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Passing Notes | Great Performances

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DEC
29
2016
Passing Notes
Events
by Jennifer Baughman, Community Manager & Carly Katz-Hackman, Wedding Director

Per our website, “every member of our impeccably trained staff assumes a pivotal role in [the] ensemble production [that is an event]. After the sights, the sounds, and the aromas have faded, what remains is the memory of a truly great performance.” Allow me to apply conversational terms: our staff is freaking amazing.

As an Event Director, I probably spend just as much time at events as I do planning them. If watching everything play out just as I intended is my favorite part, then hanging with intelligent, talented, and hilarious people is a close second. They come from all over the country and the world, spending their time away from GP creating theater and music and art. If you couldn’t tell, I seriously love these people.

We asked Richard Price, Event Captain at our dinner series for the immersive theater production of The Dead, 1904 at the Irish Repertory Theater, to let us know how the experience has been. 

 

What is your acting background – have you ever done a period piece on stage before?

After earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre, I worked for about three years as an actor in Washington DC.  I then earned my MFA in Acting from Penn State before moving to New York.  Over the past ten years, I’ve worked off-Broadway and in regional theater, often in period pieces, but never anything like this.  

Have you participated in or attended an immersive theater experience like The Dead before?

I’ve never actually been involved with anything quite like this before. About a year ago I was able to attend Sleep No More here in New York. It was an incredible experience that’s difficult to put into words.    

Are you ever in a position to contribute lines to the night as it plays out? Do the actors ask you questions or improvise? 

As much as I would've relished the opportunity to be involved in a James Joyce-worthy improv with Boyd Gaines, the chance never arose.  Although once, Kate Burton asked if I had a vegetarian option for Steve Martin.

How has the production changed throughout each night? Any crazy, noteworthy stories or moments that ensued.

We came onboard in the middle of the technical rehearsal process.  For us, it was about creating the the timing.  Our goal, first and foremost, was to accommodate the work of the actors and the director, Ciaran O’Reilly.  In no way did we want to impede the choices that they had come up with during the rehearsal process; our job was to enhance the experience overall.

The great thing about live theatre is that it is different every night.  Most nights things would go like clock work. One performance, a guest suffered a bout of vertigo. It just so happened, on that particular night, Shaquay Peacock, our chef had her mother in attendance.  Being a retired nurse, Mrs. Peacock jumped in took control of the situation.

What is the demographic of the attendees – do they dress the part? 

We really saw quite a range of attendees.  You could span the audience and see everything from A-List celebrities to James Joyce scholars.  Most would dress as one might expect them to be dressed for a nice holiday dinner, however on several occasions, women arrived in Victorian Era gowns, some of which they had made themselves! Their enthusiasm was infectious!  

How do you like being a part of a production like this? How has your staff team been? What’s the most important thing we did to help it run smoothly?

In all honesty I could not have asked for a better experience.  Being treated as a part of the production team helped instill a sense of ownership of what was being created. 

I consider myself very fortunate to work with the same people day-in, day-out.  There was a core group of staff that were there most days and we really found our rhythm as the run progressed. Victoria Preston and Antionette Tarabay, who were there in the beginning, helped create the blueprint for our service and executed it perfectly.  Shaquay Peacock went above and beyond in creating an effective and lightning-fast serve out. Later on, Darius Robinson and Danae Ervin stream-lined our dishwashing system, easing the challenge of cleaning up silently while the play was still going on!  

Tell me about the food. What have you tried? How is it to eat a traditional prep of Irish feasting from 1904? What are the flavors? What is the feeling when you eat? How is the guest reception of the food – have they made any comments?

A lot of thought and preparation went into planning the menu, which is based on the food James Joyce described in his story. Mark Russell’s combination of savory and sweet flavors really embraced the period and put you in the holiday spirit.

A Christmas Goose was served in the story, however the decision to swap it for turkey was a personal relief having tried goose for the first time this December 25th.

Guest reception was always positive, especially from Malcolm in the Middle’s Jane Kaczmarek who gushed to me about how delightful her dinner was. 

Any personal interactions with the actors?

The whole cast was wonderful. The extent to which the whole cast and creative team went out of their way to make us feel like a invaluable part of the process was incredible. On a personal note, my father passed away unexpectedly during the run and the outpouring of support from everyone involved was overwhelming. Although The Dead, 1904 continues, I have left my post as Captain to perform in a different Irish play, Outside Mullingar.  The Irish-born cast members were a free dialect lesson every night!

Any other overall impressions?

With GP, I’ve been involved in a lot of unique events.  I consider it a gift to marry my passion that fulfills me artistically and the job that supports me financially when acting cannot.  It was always a delight when new staff would arrive and realize what they were a part of and then witness them take pride in the roles they had assumed. End

I also had the pleasure of hanging with some of the staff last week after an event. We got to talking about the events of the past year, and the events we are looking forward to in 2017. Known widely as the “wedding chick” at GP, it made sense that the conversation would turn to all things nuptial. While I’m used to getting feedback from clients, I don’t often get to hear from the staff re: how the feel about working my events – too much hustle and bustle during the big show! So this was my chance! Waiters tell all! And here’s what they had to say:

CKH: So what do you guys enjoy about working weddings?

Elizabeth B:  I always love the décor. It’s so intimate, and you can learn a lot about the couple based on their choices.

Elizabeth H:  And it’s so colorful! Plus, everyone is having so much fun.

EB:  Yeah, I’m usually pretty heartless, but there’s something about a dad’s speech to his daughter on her wedding day that always gets me.

Tyler M:  Working the bar, you see some pretty interesting things. Everyone always gets pretty drunk, but like fun drunk.

Tommy N:  And someone usually vomits… (everyone laughs)

CKH:  You guys aren’t supposed to let that happen! (I laugh too…)

TN:  Well either way, it’s usually funny. People dance who probably shouldn’t – great to see those attempts at a moonwalk.

EH:  Oh yeah! I love the music. There’ve been a few times that we’ve had coworkers in the wedding band and that’s always really fun.

TN:  I like that we get to learn about other people’s cultures and traditions.

TM:  And sometimes that hits the music too! Middle Eastern covers of pop tunes are kind of amazing.

EB:  The Hora is always super fun to watch!

CKH:  What about the food?

TM:  The food at weddings is so good, which means we get a really great family meal.

EH:  I love seeing the wedding cakes. They’re always so beautiful.

CKH:  What else?

TN:  I can’t say I mind how flirty the guests get…

TM:  Ha, you get the flirty girls and I get the 30-something single guys having existential crises about what they’re doing with their lives.

TN:  Yeah, why do you think the girls are flirting? An existential crisis can manifest in more ways than one! There was this one time –

CKH:  Okay, I think that may be a good place to stop! Thanks for the feedback, guys… be good! And see you in 2017!


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