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"The Mikado" will be the debut stage performance in Juneau's new Thunder Mountain High School Theater opening on Friday, Nov. 6. It is a multi-resource production put together by Juneau Lyric Opera Company in collaboration with Thunder Mountain, Director Hal Ryder of The Cornish College of the Arts and the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. This is the third in a four-part series tracing the history of how this unique cooperative endeavor came to fruition.
A day in the life of a musical producer 102809 AE 1 For the CCW "The Mikado" will be the debut stage performance in Juneau's new Thunder Mountain High School Theater opening on Friday, Nov. 6. It is a multi-resource production put together by Juneau Lyric Opera Company in collaboration with Thunder Mountain, Director Hal Ryder of The Cornish College of the Arts and the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. This is the third in a four-part series tracing the history of how this unique cooperative endeavor came to fruition.

Photo By Peter Anderegg

Members of "The Mikado" cast help move the set, including a full-scale bridge.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Story last updated at 10/28/2009 - 12:18 pm

A day in the life of a musical producer

"The Mikado" will be the debut stage performance in Juneau's new Thunder Mountain High School Theater opening on Friday, Nov. 6. It is a multi-resource production put together by Juneau Lyric Opera Company in collaboration with Thunder Mountain, Director Hal Ryder of The Cornish College of the Arts and the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. This is the third in a four-part series tracing the history of how this unique cooperative endeavor came to fruition.

With just two weeks left to opening night the days are just racing by. To give you an idea of just how many things have to happen to put on a show like this, here is a "typical day" in the life of a producer.

A little after seven in the morning I turn on the computer and start going through the 20 or so show-related e-mails that came in overnight. Issues to deal with include getting cast and advertisers to submit materials for the program, editing a libretto which will have many hopefully witty Alaska -based lyrics (including our own version of the famous "List Song"), working with the director on writing an original prologue to the show and reviewing the Stage Manager's report from the previous night's rehearsal. After grabbing a coffee at Heritage, it is on to the airport where we have stored our set since it arrived on an AML barge from Seattle. Today is moving day and about 10 a.m. almost a dozen volunteers from the cast show up to help us get these enormous set pieces relocated to the new stage at Thunder Mountain High School. It takes us the better part of three hours, but by 2 p.m. the entire set has been moved - including a full-scale bridge that weighed at least a thousand pounds and a 20 by 40 foot volcano. This set is truly awesome.

While we were muscling the set about, Director Hal Ryder made a dash to the airport to pick up Duncan Bayne of the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Duncan is a 70-year-old retired attorney who has built sets for Seattle G & S for a couple of decades. (He has also played the role of the Mikado in three prior versions of this production over the years.) Eighteen months ago Duncan helped me crate scores of set pieces and load them into a 40-foot container for shipment to Juneau. Now Duncan has come all the way to Juneau to help us figure out how to reassemble this giant jigsaw puzzle of parts into a working, moveable stage set. Duncan's knowledge of the set design and construction and the jack of all trades skills of our Technical Director Derron Peterson work a small miracle and by the of the day Derron had the mammoth Act II set assembled, positioned and fully operational.

While Derron was impersonating the Energizer Bunny onstage, I met with a number of the TMHS folks who have provided critical support to this collaborative production. Theater Manager Ulu Mills, a newcomer to Juneau from Hawaii, has helped on virtually everything associated with the theater. Principal Patti Bippus stopped by to admire the set and offer more administrative support. Later in the afternoon Sarah Connarro, the new art teacher, brought her Life at Work art class into the theater. Sarah and her class have volunteered to paint a backdrop we need for Act I. So we had 20 or so students eyeballing the set and chattering away about the type of Japanese scene they want to design. Meanwhile, upstairs on the second floor Hal Ryder was working with teacher Dawn Kolden and her Dramatic Arts students. Since late September he has been working with two of Dawn's classes with a focus on Shakespeare, Hal's longtime passion.

Later in the day I ran into JDHS band teacher Ken Guiher in the lobby. Ken will be playing trumpet in the 21 person orchestra that Music Director Richard Moore and consultant Todd Hunt have assembled for The Mikado. The members of "the pit" are the true unsung heroes of any production. We would be totally lost without their musical support.

By now it was close to 6 p.m. - time for the weekly production team meeting. The producer, director, music director, technical director, light designer, costume manager, choreographer and stage manager all huddle together for about an hour trading notes about what still needs to get done. As producer I keep the master "to do" list. After one of these meetings it is typically about four pages long, single-spaced. Plenty to keep us all busy!

A little before seven Stage Manager Russadell Buzard pushes us out and sets up the area for the nightly rehearsal. Tonight the cast works dance numbers with Choreographer Becky Engstrom, gliding about the Purple Commons area at TMHS with elaborate, colorful Japanese fans and parasols. Several of the principals stay late to work on lines and it is after 10 p.m. by the time we put the piano and props away and turn out the lights.

When I finally walk in the door at home I make a fatal error and check email one last time. 27 new ones in the Inbox, almost all re: The Mikado. Looking at the clock I realize that by the time this day is done, the next one will have already begun. Just another day in the life of a producer!

Next week: Hal takes the cast through their final rehearsals while JLO and TMHS plan an Opening Night Gala to celebrate the debut stage performance in the new theater.

Juneau Lyric Opera's production of "The Mikado" will be performed on November 6, 7, 8 and 13, 14, 15 at the new Thunder Mountain High School Theater. Tickets may be purchased at Hearthside Books or online at www.juneauopera.org.

John Clough is the producer of Juneau Lyric Opera's "The Mikado."


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