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[PODCAST EP08] Show Calling for Theater and Corporate Events with Judie Kavanagh

JUDIE K
JUDIE K

In Episode 8, Stephen Bowles and Clem Harrod catch up with one of The Production Channel’s first fans, show caller and backstage manager, Judie Kavanagh. Judie has over 15 years of experience in the corporate events world, having also done extensive work in the theater, automobile and sports realms. She says, “I do have a pretty varied background which I actually enjoy. I never know what I’m going to get anyplace I go, which I actually really like about it.”

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Judie was exposed to live production when she was young girl in Canada—singing, dancing and acting in community theater during high school. It was her show director at the time that noticed her concise notetaking skills, or “organizational gene” as she calls it, and approached her about becoming a stage manager. She jumped at the chance to try this new role, and at age 15, she managed a very big production for him and called the show as well. She expresses, “It was a grind the first time. It was a little scary, jumping into the deep end of the pool as they say, but I really enjoyed it, and from then on that was where I preferred to be.” Judie realized that stage management was her calling, and after high school, she attended the Ryerson Theater School in Toronto where she graduated from their technical production program. Judie immediately went the traditional theater route working all over Canada doing musicals and street theater. Years later, after getting married and having children, she realized that “an eight show a week schedule was a bit too much for my family life.” Judie felt like she had to make a change. She met a stage manager that introduced her to corporate work and agreed to assist with a large car show. She had a great time and has loved the corporate show world ever since.

When asked about the differences between the theater and corporate work, she says there is some overlap, especially the desire of putting out the best product possible. She says biggest difference is that in theater, you have a long rehearsal process and you settle into a routine doing multiple shows week after week. In the corporate show world, the schedule is accelerated. She describes, “It’s get in, get ‘er done, and get out and get it done as high quality as we possibly can. But there’s very much a throw everybody into the fire very quickly, and we all have to bring our ‘A’ game from the moment we step into the building to the moment we leave because there’s no routine.” In this interview, Judie explains that she likes to work both as a show caller and the deck manager. The deck manager position is also called the backstage manager or assistant stage manager (ASM). As a deck manager, she runs into many scenarios cuing talent, executives, players, etc. in various spaces. One of her deck management jobs requires her to use a skill that many Canadians have—ice skating. She says, “I realized the first time I did a hockey event, that I could get around a lot faster if I had my skates.” Now when she works with the talent for the hockey games, skating is a must!

Something very important to Judie is work/life balance because “as a mom, obviously, that’s something really close to my heart.” She has a husband and two teen boys that have always been supportive of her varied work schedule. Her younger son travels with his baseball team, and she makes sure that she goes to as many games as she can. Also, she supports her husband who works in the golf industry and coaches a kids’ hockey team. She states, “I want to be there to see them enjoy those things, and for me, that is a huge quality of life thing…for me, that is a big part of how I design my schedule.”
Listen in as Stephen and Clem discuss Judie Kavanagh’s most interesting live show experiences, her thoughts on mentoring the next generation of stage managers, and how she handles “following the puck and hoping for the best—and doing our best to make it look good along the way.”

Full Podcast Transcript

Stephen Bowles:
With Judie Kavanagh and here we go in three, two, one. Well welcome everybody to the production channel and-

Clem Harrod:
Chatter chatter chatter!

Stephen Bowles:
What up Clem, how ya doing buddy?

Clem Harrod:
I’m doing wonderful man, you?

Stephen Bowles:
I’m doing pretty good. I’m actually out here this week in Houston, Texas. Actually, I started in Dallas then I went to San Antonio and now I’m in Houston, Texas so I’m traveling all week this week.

Clem Harrod:
Man, you gotta hit up Austin next.

Stephen Bowles:
Actually I’m flying out of Austin even though-

Clem Harrod:
See, there you go!

Stephen Bowles:
But literally out of all of those cities, Austin is the one I want to spend the longest amount of time in.

