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Theater. China. Sheesh.
April 18, 2011 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Hey Theater People!!! How do I run backstage wardrobe for a show in China???

I've agreed to take on the wardrobe supervisorship for the national tour of a broadway show for it's Asia segment. We're playing 5 cities in China & Singapore. Let's make it harder: I've only done the show 5 times, and 15 actors will be brand new and not know what they're doing. Oh yeah, and it needs to be perfect the first time.

Here are the challenges:
-I will have 9 new dressers every city of varying experience. It's possible they've never been backstage before.
-I will have about 15 new actors who've never done the show before. Tech time will be very limited. We'll have 1-2 run-thrus before opening MAX!
-There are many, many quickchanges in different places around the backstage.
-The notes for the show I currently have are being translated, but these will have to be re-translated when I get there to allow for any changes in what our new actors will be wearing.
-Also, I'm brand new to the show - I've spent one weekend learning it and will not be able to spend more time with the show before going there.

Pro's
-I speak some Chinese - I lived there for a study-abroad ten years ago and have two months to improve my language skills.
-My boss will be there to help.
-I'm inheriting the assistant, so she will know the show pretty well.
-I have two months to learn as much as I can away from the show as possible.

Ideas
-I plan on having a clock backstage so the dressers can do their cues by time.
-I plan on numbering the costumes in order of what they preset in certain places, so they don't have to try to figure out what a "pink gingham long sleeve shirt" is.
-I plan on giving out maps on where they have to be at certain times.


I need to seriously dumb down and idiot-proof everyone's job. If anyone in the hive mind can offer any insight or ideas, you will make my day!!!
posted by ashtabula to opelika to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think each person of your staff should ONLY have their "need to know" info and emergency chain of command. Like, if something goes wrong, talk to "this person".
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:45 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, I don't envy you. One thing:

-I plan on having a clock backstage so the dressers can do their cues by time.

If you only have time to run the show one or two times, then there's no way to generate an effective cue schedule. You are going to have to drive home the importance of paying attention to what's happening on stage at all times. If you tell them their job is to just follow the clock, they can do that perfectly and still screw up fatally. For example, with so little rehearsal time, the actors could accidentally end up jumping ahead, and if that happens the crew needs to be prepared. This means less socializing backstage or wandering away to make phone calls/smoke cigarettes. Seriously, once they're backstage and the show has begun, you OWN them.
posted by hermitosis at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2011


Do all of your dressers already have copies of the script with all the costume changes marked? With photos maybe, of what people are changing out of/into? See if you can make that happen ASAP and set them to work on memorizing it. Having it set in the context of the story may really help them understand.
posted by hermitosis at 10:51 AM on April 18, 2011


Have your underdress as much as possible to a avoid having to do full-scale changes. Can you say what show it is?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:09 PM on April 18, 2011


Have your ACTORs underdress....
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:09 PM on April 18, 2011


+1 for I_Love_Bananas' comment. Underdressing saved our butts in China. (Granted our show was designed w/ quick changes in mind.)
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 7:56 PM on April 18, 2011


If at all possible, set up your cues so that you (and maybe your assistant) don't do any of the changes yourself. That way the two of you can be available to troubleshoot/wrangle/firefight/etc. Photos are a GREAT idea. Both of the individual pieces that go into a specific costume and of the actor fully dressed.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:29 PM on April 18, 2011


I don't know anything about theater--except that I enjoy it--but you may want to get in touch with the folks at Beijing Playhouse about China-specific theatre: http://www.beijingplayhouse.com/. They are a well-regarded community theatre troupe here in Beijing.
posted by so much modern time at 1:27 AM on April 19, 2011


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