, or facilitating conflict resolution. By observing and responding flexibly to the people around her, Takizawa ensures that her work contributes to the bigger picture of theater production.
Takizawa’s journey in the theater industry began with her studies at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she majored in theater and acquired foundational knowledge and technical skills. Her internships during college provided her with practical experience and an opportunity to network, opening doors to job opportunities after graduation. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to refine her craft and build a name for herself in the industry.
Reflecting on her favorite projects to date, Takizawa fondly recalls her work on Anthony Rapp’s “Without You” musical, a production that marked her first full production as a member of the Actors’ Equity Association. Having dedicated herself to her stage management career and overcoming challenges to join Equity, she takes immense pride in this achievement. As a devoted fan of “Rent,” the opportunity to listen to “Season of Love” backstage every night, performed by the original cast member Anthony Rapp himself, was an unforgettable privilege for Takizawa. It served as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of theater and the impact it can have on both the audience and those working behind the scenes.
When asked about her decision to leave Japan and pursue her theater dream in the United States, Takizawa reveals that it was a leap of faith driven by a desire to explore new opportunities in the entertainment industry. Initially unsure of her path, she sent her resume to numerous theater companies, hoping for a chance to prove herself. It was through the guidance of a supportive roommate and the decision to enroll in a college that Takizawa found her true calling as a stage manager. Education provided her with a new career path that she genuinely loves, enabling her to be her authentic self in a nurturing environment. The United States has offered her countless chances to collaborate with remarkable individuals, some of whom have become like family while working on awe-inspiring productions.
One of the unique qualities Takizawa brings to her role as a stage manager is her innate sense of Japanese hospitality, known as Omotenashi. Having previously worked as a sales associate at luxury fashion companies, she understands the importance of creating a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for all production members, especially during high-pressure situations. Her commitment to fostering a positive and inclusive environment allows the entire team to thrive and bring their best to each performance.
For aspiring theater professionals, Takizawa offers valuable advice. Networking and keeping up with the latest technological advancements are crucial for anyone interested in stage management or the technical side of theater. Additionally, she emphasizes the importance of enjoying the journey and cherishing moments of laughter and camaraderie with the team. With long hours and demanding schedules, finding joy and cultivating a supportive community is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
As for her future endeavors, Takizawa eagerly anticipates her upcoming off-Broadway production, set to debut in winter. While the details remain under wraps, her excitement is palpable as she prepares to tackle a new artistic challenge. In the meantime, she also assumes the role of general manager for “Speakeasy Magick,” a captivating magic show produced by Emursive Productions.
Mariko Takizawa’s passion for stage management and her unwavering commitment to the theater community continues to shine brightly. With each production she contributes to, she weaves her unique skills, experiences, and heartfelt dedication into the fabric of the theater world. As she continues to make her mark on the stage, Takizawa remains an inspiring force, reminding us all of the transformative power of theater and the countless stories waiting to be told.