Clem Harrod:
And I have still yet to go there.

Stephen Bowles:
Really?

Clem Harrod:
I’m really excited though, yeah.

Stephen Bowles:
Well cool, well I’m excited today we’ve got a really special guest today, Judie Kavanagh. Welcome Judy!

Judie Kavanagh:
Good morning!

Stephen Bowles:
Hey!

Clem Harrod:
Good morning!

Stephen Bowles:
Judie is a stage manager out of Toronto, Canada. She’s actually been working in the events industry in Torf corporate events industry for over 15 years and fun fact about Judie, when we started our, the production channel and we started this podcast one of the … Like the first day that I started tweeting and sort of doing Facebook posts, Judie just scooped it up right out the gate and started kind of tweeting back and forth and kind of starring our first post and so I thought that was awesome. So I kind of started going back and forth with her and just basically said, “Hey Judie we gotta get you on the show.”
As soon as I found out that you were a stage manager I was like we gotta get you on the production channel and so …

Clem Harrod:
And here we are!

Stephen Bowles:
And here we are.

Judie Kavanagh:
Here we are!

Stephen Bowles:
That’s awesome. So Judie thank you very much. I guess just kind of something we ask everybody and I think it’s perfect with you particularly with your background out of Canada I’m excited to kind of hear about this. How did you get into this industry right, how did you actually sort of fall into the production industry?

Judie Kavanagh:
Well I think I literally did almost fall into it. I was working … I’m a stage manager trained out of the Ryerson Theater School in Toronto and I took … I graduated out of their technical production program. And so I did the traditional theater route as many stage managers do working in musicals and street theater all over Canada. Different places. And after I had my children, I have two teenagers, and after they were born it didn’t … an eight show a week schedule was a bit too much for my family life. My husband’s in the golf industry and works a ton so it didn’t seem conducive to a family situation for me to keep up that schedule.
But I was swinging in on a show in Toronto, relieving their stage management team and-

Clem Harrod:
No pun intended.

Judie Kavanagh:
No pun intended. Yup. And I met another stage manager who had been doing more corporate work and asked me if I was interested. He asked me to help out on a very big car show for a manufacturer in Canada and I did that and loved it from the get go so.

Stephen Bowles:
Really.

Judie Kavanagh:
Yeah, I was working as a backstage manager and it was a big show about 75 cars and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more it was, seemed to be something I was really interested in so I started with that and I’ve been working with in that area since then. So about, just over 15 years I’ve been doing corporate and I love it.

Clem Harrod:
How did you get your desire to go to the school?

Judie Kavanagh:
Well I had always enjoyed theater like when I was in high school I did community theater I started out acting, singing, dancing as many kids do but I do have that sort of organizational gene that many stage managers get and have and that rolls itself right into stage management. I actually had a director who was looking over my shoulder I was doing homework at rehearsal I was probably about 15 and I was doing homework at rehearsal, I was in show and he looked at my notes and said “Wow, you’re pretty organized have you ever thought about being a stage manager?” And up until then I had not, so I ended up stage managing a very big production for him the next year and the immediately, calling the show and I was actually 14 or 15 at the time and I really enjoyed it. It was a grind the first time it was a little scary, jumping into the deep end of the pool as they say but I really enjoyed it and from then on that was where I preferred to be.

Stephen Bowles:
So Judie, help for me and personally I’ve never done and worked in theater. I’ve done corporate shows on a theatrical stage which I always thought that was kind of funny but really help us and the audience understand the biggest differences between calling a show or stage managing a show in theater versus corporate. And kinda is it apples to oranges, does it overlap a lot, kinda talk about that.

