Wednesday, September 23, 2009

La Traviata Prep Week - What's That?

Today, Seattle Opera's Michael Janney joins the blog. Michael works in the Production Department as the Assistant Stage Manager, and here he shares what it's like to catch his breath between the Ring and the upcoming production of La Traviata. He didn't have much time to savor though...prep week is over now as all the Traviata singers have arrived and are already in rehearsals!

For the Seattle Opera stage management staff, prep week is the calm before the storm or the overture before the curtain rises. It’s time that’s reserved for preparing for the artists’ arrivals and the myriad of other activities which will become too tedious or too irrelevant to demand our attention once the busy rehearsal process begins. Among other things, the vast scope of activities includes: archiving the previous performance, answering long ignored emails, cleaning and straightening the office and rehearsal hall, measuring ground plans and putting down spike tape to help recreate the set for the performers, receiving rehearsal costume items, putting timings in our scores, organizing our personal paperwork, pre-creating running lists for the crew, creating contact sheets, preparing welcome packets for the visiting artists, restocking green room supplies, and finalizing budgets.

Although it may sound like a lot of work, the prep week is equally important as a time to disconnect from the previous performance and get in the right mind set for a new show. One of the most appreciated aspects of working at Seattle Opera is that every two months you start with a clean slate as a new production rolls in with a new director and different performers. In this case the show we are letting go of is the Ring. While the Ring was all around a delightful and enriching project, there’s something refreshing about washing ourselves free of its all-encompassing, larger-than-life presence with the return of a standard size and familiar production, La Traviata. This is the time we use to retune our brains to the larger picture and reconnect with our old friends who have been busy at work in the offices upstairs.

On a personal note, there is one more point of interest in prep week. Once rehearsals begin, any day the stage management staff manages to leave the rehearsal hall before 10:30pm is considered a good day. During prep week we work normal business hours, usually from 9 – 5. That means it’s our remaining chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful September evenings Seattle has to offer. And, when we’re lucky, the occasional late Friday afternoon happy hour.

1 comment:

  1. Hallo, Michael Janney!
    Thanks for aVERY interesting and informative blog!! Though I've been going to operas for the last 61 years and do the English texts for the Staatstheater here in Schwerin (Germany), I had no idea of what goes into a "Prep" week; I suspect many other readers of this blog site (and I hope there are MANY!!) have much of an idea of this "hidden" part of putting on an opera, so your contribution is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the opera production process. As you are part of the "hidden" crew, I hope (and look forward to!!) many other contributions from you to this site about what you do that we don't see!!!!!
    Vielen herzlichsten Dank!!!!!!!
    Win H.