Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I owe, I owe, yet off to work I go

I am signed on to three different musicals. One is ongoing, with the last of 34 performances happening this weekend. Immediately following I load in a one-weekend show that opens, well, that very Friday. Then on the closing night of that show I race off to another town for a sitzprobe and a recording session, from there to one week until tech and two weeks until opening. Fortunately, I'm not running the board for that last; because I hop on a plane for my first vacation out of the country in almost two years.

With six or more performances a weekend, my time off is roughly a three-day weekend. Minus the time spent in doing repairs and maintenance on the ongoing show. Minus, last "weekend," assisting to set up yet another musical (that I am fortunately neither designer nor operator on) and the "weekend" previous to that, loading in, teching, and running board for a children's musical.

You'd think I'd at least be picking up a bit of money. Not quite. The fee for any of these shows is a bit over a thousand dollars. Which sounds like a nice lump sum, but consider; broken out over four hours per performance (with set-up and clean-up) it already works out to barely over ten bucks an hour. Add the hours of tech week (rarely is a tech week a shorter commitment than 40 hours) and time at home in the studio preparing effects, and you are talking not much over seven bucks an hour.

Add to that; even though the show is MOSTLY evenings and weekends, with call times as early as 4:00 PM in the afternoon for prep and repairs, and the fact that you didn't even leave the building until ten or eleven the previous night, it is very hard to schedule another job. Particularly because my field is, well, theater; the other jobs calling me ALSO want me on evenings and weekends. And even places like UPS or McDonald's are not going to be really happy about having someone cancel shifts without notice because something broke at the theater and they have to go there to repair it instead of working their scheduled shift.

So you are basically restricted to working shows serially. With a four or five week run, plus one or two weeks of necessary technical rehearsal, designer's runs, rehearsals and studio time and meetings, you basically can get two shows in three months (if you are actually running the board. If all you are doing is designing, the block of time you have to free up is rather smaller, AND you have a lot more flexibility in when you schedule the work you have to do). At 1,200 to 1,400 for a design-and-run, this breaks down to under a thousand a month income from the theater work.

And that's before expenses. Such as all the technical gear, including powered monitors, microphones, cable, DI's, and so forth I typically provide without charge.

So want to run board for your own shows at a midsize (sub-regional) theater level? Be prepared to live frugally.

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