My Calendar Is Sexy: Organizing the Back End of a Cultural Event
My family is engaged in the kind of North Dakota goodbye that makes me want to poke something into my eyeball. My grandmother is trying to sneak leftover food into everyone’s bags when they’re not looking and my sister is insisting we’ve not yet captured the perfect family photo and when everyone takes their shoes back off and piles back onto the couch my reactionary, impatient inhale is so audible I have to pretend I’m choking so I don’t look like an asshole.
It’s 8:45 on Friday night, New Year’s Day, 2016, and I have a bitchin’ date with the Revolutions program InDesign file and a graphic designer who is attempting to celebrate the holidays with his own family in Miami. This glossy, landscape-oriented, 40-page booklet is going to print tomorrow. Tomorrow is a Saturday, which is an unusual business day for our local printer, and the recognition of it came as a bit of a surprise to both of us because we neglected to specify “business days” or “business days around the holidays” when we set drop-dead print dates.
As an information hoarder and librarian fangirl, I LOVE this job.
Time, around the Revolutions International Theatre Festival, is dicey. While the festival itself is precisely orchestrated opportunities for whimsy, this section—the planning, deadline-meeting, coordinating-and-plane-ticket-purchasing section—is necessarily inflexible across eight time zones and the three weeks of the year most businesses are closed. One can kindly say this presents a few challenges.
Juli Hendren, the Curator of Revolutions, begins planning the festival about two months before the previous year’s Revolutions opens, when schedules begin to shake out and it’s clear which artists are coming and who will get better funding if they are bumped a year. In May/June, Juli will sift through this narrowed pool and the rest of the applications (which come in at an unsolicited rate of 60+/year) and put together a “watching party” for Tricklock Company members to check out footage of potential shows. Then, the pool is narrowed further and contract negotiations begin.
Around October we’ll have a first official Revolutions meeting with a tentative line-up and calendar. And then I do a lot of sort of anxiously waiting around for contracts and confirmations. As a festival producer, the jobs that are on my plate—coordinating the festival media presence, creating and maintaining the website, writing copy for all of our printed materials (including the program), and organizing the festival volunteers—are pre-festival but post-show and -venue confirmation.
This generally boils down to a six-week window of organizing the information that will serve as both a public map for all things Revolutions and as an internal schedule of events that includes every festival movement—things like artist arrivals and departures, tech schedules, on-call drivers, last man out schedules, and curtain speakers. As an information hoarder and librarian fangirl, I LOVE this job.
The challenges of this kind of coordination lie, unsurprisingly, in time. When making requests to artists for show descriptions, photographs, etc., I’m confronted not only by a geographic time disparity, but by differing cultural perceptions of immediacy. It is a very American practice to extract oneself from a family holiday gathering to finish a festival program, and I remember that my hurry is not anyone else’s problem.
In my six-week flurry of jobs, I often feel like I am just waiting. While I can build the preliminary website, I can’t publish it until I have venues for every show. I can have volunteer meetings and explain how things work, but I can’t schedule volunteers until I have a final festival schedule. While it’s occasionally frustrating to not have all of my puzzle pieces, the final piece clicking into place is satisfying to the extreme. In the waiting period, I remind myself of these things:
- Time isn’t just about hours in a day. Countries have grown and modernized at different rates. Access to communication technologies is limited in many of the countries our Revolutions artists live in. Since 2013, we’ve been trying to bring Ndere Troupe from Kampala, Uganda. In Kampala, at the Ndere Center, which is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been, the internet sometimes works if you stand on your right foot three meters left of the office door with an African child in your arms while you try to submit a grant. Patience is paramount. (Unfortunately, we were unable to secure visas for Ndere this year, but we learned that in the right window of time for me to pull them out of the program before the print deadline, which is not always the case.)
- When I am making requests of my coworkers for something and they’re not getting back to me, it’s because they don’t have it yet. Every time I get impatient waiting for a piece of information, I remember that someone is waiting on me, too. We move as a circle, not an arrow.
- When I feel like I am hounding someone, I remember that I’m not inconveniencing anyone by doing my job. If I have to email an artist for larger photos, it’s because I want to represent them and our festival well. I won’t apologize. They’re not going to think I am bothering them. Same with Tricklock Company members—we all have the same goal.
In 2017, Revolutions will move to March in an effort to eliminate our holiday-based, visa-securing trouble. We’ll avoid the government closures and it’ll sure be warmer.
For the last time in January, see you at Revolutions!
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