Skip to content

Preparing for Performances Takes More Effort Than You May Realize…

Measha_IMG_7235

Measha Brueggergosman performs at the Playhouse.

When you attend a performance at the Playhouse, the show you’re seeing on stage is a final product. What you may not realize is that our technical and front of house staff begins to prepare for a performance weeks before it reaches the stage.

Last season, the Playhouse hosted 120 events. I thought it might be interesting to take a behind-the-scenes look at the process our staff goes through to prepare for each and every one of these shows.

With as many as three to five performances on our stage during an average week, Playhouse staff members are easily communicating with 15 to 25 different artists or groups at any given time.

A member of our technical department typically reaches out to the artist about a month before their show. Sometimes we’ll communicate directly with the performer, sometimes with a tour manager, technical director or production manager.

This early conversation, known as the “advance” is an opportunity to describe the Playhouse’s specifications; touring artists perform in a wide range of different venues, all of which have different lighting, sound and stage capabilities, so it’s important that they understand our particular details. It’s also a chance for our technical department to determine whether the artist will bring their own technicians, and to discuss how many Playhouse crew members will be needed.

Over the weeks ahead, our technical staff will discuss the artist’s needs in great detail, depending on the type of performance. For example, in the case of a band, we would need to know elements like the artist’s “stage plot”, which determines where the instruments and equipment should be located on the stage.

Most dance and theatrical performances will provide us with a detailed technical rider, a document that explains how to set up the stage, lighting, sound and sets for the show. The rider provides our technical department with a solid understanding of elements like lighting cues, and the ways we will need to use our fly system to raise and lower sets. About a week in advance, the technical department will send along a confirmation sheet to summarize all the technical details, as well as the schedule for the day and the crew requirements.

Our patron services manager also reaches out to the artist about two weeks before the show to begin preparing their “front-of-house” experience. This is an opportunity to discuss everything from catering and merchandise needs, to the artist’s photography policy, as well as the details concerning any special post-show receptions or meet-and-greets that might be planned. This department is also responsible for scheduling volunteers, bartenders and merchandise sellers to work during the show.

The day of the show is when all of this behind-the-scenes work pays off. Most often, touring artists will load in their instruments, sets and other props and equipment earlier on the day of the performance. Our technical crew will set up lighting to the artist’s specifications, and will run sound checks and rehearsals if required. In the meantime, our front of house department sets up catering, prepares merchandise areas, ensures any show programs are prepared and ready to be handed out, and checks in with the artist to make sure their needs are met.

Some shows are more complicated than others. While a standup comedian might just require a single microphone, a full theatrical performance could require complex sets, which may need to be changed during the show. All of these factors are taken into account during the planning and execution of the setup.

Once the performance is finished, the technical crew works quickly to remove all of the artist’s equipment and load it onto their truck, making sure the stage is ready to go for the next day when, often, our team will start the process over again from scratch.

Thanks to these extensive preparations, performances at the Playhouse should appear effortless from the audience’s perspective. But make no mistake; there are many more hours of planning and preparation than there are hours of performance. We work hard to ensure our patrons’ only job is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Tim Yerxa is the Executive Director of the Fredericton Playhouse.

 

“Ambassador of the blues” Guy Davis to perform in Playhouse’s Kidstage Series

27. GuyDavis

Coming to the Fredericton Playhouse on Sunday, April 9 at 2 p.m. as part of the Kidstage Series, Guy Davis’ Routes of the Blues is a compelling show for children and adults alike.

Known as an “ambassador of the blues,” and for hit shows at the Playhouse and the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, Davis is an accomplished artist who has performed around the world. He’s earned acclaim for his deft acoustic playing, his well-travelled voice and his literate, yet highly accessible songwriting.

His parallel careers – as a musician, an author, a music teacher and a film, television and Broadway actor – mark Davis as a true renaissance man, yet the blues remain his first and greatest love.

Children and their families will gain a deeper appreciation for the blues thanks to Davis’ immense knowledge and impressive musicianship.

