I have always been proud of my background and where I came from. Although we don't have courses or majors in the Philippines specializing in stage management, through my mentors and years of experience, I managed to overcome the challenges and get to where I am right now.
New York City
Sheryl Polancos is the Stage Manager for Broadway’s Jersey Boys Musical, this also happens to be her favorite project in her career in the United States. She is currently based in New York City before she moved from the Philippines, where she was born and raised. It is also in the Philippines where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Santo Tomas.
Her journey to New York started when she applied to be an Assistant Production Manager in Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident drama company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Polancos said, “I've always been around arts growing up. I started with dance and dabbled in theater as well when I was little. My college years were mostly spent with my theater group, so when I graduated, I wanted to pursue theatre as a career. So, I applied for the asst. production manager position in Tanghalang Pilipino, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and from there I decided to switch paths and go the stage management route.”
We asked about her favorite works while she was in the Philippines, Sheryl said “Piaf because it was my first big break as a production stage manager. [As well as] Carrie the Musical in Manila because it is a gorgeous show. Avenue Q in Singapore & Manila because it is a fun fun show to do.” Sheryl’s enthusiasm for her work truly manifests her passion and dedication to theatre.
When asked about how she connects with her culture and heritage through her work, she gave us an important insight into how she uses her training in Manila in her practice in New York, “I have always been proud of my background and where I came from. Although we don't have courses or majors in the Philippines specializing in stage management, through my mentors and years of experience, I managed to overcome the challenges and get to where I am right now.” She emphasizes, “Filipinos are naturally hard workers and we have great work ethic and so I bring that all the time in my work. Especially coming here in NYC, I put my head down and work hard. I want to show them that I am a force to be reckoned with, even though I don't have a stage management degree here in the USA, that I am skilled enough to be compared to the local stage managers here. When I'm invited for interviews or talks, I always share our practices in the Philippines and share how Filipinos are determined, passionate hard workers.”
She further narrates her journey, “It is hard to penetrate NY theater [scene]…period. Especially being an immigrant and 2nd class citizen, they will always favor local stage managers. But you just have to show them how good you are and at par with the rest of them. Again, hard work, determination, impeccable work ethic plus Filipina charm will get you through the challenges.”
Moving forward, Sheryl hopes to see more Filipino and POC stage managers on Broadway, “I realized especially during this pandemic that there are very few Filipino stage managers. I hope in the future there will be groups or communities for us Filipinos to support each other, pandemic or no pandemic. Once we all come together and have a voice, I think theater in the US will recognize us more. Especially now that the US, in general, favors people of color in the theater. I hope in time, Filipino stage managers will be heads of big Broadway shows and in time I intend to be a part of that pool of, not just Filipino, but POC stage managers.”
Sheryl gave us an inspiring message for dreamers like her, “I always tell young people, or even friends, to go after your dreams whatever it is. Don't be scared to take risks because only then you can tell if you survive or fall flat on your face. At least you tried, no what-ifs. Do the thing that makes you happy and work hard for it.” She inspires everyone to be kind and determined, “Don’t hurt people just to get ahead but put down your head and focus on your goal. Don’t mind other people. Focus on yourself.”
When theater returns, Sheryl will lead the Jersey Boys company as the first stage manager. “[Because of] Covid-19, Broadway has shut down until May 2021. So I'm looking forward to being back in Jersey Boys once the industry decides to open again. I can't wait to see my Jersey Boys family and get back to work and do what I love most....theater!”