Sets, lights, props, and stagehands do not just magically appear. In the newest blog post, Atlanta Opera Production Manager, Michael Benedict, sheds some light on the role he plays in making spellbinding opera happen.
1. What is a Production Manager? What do you do?
A production manager is primarily responsible for managing budgets, schedules, and personnel. I organize and manage all of the pieces that make up the physical side of the production: scenery, electrics, sound, costumes, props, wigs & makeup, and wardrobe. As for what I do - lots of emails, telephone calls, spreadsheets, CAD drawings, research, sourcing equipment, arranging logistics, etc. The people working on a particular production only tend to come to me when there is a problem that needs a solution or a decision. If the production is moving along on schedule and on course, then the personnel just do their jobs. Basically, I am a facilitator. I help the crews and designers get what they need to stay on track.
2.What is your background and experience, and what led you here?
I have a BFA in Fine Arts from Auburn University. I got involved in technical theatre a few years after moving to Atlanta in 1991. I have worked for a number of theatres in the Atlanta area, with the majority of my time spent with the Alliance Theatre. I have also been a project manager for commercial scenery shops. Most of my background is in scenic construction, sculpting, and painting. I have also designed and built a number of unique mechanical projects as a Props Master. I was working as a Project Manager for a commercial scene shop, and was not satisfied with my day to day work environment, so I began looking for alternatives, and I also missed working in the arts. Production facilities can be a grueling, mind-numbing place to work, and I needed to experience the creative collaboration that came with all of the theatre work I have done over the years. A friend told me about the opening here at The Atlanta Opera, and I came in to interview with Eric Mitchko, who is the Opera’s former director of artistic administration. The rest is history.
3. What skills are necessary to be a good Production Manager?
Patience, diplomacy, ability to multi-task, and organization. I think it helps to come from a technical production background, because it gives me an understanding of how to schedule and the expenses involved in many production problems. I think it also helps to know how to get the right people into position to ensure that the details don’t get overlooked.
4. What productions did you find especially challenging to manage?
I’d have to say The Magic Flute and Porgy and Bess were the most difficult to manage. One was because of the sheer volume of scenery, and the other because of conflicting personalities.
5. What is your favorite Atlanta Opera production? Why?
It is between Orfeo & Euridice and La bohème. I really enjoyed the music and singing in both of those productions, but I also think that Lillian Groag staged a beautiful production of Orfeo. And for La bohème, I loved the music and how well the principal cast brought the music to life. They had a true synergy that is not always easy to maintain on the stage.
6. Why do you do what you do?
I love the collaboration that is involved in live theatre and opera. I get to work with a number of truly creative individuals, and it is a pleasure to see a production come to life, and know that I was a part of that. To be able to see the effect that this work has on our patrons is a true gift.