I’m going to try to resist comparing STC and OSF since it doesn’t seem fair to either company, but here are a few of the key differences: The STC stage ops department consists of six people; at OSF, approximately 43. STC works out of two spaces doing one show in each space at a time (or once a season doing two shows in rep at one of the spaces); OSF (at least during the time I am here) will rotate three shows in and out of three spaces daily for a total of nine shows running at a time. STC shows run for five to nine weeks depending on the space and extensions; OSF shows run for months. STC presents eight performances a week per space. OSF presents a matinee every day in one or both of their indoor theatres and a performance each night, for up to 12 shows per week in each of those two spaces (the third, outdoor theatre does not present matinees.) STC brings in outside and touring productions from all over the world; OSF produces everything they put onstage. So there’s a bit of a difference.
I’ve only been out here a little less than a week and I’ve already realized a bit of what it takes to make the rotating repertory process work: a ton of planning and thinking ahead. This extends all the way down to the stage hands who shift the sets back and forth. The breakdown and storage of a set is determined by what show is running next and what show runs after that. They need to think three shows in advance to make their jobs as efficient as possible. Time is one of the most important factors. Many of the shows this season are long (some over 3 hours) so turning sets over from a matinee to an evening production can get a bit tight when factoring in fight calls, vocal calls and half hour. Everything moves quickly, with a purpose, and with a plan for what’s next.
Shifting is a graceful, bulky, delicate, complicated dance. Scenic wagons break apart and move so other pieces can move, so other pieces can come out of storage, so other pieces can go into storage. To watch from the house, it looks like amazingly organized chaos where one minute one set is in place, and about a half hour later a new set has taken its place. A full shift takes about an hour and a half to two hours from the time the first set of boots hits the deck to the time the last set of boots leaves. During a shift everyone knows how the pieces are put together, how they come apart and the order they have to go in order to make the most of space and time. It’s really an impressive thing to participate in.
My first week at OSF has been a great experience. I’ve gotten the opportunity to shift scenery, sit in on production meetings, watch flying tests, see a lot of beautiful landscapes, and meet a lot of really great people. I’m excited for what else is to come. And just to prove how amazingly beautiful it is, here is a picture from the porch of my apartment: