On the Eve of Previews: A Production Assistant’s Musings

Written by Matthew Mainhart, Production Assistant

Have you ever been the little guy?  The gopher?  The coffee maker?  That’s what a Production Assistant’s job is when you take it at face value.  The Production Assistant is the guy you get to do whatever job needs doing that there just doesn’t seem to be time to do.  This sounds like an unimportant and uninspiring position, but you would be wrong to assume such a thing.

My name is Matthew Mainhart.  Previews for Theatre Horizon’s production of Spring Awakening start tomorrow, and throughout the rehearsals I have been the Production Assistant.  I started out the rehearsals as acting Assistant Stage Manager.  On the surface, this meant that I did cleaning and general organization.  More importantly, I spent a lot of time with Bayla Rubin, the Stage Manager.  The organization and multitasking that Bayla brings to her job is nothing less than inspiring.  As her assistant, I got the chance to see the struggle between order and creative freedom.  As Matthew Decker and the cast worked together to create a show with depth and meaning, it was Bayla that ensured that the rehearsals were used efficiently yet allowed for these artists to explore their impulses and visions of characters and scenes.  After the two weeks of rehearsals our Assistant Stage Manager, Sarah, came on board and I shifted responsibilities.

At first I was unsure what my new responsibilities would be and who I should be looking to for direction.  But if you know anything about putting a show together, you know there is always someone who needs help and something to do.  So at the start of tech week, I started asking everyone I saw if they needed anything.  And this is how I began working with Melanie Leeds, our Production Manager.  The job of the Production Manager is like that of Production Assistant, except you have real responsibilities and are a central communication point for every department involved.  This means that you are fielding all sorts of issues all day and sometimes have very limited time to get them all fixed.  At times, Melanie can get one of the designers or technicians to deal with the issue, but other times she needs to take direct action.  Melanie, like Bayla, has to be highly organized and on point at all times.  This is where it’s nice to have a Production Assistant around.  I began working on anything she needed.  This included anything from simple supply runs to stapling baffling, to hanging duv (curtains to block backstage light from getting on stage).   Working with Melanie gave me a chance to see the various departments and how they all interacted and worked together to build a world for the actors and director to play in.

People like Bayla Rubin and Melanie Leeds are the unsung heroes of all theater productions.  And these two have done a great job keeping Matt Decker’s ship running so that he and his cast and crew can explore the world of Spring Awakening.  And over the last month, that exploration paid off, as evidenced in the recent run-throughs.

So looking back, my past four weeks have been full of cleaning, organizing, and odd jobs.  You might call me a gopher, but the beauty of being a gopher on a project like this is you get to see the big picture, touch many different parts of the project, and learn a bit about everything.  Sure, I’m not making directing choices, or designing the lights or sound, but I’ll tell you what I am doing; I’m enjoying the ride, and I hope you will too!

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