Touring Shows: An abridged summary of important points - StageLync

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Touring Shows: An abridged summary of important points

The life of the Stage Manager in touring theatre is one of excitement, adventure, and constant change. It can be challenging, but it’s also a rewarding experience that gives you a front-row seat to everything that goes into putting on a live performance. In this article, we’ll look at some of the key aspects of touring theatre and how they impact your job as a stage manager.

Touring theatre is a unique environment that has its own set of challenges and rewards. You’ll learn the nuts and bolts of live performance, from building sets, focusing lights, and tuning sound systems to managing budgets, all while on the road with your cast and crew.

You’ll be traveling from city to city (and country to country) throughout your tour, which means you have to be prepared for anything! Your schedule may change at any moment if there’s an emergency back home or if there are other issues with transportation or weather patterns along the way. Being flexible is one thing, but knowing your stuff is another: touring requires an immense amount of preparation work before even leaving town!

Once everything goes smoothly–and sometimes even when it doesn’t–you get rewarded with amazing moments on stage, where everyone in attendance can feel their hearts beating together as one unit; these moments make all those hours of prep and worry about whether everything will go according to plan (or not) worth every second.

The Role of the Production Stage Manager on Tour

As usual, the Production Stage Manager (and the Stage Management team) is the person (people) responsible for making sure that the show runs smoothly. They are responsible for communicating with the cast and crew to ensure that they understand where to go, and how to get there, as well as any blocking or technical changes that need to be executed on stage that might be different from the last location. Many times, the Production Stage Manager takes on extra duties that might otherwise be covered by a Company Manager or General Manager because of the fast-paced environment and demand that touring requires. Teamwork and trusting the people you work with are more important here than ever because you depend on each other to get the show ready to open at lightning speed. During the load-in, load-out, and run of the show, the Stage Manager keeps an eye on all aspects of the production and how they might impact the run of the show in coordination with the Technical Director and other Heads of Departments, including:

  • Lighting cues (when lights should come up/down)
  • Sound cues (when music should start/stop)
  • Video cues
  • Camera positions or working with an entire camera crew
  • Automation/Rigging cues
  • Special Effects (fog/water/air) cues
  • Pyrotechnics (fire effect) cues
  • Cue lights to cue performers onto the stage
  • Quick costume changes

Technical oversight that the Production Stage Manager gives is mostly from an artistic perspective to make sure the technical elements remain consistent from location to location and look the same as they were originally designed and intended. All technical problem-solving and troubleshooting still fall under the purview of the Technical Director.

It’s important to remember that while touring staff have titles and duties, we are all on the same team and have the same common goal of putting up a good show. Sometimes those lines get a little blurry.

Venue Preparation and Advancing the Show

Before you begin loading into a new venue, it is important to make sure that the space is safe. Check for fire hazards, electrical hazards, emergency exit pathways, and other safety risks. Advancing the show is also about half of the work we do in a touring show. While we are performing in our current city, we already have one leg out the door, making plans and refining details for the next one. Can the set fit in the theatre, and can the ceiling handle the rigging needs of the show? Is there enough room to add in automated machinery? Where are the dressing rooms and how many are there? Is there a cross-over space upstage, where will quick changes happen, and is there a roll door for loading in or just a standard-sized door? What’s nearby the theatre within walking distance? These are all important questions to consider when advancing a show among many others. Many times, shows are modified to be able to fit in every venue they play so that they have the flexibility to load into more venues across the nation and across the globe.

Transportation Logistics

  • Transportation is a big part—if not the biggest part—of touring.
  • Load-in and load-out are crucial to the success of your show, and getting the rigging, electrics, sound, and set kit pieces in the order that you need them takes careful planning and reverse engineering. Depending on the size of the show, there could be dozens of trucks to coordinate.
  • Collaborating with your technical teams, casting teams, management teams, and producing teams is essential to making sure that everything and everyone arrives when and where they need to be in an efficient manner.
  • If there’s an issue with any technical elements, work with your Technical Director to find creative solutions that will allow you to keep going without delaying load-in or the run of the show. It may mean adjusting your original design slightly or making small changes to the performance so that what would have been problematic becomes less so because of its new placement onstage. This sort of thinking ahead can save you many headaches down the road!

Conclusion

Touring is a great way to push your limits as an artist and manager. The challenges range from technical to interpersonal. You’ll get to see how a show is put together from start to finish from multiple points of view, as well as how it’s performed in different venues. This will help you understand what makes for good touring theatre and what doesn’t so that, when you do start working on future projects, they will be more successful than the last one!

This article was originally published on TheatreArtLife.com. Written by TheatreArtLife contributor Bryan Runion. 

Bryan Runion
Bryan Runion is a professional Production Stage Manager whose credits include: Drawn to Life (Cirque du Soleil and Disney), Netflix’s Stranger Things: The Experience, Duel Reality (7 Fingers), La Perle (Dragone), The Voice of Tolerance (The Ministry of Education, UAE); Mastercard Experiences (Mastercard); Everybody Black (World Premiere), Queens (La Jolla Playhouse), Ken Ludwig’s The Gods of Comedy (The Old Globe), TEDx (Chula Vista), Mark Morris Dance Company, Joey Alexander Trio, Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (La Jolla Music Society), The Bridges of Madison County (Arkansas Rep). Bryan earn his M.F.A. at The University of California, San Diego and his B.A. at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and The Stage Managers’ Association.

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Bryan Runion

Bryan Runion is a professional Production Stage Manager whose credits include: Drawn to Life (Cirque du Soleil and Disney), Netflix’s Stranger Things: The Experience, Duel Reality (7 Fingers), La Perle (Dragone), The Voice of Tolerance (The Ministry of Education, UAE); Mastercard Experiences (Mastercard); Everybody Black (World Premiere), Queens (La Jolla Playhouse), Ken Ludwig’s The Gods of Comedy (The Old Globe), TEDx (Chula Vista), Mark Morris Dance Company, Joey Alexander Trio, Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (La Jolla Music Society), The Bridges of Madison County (Arkansas Rep). Bryan earn his M.F.A. at The University of California, San Diego and his B.A. at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and The Stage Managers’ Association.