Reminiscing on the many lessons learned.
By Rachel James (Treasurer/Writer)
Now that I am officially on vacation (and letting my Seattle cousins sleep in while I get over my jet lag), I finally have the time to reminisce about this past month of FUNemployment and Save The Date at FringeNYC. In all my years of working in theatre, this is the first time I’ve been so involved in the production aspects of a show rather than the creative. I’m aware that it takes money to put on a show, but I have never before been so intrinsically involved in the raising and allocating of funds.
Granted, working as a treasurer, I’m involved in the money aspect of the show all the time. But being the middle man is definitely not the same.
Not only was I working on the production end of things, but working in a festival setting brings its own set of issues. Therefore, here are the top five things I learned this summer working on Save The Date at FringeNYC.
Collaboration is key
Our director, Nikki Rothenberg, said it best: “Theatre is a team sport”. And working in a festival like FringeNYC, how true that is. We may all have had separate titles and jobs, but it was all hands on deck for the process. Our choreographer helped our lighting designer set up; our director steamed costumes; our drummer helped transport costumes and props to and from our storage space (which was one of our producer’s apartments five blocks from the theater). Everyone did their assigned jobs, but with limited resources and big vision, everyone had to help out to make sure things were executed promptly and correctly.
Roll with the punches
Preach, Jinkx Monsoon.
Sometimes you get the show up and running and everything is great. And sometimes the show before you is running late and you end up having to seat 161 people in 6 minutes. Or one of your actors gets a job out of town and you put someone in with three rehearsals. Yes, all that happened. But we still put on five performances to fairly full houses and we got very lovely responses. The show is going happen, whether things go exactly to your liking or not. And if you’re not having a good time, why are you doing this?
Let limitations inspire you
A great thing about writing for Crazytown is that I have a deadline. Every week it is expected that I post new, original content. And while sometimes I wish I had more time and resources to create, being forced to publish once a week means I can’t over think things. If my filter is up, I will be staring at a blank page far longer than is necessary.
The same can be said of working in a festival setting. Because the venue has to deal with the needs of many, you have to figure out what is absolutely essential for your show. And then figure out how you and the other shows can compromise to make all of your visions a reality.
A quick story: most Fringe venues are assigned a rep lighting plot based off of the needs of all the shows assigned to that venue. Our venue had two non-Fringe shows running in it. Therefore, our lighting plot was based off the needs of those shows. It included almost no color and was very scattered, but we adjusted. About a week before our tech, we received word that one of the shows would be closing early and taking five instruments with them. This included much of the color and a few of the specials. What did our lighting designer do? He used a long stick, put a gel on the end of it, and figured out a way to get it into a leko before every show. Our venue director said that she would tell this story as the stuff of FringeNYC legend!
Gchat and Google hangouts can keep a show together
Seriously, buy stock in Google. I spent many days gchatting and many nights on Google hangouts for production meetings. When your team lives in disparate parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and you have crazy work schedules, sometimes the only option is to set a meeting for 10pm in the comfort of your living room. It allows you to get done what needs to get done, without the hassle of dealing with the A train not running.
Work in the present, but have a plan for what’s next
It’s something you constantly have to strive for as an artist. Reminiscing about your past accomplishments is great, but it is also a trap of safety and comfort. New art is exciting and scary. And everyone you work with is a possible collaborator for the next time. Find the people you have fun working with, and figure out ways to work with them again.
Some of these may seem fairly obvious, but I know they certainly helped me out. It’s also fired me up to get back to research, development, writing, and production. I met loads of cool people I’ll work with in the future. And since we’ve already done it once, we know we can do it again.
In the immortal words of President Bartlet: “What’s next?”
RACHEL JAMES is a native New Yorker and theatre baby. Her plays have been produced by The 52nd Street Project and Starfish Theatreworks. She currently makes a living as a Broadway treasurer.
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