Mrs. McChesney

By: Julian Quao

We contacted Mrs. Elisabeth McChesney, administrative assistant in the Ravenscroft School Fine Arts Department, to find out the foundational tasks that had to be completed to make this fall’s Chicago musical and other Fine Arts endeavors possible. Following are her responses to our questions.

1.What kinds of equipment or materials do you order for the cast and crew?

It begins with the directors perusing scripts. Once the directors choose a production, I contact the theatrical company (i.e. Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing, Music Theatrical International, etc.) to obtain the rights and royalties to do the show. Once that’s awarded, I order all the cast scripts, librettos, pit orchestra music (if the show’s a musical), kits (if the production is a Broadway Junior one), other required supplies. I often order a variety of props, costumes and materials for the show or set, and I handle all the reimbursements to teachers and parents who purchase things on their own for the production. 

2.How much time do you put into organizing each play or musical? Do you have help organizing, or do you work alone?

The directors spend many hours brainstorming and rehearsing, and the parents organize the costumes, tech week dinners, and unusual prop finds. I work alone on all the behind-the-scenes tasks, such as financial, volunteer organization, programs, tickets when required, and liaison work between parents & faculty. The number of hours I spend differs for each production, but it can take up many hours each day, especially as the production date approaches. 

3.How important are relationships in keeping the plays organized and flowing from beginning to end? 

It is very important to maintain relationships with everyone: the theatrical company, the vendors, the directors, the cast, the volunteers, and the parents. As with every ensemble, everyone is integral to the entire production and one person’s success is the success of the ensemble’s. There is no time or room for selfishness or lack of preparation; everyone must support each other in order to have a successful show.

4.How do you manage budgets for plays and musicals?

I refer to previous budgets for an outline of expenses, determine from the directors the needs and anticipated cost of things, then refer to our department budget, the Fine Arts Association budget, and any gifts given specifically for productions or fine arts to get overall figures. I then make a line item budget for all anticipated expenses, share this information with the directors and volunteers, and help them stay within the budget.

5.How do you make sure that spaces are set up, so that  plays happen smoothly?

Once I know the production dates, I work with the directors to set the rehearsal schedule and reserve the spaces. I maintain the fine arts facility calendar to insure other events and activities don’t prevent the rehearsals [from happening] or [don’t take away] time needed to build the set. 

 There is so much work done by so many other people! I am only a small cog in the wheel of a production, and I sometimes feel like the “man behind the curtain[,]”…from The Wizard of Oz, just working to make sure everyone has what he or she needs.