Strings Music Festival: Backstage booty camp — A summer workout for stage technicians
- 5 p.m., Friday, June 30 — Kamila Quartet at Butcherknife Brewing Company (free)
- 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1 — Celebrate America Barbecue (in Strings Park)
- 7 p.m. Saturday, July 1 — Celebrate America! (classical)
- 8 p.m. Sunday, July 2 — Brent Rowan & Friends: Tanya Tucker (country)
- 12:15 p.m. Thursday, July 6 — Music on the Green: Kelly Kerr (free, at the Botanic Park)
- 8 p.m. Friday, July 7 — Chatham County Line (bluegrass)
- 7 p.m. Saturday, July 8 — The Emily Bear Trio (jazz)
- After setting a 28-piece orchestra, squat to the floor at each orchestra chair and music stand to mark it with a piece of spike tape, so you know where everything goes after you perform the “arms and back” portion of this routine.
- Repeat squat/spike every time a musician skootches his or her chair.
Arms and back
- Lift 19 8-pound music stands to the stand cart.
- Lift 26 15-pound chairs to the chair cart.
- Push the loaded carts around to multiple locations backstage until you can find somewhere they’re not in the way.
- Lift 6 40-pound monitor wedges. Carry each pair around the stage, putting them down and picking them back up again several times until someone decides where they should go.
Glutes and legs
- Push piano onstage or offstage, depending on the show. Repeat as necessary.
- Push road cases ranging from 20 pounds to infinity pounds down the truck ramp and then up the dock ramp into the venue. Repeat until truck is empty. Repeat again, in reverse, for strike after the show.
- Balance on a 14-foot ladder while carrying lighting instruments. For a bigger challenge, do this with 50 pounds of cable slung over one shoulder.
You’d think that with all this activity, stage technicians would be chiseled and toned within an inch of their lives. But, like most industries, the music world is peopled with individuals of all fitness levels and body types, from T-shirted Adonises and Wonder Women to fluffier folks counting on the all-black technician uniform for its slimming properties.
The Strings production staff works hard to eat healthily so we can keep up with the blitzkrieg pace of an eight-week music festival. But backstage is where the food is. All the food. Different Tempo artist riders fill the area with soda, tortilla chips, cookies, M&Ms and candy bars. If a classical artist is late to rehearsal, he or she is morally obligated to bring in three dozen Milk Run doughnuts the next day as a mea culpa peace offering to fellow musicians. The sugar- and carb-laden offerings seem to multiply as the season progresses.
Healthy eating is hard to come by backstage, especially for touring crews, who might be on the road for months at a time, living out of hotel rooms and tour buses. Traveling crew members have little to no control over what food they’re offered at a venue, and a Strings staff production schedule doesn’t allow a lot of time for browsing the food selection at the farmers’ market.
Some artists get around this by tailoring their rider to their own nutritional caprices, ignoring everyone else on the tour. This is how we end up with one happy star chowing down on green juice and artisanal cauliflower while the roadies pick at their plates and plot to take over his computer to add “and four hamburgers with fries” to the rider for the next venue.
Most artists simply ask for healthy options to be provided, and the crew makes do with whatever they’re offered.
My own challenge is grazing on the seemingly permanent backstage buffet — a chip here, a piece of cheese there, a bite of doughnut on the way to the gaff tape, half a slice of pizza at the end of the night, when I’m ravenous after load-out. Oh, and a celebratory post-show beer. Or two. The irregular nature of my self-discipline is especially noteworthy after 11 p.m.
Even though my summer is full of workout-worthy effort, I still understand that, if I have to buy the next size up in pants, it won’t be because my quads are so huge from my orchestra-spike-taping squats. Like many other stage technicians, when faced with the proof of my own expansion, I’m going to have to blame the doughnuts. And probably the beer.
Ali Mignone is the stage manager for Strings Music Festival, among other things. When she’s not telling roadies and musicians what to do, you can find her hiking, biking or skiing around the Yampa Valley and blogging at thequirkyquill.com.
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