Central Stage Manager

Katherine Nelson

Walled Lake, MI

What committees do you currently serve on?
Saying I love serving on Equity committees is an understatement. I’m currently part of 14 in addition to Council; highlights include Central Developing Theatre, TYA, Membership Education, Young Workers, and the Convention Committee. On the Detroit Liaison Committee, I’ve taken initiative to increase visibility, participation, and relevance. And if you’re new to Equity, you may have seen me presenting with New Member and SM Orientations!


Last year, a local actor told me, “I don’t know what the union does for me.” That all-too-common sentiment propels me daily into action.

As a stage manager based in Detroit and making my living in regional theatre, I often hear from fellow members who don’t believe their voices matter, let alone that they can and should participate in change. If you’ve ever been made to feel replaceable, no matter your location or contract, I’m ready to engage with you, champion you, and better your contracts—and your life—in the process.

Since being elected to Council, I’ve almost tripled the number of committees I serve on (14, plus two proposal selection teams). When I realized concessions weren’t being consistently reported between regions, I questioned the status quo, dove into research, and successfully took action to ensure transparency. I’m ready for whatever’s next. (Confession: I stay up late digging through decades of Equity archives. Ask me the member count in 1951 or about the Committee on Committees.)

Like you, I’ve lost work and health weeks in this current crisis. I also know how it feels working full-time on contracts that still don’t pay all my bills. My firsthand experience and relentless pursuit of answers help me advocate for all members now amidst this collective upheaval—and continue doing so when theatre returns.

No member should have to wonder what Equity does for them, now or ever. Keeping me on Council ensures you won’t have to.

Personal Statement

I grew up on the coast of Maryland. My dad is a rocket scientist–literally; he works at NASA–and my mom was a journalist, so I grew up with the perfect mixture of analytical and artistic that explains why I love stage management (and a good Excel spreadsheet). Now, I live in the metro Detroit area, and have been in Michigan since 2011.

I was married in 2017, and my husband and I live in the metro Detroit area. I’m the oldest of four girls and my husband has four brothers, so we have a large extended family all over the country.

My Equity Card: I joined the EMC program as the ASM for Evil Dead: the Musical at CATCO in Columbus, Ohio. (I was a very busy ASM! We used five gallons of stage blood per performance.) I had almost worked my way through the entire EMC program (I’d accumulated something like 48 weeks) when I was offered my first full contract, stage managing a TYA production that did a short tour throughout the state.

How/Why is Equity and this work important to you?
As someone who makes her living outside the office cities, I’m aware how isolating regional theatre can feel, and I’m also aware that we are so much stronger together. Solidarity is vital. My mission in life is to empower those who have been told their feelings are incorrect or that their perspectives don’t matter. I’ve had to challenge the silencing of my own voice and want to prevent that from happening to others. No one should be made to feel unsafe for having an opinion, and yours matters to me. I’m ready to speak up with and for you.

Is there anything else do you do in the world (volunteerism, side hustle, civic work) that informs your worldview and the experience you will bring to the Council room?
I supplement stage management as a costume designer (check out www.knelsondesigns.com). Between the two, I’m almost always working on several projects at once, which is common to many Equity members. I often describe having to choose between sleeping and eating because there are no more hours left in the day. Without fail, people respond, “It’s a good thing you love what you do.” I love theatre, but love does not make me any less of a worker or any less deserving of a fair wage, benefits, or a humane schedule. That’s why I’m so excited about #FairWageOnCouncil. Advocating for what is truly fair for everyone involved matters now more than ever as our entire landscape changes.

What is a Fun Fact or something most people don’t know about you?
I play Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines combat, dance, acrobatics, and live music). Also, I love houseplants. It’s a tossup on any given day whether I have more houseplants or am on more Equity committees.

Where is your happy place?
I love being by the ocean. Michigan’s lakes are lovely, but just aren’t the same as saltwater. And when I’m by the ocean with a good book, I’m even happier.

What was your first ever stage production? 
I played the Munchkin Coroner in a community production of the Wizard of Oz when I was twelve. I got to hold a prop (a scroll with the official edict proclaiming the witch dead) and was thrilled about it. My excitement about having a prop was really how I should have known I was meant to be a stage manager.