Five Questions Friday

Today we’re talking to Ann Aurbach, Production Manager !!

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Ann Aurbach is a local St. Louis production manager and former opera stage manager (just about everywhere else BUT St. Louis). She is currently Production Manager at COCA – Center of Creative Arts. In her free time, she is a freelance portrait and fine art photographer.

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

A: I was onstage before I was backstage – New City School had lots of musical productions over my time there (thank you, Diane Davenport) and it really stuck through high school. I was a very active participant in high school theatre (onstage and offstage) – Thespian Society, all three shows, etc. Sometimes, I wonder how I actually did my schoolwork AND all those shows, and the newspaper. All those school experiences lead me to go to IU for Theatre because while I loved it, I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted a career in and specifically chose a non-conservatory program.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

A: My mentor in college once told me that he wanted me to stage manage a play, a musical, an opera and a ballet before I left so I could work on just about anything. Priceless advice as I got bitten by the opera bug and worked in professional opera for 8 years. Also, he was the one that pointed out that I could do this for more than just fun – that I could make a career out of it – that hadn’t yet occurred to me. He came halfway through my college career and changed my life forever. When I was accepted to my current job, I called him and said “I got this job because of you.” He now is the Executive Director of USITT and is helping change the lives of many people!

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

A: Oh, this one’s a good one. We did CHESS in college and it was an eventful production. One of my good friends, Rick, was the lighting designer and his good friend, Rob, the assistant lighting designer. We were excited that we had gotten to use a Hog lighting board in addition to the ETC Obsession to use moving lights (they were relatively new then). This show had well over 400 cues -one song alone had 40. Well, at about 15 minutes until house open, we were still tweaking some of the cues and go to hit save to disk. The Hog eats the disk and erases it. We panic momentarily but find our backup disk, and try it again. The Hog eats it again. Momentary panic – I tell the director and have the house manager hold the house, while the LD and ALD frantically program the 24 sub masters on the Obsession and I am told to call the show as normal. The show went on – it wasn’t perfect but it went on and almost no one knew what had happened until after the fact. Rick stayed after the show overnight rewriting the entire show until I came in for our matinee show call. He slept during the 2nd show and came back and fixed the two cues that he missed for the 3rd and final show (this was his thesis project). What. A. Show.

Q: What is your dream role?

A: That’s a toughie – I’d love to see some of the shows like “Avenue Q” or “Hamilton” or any other of a number of musicals from behind the scenes. You know the ones that must have awesome backstage choreography from quick changes to prop hand-offs, etc. Backstage is where the REAL show is sometimes! As for a participatory role, I’ve had the chance to work on many projects, large and small, that make me very happy. But I LOVE “Sweeney Todd” – we did a fantastic production of that in college, 3/4 round and 3 stories high. I love that show with all my heart and I would happily stage manage that one again!

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

A: You think I have time for TV? HAH. I mostly rematch shows while working on paperwork or editing photos. But, if I have to pick something contemporary, I’ll go with “Grace and Frankie”. That show is just priceless.

Thank you Ann!!


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Grace Austin is an STL area educator and director.

See her work at gracemaustin.com.


**DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of THE SCENE SHOP.


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