Tickets for Guy Davis’ Routes of the Blues are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344 or online at www.theplayhouse.ca.

 

Stephen Fearing captivates audiences with his arresting voice and brilliant guitar playing

28. StephenFearing

On Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m., Juno-winning folk musician Stephen Fearing will perform at the Fredericton Playhouse.

One of Canada’s foremost singer-songwriters, Fearing is known for mixing powerful lyrics, creative arrangements and brilliant guitar playing.

A founding member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Fearing has built a loyal international following over the past 30 years thanks to his thousands of live shows and nine critically acclaimed albums. In concert, audiences will be captivated by his arresting voice, accomplished musicianship and his ability to turn a phrase with ease.

In addition to this performance, the Playhouse is pleased to present an Experience More! Songwriters’ Workshop with Stephen Fearing on Sunday, April 9 at 12 p.m. at the Fredericton Public Library. Anyone can register for this class, during which Fearing will define and examine the elements of a song through performance, discussion and writing. Fearing will also perform songs by a variety of songwriters, leading into a discussion of writing process, lyrics and melodic choice. Pre-registration through the Playhouse box office is required.

Tickets for Stephen Fearing are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344 or online at www.theplayhouse.ca.

 

Immortal Chi spectacularly combines martial arts and jaw-dropping acrobatics

25. ImmortalChi

Coming to the Fredericton Playhouse on Thursday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m., Immortal Chi: A Warrior’s Quest for Balance brings the ancient traditions and rich theatrical history of China to life with a rousing 21st century twist.

From the producer of the worldwide hit Shaolin Warriors, Immortal Chi is a spectacular new fusion of Chinese martial arts and jaw-dropping acrobatics, accompanied by an all-female percussion ensemble. This show is a feast for the senses, weaving a compelling narrative around a Tai Chi master and his ultimate challenge to regain his inner energy and life force.

Audiences can expect to see adrenaline-packed stunts, traditional weaponry, incredible feats of human endurance, innovative video projections and stunning costumes. The show kicked off its world premiere tour in the UK in 2014, delighting audiences and critics alike. Immortal Chi is an unforgettable theatrical experience for all ages.

Tickets for Immortal Chi: A Warrior’s Quest for Balance are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344 or online at www.theplayhouse.ca.

The Who’s Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry comes to life with virtuoso musicianship and rock star vocals

tommyeblast

On Friday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m., see a classic rock opera from a brand new perspective when the HillBenders present The Who’s Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry at the Fredericton Playhouse.

Forty-five years after its original release, the Who’s Tommy has been reimagined as a full-length bluegrass tribute. Conceived and produced by SXSW co-founder and long-time musician and producer Louis Jay Meyers, this opry explores Tommy from a new angle, while also paying respect to its composer, guitarist Pete Townshend.

Originally created as a rock opera that tells the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy, the 1969 album has sold 20 million copies and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant value.” In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Tommy No. 96 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

With a perfect mix of virtuoso musicianship and rock star vocals, the HillBenders bring the hit album to life. Using banjo, dobro, mandolin, bass and guitar, they bring the same amount of energy to Tommy as a full rock band and orchestra did originally.

Complete with special video accompaniment and audience participation, you’ll fall in love with this new and exciting version of a classic.

The Playhouse also invites ticketholders to join us prior to the show at 6:30 p.m. for a beer-tasting. Picaroons will be on hand with a variety of beer to sample during this special event.

Tickets for The Who’s Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344 or online at www.theplayhouse.ca.

Take a Chance with “Pay What You Will”

At the Fredericton Playhouse, we’re always exploring new ways to make the performing arts more accessible to a wider audience, and to encourage patrons to take a chance on new and exciting work. With those two objectives in mind, last season we piloted a new ticket pricing idea called Pay What You Will.

Last year, we offered Pay What You Will pricing on two performances – a Kidstage Series show called Chris McKhool’s Fiddlefire, and the Spotlight Series performance 6 Guitars. Both were a big success, with nearly 1,000 patrons attending the two shows.