Judie Kavanagh:
I would say it overlaps a little. I think that the presentation aspect of it, that feeling of wanting to put out the best product possible is definitely an area of overlap. I think the advantage that, and maybe sometimes disadvantage that theater has is that there’s a long time to get it up and running, generally speaking there’s a long rehearsal process, there’s a long time to get tech things and get things as perfect as possible. And then you settle into a routine, things get tweaked and you’re maintaining a standard and that kind of thing. In corporate as you guys know, it’s get in, get ‘er done and get out and get it done as high quality as we possibly can. But there’s very much a throw everybody into the fire very quickly and we all have to bring our ‘A’ game from the moment we step into the building to the moment we leave because there’s no routine, there’s no, you know exactly what’s going to happen and if you’re anything like me you work with a lot of different people on different projects and so that’s inherently the situation is that you don’t always know well who normally takes care of that, and who takes care of that, and who do I talk to about this, and who do I talk to about that?
So all of those things that you have time to sort of feel out and know in a theatrical situation are very much boiled down in terms of time in corporate. And that I would say is the biggest difference. I think we’re all still, my dad’s got a barn and my mom will sew the costumes and it’s going to be a great show, I think we all still have that inside of us but corporate is just fast and dirty sometimes and you just get it done.

Stephen Bowles:
My biggest experience with kind of moving in and out of a fixed venue, right, like a theater whether it’s in New York City or Chicago, obviously union plays a big part depending on your venue. It seems like with corporate you can come in and there’s a lot of different variables but at the end of the day everyone’s sort of approaching it with this idea of we’re bringing our stuff in over and above, it’s just a shell. The sort of four walls and a floor and sort of a corporate ballroom. In a venue there’s all this I have to work within the constraints of the actual venue whether it’s union labor or X amount of fly wheels or bars or whatever it is or how do I get cameras from the third balcony down but I can’t go over. So it’s like a little bit more of a difficult space. Like can you speak to that? Is that kind of how you see it or have experienced it at all?

Judie Kavanagh:
Yep. No I would definitely say there’s a difference. I mean I do some sporting events as well as a backstage manager so I work in arenas and often they’re union spaces so we do have that constraint as well but I hear what you’re saying that we walk into an empty ballroom a lot of the times and it’s exactly four walls and we put up exactly what we need whereas working within the constraints of a space. But I think any space we go into, because I do a lot of auto work the limitations sometimes in terms of venue often have to do with how many poles does it have or does it have any. You can’t drive cars in a big room that has a lot of poles, or we’re working around the poles in order to make a stage big enough that we can drive a car onto or through or store you know 25 cars backstage that we can get them all on stage and the set design has to reflect okay where can we store them? Which poles will we be working around. So any venue you walk into has limitations whether that’s from a union perspective or a physical perspective or access.
There’s always something.

Clem Harrod:
Man you mention, mention theater, you mention corporate, you mention sports and the auto industry, you got a lot going on.

Judie Kavanagh:
Yeah, I kinda of, I do have a pretty varied background which I actually enjoy. I never know what I’m going to get anyplace I go which I actually really like about it. It’s one of the things about corporate that I really enjoy. You know sometimes the comfort, I do work with some of the same teams[inaudible 00:08:33]always enjoy and walking in seeing, especially when I know who is going to deliver high quality and has the same goals that I do and I know they’re working, you know their standards which is always nice and I do, I’m very lucky I work with some really great people and I may not see them, I may only see them once a year. But when I walk into the building, I’m happy to see them knowing them I’m going to get their best work as they should expect the same from me.

Clem Harrod:
Funny that you say that cause that was going to be my follow up asking about how it is, how is it to walk into, places you know where you know you have to lead this team, but yet you might not know anybody in the room, and you were saying how you can appreciate when you do have those comfortable faces but what is that feeling when you walk into a ballroom or a theater and you don’t know anybody. But you understand that is your role to guide them through the entire show.

