With the Picasso exhibit opening at VMFA, I have been remembering a conversation I had a few years ago with an art curator in town. Until then, I really had no idea what he did. He was in the midst of hanging a contemporary art show and was talking about the challenges of lighting and position and location he was facing. As only a very casual visual arts patron, I thought you just slapped the stuff on the wall and were done with it. Hearing about this fellow’s long nights working with a somewhat temperamental artist on a very tight timeline gave me a whole new appreciation of that particular behind-the-scenes aspect of his job.
I wonder about the transfer coming up of “Jitney” from Pine Camp down to Sycamore Rouge and what the behind-the-scenes challenges are associated with that. Given that this was a move planned well in advance, I expect (hope) some consideration of what moving to a new space would entail. Twenty-five years ago I was a small and tangential part of a couple of moves of “Quilters” (yes, that one again…) from one venue to another and then to another space within the Empire. Each move required a little reworking of set and blocking and props and, as I remember it, the rustic set that perfectly filled up Shafer Street stage seemed a little lost and spread out on the main Empire stage.
One of my favorite productions of all time was “The Syringa Tree” which I saw in its original configuration on the Little Theatre stage in the Empire and always wondered how the staging on the Willow Lawn stage changed / enhanced / inhibited the show. As a reviewer, I often think it’d be cool to do a dual review of a show that’s moved – one venue versus another, one installation versus another, as it were. Of course, I’m lucky to get to any production in any space these days, let alone one production in two. Still, a boy can dream.
Speaking of more nuts and bolts matters, “The BFG”’s opening tonight has me appreciative (again) of the key role of stage manager in the smooth operation of any production. Wendy Vandergrift is stage-managing “BFG” and she is awesome. The energy, focus and good-humor she brings to the job makes everything (at least from the outside) seem like a party, even though I’m sure she’s just as tired and cranky as everyone else as the crush of tech week comes to a close. As a stage parent, no one is more important to me than the stage manager and yet, as a theater critic, I never mention the stage manager. (And probably never would – how can an audience member tell whether a show is well stage-managed?) That’s a weird little piece of cognitive dissonance I’m feeling right now.
There’s still lots of theater to see out there but make a space for “BFG” in your plans, if for nothing else to see the adorable Ellie Wilson (Gretel in “Sound of Music”) being, well, adorable again!