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From Lisa – A House Manager with No House

March 12, 2012

Lisa examines her front-of-house options at Moravian College, one of the venues for A RESTING PLACE.

Last Wednesday, part of the The Civil War/Cemetery Project production team – Jp (Production Manager), Emma (Stage Manager) and myself (House Manager) – went on a field trip to visit each of the performance venues for A Resting Place. This visit happened to be on one of the few days this winter that actually felt like winter – rainy, windy, and cold! Nevertheless, it was an incredibly exciting and daunting trip…

But first a bit of background:

The Civil War/Cemetery Project features five performances of A Resting Place, an original play based on the lives of Bethlehemites who lived during the time of the Civil War. During the story gathering research phase, we discovered that Dan Rice, a real life traveling performer of the times, visited Bethlehem in October of 1863. After this breakthrough, we chose to place Rice in the role of narrator or “magician” brought to Bethlehem to conjure up these local histories. Once Rice became a key element, our goal was to create a traveling performance with a circus feel which required moving the production outside, building a circus wagon that can travel to each location, and filling the cast with jugglers, contortionists, and a life-sized elephant puppet that will lead the circus wagon into each venue!

And now back to the exciting versus daunting.

EXCITING because the venues are amazing – on both the North and South sides of Bethlehem at five distinct locations: 1) Moravian College campus on the patio of the Priscilla Payne Hurd Academic Complex, 2) South Bethlehem Greenway right behind Touchstone, 3) Lehigh University campus on the lawn by Packer Chapel, 4) City Hall Plaza right next to the library, and 5) Historic Bethlehem Partnership’s Industrial Colonial Quarter on the hill below Hotel Bethlehem. Though we love our intimate 75-seat theatre, at outside venues we can reach triple (if not quadruple!) the number of audience members at each performance.

Bethlehem's Historic Colonial-Industrial Quarter - another venue.

DAUNTING because as House Manager I don’t have a nice neat theatre with a clear entrance, lobby, restrooms, and actual seats for people to sit in and watch the show. Nope, we have five completely different venues with five completely different needs. Plus, after four of the performances we transition right from performance venue to separate panel discussion or guest lecture venues. Cue panic music now…

So this week as the posters, postcards, and brochures are being placed around town, and rehearsals fill the evening and weekend hours here at Touchstone, my task begins of managing the venues. On the list that will shrink and grow as issues are resolved and new ones emerge are many questions, like: where can people park? where are the nearest restrooms? and just how many volunteers will I need at each venue? So far one major question is already answered: what happens if it rains? In that case we make the call 3 hours ahead, get the word out, and move the whole operation into the Ice House. One down, one hundred more to go.

The cast of A RESTING PLACE rehearses on the Greenway behind Touchstone, where they will perform in a little over a month.

As the April 13-15 weekend approaches and The Civil War/Cemetery Project becomes a reality, my hope is that all the preparations from every corner of the production served to make this new community-based offering the best experience possible for the audience. And with the team in place – Touchstone, Moravian College, 100+ community actors and musicians, countless community partners and volunteers – I know it will.

 

For a complete listing of events for the weekend of April 13-15, check out http://www.touchstone.org

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 12, 2012 1:44 pm

    Nice.
    I enjoyed this, Lisa.
    It’s great to hear the full dimensions of what’s going on.

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