By K.J. WEBB
COMING SOON: The Tulsa Ballet will play Taming of the Shrew with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra Feb. 4-6 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
In addition to choreography, costume design and music, one of the most creative components of a ballet performance is production and staging. Tulsa Ballet’s Production and Stage Manager Jessica Flores is very familiar with the level of creativity, logistics and planning required to smoothly execute a ballet performance. Flores is responsible for all of the technical aspects, and the quality execution of all production elements for Tulsa Ballet performances, and also responsible for stage suitability and safety of dancers in rehearsal and in the theater.
Flores draws on her extensive touring experience as a production and stage manager with various dance companies including the Martha Graham Dance Company, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Pilobolus, The Joffrey Ballet, and others. This experience has proved valuable in her work at Tulsa Ballet.
Flores offers an overview of her basic duties and responsibilities: day-to-day fiscal management of the production department budget; coordination of all scheduling and production management for company and school performances, events and touring; management of production personnel; implementation of all technical elements for all productions, company events and activities; stage management and lighting supervision for specific performances and events; and assessment of equipment needs, research and bid acquisitions for operational and capital purchases.
When asked what the process for staging and producing a ballet involves Flores says, “Every ballet begins in the mind of the choreographer or artistic director, who directs or collaborates with the creative team to achieve the desired result. I’m often part of the technical creative process, from the lighting to the scenery, to costumes.”
Under Tulsa Ballet Artistic Director Marcello Angelini’s direction, Flores monitors the production budget. “It’s important to remember that major new productions take months and months to fund, plan, and develop. “Flores says, “every production relies on the hard work and commitment of every person at Tulsa Ballet, from the artistic director to each staff crew and member.”
Flores offers an example: “For a full length story ballet such as The Taming of the Shrew, production costs to develop and build scenery, properties and costumes can range from $200,000 to over one million dollars once you factor in all of the costs that include fees for choreographers, stagers, designers, builders and dancers.”
Because of the extremely high costs, Flores says that Tulsa Ballet finds it much more fiscally sensible to rent full major productions from larger ballet companies. “We can import a complete production for just a fraction of the cost it would take us to build on our own,” Flores explains.
She points out that renting full major productions in no way diminishes the performance quality for the audience. “We present a world-class product, designed by major designers whose work is predominantly on Broadway or at The Met. For example, Susan Benson, scenic and costume designer for Taming of the Shrew, is a major Canadian designer whose works have been presented all over the world, including the Royal Shakespeare Company.”
Once the sets, staging materials, costumes and design plans are in Tulsa, Flores and her team integrate the complex designs and sets in order to make them work seamlessly on stage at the Tulsa ; and a primary focus is on maintaining the major Broadway style components.
For Tulsa Ballet’s upcoming performance of Taming of the Shrew, Flores says, “To support the dancers (28 company members and 11 second company members), in addition to myself and an assistant stage manager, we will have 28 stage crew members, three full-time wardrobe staff and eight dressers. Including the house staff, ushers, Tulsa Ballet staff and orchestra, there are up to 200 people that make every performance happen.”
With so many people and so much work involved in staging and producing every performance, it is essential to manage every aspect of the job well, from logistics to technical creative challenges. When asked what helps her to do her job successfully, Flores says, “I was advised very early in my career by my professional mentor (now a production manager at Carnegie Hall) to ‘plan now, plan early and always think three steps ahead; 90 percent of the time, technical and fiscal issues in theatrical production should be solved in pre-production.’” She adds, “The greatest satisfaction I have is a performance where our work is appreciated, but goes completely unnoticed. Our work should always be seamless, subtle, and never distract the audience from then dancer’s performance.”
For more information about Tulsa Ballet, or for tickets to theTaming of the Shrew, Feb. 4-6, at the Tulsa visit www.tulsaballet.org.