Break On Through to the Other Side...The Production Side

Liz Chirico

  • OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

I’ve said before that no role is too small, that actors should assist with backstage work to truly understand all theater is. This spring, I decided to really put my money where my mouth is and try my hand at the other side the curtain. The production side.

I’ve assisted with productions before in a fundraising/marketing capacity. However it’s always for shows of company’s I’m a part of so I have a very real stake in the outcome. The more advertising I help with, the bigger the audience and the more laughs I get (I’m usually the sassy friend).  This time, I’m only working the production side as a producer for a local company’s (who I’ve never worked with before) summer musical, Pippin.

It’s only been a week of rehearsals and about a month of actually thinking about the show and I can tell you already I’m so far behind at least the director and assistant director/choreographer. I knew as actors we come well after creative juices have started but I had no idea how far in advance the process truly starts. They have been thinking, dreaming, and breathing this show for months. 

There’s so many moving parts to a production outside of the actors. I’ve been in enough shows I know how important costumes, sets and lighting design are but to me those are things that simply happen. Maybe I help paint a bit of the set (because you sure don’t want me using power tools, or any tools for that matter) but those elements happen around me while I focused on singing, dancing and learning lines. The energy and time spent on these elements, too often considered second-tier to the acting on stage, is tremendous. Now I am responsible for ensuring that those responsible for costumes, sets, etc. have what they need to be successful. Without these elements, sure the show might go on, but it certainly won’t be the same show.

Attending auditions on the other side was a huge eye-opener. First, going to an audition not feeling like I’m going to throw-up or pass out was an experience I wouldn’t mind repeating. Later that evening, sitting around the table as the director, choreographer and music director discussed who should return for call backs and why, I felt hope. There were people that auditioned who had worked with a member(s) of the creative team, had even worked with this company before with smashing results and they were still being discussed and scrutinized like everyone else. We’ve all seen examples that community theater nepotism is alive and well and I’m happy to report that at least in this theater, on this production, with this creative team that isn’t the case.

There’s still another 8ish weeks before opening night. I’m sure I’m going to see and learn a lot more. I truly feel that all actors should spend time involved in theater not on stage. Whether that’s as crew, usher, director, producer it doesn’t matter. What’s important is having a complete picture of the makings of a show from start to finish. I know that having this new perspective, and an appreciation for all that goes into making the show a success away from the stage will help when return to the spotlight.