By Phil Stark on May 17, 2019.

Photo by Randy Feere
Phil Stark on stage with Outerbridge as a magician’s assistant.

Welcome to the dark side! For the last 14 years I have worked in an office with no windows. My team and I mostly work 12-hour shifts; evenings and weekend. You normally don’t see me unless something is wrong. I work in the theatre at the Esplanade, and I love my job. In 2005 when my boots hit the ground, management had a plan for 10 shows in 10 days. I said to myself, “These people have no idea what happens behind the scenes to make a show happen!” Fast forward to today, and we are a technician team of three full-time and a couple of casual employees.

Part of my job as the technical director is co-ordinating the logistics, including crew, equipment, parking and safety to name a few. Some of the larger shows require a crew of 30 or more to work with the in-house employees and road crew. We can start a load-in as early as 7a.m. to be ready for the evening performance. Then, after the show, we take it all down and pack it back into the trucks, and send them on their way to the next stop. Depending on the theatre schedule for the next day, we might have to restore the theatre or ‘house’ to ensure that we are ready for a load in the next day, it’s all about flexibility. Our roles at the Esplanade differ from theaters in larger centers. There, a theatre technician job is broken down into multiple positions such as carpentry, electrics, rigging, properties, audio, stage management and wardrobe. With our limited crew, we tend to fill multiple roles to get the job done. Although we excel in some areas over others, depending on the show demands, you might find me mixing lighting or audio, hanging chain motors, or assisting Caillou to get his “head on straight.” I’ve even assisted during magic shows but you didn’t know I was there!

I believe that my team and I have made the theatre flexible and dynamic, ready to meet show needs quickly and efficiently, thanks to the confidence from a few thousand events under our belts. Sure, the days are long, turn-around time can be short and lack sleep can wear you down, but working with the talented artists, road crew, and my fellow employees, coupled with the reactions from appreciative Medicine Hat audiences make my job a rewarding one.

Phil Stark is technical director at the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre.

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