Backstage Access: Adam Qualter

Last time, we went behind the scenes with Acting Head Carpenter Jim Constable to see how a musical like Million Dollar Quartet is staged. This time, we go behind the scenes with Head Of Props and Crew Chief, Adam Qualter (who’s a little camera shy!) to see how an OnStage performance like The Devin Cuddy Band is set up.

Q: What do you do at The Centre?

A: I am the Head of Props and Crew Chief. As Head of Props, I deal with anything that might be carried or moved on stage by a person. In this case, that’s chairs, tables, music stands, and any other supplies we need OnStage.

Q: What is your day like on the day of a performance?

A: Usually, I’m in very early. As Crew Chief, I make sure the doors are open so people can get in. I take a look at the drawings or tech specifications we have on what we’re going to set up and make sure all the props are set up. I also check in on what everyone else is doing so that we’re coordinated. The other crew guys all do most of their own stuff – I just make sure they get the information from the renter or artist on what is needed to set up.

Q: What’s the process of setting up an OnStage show?

The Centre has been doing OnStage series for about 10 years now. Depending on what was there the night before, we generally lower the orchestra pits and clear the rows of seats on them so that we have space. Then we get all the supplies for the OnStage set, load them on the orchestra pits and then put them back up so that we can extend and set the stage.

If there’s any lighting we have to hang, we get them up and we focus them as much as we can before we add all the tables and chairs – it’s easier to operate the lift when there’s nothing in the way. We also set the lighting for both the audience and for the stage. Once that’s done, we set up the stage, the risers (bleacher style seating), and all the tables and chairs on the stage.

At some point in the afternoon, the band will show up and we’ll set up their band gear. We’ll do a sound check, and a final light focus for the band. We then take a break for dinner, come back to run the show, and then put it all away within the same night.

Q: Has the format changed in any way since the OnStage concerts began?

A: We recently redid the layout. It happened partly out of an artistic choice of how crowded we wanted it to be, and how to keep the new layout within the Centre In The Square experience. We could have crowded or packed the tables far tighter than we do now, as you would in a bar. But it would go against the nicer experience we were trying to create at The Centre.

In the end, we were able to add six more tables without crowding the area, and we added some more risers in the back.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the job?

A: The problem solving: how to get this job done in this amount of time with the resources on hand.

Q: What experience or qualifications would one need to do your job?

A: If you want to become a backstage crew member, learn as much as you can and do as much as you can. Schooling is a good way to go, but not necessary. It’s just doing it – whether it is with a staging company, your local little theatre, your high school – any of the places that let you do it and get experience. This business is still a great deal about who you know. If you do a job for someone, they’ll remember you and take you on your first professional gig.