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Steve Brown, in his ninth year as technical director for the region’s largest venue, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, rules the backstage for the 140 or so performances the hall hosts each season—everything from solo artists to rock ‘n’ roll extravaganzas to full-scale touring Broadway shows. A former musician, vocal coach, opera company rehearsal accompanist, stage director and even executive headhunter (“I found Iain Webb for the [Sarasota] Ballet”), Brown says, “It’s my job to have everything ready when the show arrives. For us backstage, the payoff comes when everything went off according to plan and the audience feels [it was] a good performance.”

 

READY… SET… “I arrange for all the technical aspects to make sure the artists are happy. Every contract has a tech rider [that spells out the lighting, sound and set requirements]; sometimes for Broadway shows, they need [the stagehouse] cleared because they already have what they need; sometimes for musical acts we have to provide all the lights and a few key musicians. I arrange for limo pick-up and catering, too.”

 

UP THE ANTE “People see these TV shows now with moving lights and razzle-dazzle, and that’s what they expect to see onstage. The demand for better production value keeps going up. We have been investing in lighting equipment; it’s the big thing for most of these shows.”

 

REALLY BIG SHOW “Jersey Boys took 61 stagehands 18 hours to put in over two days, and 78 crew members five hours to pack out after the last show—[we were here] until 3 a.m. A Broadway show can take up to 80 stagehands, while most musical acts need about 20. Shows that are here for a week travel with more than a dozen semi-trucks full of sets, costumes and technical equipment; those here for a day or two bring three semis.”

 

IT’S ON ME “Patience and tact are key. If there is a problem and [the artist] is looking for someone to blame, I’ll take that blame to diffuse the situation. My philosophy: The calmer I am, the calmer the people who work for me.”

 

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