Judie Kavanagh:
Well it is an interesting feeling. I will tell you a funny story and I walked into a small venue in Canada and it was there was only, I was being sent by a company, I was working for, whose producer was not able to make it, they double booked her. So they sent me in, I had only done one show for this producer before and I walked in and introduced myself to the aging technician who was in charge of the venue. He was the only one there and I introduced myself as the stage manager and he looked up at me with a sort of quizzical look and he said, “really, we need one of those?” Which was an interesting reaction, I thought well yeah, you’ve got some pretty serious dignitaries coming in and some corporate presidents, that yeah they told me you did so here I am and then when I left and thanked him for his, for his efforts over the two days that I was there, it was a lot to be thrown at, I actually ended up running keynote and power point thankfully I was able to hurl that role editing and everything else.
So thankfully I was able to do that and when I thanked him and left him, his review of the admission was best summed up by his quote, I wanted to put it on my Linkedin profile to be honest he said, “Well, It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Was his reaction, so you know that’s probably one of the best reviews I’ve ever had wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. So yeah, there’s ultimate challenge that I end feeling my way around, cause different buildings, it’s different people, who do I have to talk to for this or that or whatever, I just ask a lot of questions, to smile at people that’s my way.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah the friendly face, the friendly face can go anywhere, take you across the board universal.

Judie Kavanagh:
Absolutely

Clem Harrod:
Now you did mention sports, I don’t know if you were aware of this, but I spent 15 years with the Orlando Magic and four years before that with Florida State University and broadcast and shooting as a camera operator, so.

Judie Kavanagh:
I didn’t know that about you, I’ve been listening to your podcasts.

Clem Harrod:
Hello, chatter. Love it.

Judie Kavanagh:
I like the chatter.

Clem Harrod:
So what is your role in the sports role? What do you do exactly?

Judie Kavanagh:
I’m Canadian, so I’m a hockey girl. I have worked with some, some hockey events for sure, I tend to in those capacities I am more of a backstage manager but I actually skate, so I do my job while skating.

Clem Harrod:
What is a backstage manager?

Judie Kavanagh:
What is a backstage manager? Well in Canada and in corporate, I find that most people or a lot of people are no longer using the term assistant stage manager. For me that makes a lot of sense because a calling, as you call it a show caller, the stage manager who works on the deck on the stage, backstage, whatever that stage looks like whether it’s an arena or a sheet of ice or a show site whether it’s an event, I done tailgate parties, can’t really call it a stage. But needs managing, but it’s the space, right it’s the management of the space. So a lot of us have shifted to using the term backstage manager because you are the person on the grounds and whether that’s getting your talent ready and cuing them or floor directing them if there’s broadcasting involved or you know. So in sports that tends to be lining up the players and cuing the lineup or getting the talent or if it’s anthem singer or a flag bearer or a bunch of kids you need skating on the ice, whatever that is. Those people need management and cuing and that’s where that aspect comes in.
So that is the role of I’m meant to fill on those kind of events I actually prefer it.

Stephen Bowles:
So I just want to go back about ninety seconds and tell me a little bit more about how you perform your job professionally as a deck manager while skating at the exact same time cause that is a first, I’ve never heard that ever.

Judie Kavanagh:
Well when I first started working on hockey and realizing that I was doing my job in that kind of space, I mean everybody knows, I’m sure you’ve had the experience in a large ballroom and wish you brought a scooter in terms of covering that much ground.

Clem Harrod:
Man, I’d bring it with me.

Judie on the ice working an eventJudie Kavanagh:
I actually wish I had one on many show sites but I realize the first time I did that a hockey event, that I could get around a lot faster if I had my skates and I happen to mention it to someone and they said, “Well you can skate?” I said, “Yeah, I’m Canadian and I have two kids that play hockey and a husband who coaches and so, hockey is yeah not a dirty word at my house.” For sure I skate, I brought them the next time that I did that event, it made my job a lot easier.

Stephen Bowles:
That’s awesome, I actually have a question on the hockey end; You know Clem’s done some stuff in sports and even the showflo and different things with the Magic and places like that where they are using our software. They sometimes do these really epic projections down to the light. Under the ice, have you been a part of any of that, out there in Canada or have you every been a part of a show that did that in a hockey.

