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PDX OPERAbeat | A Company Blog is the blog for all things Portland Opera, featuring a variety of guest contributors who will provide insider's tidbits on all we do to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.

Bidding Farewell to Figaro

So, Figaro has closed. We had an amazingly successful run, with a totally sold out opening night, and a record number of folks at the matinee. Audiences seemed to just love it -- it was great to stand backstage and hear so much laughter. Comic opera is fun!

We got some great reviews:

James Bash's review in Oregon Music News

Brett Campbell's review in Willamette Week

Ryan Prado's review for Just Out

Ned Lannamann's review in Portland Mercury

And don't forget that you can write your own review right here on our webpage.  We truly love to hear what you liked and didn't like.

This week, I thought I'd share with you a little of what happens once we've closed a show. Most people probably don't think much of it, but all the things associated with the show -- sets, costumes, props, etc -- have to be dismantled and, in most cases, sent away. (The exception to this is when we mount our own productions; then most often the sets return to our warehouse in NW Portland). The official load-out day is the day immediately following closing night, but there's a ton more that goes into sending these productions "home" (or to their next performance venue) than just one day of taking apart the set. Our Technical Director, Scot Burckhardt, very kindly gave me a great summary of the process. In his own words:

Load out:
Well, it starts about 2 weeks in advance with the arrangement of trucking.  We have to book trucks to be at the Keller, at the right time.  We have a specific amount of time to load them, usually about 2 hours, so we have to stagger the arrival of the 53' over-the-road trailers so we don't pay extra to have them sit around.

Day of, I start my day at the grocery.  We get doughnuts, bagels, fruit, etc. for the stagehands for break. So, I get that first.  Then, I go to the Keller. Arrive about 8:30am and get my thoughts organized.

At 9 AM the day starts. First thing is to get all Lighting and props off the deck so we can get to the set.  This takes anywhere from the 1/2 hour the night before, to 2 hours.  Just depends on how much is there.  For Figaro, that was all gone when we arrived on Sunday.  We did it Saturday night while BackTalk was happening.

We have someone, usually, from the company that owns the set (in this case, Glimmerglass Opera) there to direct the load out.  It's their set, so they know the most efficient way to take it down so it will go right into the trucks.  Our union contract says that Lunch for the stagehands can be no later than 5 hours in. So, I try to have the set in the trucks and the over-the-road stuff gone by then.  After all, remember, when the truck is at the Keller (from when I asked it to be there) the clock is ticking.  If I have to have a truck waiting over lunch, that is 1 hour I lose and get nothing for.  Most sets can be out of the building, totally, in 5 hours.  

For Figaro, we took down the columns first (each is one piece), then the floor. After that, when the floor is clear, we can land the "architraves," the headers, and take them apart.  As each thing is taken down, it goes right into the trucks.  

Here is a little more about architraves, along with a photo so you can picture what we're talking about.

Architrave Image

When all that was done, we bring in the Act 1 and 2 walls.  Act 1 wall was 1050 lbs.  It has to be landed, face down on the floor, disassembled, and sent to the truck.  Same with the Act 2 walls. They were much less weight.  After that, just bring down the show borders, fold them up and put them in a hamper and send them away.

All the props, chandeliers, columns, floor, architraves, flying units [Jess note: flying units are the things that come in and out on the fly system, like curtains and scenery. Here is a basic overview of fly systems.  Fly systems, escape stairs, and structure go into 3 trailers at 53' each.  In 5 hours (we were done at 1:59!), the set was on its way back to Warren, NY to go into Glimmerglass's warehouse.

After that, lighting is the next priority.  They have been working front of house and around the perimeter the whole time. Now that scenery is off stage, the lighting department takes over and takes down all the lighting, cabling, dimmers, and power distribution.  That all gets packed up.  Some is rented, some is owned by the building.  

While Lighting is doing their thing, Scenery is taking down the focus tracks (similar to curtain tracks, but for people to ride in to focus the lighting equipment).  When lighting is done, Scenery will sweep the stage, take down the hard portal and soft goods we own, and hang for the next show.  (This one hangs for the Singing Christmas Tree). Quick aside: the house has a policy that each show hangs for the next show so we all only have to do it once...rather than restoring to a house configuration so that the next group has to change it all to be able to use it and restore back to an abstract thing.

All the while, since 9 AM, the props department has been prepping the props for the trip to NY.  Then, they move into the orchestra pit and disassemble it.  Put away chairs, stands, lights, etc.   The floor of the orchestra pit is plywood we put down to even it out.  That has to be removed and put on carts to go back to the warehouse.  Then, the "big pit" or wooden floor section has to be returned to house floor height.  That is not hydraulic, but on mechanical scaffolding that has to be changed as we go.  Then, the put the first two rows of seats back in the front of the orchestra section.  That is a very long and tricky process.

Sound has also been removing the overhead monitors, wireless headsets, cameras and video system, and all his stuff.  "Sound" is one person: Michael.  

If the show is going to be destroyed, we usually do that at the warehouse for logistical reasons.  It takes longer to destroy and pack in dumpsters than to put on a truck.  And the dumpsters have to go into the dock.  They don't pick up dumpsters on Sunday.  So, we would have a problem!