Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Welcome to performing arts, Rauli.

Hello, I'm Rauli Garcia, HGO's Chief Financial Officer. One of my standard responses when someone asks me what I do has been, “I make sure the people who have talent get paid.” But I have never been a performing artist, never built a set or participated in the production of a show—how was I to know what actually goes into making an opera?

What if I were to observe the rehearsal process, from start to finish, as a supernumerary? I wouldn’t have to sing a line, as supernumeraries—or “supers” as they are called around here—are silent actors. I pitched the idea to Molly Dill, our Productions Operations Director, who immediately got a mischievous look in her eye as she played out the possibilities in her head. She cracked a smile and said she had just the role for me: a “prisoner” in Dead Man Walking. Both General Director Anthony Freud, and our Chief Operating Officer Perryn Leech loved the idea. The CFO, in a production, who ever heard of such a thing—but why not?

What a fantastic opportunity for me to learn about the art, the company, and process—I would immerse myself in the production process, and along the way track HGO’s funds from budget to final product. A main stage production gets rolling way before opening night, and in mid-November the production department was already casting the “supers.” I got offered the role of a prison guard in Dead Man Walking. It did not quite seem real until last week, when they called me to the Costume Department for measurements!

Down to the basement I went. Amid the hustle and bustle of fabric and thread, fittings and forms, lights and tapes, they quickly took more than 50 measurements! Clothes that are made for my body? How refreshing. Quite the switch from buying jeans off a table and hoping they will fit. Norma and Esmeralda deftly took my measurements, while Myrna and Mercedes poked a little good-natured fun at me, to put me at ease. It worked—I had a great time!

In the coming weeks, I will blog about my experience, and share what I learn. Feel free to leave a comment—ask anything you ever wanted to know about what goes on backstage in a world-class opera production, and I’ll do my best to answer!

Dead Man Walking photo by David Bachman, courtesy of Pittsburgh Opera