Inside Programming with Mark Baker
Explore how a GP event comes together with Director of Production Mark Baker in conversation with our summer intern Hanna Rassouli.
Hanna: Hey Mark, thanks for agreeing to talk with me today! I’m sure our GP audience is just as curious as I am to hear about what goes on behind the scenes. Tell me about the production crew’s duties?
Mark: Sure, I’m glad to talk about it. Production does our best to work as a team to plan, prepare, and execute the work required to enable artists to share their art on stage, but not everyone knows exactly what goes into making that happen. Set up for big weekend shows on our Waterstage goes something like this:
1. Weeks ahead of the event, our production manager Doug contacts the artists to “advance” the show, making sure all equipment and hospitality needs listed in the artist riders are confirmed.
2. A couple of days prior to the event, Doug checks in with our audio engineer Toby, an expert in GP’s challenging outdoor acoustics, to create detailed audio input lists and stage plots. Notes go out to our lighting crew along with any requirements for projection (either visual art/video that complements the performance or close-ups of artists).
3. Our entire crew comes in Thursday afternoon to set up the stage equipment and make sure everything is working properly. They’re back on Friday for the first weekend event.
4. Day of the event, our stage manager Simon works to keep everything on schedule while audio and lighting crews make sure the show sounds and looks great. Our video crew handles stage projections and live streaming from 3 or more different cameras. The facility crew takes care of all front of house needs for audience, staff, vendors, and exhibitors including infrastructure for seating, and any temporary signage, receptions, or audience amenities. I also hire and work with a security and housekeeping staff who keep our audiences safe and our venue clean. Can you believe we set up every weekend then strike everything to transform the venue back into an office plaza?!
5. On Saturday we do it all again, followed by equipment load-out after the show and a reset for our Sunday family show on the smaller Marina stage. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Basically, by making sure artists are happy and taken care of, we’re able to ensure that guests have the best possible experience… and that makes for a successful show.
Hanna: It seems like everything just falls into place on its own, but it’s clear that production keeps the show going. Are there any kinds of events that are more difficult to pull off?
Mark: Dance shows and plays are more technically challenging because they require more structure, since lighting and audio has to match the blocking and choreography. Our stage manager has to get to know a piece well enough to call the cues correctly for the lighting and sound. For No Side Now, our show with LA Performance Practice, we spent a lot of time cueing lights and had an audio rehearsal on Wednesday before even going into our dress rehearsal on Thursday. We spent more time cueing on Thursday, but if we hadn’t had that initial tech through on Wednesday, we would have been less familiar with the show’s sequence.
Hanna: So it isn’t just the artist that needs to rehearse, production needs to rehearse as well. It’s interesting to think that a smaller dance show like No Side Now could require more preparation than a large scale concert. What is your experience like preparing for concerts?
Mark: Concerts are a lot more straightforward because we don’t need to have that extra technical rehearsal. We use a technique called “busking” for lighting, which means that we make up lighting on the fly — but we make sure it’s timed well with the music. Same goes for the water fountains behind the stage. Those are controlled backstage; we can select different pre-programmed patterns of water streams to match the music. How about we have you come backstage and work the water fountains during a show?
Hanna: I’d love to do that! Hopefully I’ll be able to get the timing right. So much goes into running Grand Performances’ events! It’s amazing how each production member contributes something different to create one cohesive show. How does everyone stay on their A game?
Mark: Production is made up of a lot of dedicated people who like what they do, who have worked together season after season, and who value the mission of Grand Performances. I doubt we’d be able to execute some of our tougher shows without that level of dedication. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge our 2017 production team for all their hard work.
Doug Lowry – Production Manager
Simon Knowles – Stage Manager
Toby Tittle – Lead Audio Engineer/Supervisor
Ezra Donellan- Lighting Designer/Supervisor
Jesse Ramos – House Manager/Facility Supervisor
Audio: Gaby Mark, Mas Sunami, Dan Talton, Erin Parisi, Rachel Behrman, RaVen Montgomery, Dan Ganzolez, Ben Maas, “Mago” Morales, Jack Beal, Victor Prudeaux,
Lighting and Video: Vsev Krawczeniuk, Jim Johnson, Ari Kirsch, Dan Ventanovetz, Alif Marchi, Max Worthy, Sean Conlin, John Bass, Alonzo Tavares, Tim Drier, Justin Flowers
Facilities and Stage Crew: Kerrie Blaisdel, Bernel Crawford, David Zibalese, Alica Garrity, Ezra Mase-Mahr, Karina Alos, Renee Engmyr, Terry Hashimoto, Pilar Hoye
I would also like to mention Fred Stites, our Production Manager Emeritus, who stepped in to assist with a few shows this summer.
Hanna: Wow, that’s a long list! A lot more goes into these executing Grand Performances’ shows than I thought. You make it look easy! Thanks for giving us some insight into production, Mark. It’s clear that you all work very hard to create an incredible experience for artists and audiences alike.