A! Magazine for the Arts

Ann Vance

Ann Vance

Vance works backstage to ensure the theater's success

December 26, 2022

Ann Vance became heavily involved with Theatre Bristol because of her granddaughter, Faith Ann Vance. Prior to that, she was an auxiliary police officer with Bristol, Tennessee.

“My former work did not exactly have any creative elements in terms of theater arts. The work consisted of going on calls and working in the criminal investigative division.

“Prior to that work, I spent many years caring for my disabled daughter and raising my granddaughter, who is currently a senior at Tennessee High. I was also the president of the PTA for school and president of Avoca ballfield, as well as the cheerleading coach at Haynesfield Elementary School.

“Theatre was not something I imagined being involved in. I had planned to continue to volunteer for schools in some capacity,” she says.

But her granddaughter wanted to audition for “Scrooge! The Musical” at Theatre Bristol. She took her to the audition, and her granddaughter was cast as an urchin and loved it.

For that first show, Vance volunteered as a wrangler – looked after the children backstage – and helped paint the set.

After that whenever Faith got a role, Vance found a place for herself at the theater.

Faith was cast in “The Adventures of Madeline”, and then as Beatrix Potter in “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and Friends.” As she continued acting, she was cast in the musical “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “Junie B. Jones,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Trial of the Big Bad Wolf,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Into the Woods,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Pinocchio,” “The Little Match Girl” and “The Gift of the Magi.”

“For many of these productions I learned to paint sets, run lights, run sound and how to stage manage shows. I enjoyed being a part of creating and helping others create. As a result, even when Faith was not involved in a show, such as ‘Elf The Musical,’ ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘All Together Now,’ I served as an assistant stage manager,” Vance says.

The assistant stage managers or ASMs work stage right and stage left and spend the show on headset ensuring that set pieces, props and especially actors make it on stage in time. ASMs work with the stage manager and the run crew and are prepared to make decisions to address problems and keep the show moving.

She was stage manager for many shows at the ARTspace Theatre, including “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Christmas Classics,” and many others. She also served as stage manager for most of the annual productions with partner River’s Way.

“These River’s Way productions, ‘Three Times Three,’ ‘How to Avoid a Tragedy: Lessons from Shakespeare,’ ‘Real Heroes’ and more, along with ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ are among my very favorite productions.

“Soon, I was involved in the operations of the theater, helping clean the building, writing thank you letters to donors, digitizing show recordings from past decades, helping volunteers for the Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival and assisting with Playtime in the ARTspace and The StART of Adventure summer camp. I joined the Board of Directors in 2018 and have supported the organization’s growth and improvements to its theater space and programs. Recently, I began helping look after the students as they participated in the Cathy DeCaterina School of Theatre Arts classes. I currently serve as the vice president of the board of directors and am on the production committee that picks the seasons of shows.

“I spend a lot of time at the theater, greeting people entering and hanging up the art projects and headshots they give me after the shows from the cast and crew display board. I have many of them from young people in productions over the years. The kids call me Nana, and some of the adults do too.

“Being on stage is not an interest of mine, but I have performed in the theater’s Christmas Scenes holiday window display as Mrs. Claus.

“I find working in theater has given me lifelong friendships, ways to create something together that people enjoy. The end result is always awesome, even though when you’re putting it together you sometimes think it’s not going to turn out that way. I’m motivated by the people involved and helping them learn something new. It’s a lot of fun for me to watch them grow. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends. It keeps me young,” Vance says.

She received her training on the job from Camille Gray, Nicole Intagliata and Samantha Gray. In turn, Vance is mentoring students in Theatre Bristol Youth Service Board, “runners” who help assistant stage managers and other assistant stage managers. She also shows the ropes to new actors as they learn how things are done backstage.

“To a point my former work contributes to what I do now in that I look out for the wellbeing of everyone. Theatre Bristol cares about everyone, and I help look after the children and make sure people leave rehearsals together, for example. It’s a joy to be at Theatre Bristol, and I’m here for every show, if I can be. It’s a wonderful part of our community, providing entertainment and so much creativity in a family-friendly environment.”

Founded in 1965, Theatre Bristol is the oldest continually running children’s theater in Northeast Tennessee. Its main stage season consists of adult and children’s productions. Some of its performances take place in the ARTspace, a multi-purpose, black box theater which seats up to 120, and other performances are on stage at the Paramount Center for the Arts. Theatre Bristol is volunteer run and invites the public to get involved.