Tales from a Festival Producer

The 14th StreetY’s LABA program hosts an art festival each year based on its theme.  In the past two years we’ve covered both “Pardes” (the orchard) and “The Body”.  Each year, the festival happens seemingly by magic.  Our latest blog is from Becky Skoff, LABA Manager, who sheds some light on how she’s making all this magic happen.   

EROS: A Festival by LABA is only one week away.  As the LABA Manager/14th Street Y Theatre Manager/Festival Producer, it’s a busy time.  I often get asked what exactly it is I am doing when I am seen running around the Y, often in circles, all day long.  The answer is complex.   I am managing 20 LABA artists and faculty, each preparing to present a visual, audio, or performance based piece for the Festival next week, as well as supervising an assistant, an intern, a technical coordinator, and a tech crew.  I spend a lot of my time carefully planning who will be doing what when, to ensure that everyone’s time is spent as efficiently as possible, and that all the individual efforts come to together to complete the big picture.  In addition to the day-to-day operations of the theater, LABA fellows, Gallery, and CSA, today I am overseeing the production of a Festival program, coordinating email blasts and other marketing efforts, and scheduling technical staff to build a set and lighting design for the theater. 

As if that weren’t enough, my creative thinking and problem solving skills are being pushed to the limit with all sorts of random tasks that go into Festival planning:

–          I found the answer to this week’s burning question– How can one of my artists build a large-scale installation with fireproof rope from the 25 foot ceilings in the 14th Street Y  Theatre? (Come Thursday night May 19 to find out, but it is possible!)

–          I purchased 400 square feet of Astroturf for a modern dance piece and 20 feet of aluminum for a round painting going up on a column.  Once the festival is over, where on earth am I going to store these things?

–          I went to BJ’s in Jersey city and bought an entire SUV full of cups, napkins, tablecloths, seltzers, water bottles, snacks and the ingredients for pomegranate cocktails.  Yum. 

–          Tonight, 4 visual artists will install their work on two different floors, while a dress rehearsal with a 30 person cast takes place in the theater.  Careful planning is necessary to ensure that all these groups have the resources they need without colliding with each other.  Resources include thumb tacks, ladders, two carpenters, hammers, levels, drills, paint and a screw gun.

–          How can we have people sit in a circle in the theater for a meditative music piece?  Answer– buy 30 pillow cushions at Ikea, and have my technical crew build furniture from recycled wood from old theater productions.

–          Where can we put a 20 foot by 3 foot mural in the Y?  TBD- still thinking on that one.   Suggestions are welcome!  (An idea of hanging the paintings from the basketball hoops has already been rejected.)

The greatest challenge of my job is solving these details while staying on budget, and also respecting the integrity and intention of each artists’ work. Will I succeed?  Come to the Festival to find out….


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