BY TOM SKELTON
THE TOURING DANCE COMPANY: PART I
All touring dance companies, big or small, have one big problem in common: theatres. Some of the theatres you will encounter on the road are well equipped, other have nothing except a slippery floor. Large ballet companies have fewer problems because they bring enough equipment and technicians to make the theatre adjust to the company’s needs. Smaller companies that may not even have a stage manager have to make the best of whatever is available, and ingenuity and adaptability must compensate for insufficient spotlights and draperies.
Whether it is a large or small company I have always found that a questionnaire should be sent to all of the presenters. Although the answers are not always accurate, the advantages of a questionnaire are two-fold: they give you an idea of what some of your problems will be, and they indicate to the presenter some of the preparations he must make before your arrival.
Here is a sample questionnaire that you can adapt to your specific needs:
Mr. Skelton will answer questions related to staging and lighting in future issues – if they are of general interest. Write: Tom Skelton, c/o DANCE Magazine, 231 W. 58th St. New York 19, N.Y.
Stage Requirements X Dance Company
TO THE XX THEATRE
Kindly read the following carefully, indicating whether or not the requested items are available. Please sign and return the second copy with all blanks filled and any other questions you may have. The information you give us will enable us to bring equipment and props which will be best suited to your requirements, and prepare us to meet your local needs with dispatch in order to assure you of a smooth production.
STAGE INFORMATION We need a dancing area that is at least 25 feet wide and 15 feet deep. How many feet from footlights to front curtain? ______ Front curtain to rear curtain? _____ Rear curtain to back wall? _____ Width of stage from inside proscenium arch? _____
DRAPERIES Black stage curtains (what color do you have? _____) hung as a backdrop and legs, allowing a crossover behind and at least two entrances on either side of the stage. OK? _____ Behind the back drapery should be a gray, blue or white drop or cyclorama which will be revealed when the back drapery is opened or flown. OK? _____
FLOOR The floor should be neither splintery nor slippery. All wax must be removed (wax-removing solutions are available at any hardware store). If it is still slippery perhaps it needs a better rinsing with clear water, or perhaps a filler has been used that can be removed only with lye or by sanding. All holes must be filled. To a dance company the condition of the floor is of prime importance. If the floor is splintery, for example, we will program ballets in which the dancers wear slippers. Please advise. __________
PIANO We will need a concert or 7-ft. grand piano. It can be placed in the pit, on the floor in front of the stage, or in the wings. Which would you advise? _____ It should be tuned on the day of the performance before our arrival and after it has been moved into place. It should have an adequate, but well-masked, light and a stool or bench.
SOUND We will bring our own amplification system to accommodate our tape machine. However, if the auditorium is already equipped with amplification, the sound might be better if we used your amplifier and speakers. If you have an amplifier, does it have an outlet to accommodate our tape machine? _____
LIGHTING Although we will bring gelatine and a few spotlights for special effects, we are dependent on local equipment for most of our lighting. Every effort should be made to meet the following minimum requirements. Please discuss these lighting requirements with your electrician and advise us as to what is lacking. Fronts – 2 circuits of 3 or 4 spotlights each. First pipe or bridge – 2 circuits of 3 or 4 spotlights each, and 2 independently controlled spotlights mounted on the center of the pipe. Wings – 8 spotlights on 8 standards, one in each entrance or wing. The stage right spotlights should be on one circuit and the stage left spotlights on another. Sky – borderlights or floods to produce an even sky lighting in blue-green. Dimmerboard – the dimmerboard should have at least 9 dimmers of appropriate wattage t control the above equipment. Naturally, any additional lighting equipment you may have will be used and will lend to a more sparkling production, but the equipment listed above should be considered absolute minimum.
DRESSING ROOMS We will need dressing rooms for X women and X men, with mirrors, tables, chairs, clothes racks, and bright lights at the mirrors for makeup purposes __________ If there is no running water backstage, please arrange for a large quantity of ice water and glasses for the performers. If the dressing rooms are distant from the stage, it may be necessary to devise a quick-change room of flats and screens.
PRESSING The company carries its own AC steam iron. One of the dressing rooms should be equipped with an AC outlet, an ironing board and racks for X number costumes.
CREW Is your theatre union or non-union? __________
(a) Requirements in a union theatre: stage hands according to the local requirements. Contact the business manager of the local union for this information. Definitely necessary are an electrician to focus the spotlights and operate the switchboard, a carpenter to pull the curtain and rearrange the drapes if necessary, and a props man to place the furniture and assist the wardrobe woman and stage manager n arranging the dressing rooms and costumes, and a wardrobe woman to press the costumes. Although the company has very little baggage, some unions require 2 loaders t transfer this baggage from the bus (station wagon) to the stage, unless the stage hands agree to do this.
(b) Requirements in a non-union theatre: a crew of 5 “alert, able-bodied parties” to assist in preparing for and running the concert, and one or two girls or women to press the costumes. Experience is valuable, but not essential.
HOTEL Please recommend a couple of hotels that are generally used by theatrical companies and note their distance from the auditorium. Any advice you care to give us about these hotels will be appreciated. __________
We would like to start work at the theatre at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of the performance. The theatre and the entire crew should be available at that time, and they should be prepared to stay with us until the loading is completed after the performance. Every endeavor will be made for them to have time for a dinner hour. The presser(s) need not arrive until 4 p.m.
If the theatre is in a school, a maintenance man should be on duty to unlock doors and tell us where various things like ladders and clothes racks are stored.
Next month we will start discussing some of the solutions to the answers this questionnaire may produce.