Judie Kavanagh:
I actually have, the Toronto Maple Leaves have some pretty amazing, trouble finding them on YouTube, they have some pretty amazing projection programs particularly I don’t know if you caught it, the it’s the 100th anniversary of the NHL and the 100th anniversary, the centennial celebration for the Toronto Maple Leaves this year and they did an amazing presentation as part of their opening game. Centennial celebration for their opening game which featured pretty incredible projections. So if you get a chance, you get a chance to look at that they are doing some great work as are many NHL using their ice as their projection surface. There is incredible work being done in that area.
Stephen Bowles: It’s such a perfect canvas because it’s white and then I guess I’ve always been curious, is that usually a video that’s rolling and then doesn’t stop or are you also calling cues inside of the video for different things happening.

Judie Kavanagh:
There’s, there’s there are pieces to the element, there are, usually through Pandora and there are cues to be called in and the projection program to be built, because it’s got, generally has to be timed to whether that skater is on the ice interacting with that projection which often happens.

Stephen Bowles:
Right.

Judie Kavanagh:
And sometimes it’s a straight video piece,so.

Stephen Bowles:
It makes sense.

Judie Kavanagh:
Yeah.

Clem Harrod:
I’m actually watching the video right now.

Judie Kavanagh:
Good, pretty good stuff, right?

Clem Harrod:
Yeah, it is really cool to see the way that the, one thing I’ve learned about projection it is all about the content when it comes to mapping and stuff like this.

Judie Kavanagh:
Absolutely.

Clem Harrod:
You know, I have done work where sometimes my grid looks better than the content. It’s pretty sad. You’ve used all of this, I’ve done all this work and this is it. This is all you are putting on?

Judie Kavanagh:
Well, it’s interesting working in auto as well. One of the things that with projection mapping I’m seeing more of it in auto recently I did a show where they had a basically a car form that was white and there was a screen behind it and they also projected onto the car itself, so it was as if the parts on the car were moving to demonstrate the different pieces in the car and it just blew me away every time I saw it. It was really incredible to see, so they are doing some great work and I love to see the different canvases like that being used cause I think it’s an area that’s definitely wanting to explore, makes things interesting cause otherwise corporate you know, you guys know, you end up seeing the same thing,the same, when you see something a little different, a little out of the box, it’s really nice to see that.

Judie workingClem Harrod:
I was having a conversation with Micheal Golding, who does a lot of TV and project management work in the auto industry side of things and seeing some of the videos and some of the work that they have done overseas and other countries, is just with the mapping and everything, it’s like, it’s so exciting. You talk about a different [inaudible 00:17:31]

Judie Kavanagh:
We are getting clem all excited now.

Clem Harrod:
You mention that your husband is a golfer, now is there a lot of golf in Canada or how does his work schedule?

Judie Kavanagh:
Well, I mean it is a shorter season, but my husband is a pro at a private club so he works right till Christmas and then teaches winter golf course indoors and then starts, really their golf course opens early April usually so, we don’t have a lot of snow, so I flew from LA and dusting of white as I flew in, we haven’t had not a lot of snow this winter. So I find that as the years go by the seasons seem to get longer, which like a challenge, he works seven days a week during the golf seasons which is a lot.

Clem Harrod:
How does that work with your schedule and your kids schedule?

Judie Kavanagh:
You know my kids are teenagers, I have a nineteen year old, he is in first year of college and my younger son is sixteen, so they’re older, they are used to the travel when they were little, I didn’t travel as much and I’m very lucky my family is all very supportive and helpful. I didn’t travel much at all during the golf season when they were little, but as they have gotten older, it’s gotten easier for me to go away and travel and I don’t, one of the interesting things I’ve been finding listening to your podcast is the discussion of work life balance and how much that comes up because as a mom obviously that’s something is really close to my heart. It was really nice to hear, so many of your interviewees talk about exactly the same thing, so don’t feel alone in that struggle.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah and I feel that is something that gets overlooked where we are constantly chasing a job or chasing you know a check or something where, it’s something that isn’t discussed, kind of a priority of mine to make sure that we are all keeping it in the forefront of our mind as we are looking at opportunities and jobs and career projection and stuff like that.

