Lights up: on tour with alum Jordan Mitchell '20
By Jordan Mitchell | Friday, February 11, 2022
By Jordan Mitchell
Friday, February 11, 2022
Has Cats come through your town recently? If it did, you should know that a recent alum, Jordan Mitchell '20, was the one responsible for making sure the lights did what they were supposed to. Last year, she joined the tour as Head Electrician. We wondered what it's been like, so we sent her a bunch of questions, which she graciously answered via email. Read on to learn what a head electrician of a major touring production does.
Question: You are Head Electrician for the touring production of Cats — can you talk about what your job entails?
Jordan: My job is to move anything related to lighting from city to city and maintain the lighting rig. I oversee load in and load out with a local crew of 10, alongside an assistant electrician. During the show I'm the one running the console (pressing go for lighting cues) and the assistant on this tour is a follow spot operator as well as the one calling followspot cues for two local spots. We build the show, run it a bunch and take it down over and over! I also have to order supplies and parts as things are constantly breaking from wear and tear on the road.
Question: What does a typical day on tour look like for you; what’s the usual pattern when you get to a new theater?
Jordan: On load in day at a new theater, I'll typically get there before 8am, meet the crew, ask questions about the space then get started right away. Our 4 trucks get unloaded and we starting building my side of the stage, often called "dimmer beach". Eventually we get trusses full of lights hung up in the air, and once the set is in place, we build set electrics and booms.
Obligatory UMass Theater question: Can you talk about any lessons or advice you got at UMass that you have found valuable as you’ve done this job?
Jordan: I got a very strong foundation in electrics knowledge from UMass. (shoutout Michael Dubin) As well as how to communicate with a team and maintain the original design of the show. (shoutout Penny Remsen)
Question: Do you have a favorite fun memory so far from your tour?
Jordan: We have lots of fun traveling around the country when not in the theater! I've gone to Niagara Falls, the St. Louis Arch, Las Vegas strip. I eat A LOT of awesome food. A couple of my favorite places were Spokane, WA and Fort Worth, TX. The people, food and weather were great. I'm currently in West Palm Beach and spent my afternoon on the beach!
Question: Is there an aspect to the job that has surprised you (good or bad) about working on a touring production?
Jordan: We've done 150 shows already and I'm surprised I haven't gotten sick of it. But some people do stay with the same show for years.
Question: What’s the biggest difference in your opinion between what you did at UMass, i.e. being part of producing a show from scratch, to bringing a touring show into a new location?
Jordan: Cats is a much bigger show than what we put on at UMass, but it's still not very hard to set up and breakdown because there is a very specific order to do it and everything is almost exactly the same in every theater. When being a head electrician in the Department of Theater, a lot more time is spent planning how to hang and circuit the lighting plot. Every city has its challenging architecture and personalities that make my job exciting and new.
Question: What’s your experience been with putting on shows in the time of COVID? Do you have to take extra pre-cautions?
The company (cast, crew, band and management) get tested often and are always required to wear masks unless performing. It is a constant challenge of understudies and crew covers when folks have to quarantine. Our audiences are not always required to have any protection against COVID, it depends on the rules of the city. We're working through it and trying our best for the show to go on.
Question: Anything else we should know?
Jordan: Happy Vday from my assistant Mike Shultz and I!