I recently discovered that strike means different things to different theaters and does not have a universal list of priorities. Standard ‘to-dos’ are:
- An entire set has to be disassembled and a new set has to be reassembled (although this second part can take a few weekends),
- Costumes have to be laundered,
- Props organized and put away (or returned, if borrowed), and
- A deep cleaning is performed throughout the auditorium
These are all items that are handled across any theater, with those functions split between the outgoing-shows staff members to supervise and ensure done well. There are usually representatives of the incoming-show staff (maybe even cast) to ensure the process happens quickly and efficiently. It’s not just the outgoing shows responsibility, especially since the incoming show might want some say on how the stage or seats are arranged, right? That’s a rhetorical question, of course.
There’s a whole transition process that can vary from theater to theater. At my home theater, all the chairs have to be stacked (no higher than 7 per stack) and moved to the lobby (which is really inconvenient after a musical because you’re waiting for the musicians to move their instruments from the pit in the lobby). At my other theater, chairs have to be stacked (no higher than 10 per stack) and covered with a tarp, arranged on one side of the theater with the other reserved for the second upcoming show to use the auditorium. Now while that doesn’t sound like an astronomical difference, it’s an important distinction to make because it’s part of maintaining the value of those chairs (let me tell you, they’re expensive).
Following theater protocol ensures the preservation efforts of the physical material (chairs, stage, platforms, etc.) and actual building. As a majority of theaters operate within a season of full use, with coordinators (general productions, producers, etc.) ensuring smooth transitions between shows, following the standard protocols preserve the theaters ability to do so. Now, for example, due to so much use of my one theaters flats (they operate over 8 shows a season), they cancelled their annual benefit show to build new and repair old flats (fake walls). This rehab weekend will help future productions by providing them with better quality materials for future use.
A theater is a home, for so many of us who may not have the best home life (either overall or just full of temporary stress). It’s to be treated with the upmost respect to ensure its livelihood is long-lasting and preserved for posterity use. The rules of strike I provided, while general, may seem simple and foolproof, but are actually well thought out and important for conservation efforts. Chairs, walls, floors of a theater are all extremely expensive to repair and a lot of community theaters cannot just replace them at first break. It’s important to have any specific rules in place, and crew made aware, for both set build and strike days, to ensure all aspects of a theater are preserved for future use.
So let’s reiterate the rules, again:
- An entire set has to be disassembled and a new set has to be reassembled (et al.),
- Costumes have to be laundered,
- Props organized and put away (or returned, if borrowed),
- A deep cleaning is performed throughout the auditorium, and
- Respect your surroundings.
Most of these buildings and materials within it are old, hopefully not 100% original depending on the length of life of the theater, and deserve to be cared for diligently. You may act here again, you may not–but others are following you in the next production, and they deserve to have the same (or better) quality in their surroundings as you did when you performed. It’s not often that I say follow the rules, but here I am, telling you to do so…’til next time.