Or as my mother would call it, How I Ran Away with the Circus.
I have had the opportunity to tour under a couple different job titles. I had a theatre background, but I got my first touring job through a marketing company. I had been working in promotions consistently for about a year when I got an interview for a performing position. A marketing company was looking through their pool of promotional models for those with acting experience to help a company do some internal training. I applied and was thrill to be the youngest selected to be one of four touring trios. This was a short term position, but helped me to put "touring experience" on my resume.
It all happened very fast. I got the official call and the next morning, I was on a plane to Duluth to learn a new position and join the tour. I was able to be a "plush cart operator" for the remainder of the tour, so I sold toys and lights to little kids. In my downtime, I would try to watch the show load in and learn from the technicians. I made a little money and a lot of friends and headed home five months later with a greatly enhanced resume and a focus on spending as much time learning in local theatre as I could.
Never underestimate the power of networking, flexibility, and a drive to learn.
Love to work hard, travel extensively, and can run on caffeine and no sleep? Then being a touring theatrical technician may be your dream job. I had the opportunity to work with one company as an Assistant Electrician and Assistant Rigger on a live theatre show. It is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything, but it is not for the feint of heart. While in the U.S. (Excitingly, I did get to travel to other continents with this show, awesome bonus!), this tour was called a Bus-and-Truck Tour.
The "normal" schedule looked a little like this:
Friday - Panama City, FL: 2 shows
Saturday - Jackson, MS: 3 shows
Sunday - Tupelo, MS: 2 shows
Monday - Day Stop: Fort Worth, TX (I'll describe this in another post.)
Tuesday - Day Off in El Paso, TX
Wednesday - Day Off in El Paso, TX
Thursday - Day Off in El Paso, TX
Of course, there can be plenty of variations. You may be in a popular location and have shows in the same spot all weekend. Occasionally, there could be a day off between shows. Once, I even recall five days in a row of shows in four different cities.
A work day, say Friday, would run a little like this:
4:30AM - Wake up, shower, get in your gear, pack up everything, check out of your hotel room.
5:30AM - Bus Call: Make sure your luggage is loaded and you are on the bus.
6:00AM - Load in begins at the venue.
8:00AM - Coffee Break (Mandatory in union venues)
8:15AM - Continue Load-In
8:30AM-11:30AM - Breakfast is served. Work with your department head to find the best time to take a break. This could be when your department is done or if you have a lull in work. For example, an audio technician with all his equipment in place might take a break earlier in the day and come back while most of the rest of the crew is at breakfast to set levels. This is dependent on if this is a union house, which will have a mandatory dark time (when no one can work) about five hours after the beginning of load in.
1:59PM - Load in should be completed by this time, unless something has gone terribly awry.
2:00PM - Doors open for guests to start coming into the venue and finding their seats.
3:00PM-4:30PM - First Show of the Day
4:31PM - Reset everything for the next show.
4:32PM-6:00PM - Check with your department head and find time for lunch.
5:00PM - Doors open for guests to start coming into the venue and finding their seats.
6:00PM - Second/Last Show of the Day and also the Load-Out Show (As many props, costumes, and set pieces as possible are packed up and sent toward the trucks as quickly and quietly as possible while the show is going on. And yes, a great crew makes it possible.)
7:30PM - Show ends and breakdown begins backstage while the venue clears. When the last guest is out, the music turns off, the stage lights are doused, and load out goes into full swing.
10:00PM - If we had an efficient day and knowledgable local help, this is when the truck doors are closed, ramps strapped in, and the crew released.
10:01PM-10:30PM - The crew searches the venue for available showers, gets cleaned up, and heads to the buses for a bite to eat and to climb into their bunks.
10:30PM-4:59AM - Get as much sleep as you can while the buses are on the road.
5:00AM - In the next venue, ready to do it all again.
You have to learn fast, work hard, be safe, and it helps to have a great attitude, which is very difficult living and working in such close quarters, getting no sleep, and being ever prepared for a last minute change. So grateful to have had the opportunity to meet a plethora of interesting and talented individuals from around the world through this venture.
Rayna Moore -
© 2021 by Rayna Moore