Judie Kavanagh:
Absolutely, I don’t think I could do what I do if I was doing it every single day, we all know people who go from show to show to show to show and it’s quite a grind. I couldn’t do that it wouldn’t give me time to like my boys both have played travel hockey all growing up. My younger son is still playing travel high level baseball and I want to be there to see them enjoy those things and for me that is a huge quality of life thing. My husband is still coaching, coaches a younger group of kids and I manage that hockey team so that is something that I really like to do because the kids benefit from that and one of the things I hate about travel is when I’m missing games. So I don’t like that, I get lots of updates from my hockey mom and I keep track of what is going on at home, for me that is a big part of how I design my schedule, something is happening with my kids so you know. I know if my kid is traveling for a week playing baseball in Florida, I’m definitely not working that week.
You know I want to be there and see them enjoy those things, They’re only young for a little while, I know you have kids so I know you understand that.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah, definable.

Stephen Bowles:
Well it’s interesting that you don’t have time to able to manage something like, like hockey team for me that was the stuff I could never do, when I was traveling all the time, so I took my sabbatical and then really inevitably just kind of turned and started showflo. The first stuff I did was basically go join a softball team, go get re plugged to my church, you know go get back to my community, because that was the stuff I couldn’t find a regular rhythm on. So.

Judie Kavanagh:
Absolutely

Stephen Bowles:
I vended with you Judy, how are you I mean how much are you traveling? Then when you do travel or do shows are they do you ever do them in your town? For me I’m in Orlando, so when I was working shows, there is a good amount of work that was just basically driving to the office that day and coming back. Even though it’s a ballroom, for you are you basically always coming stateside or do you do a lot of stuff…

Judie Kavanagh:
No, no I do a lot in Toronto, in Toronto, now depending I live outside of the city so depending on what the show’s schedule can be like. I mean I did an event a few weeks ago where I checked into the hotel on a Sunday morning and actually did not leave the building until Friday. So even get outside with those crazy schedules so sometimes I will be working in Toronto and not leave the building so I do stay even though I’m living just outside the city. But I do travel as well, I have two events for example this month, one is in Toronto and one is later on in the month I’m going to Pittsburgh for a week. So I try to stay, if I can do one or two a month that makes me feel a good balance. There are times of the year where as you well know a lot busier than others for corporate especially when you are talking about something like auto, it has a busier times of the year. So I tend to stick to that rhythm I do tend to work a little less in the summer and obviously things taper off at Christmas time.
You guys probably find the same thing. It’s not quite as busy.

Clem Harrod:
You just mentioned rhythm. When we are on the road working and we have our road family, when we are home we are trying to spend time with out family, but how do you incorporate your friends in that relationship to maintain that?

Judie Kavanagh:
Well I think there is an advantage to having friends who understand what you do. My family is very good, because my family still, my parents do community theater, they understand the demands of the schedule of that and both of my sisters even though they don’t work in that area both have done that as well when they were younger. So they understand what I do, understand that sometimes I go down the rabbit hole and they may not hear from me and even my own family in my house, my husband and my kids sometimes that there are times when I can’t there’s no way I can, I can be in touch as often as maybe they’d like, although they are teenage boys, I’m not cool right now, so it doesn’t much matter. I don’t hear from them as often anyways unless I get a text now and then, but they are really understanding, there is a flow to that, where there is times, when I’m just not as connected and then I catch up when I go home.

Clem Harrod:
You mention your other family members, you say your mom and your sister are all in theater as well.

