Between the former stage manager's book, the fact they were remounting the show from the previous year, and the DVD I was provided, I was definitely set up for success.
I was officially brought in for first - and only - tech rehearsal. Even though I knew I had prepped well, reviewed the book, visited rehearsals, and watched the DVD obsessively, there are few feelings like walking into a show I've never done and jumping straight into teching the entire thing.
This could have disastrous. Instead, it was some of the most fun I've ever had.
Without a doubt, this enjoyment was due to three things: the crew, the company, and, funnily enough, technical difficulties.
Crew: My experience at Krannert before Nutcracker put me in the path of a few of the IATSE crew members. 2 of them were my spot ops for L'Elisir, and we had a blast, while I adored every moment one of them worked on wardrobe crew for David Auburn's Lost Lake as part of the first iteration of The Sullivan Project. Walking into the theatre and being introduced to my IA crew of 10, most of whom had been working this show for 7-10 years, was amazing.
Not only did they know the show backwards and forward, but they welcomed me into the fold with open arms and enthusiasm, and were ready with institutional knowledge and incredible ingenuity for every challenge. If I could work with these 10 people on every show for the rest of my career, I would be nothing but happy.
If you're familiar with The Nutcracker, a lot of the magic happens in the Battle scene. For CU Ballet, this includes a battery of light cues, spot cues, fog, projections, disappearing furniture, and a flying tree. The sequence is amazing! Calling this for the first time, however, is terrifying. And yet, the crew - who would know very well if I was messing up - stuck with me through every call and we wowed the creative team. It should be said that the team was justifiably nervous at the prospect of having a new stage manager on the show, and I can never thank my crew enough for making everyone breathe easier in first tech because, if we could get it all together that well the first time around, everything was going to be just fine.
Also, any crew that hears me call a standby for upstage frog and chooses to laugh with me instead of deciding I'm hopeless will forever be some of my favorite people.
Company: the CU Ballet is a tight-knit group of incredibly talented people. We had 117 impressive dancers from age 4 to 55, a creative and production team of ridiculously talented professionals, and an army of volunteers that were constantly on their game. A show this big could have been disastrous and chaotic, but I was constantly taken aback by the professionalism, respect, and good naturedness of everyone involved. I told my colleagues that if CU Ballet ever calls, the answer is yes. Don't think about it; just work with them and love your life for those weeks. They are phenomenal.
Technical difficulties: it's weird to think that technical difficulties saved the day, but there are times when you're wearing 2 headsets, and realizing you have a little over 2 hours left to tech the full run, and suddenly nothing seems insurmountable.
Here's the story. When we checked the headsets over an hour before tech started, they were fine. When we went to go start tech, not only had an incredibly loud buzz appeared, but the wired sets were no longer talking to the wireless sets. This meant that my 4 crew members on deck in charge of pretty much everything that moved couldn't hear me. Which is a bit of a problem.
Our sound guru was paged and on his way, but time was ticking down quickly and this was the only night we had to tech.
And then, as the crew, the building's TD, the Ballet's TD, and I were pow-wowing backstage about options, one of the deck crew mentioned he didn't really need his headset for the first half because he was always within earshot of someone on headset.
Everyone looked at me and I exclaimed, 'Perfect! Let's do this!' He handed over his headset, I scampered back to the tech table, and, wearing 2 headsets with 3 different channels of com, we dove into the first Act. And it worked.
There was a moment at the end of the night where our sound guy jumped on headset and said something along the lines of, 'So Jamie, I don't know you. But I walked into the theatre in the middle of that to find you wearing two headsets and calling the battle like you've done this a million times. Was that as much fun as it looked?' And it really, really was.
Even though the crew heard my every communication with the designers and creative team (as unhooking all 3 buttons on various consoles between calls wasn't going to happen), everyone across the board was excited and energetic about what we had accomplished. I've sat through a lot of techs, but it isn't a stretch to say this was my favorite.
I know there are a lot of Nutcrackers, and I know the odds are high that I will do at least one more in my career, but I don't think it's a stretch to say this one will be hard to top.