There are so many things that a transition from a professional career to one in academic theatre has required of me. The easiest has probably been the absorption of the academic calendar. For the past ten years, my life and schedule has been predicated on such signposts as start of classes, Monday holidays, Thanksgiving Recess, Spring Recess, and the ever enticing stop days.
This doesn’t cover the calendaring function of a production manager in an academic theatre program. That process is endlessly entertaining, in the same way the graphic at left was….
Four theatres, twenty-one productions, and a myriad of important School related dates – New Student luncheons, All-School Pizza Party, Commencement, just to name a few. The calendar is integral to every department within our school’s planning cycle, and the production calendar informs any number of other offshoots.
This is the season of calendar construction for next season – I mean, the next two semesters. (Old habits die hard.) There are dozens of factors which impact a calendar’s makeup. They can be as simple as where Thanksgiving falls in the semester, or accommodating the number of students in any given cohort. For example, we have several productions in our calendar which are specifically intended as curricular exercises for our BFA or MFA Acting cohorts. In the fall, we have three theatre slots dedicated to the BA acting population, one in the Bing Theatre, and two others in our smaller spaces. We have one Open Cast show, open to all majors and minors in the School of Dramatic Arts.The rest of the fall is peppered with shows for the other populations, two BFA SR shows, one BFA JR production, and lastly, one for the MFA 2nd year acting cohort.
The plays are selected by committees of faculty who gather together over the course of the year to share plays they have found, or those that they think would cater well to these different populations. Many of these committee members may end up directing the shows they bring to the table. I have not served on that committee, but await the findings more avidly than probably any other stakeholder in the school, because the bulk of my work begins with the announcement of the season. My work actually begins sometime in the previous October with the construction of the calendar template, which I try to share along the way with the three artistic directors who will manage the programming of the plays within the framework of the Production Calendar. But the actual pre-production work begins as soon as those plays are named. When does that generally happen?
Stop Days. Or more precisely, the last day of classes.
As of Friday, the students have finished their classes, many jetting (driving) off to some more temperate clime to study for the next four days prior to the start of final exams, or in the case of our production students, final portfolio reviews. Left in the wake of their excited egresses are the faculty, who like me, carry stacks of final papers home to grade, final exams to create, and general end of the semester housekeeping.
This year, our stop days are peppered with packing boxes, as many of us prepare to move to new office spaces; our building will be razed to make way for a new science building.
Let’s have a moment of silence for the CWT building, Childs Way Temporary, serving the campus since 1945.
I know, I’m repeating myself from previous blogs; yes, you can consider this topic much in my mind, though I am also excited about the new-to-us space that Hannah and I will inhabit. The upstairs workroom of the Scene Dock Theatre, one of the oldest buildings in our school’s ample collection of old buildings, will be repainted, carpeted and reappointed with our current furniture to make a production office aerie for the backstage work of planning and propping the SDA shows. Go ahead, just try to find us…. Seriously, please try to find us; we may be lonely up there.
The final days of the spring semester have been exciting – Tina Haatainen-Jones, my steadfast colleague in teaching the THTR 130 Crew Section and all things Production at USC, took a few shots of our final review from class on Tuesday, in quiz show format. Next week we will sit with our design and stage management and technical direction students to review their drafting, prompt books, tales of challenges and triumphs in the past weeks. This messy, collaborative act of putting together a creative whole, this organic, ephemeral, magical thing called theatre is a living breathing laboratory, and I feel blessed to have a budget and a talented and dedicated staff to support the work of our students with in this annual cycle of work.
I told my husband on Friday when I got home with my papers and my own homework of writing a report this weekend for a committee I co-chair,
“I will be home all weekend, with only 32 papers to grade and a report to write – what do you want to do this weekend?”
God love him, he gets me and my relentless irony. He gets it as a fellow thespian, who knows the work that is needed to get the job done. It is, as you may have gleaned by now, what may be necessary for a lifeinthethe8tre.