Judie Kavanagh:
My mother and my father both do community theater. My mom is a director and my dad is a producer/stage manager type so they, we actually started doing my sisters and I before my parents got involved. I think it was if you can’t beat them join them sort of a thing. So my family still doing community theater which they love, and keeps them connected with their friends and like I said the advantages they understand when I talk about my shows, they don’t look at me like I’m speaking another language.

Clem Harrod:
That’s got to be huge, I wonder it’s a big thing with athletes when they have kids or anybody I guess, that generation of passing on that knowledge of that next level. I was just wondering how it’s affected in this industry so just passing that generational knowledge understanding.

Judie Kavanagh:
Well I have, I’m really lucky I still work with the Ryson theater, I’ve done a couple of events with them fundraising events, and I’ve met some amazing stage managers there. The program that I graduated from was a diploma program at the time but it’s now a degree and so I’ve mentored a couple of students through their thesis program there and so have met some great stage management students and I’ve actually brought them in to do work with me on some of my corporate events which has been amazing because

Clem Harrod:
That’s cool.

Judie Kavanagh:
Yeah because to me it makes it feel it’s not a dying art, I think good stage management, good people management is an art and I feel strongly about that and for me it’s a lot about the people. You know, great show callers, definitely is an art but working directly with people the way we do is something that I value very highly. When I see young stage managers coming up who are doing that and seeing that and also value that it makes me feel like there is some hope for our you know our arch.

Clem Harrod:
Right? Right? I’m sorry quick plug, quick plug anyone interested in getting some projection coaching? I do offer services, reach out to me on Facebook. Sorry.

Judie Kavanagh:
No that’s okay shameless promotion.

Stephen Bowles:
We were just talking about what you were saying with Melissa last week. In our last episode where we recorded she was just talking about how this industry is sort of kind of in his own little bubble right and it doesn’t get the limelight that you know other sort of industries would get, whether it be software development or legal or law whatever it is. So a lot of the knowledge is transferred from generation to generation or from person to person but it’s like this direct transfer of law as opposed to this institutional transfer of knowledge. So..

Judie Kavanagh:
Corporate is definitely like that, because it’s outside the box I mean stage management is something people tend to think of as a theatrical job and so transferring that skill to corporate and I find, you probably find the same thing a lot of times it might be a producer. They’ll say the producer called the show last year but realized it was too much work on top of everything else they were doing. So I’ll often step into a show and call it where last year in previous years the producer has done it, but it really is something you need to focus on and you know the job is different for each client I find. Sometimes there is a creative element involved where you are trying to talk everybody through, how they want the award segments to go or how best to get twenty five dancers on stage and off stage. If you don’t have a backstage manager and you are the only person in that stage management role in that event that becomes part of it as well, so, you know there’s always those extra demands that if you don’t understand that it is a fluid kind of job description, it’s bit of a shocker walking in. You want me to do what?
Stephen Bowles: So kind of our last question here, do you have any good story of either disaster or just like a cool execution something you guys really pulled off in an amazing kind of production way? Do you have any good stories to share?

Judie Kavanagh:
I have a few, I made some notes because you know these are the fun things, these are the I like to tell around the family dinner table, makes a lot. I was doing a corporate event a few weeks ago when it was one of those show after show after show there was a plenary session then a keynote speaker then you know a fifteen minute break and another different show. So we did not have a chance to rehearse as many of these elements as we wanted to, so the client had decided to end their plenary session and introduce their evening event with a little sort of fanfare, they brought out a tshirt cannon, which I had asked…right?

Clem Harrod:
I already know this story.

Judie Kavanagh:
You already know so and I said, ” you tested the tshirt cannon, right?” Right? Oh no but they told us that it’s going to be fine. Which those kinds of words are never ones you want to hear, so out come the volunteers with the tshirt cannon at the end of the show. So the first thing they hit, clem which will probably make you turn you over in your grave, with a projector, the front projector and then they hit the cameraman at the back of the room. Then they hit a woman standing there who was texting on her phone and not paying attention, they hit her right in the chest.

