The Ghosts of Productions Past by Mike Turczynski

Mike Turczynski is Gulfshore Playhouse’s Production Manager.

The set of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol
Photo by Steven Kemp

As we were preparing to take down and store the set for Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol today, I began reflecting on the short life of theatrical productions.  Everyone puts so much time and effort to perfect the final product that we share with our audience, and then, if almost by magic (and power tools), it’s all gone.  We are left with blank stage ready to be built again with a new story, new experiences, and new challenges.   But the pieces of the puzzle that made up the show need somewhere to live, and that place is our production shop.

Theatrical production shops are quite the sight.  Big, towering walls stacked against their storage stalls, waiting for the next time a designer plans on walls of that specific size.  Sofas, Tables, and other furniture of different time periods pushed into corners until we do another show of that era.  Hand props collecting dust, waiting for another show because “we used it once, we will use it again”.  The various tool storage areas with everything put away in its proper place (sometimes).  Every piece that is saved will live again and be used in another show.  These relics of past productions still hold the look and feel of the show that they were previously a part of.  Each of these Ghosts of Productions Past all have different stories to tell.

But these Ghosts not only live in the physical realm of our shop, but in our minds as well.  Every play we work on, past experiences of how things were done come into play.  We remember the nuances of the theatre that we work in, and what can and cannot be done.  We look at the challenges we have encountered over our collective careers that mirror our current dilemma, and our answers help us solve it.  We are constantly chasing the highpoints we have experienced in this beautiful career, and running away from the lows.  We are all building a library of knowledge and experience with every place we work and with every production we work on.  This knowledge base only grows when you combine it with a dedicated staff of professionals, all with their own experiences that they have learned from.   This brings everyone together to tackle each production.

These ghosts, both physical and mental, are a constant reminder of what we do.  The creation of a story, of emotion, of life on stage laid out for everyone to see.  We help to create the world for our actors to live in, and for our audience to lose themselves in.  Whenever we see a prop or scenic piece that was previously used enter the mix to be used again, we are brought back to the memory of that show.  We remember all the work we did to make it, and what we learned from the process.  These ghosts will be with us for the rest of our lives, acting as teaching moments as we further our careers, while also reminding us what exactly we do, and why we do it.  I already have quite the posse of these ghosts hanging around, and this New Year is sure to bring many, many more.   For that, I could not be more excited.

I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday.  Cherish the experiences and memories of the past year, learn from them what you can, and prepare for more to come.

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