Northampton Press

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Pay attention to all those behind the curtain at PSF

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 by The Press in Focus

Whenever I tell someone I work in theater, their first question is always "Are you an actor?"

This is completely understandable, in part because when I first started in theater more than 20 years ago, I thought the only career in theater was acting.

Boy, was I wrong!

It takes many different people with many different talents and skills to create theater, and these unsung heroes work incredibly hard to make an evening at the theater the best and most amazing it can possibly be.

At The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (PSF) in the administrative offices, the marketing director analyzes the ticket sales data and audience demographics to decide where, when and how often to advertise while also designing the brochures, postcards, newsletters and emails, writing the press releases and coordinating the press coverage.

The development director oversees the fundraising efforts because in not-for-profit theater, ticket sales account for only 55 percent of the theater's income.

The business manager processes the invoices and bills, tracks the budget and manages the payroll for a staff that grows to 160 during the height of the PSF summer season.

The company manager, who holds the longest seasonal contract at four months, handles the housing and transportation needs of the visiting company members, organizes grocery shopping, opening night parties and makes sure there's something fun to balance out the 14-plus-hour days and boost company morale.

Over at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, the box office staff answers questions from the public and sells the tickets to the 30,000-plus who attend PSF each summer. The house management staff ensures that these 30,000-plus patrons are treated with respect and are as comfortable as possible when they attend a production.

More than 170 volunteer with the PSF Guild each summer. The volunteers hand out the programs, tear the tickets, sell the souvenirs and concessions, and donate their time to ensure the patrons enjoy their experience at PSF.

Behind the scenes, the technical director drafts the technical drawings for the set that the carpenters will build and the scenic artists will paint.

The costume shop manager plans how many of the costumes will be pulled, rented, borrowed and built.

The cutter-draper creates the patterns. The first hand leads the stitchers in the building of the new costumes.

The wig and makeup designer either restyles existing wigs for the look of the show or creates a wig or facial hair from scratch, which involves sewing hairs one by one into a lace pattern.

The props master builds one-of-a-kind items like the barber's chair for "Sweeney Todd" or a magical flower for "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The master electrician circuits 300-plus theatrical lighting instruments which create the beautiful morning sky for "Oklahoma!"

The sound engineer ensures that the sound mix of the 13 musicians in the orchestra blends seamlessly with the 27 actors in the cast.

Before any of these technicians begin their work, the director and designers begin work up to a year ahead of the opening performance to create the world that these talented individuals bring to life.

When I see a production at PSF, I am always aware of the contributions that make it work. As the managing director, I am delighted and honored to work with such a gifted and dedicated staff.

Actors are a big part of the theater, but there are so many more who make the magic happen.

When you next visit PSF, I encourage you to look at the staff list in the program and remember all those who worked very hard to create the production you are enjoying on stage. See you in the lobby.

Casey William Gallagher is Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Managing Director. This is the third and final part in the three-part "Behind the Scenes" at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Part Two, by Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy, was in the July 10 and 11 issue. Part One, by Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Associated Artistic Director Dennis Razze, was in the June 19 and 20 issue.