EP 20 – Managing Expectations with Technical Director, Roger Desmond
Roger Desmond, Technical Director and Staging Supervisor, momentarily takes us on the journey of how he landed his dream career: Wicked (New York), The Phantom of the Opera (New York), NBC’s The Sound of Music and The Whiz live. He is the unsung hero of a handful of your favorite broadway and television productions. Desmond recounts how the industry has made him feel like “the luckiest man alive.”
It began in high school. A scheduling error landed Desmond into “Technical Theater” instead of “Woodshop”. His patient and receptive demeanor gave the mistake a two weeks chance to be resolved; however, he found a passion and interest in staging and production. Remaining in that high school class as well as enrolling in Technical Theater at Stevens College Missouri, Desmond’s relationships in the industry matured; and with experience and networking, so did his obsession with delivering a successful product.
Recognized for strong work ethic and attention to detail, Roger Desmond was recruited to work on several large broadway productions. After a college colleague connected him with the marketing production company George P. Johnson, he fostered relationships and was introduced to various network directors, who would also be smitten by his talent. Desmond credits “putting my best foot forward on every job, learning vector work and drafting, and staying three steps ahead” as his keys to making successful impressions.
With New York Broadway, NBC, MTV, and PetCo Park San Diego on his resume, Desmond is no stranger to spotlight and pressure situations. He describes the duties of a Technical Director/Staging Supervisor as a dual meaning, depending on the corporate or broadcast sectors. In the corporate sector, his position as Technical Director is to make sure that all technical needs are met for a production, assuring that equipment and labor needs are accurate to execute a seamless AV experience. In the broadcast sector, Desmond is titled Staging Supervisor. Offering setup suggestions, loading and unloading of set pieces and managing the crew and equipment; he works closely with the technical manager to execute the broadcasts live visual flow.
Desmond laments on the pitfalls of coordinating sometimes ten, sometimes sixty semi trucks in San Diego, or even tougher, Times Square New York. These semi trucks are vital to every live production, as they hold the sets, lighting, LED boards and so much more. He credits a positive attitude, staying three steps ahead, and managing relationships that allow for pulling off the most strenuous of situations.
The use of automated software wenches, a program popularized and perfected by PRG Scenic, is widely endorsed by Desmond. After studying and completing courses in vector work and drawings, he began to understand the need for accuracy and the benefit of software in collaboration with a producers’ visual dreams. Through applying real work knowledge of his course work, and imparting his broadway background, Desmond implemented this intelligence into his staging and pitching, suggesting a cost effective alternative to NBC executives. The use of automated wenches during the live NBC production of The Whiz was a hit, and created a seamless visual spectacle – his favorite production to date.
When not executing and elevating his work standards, whether broadway or live television, Roger Desmond ironically, very much enjoys retreating to the very thing that he wanted to do originally – wood shop. Perfecting shelves and building simple sculptures allow him to relax and keep things in perspective. Sometimes life steers you in a unexpected direction of which you may be grateful all the same. Follow your dreams, but be open to life’s detours; perhaps like Desmond, you too can feel like the luckiest of anyone alive.