I could be interested…
What’s this role really all about?
If you saw NSO’s latest production (let alone of you took part in it) you’ll appreciate what an incredibly complex task it is to put on a top-quality community-based opera in several very different venues. The opportunity for glitches, high stress levels, last-minute panics, hasty improvisation and budget over-runs are almost limitless, but so is the opportunity for the right person – perhaps even a couple of people – to prevent all this happening in the first place, and ensure that a production progresses smoothly and successfully from first rehearsal (actually, before) to a barn-storming last night performance.
So what would I actually be expected to do – and when?
Your involvement would start at the first pre-production meeting, where everyone involved gets together to work out who does what and what needs to happen when. Your contribution – and it’s a vital one – would be to keep the production firmly on track over the whole preparation and rehearsal period, which would typically be around three months
Getting down to the level of specific tasks, what would be involved?
Your first task, and one on which the success of the entire enterprise ultimately depends, would be to help create a master schedule so that everyone involved, on-stage, back-stage and front of house, knows exactly what they’re expected to do, where they’re supposed to be, and when.
On a day-to-day basis, you’d prepare and circulate a comprehensive contact list so that anyone involved in the production can contact anyone else. You’d check and confirm arrival and get-out times at rehearsal and performance venues. You’d help with arrangements for soloists to be billeted locally during the final rehearsal period and first performance. You’d make sure that any vehicles we hire are big enough to take whatever needs to go in them. The list could go on and on – but one of your skills would be to determine exactly what tasks need to go on it. You’d deliver progress reports to the NSO committee and any sub-committee involved in a production
Talking of skills, what sort of background would I need?
Experience of project management and its associated tools would be very useful. At the very least, you’ll know how to use a spreadsheet.
What about personal qualities?
You’ll be the sort of person who makes other people think: ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ For example, if soloists have to get to Eastbourne for a performance, you’ll automatically wonder if engineering works might hold them up, check to see if that’s the case and, if necessary, devise a way round that particular problem. You’ll be analytical and logical – but balance those qualities with a personality that enables you to get on with and win respect from a wide range of people, including highly talented and experienced creative types, and motivate volunteers to get involved in a meaningful and productive way.
And talking of people, who would my principal contacts be?
Internally, director, music director, stage manager, chorus secretary, artistic director. Externally, stage management at performance venues, management at rehearsal venues, vehicle hire companies.
How much time would I need to commit?
Traditionally, an NSO production has seen frantic and febrile activity squeezed into the last weeks running up to a performance. Your big challenge would to even out that activity curve, so that progress is smooth and measured, and as much as possible happens in a pro-active rather than a highly reactive way. Overall, we’re probably talking about a few hours a week, with phone calls and e-mails your principal activity. But expect to get busier as we approach a performance – just like everyone else!
Finally, why should I want to do this job?
For the satisfaction of knowing you make the complex, sophisticated machinery of opera production work smoothly and to maximum effect.