Catfish Moon, part 1: Recruiting

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted anything here. Blame Raleigh Little Theatre, which is where I am almost anytime I’m not at work or sleeping. Right now we’re rehearsing Carousel, but before I start talking about that show, I want to tell you about my experience on the previous one, Catfish Moon.
I was light crew chief for that play. The job of the crew chief is to recruit, schedule, train, and manage the light crew for the play in question. This was my second time serving as a light crew chief; the first time was on Pump Boys and Dinettes, a show we staged last fall.
The first question on a light crew chief’s mind is: is this a play a musical? The answer determines the size of the light crew, because musicals use follow spots and non-musicals don’t. If there a no follow spots, the crew chief just has to provide a light board operator for each performance. For musicals, a crew of three (one light board operator and two spot operators) is required, so the size of the light crew triples and the scheduling task becomes far more complex.
Pump Boys and Dinettes was a musical, so I had already had the experience of managing a large light crew. I knew Catfish Moon was not a musical when I volunteered, so I was looking forward to a less demanding job this time. I started by sending a note to the RLT Volunteers e-mail list, announcing that I was the light crew chief for Catfish Moon. I included the list of technical rehearsal and performance dates, and invited would-be light board operators to send a me note.
I was delighted with the response — I actually heard from more volunteers than I could use on this show, which is not always the case. I ended up picking five people for the crew. One of them was a veteran who has been volunteering at RLT longer than I have. It’s tempting to try to fill your entire crew with people of that sort, but I don’t think it’s a good idea because you risk burning out your best people. On the other hand, you don’t want to recruit too many people with no technical theatre experience at all, because you don’t know how well they’ll handle the job. In this case, I was delighted to be able to fill my other four slots with people who had some backstage experience at other theatres, but who were new to RLT. With any luck, they would get hooked on the experience (the way I did three years ago) and stick around for other shows.
After making my selection, I sent e-mails to those five people to let them know that they were on my crew, and notified the other volunteers that I wouldn’t be needing them for this show. (I invited them to volunteer for later plays, and offered to pass on their names and contact information to the light crew chiefs of those shows if they would like me to.) Now it was time for the part of the crew chief job that I find most challenging: drawing up the schedule.

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