One Man Show


Guest writer: Brian Walker, production manager


This season is the first time that Houston Ballet II has had full touring engagements.  In previous years, the HBIIs performed around town and for a couple of seasons in Brenham.  We made the decision to try to offer the second company as a an alternative to the full company for touring.  This move allows the company to perform in venues and in cities that would not normally be exposed to Houston Ballet either because of the size of the venue or because of the cost of presenting the full company.  This new touring plan for HBII means that we are as streamlined as possible.  The company tours with one artistic staff member, a company manager and a production person…and that would be me.  Normally the full company tours with me in the role of production manager, 2 stage managers, a lighting supervisor, 5 crew heads and at least one wardrobe person.  So that means that when I take HBII on the road, all of those duties fall to me.  We are of course on a much smaller scale, but it still means a lot falls on my shoulders.

Our first booking was in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  I caught a 7am flight out of Houston on a Monday.  After a 5 hour layover in Chicago, I finally landed in Wisconsin around 4pm.  I arrived too late to actually get any work at the theater done, but the local production crew had spent the day working on getting the lighting equipment hung and circuited.  I checked in at the theater Tuesday morning to see how things were going.  Even though there were only two people working, they had gotten quite a lot done.  I was able to solve several problems right away and answer several other questions that would have become problems later.  Our backdrop arrived later that morning, and we were able to sort out how to deal with it since this theater didn’t actually have the ability to fly the drop out.  We resolved that it had to be hung and struck each time we needed it.  This particular booking was through a university, which meant that the crew was going to be volunteer students.  The theater itself was a separate entity from the school and there ended up being very little communication between the two.  So while I was promised a crew would be arriving the day of the show, there ended up being no crew to speak of.  So there was a bit of a scramble to deal with that.  I ended up having to ask our company manager Shauna Tysor to help with the backdrop.  All in all, the show went well.  The house crew were great and knew exactly what needed to happen to make the show work.  I was totally stoked that our first show went well.

Our second booking was in Monroe, Louisiana.  There had been a bit of a hiccup a couple of weeks before we left for Louisiana.  We had sent our lighting information to them which was a part of the tech rider and contract that had been signed.  Unfortunately, they were not able to honor that part of the agreement because the venue didn’t have the equipment that our lighting required and they weren’t financially able to rent the equipment.  Rather than cancel the booking, we decided to make do with what we could.  It required a significant change to our lighting, and we actually cut a couple of elements.  Another 7am flight on a prop plane (and a slight delay) got me to Monroe by 10am.  I went straight to the theater to see what was going on.  While they had gotten a lot done, things had stalled a bit by mid-day.  I also noticed a few things that we had requested weren’t done, so I started scrambling to figure out how to make things work.  In the end, after several compromises, I was able to walk away that day feeling like we would be okay the next day.  The morning of the show, I arrived at the theater with big plans to start focusing.  The house crew had ended up working until about 3am the previous night to get everything done (apparently they weren’t quite as far along as I had hoped).  So we had to wrap up a few last minute things before I was able to start working.  Unfortunately, the person assigned to focus for me wasn’t quite as up-to-speed as I had hoped.  What took me just over an hour in Wisconsin, took the better part of 3 hours in Louisiana.  I had to work quickly to get done so I could give the stage to the dancers for class.  They ended up having to take barre in the house at the front of the orchestra.  Fortunately they were able to use the wall of the orchestra pit as their barre and I was able to finish focus in time for them to move to center.  We managed to do the rehearsal that afternoon, and I was able to make the show look decent considering the major concessions we had made.   All in all the day went well, though I had a pretty major migraine.  The show itself went well, and the audience response was great. 

To be quite honest, it’s a little sad that we don’t have any more bookings for the rest of the season since I’ve now got the whole process down.  Oh well, maybe next season!

-Brian

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