Clem Harrod:
Of course,

Judie Kavanagh:
Then they hit me, hit me at the back of the room.

Stephen Bowles:
Where they aiming or was this just like wildfire?

Judie Kavanagh:
No she was actually trying not to aim at anything.

Stephen Bowles:
I’m not sure if that is a gun error or operator error.

Clem Harrod:
Right? It’s difficult because you can’t shoot up because you’ll hit a fixture, you can’t shoot too low down because you’ll hit somebody and so you are in the middle and the power was to high.

Judie Kavanagh:
Exactly, well hence my question, “did you test it?” Because clearly we had more firepower than was required for this size of the ballroom.

Clem Harrod:
Right, oh my gosh!!


Judie Kavanagh:

That was a good one, then the other one I was going to tell you was would have been one of my very first corporate shows and it was an auto show. The stage was a large tshape and they sort of lower part of the t was where the cars where coming up so they decided to start the show with sort of a march up of the talent and the executives and the president and what not marching up onto the stage, which the producer decided I had to lead with a flag, I was backstage manager, which did not make me happy, anytime I have to do an appearance never makes me happy. Unfortunately, it does happen quite often you know somebody’s mike turns off they need water, whatever, I have to walk out, I try to do it as surreptitiously as possible, but anyways I had to lead this parade onto this stage. So as we lead the parade and everybody else then we get to the top of the T and everybody is heading backstage, the way the exit stairs were placed on the top part of the T, didn’t cover the entire distance from across the stage.
The president was so busy waving at everyone as he walked off, he was just about to walk off the edge of the stage and an 8 foot drop, so I ran, so I ran through as I escorted everybody out, I ran through a group of twenty people and grabbed this gentlemen probably more roughly than he would have liked by the arm and guided him off the stairs literally just before he was about he was to step off the stage. So that was sort of my introduction to into the x factor about corporate in terms of those things you don’t get the chance to rehearse but sometimes as we say follow the puck.

Clem Harrod:
Yes.

Stephen Bowles:
Oh there it is.

Judie Kavanagh:
So we are just following the puck, following the puck.

Stephen Bowles:
You’ll love this about our interview with Melissa that we just had, with sports there’s no rehearsal.

Judie Kavanagh:
Absolutely. Right?

Clem Harrod:
You just get in an you do it.

Judie Kavanagh:     
That’s right, which is good and bad, I am fine in maybe you are too Clem, that as money crunches sometimes so does the rehearsal time and there will definitely there are I mean the shift tends to be more from proactive to reactive which I don’t always love, there’s a safety factor involved which if you can at least get those things done, that have a high risk of falling apart makes me a little happier, there is definitely a shift in finding in that from proactive to reactive, we are a lot of the time just following the puck and hoping for the best and doing our best to make it look good along the way.

Clem Harrod:
There we go.

Stephen Bowles:
Judie, thank you very much, this has been awesome. I love the blend of with your experience from corporate to theater to sports, that’s like that to me when we are talking with people who have kind of touched different parts of the industry I fell they have this more holistic rounded view, sometimes you do shows with a television broacast director or producer and they don’t incorporate and they seem entirely out of place, but I can tell just from talking to you, you’ve got his holistic view of kind of how this industry comes together the nuances of each but that’s pretty cool. Thank you so much for joining us.

Judie Kavanagh:
Thanks for having me. Like I said I’m a fan of the chatter so I’ll keep listening.

Stephen Bowles:
It’s taking off.

Clem Harrod:
Chatter!

Judie Kavanagh:
Chatter!

Stephen Bowles:
Thanks again for tuning in, this is what we are doing, we are bringing the latest and greatest in terms of stories that are going around the industry. If you know of anybody that has stories just like Judie’s please have them reach out directly to Clem or I or hit us up on our production…

 


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