Today I visited the Production Management class. I was told the technical director and costume director of the Huntington Theatre would be speaking to the class about how they interact with production management, but in actuality they spoke about many things. The most intriguing part to me was the discussion of how long it takes from the beginning of conversation about a design to the final product on opening night. For scenic production it went something like this:
Opening night is the goal. A week and a half before opening night the tech starts. A week before that the load-in starts. Six weeks before that the build starts. Two weeks before that the final designs go to the ATD. Two weeks before that the Designer and the TD discuss the feasability of the design. Two weeks before that the preliminary designs are turned in.
The most profound difference for costume production was that so much of the build depends on having actors, who don’t generally arrive until three and a half weeks before opening. Thus, the primary costume build occurs in that three and a half weeks. So if their “load-in” is technically first dress, then their build theoretically starts three weeks before that.
The other thing that had me incredibly interested was a statement that both guests echoed about they want to feel that they are “backed-up” by the production manager. The costume director put it nicely in the context of an example that went like this:
Say the director wants a different dress on an actress. The director goes to the designer, who goes to the shop. The shop says no, because they are lacking in one of the critical elements for getting things done: time, money and resources. Ideally the production manager would be able to back up the shop, being an expert in the amount of time money and resources available.
My question was this: who can trump this decision, and what is the production manager’s recourse?
The response was that yes, even in the best of theatres, decisions get trumped. The managing director can come along and say that the changes have to be made, and then they have to be made. However, all changes come at a cost and it is hoped that the managing director would be able to offset this cost with an increase of one of the critical elements for getting things done. Sometimes, the technical director said, you have to make your crew come in on Saturdays or work overnights. These things happen. But if you see that they are happening all the time and that the crews are getting tired, he would hope that his production manager would make negotiations to keep the shops from being exhausted.
From there came this tidbit: It takes a lot of time and energy to train someone to do their job well. If you abuse them, and make them feel un-appreciated, they might leave, and then all the time and energy you used on them will have to be used again to train someone new.
By the end of the class I was running many scenarios through my head, going back through experiences I’d had and saying, “If I had known these things before… If I could go back and do this again…”
And Jane said, “Well, that’s why you’re in school now.”