Friday, August 11, 2006
Running in Repertory
Abigail Rodd: Techincal Director
At most opera houses each production runs consecutively, without overlap, so you just deal with one show at a time. At Glimmerglass all of the shows run at the same time, so our biggest challenge is storage space. We have to fill the stage four times and find a place to store everything when it isn’t being used. The storage space that we have is actually smaller than the stage. I’ve worked at theaters that run a more standard season, such as New Hartford. There we wouldn’t start building for a show until the previous one had gone onstage because the shows ran consecutively, not in rotation. Once the show onstage was done it went into the trash. We saved some items that we thought could be reused, but we didn’t have to worry about storage at all. Here, the place we store the sets is also the place that we build them. This means that as the productions are being created we have to leave enough room for construction. It’s like one of those puzzles with a bunch of movable squares and one empty slot. You have to keep juggling things around.
This year there are a lot of set pieces hanging up in the flies, which means that we aren’t quite as cramped for space in the scene shop and storage trailers. However, to get things to fly in and out, without hitting other things that are hanging up there, we have to use breasting lines to tie back set pieces for whichever show is not running that night. All of these flies have to be untied and retied as we transition between shows each day. The snow effect in The Greater Good is a perfect example of this. It is a one foot-square snow roller. The line sets are positioned in a way that prevents things upstage and downstage of it from flying in and out. This doesn’t cause a problem during Greater Good, but it would cause problems if it were left that way when running Pirates of Penzance. When we change the set out from Greater Good we have to take it to the grid and place other things underneath it so they can fly in and out unobstructed.
When you first think about the mechanics of building all of this stuff, finding a place to store it, and changing between the shows quickly it seems completely ludicrous. However, we make it work every year. We even made it work this year, when it was raining every day so we couldn’t work or store things outside. There was also a week when we were losing power at three o’clock every day because of the storms. Now that the carpenters and set painters are gone things become much easier. We don’t have to worry about leaving space for them to work. The tough part is when we’re running two shows and building the other two. Thankfully, we’ve gotten through that part of the season.
Photos (from top to bottom):
1. A view of the set shop, one of the storage locations for the sets and props of the productions.
2. Set pieces from The Barber of Seville, The Greater Good, and The Pirates of Penzance sit side by side.