Giovanni, interruptus

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This weekend reminded my little company of the importance of flexibility. We were about two-thirds of the way through the opening night performance of Don Giovanni when a derecho (a word I didn’t know until Saturday morning) blew through, taking with it our power, our beautiful projections, and endangering the safety of patrons and performers alike.

It was frightening, and heartbreaking: hours and hours of focused work, rehearsals, a set and costumes built from scratch all abandoned in an attempt to shelter from the high winds and horrible lightning. Yet Don Giovanni was not dragged to hell by the Commendatore – rather he remained alive, able to seduce for another day.

Fast forward to the following Sunday – a matinee performance, and one which had been sold out for months. It was a 90+ degree day, and much of the region was still without power. Our theater and offices were also without power, so the performance was obviously not going to happen.

We met at the theater: the box office staff, my boss and her boss, our production manager, the house manager. We grabbed cell phones and computers, and BB brought a mini generator to recharge as we needed. We called the orchestra and cast and crew to schedule a replacement performance, which came together much more quickly than we could’ve hoped. We crafted language for the website and patron emails, and our Web Manager SaM pushed the content out. We pulled up lists of ticket buyers for the show and everyone – even the Senior Vice-President – started calling patrons to let them know that the performance was cancelled. As cars pulled into the lot, people met them to explain the situation.

I know that there were some people we did not reach. I know that many folks – including the entire cast and crew, and frankly the admin & artistic staffs – were supremely disappointed. But rather than saying “oh well….nothing to be done”, we investigated other options and quickly made a plan. That flexibility is one trait that many artistic types have, and I was very happy to have been surrounded by a group of artists and musicians – turned- administrators when the chips were down.

The takeaways? When something unexpected happens (and I think this could apply to both good and bad things), take stock and make a plan. Give that new plan room to grow and morph. Titles don’t matter when there’s a job to be done, and in fact the leaders I revere the most aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Still no power on campus (as of this writing), but we’ll be working offsite in several homes to continue preparations. And we’ll all be crossing fingers and toes that the power comes on in time for tomorrow’s rescheduled performance. (Let’s be honest, having Giovanni still running around is a bad thing, karmically speaking!) Wish us luck!

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