Knowing that the community will respond to a pricing method that’s a bit outside the box, we’ve decided to continue with Pay What You Will in our current season, and will once again offer it on two shows – a Kidstage performance called Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey on Sunday, Feb. 26, and an encore Spotlight Series performance of the play Jake’s Gift on Tuesday, April 11.

jakes_0143_2

Julia Mackey in Jake’s Gift

The process of attending a Pay What You Will performance is similar to seeing any show at the Playhouse. Patrons still need to contact the box office in advance to book their seats. This type of ticket cannot be booked online, but orders can be placed either by phone, or in person at the box office. Audience members also have the option of visiting the box office in person on the day of the show for seats, subject to availability.

Upon arrival at the theatre, ushers provide patrons with an empty envelope. Once the show is over, everyone is asked to anonymously pay whatever amount they wish based on their individual experience, using cash, credit card or cheque. It is not an appeal for a donation. The voluntary payment that audience members make is truly their self-determined price of admission.

Ultimately, we are asking our audience to determine the price of their tickets. We believe strongly in the quality of artists we bring to the Playhouse as part of our Spotlight and Kidstage Series; we’re asking our patrons to take a chance on a show that might not be familiar to them, and to pay the ticket price they feel fairly reflects the performance they have just watched without extending beyond their own budget.

One of the goals of Pay What You Will pricing is to reduce barriers that may prevent individuals and families from attending shows. This is an objective we try to tackle through a number of programs and initiatives such as Arts are for Everyone, TD Student Rush and Under 19 pricing. Pay What You Will is yet another way for us to encourage broad participation in the performing arts.

We believe the arts should be an integral part of our lives, and that the Playhouse should be accessible to everyone in the community. We’re hopeful that initiatives like Pay What You Will can play a role in reducing financial barriers, and make it possible for more people in our community to experience the magic of the performing arts.

The second goal of this ticket pricing concept is to encourage our patrons to take a chance on a performance they may not have previously been familiar with. We’d like to think we’re mitigating some of the risk of seeing an unknown performance by allowing audience members to determine their ticket price once the artist has the chance to perform and win audiences over.

I believe patrons will greatly enjoy both of our Pay What You Will selections this season. Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey is performed by Louisiana-based Lightwire Theater, a group known for their unique electroluminescent artistry, poignant storytelling and imagery-evoking music scores. This family-friendly show tells the story of a mouse who longs to fit in, and ends up taking a cosmic adventure while learning the importance of celebrating our differences.

Jake’s Gift is a poignant performance written and performed by Julia Mackey, which has been performed all across Canada and overseas. It’s a powerful, award-winning play about a Second World War veteran who returns to Normandy to commemorate the D-Day landings, and meets a young girl who challenges him to confront his past. This is a touching and important story about the legacy of remembrance.

I hope you’ll join us this season at one – or both – of our Pay What You Will performances, and take a chance on attending a performance for which you might not otherwise have purchased tickets.

Tim Yerxa is the Executive Director of the Fredericton Playhouse.

 

 

Moon Mouse takes families on a cosmic adventure that celebrates differences

22-moonmouse

On Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m., the Fredericton Playhouse Kidstage Series presents Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey, by acclaimed children’s company Lightwire Theater.

Lightwire Theater is known for their unique electroluminescent artistry, poignant storytelling and imagery-evoking music scores. The Louisiana-based company was featured in America’s Got Talent in 2012, and has gone on to tour internationally, sharing their unique brand of storytelling with audiences of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.

Moon Mouse tells the story of Marvin, a mouse who longs to be a hero, but is constantly picked on by the “cool” rats. Join Marvin on the space adventure of a lifetime as he meets a cast of misfit characters on the surface of the moon, in a cosmic journey that’s all about celebrating differences.

Moon Mouse is a Pay What You Will show, a pricing idea introduced last season, offered on select Playhouse performances. This initiative was introduced with a goal of increasing access to Playhouse programs, and encouraging patrons to take a chance on new and exciting performances. For more information about how Pay What You Will works, please click here.

Tickets for Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey are available by calling the Fredericton Playhouse box office at 458-8344.