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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Caretaker's Caretaker—Behind the Scenes with Terry Dale

Terry Dale surrounded by The Caretaker's Alan Cox (Aston) and Alex Hassell (Mick)
Terry Dale is company manager for The Caretaker, at the BAM Harvey Theater through June 17. He served as GM project manager at BAM for several years, in addition to company manager for Ireland's Abbey Theatre and the Radio City Rockettes. He talks about his current position and returning to his old stomping ground.

What kinds of responsibilities do you have as company manager for The Caretaker?
In my experience, company manager is a catchall title. A broad definition would be that you function as the brother, lawyer, father, friend, physician, psychiatrist, cruise director, caterer, accountant, and cop. On the road, I represent the producer when dealing with theaters, unions, and the press, while also acting as the actors' and crews' advocate regarding schedules, travel, accommodations, payroll, extracurricular activities, etc. In BAM language, the company manager for a touring company is like being a one man artist services/GM representative for the production.

The paperwork and day-to-day of a company on the road varies little from production to production, so it’s the “family life" you create that gives each tour its individual personality. One of the pleasures of working with a small company like we have on The Caretaker is having the opportunity to get to know everyone as individuals. I’ve been on tour with as many as 70 people and while those were also fantastic experiences that yielded lifelong friendships there is something special about spending one-on-one time with a small group as you travel the country together.

Working in the theater means dealing with the unexpected. Have you had to deal with surprises good and bad, and if so, any examples?
Fortunately for me nothing serious, knock wood, has happened during a performance. A few unexpected things have come up over the years. I had to unexpectedly (and successfully) talk a post-911 airline gate attendant into letting a company member board a plane from Greece to the US without their passport. I had the unexpected need to talk to the police and engage a lawyer because a member of the crew was arrested on stage during a load out. One evening, raw sewage quite unexpectedly started to back up in the backstage area, then the backstage dressing rooms, then the backstage bathrooms until finally it started to back up in all of the first floor lobby restrooms and seep into the carpeted lobby area just as act 2 went up. Many mops, city engineers, and industrial fans later we were back onstage the next night.

Over the years it has felt at times like Mother Nature is not a fan of the theater. I’ve been in the position of having performances canceled due to blizzards. Flights and trains canceled for days to come because of the storms and only 48 hours to convince a bus company to get a company of 50 from DC to North Carolina—including having to get out and push a bus stuck in the snow. The thing about the bad is that in almost every case it leads directly into something unexpected in a good way. A blizzard trapping everyone in one place leads to the entire company commandeering the hotel lobby to watch the Super Bowl together.

As a one-time BAM employee, what do you like best about having a long run at the Harvey?
As everyone knows once you’re part of the BAM family you never really leave. I’ve stayed in touch with many current and now former employees. The Caretaker is the second production that’s brought me back to BAM since leaving in 2008 but the first time I’ve been back to the Harvey. The funny thing is the first time I ever went to BAM was as company manager on Sir Peter Hall’s As You Like It, which played at the Harvey. I think what I like best about being here for a long run is the simultaneous feelings of anticipation and familiarity.

While on tour with The Caretaker in San Francisco and Columbus I kept thinking as much fun as I’m having it will be great to get back to BAM. Being here for a long run gives me enough time to really get to experience all BAM has to offer beyond my own production. It gives me an appreciation for what I got to do here and for the opportunities I’ve had since leaving. I’ve traveled to many places since my time at BAM but whether as a patron or with a production it always feels like I’m at home here. That’s a great anchor to have.

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