Chris Largent, DMMO’s Technical Director, answers questions about constructing the set for Billy Budd, managing two production departments, cleaning bathrooms (occasionally) and defying physics.
Q: What is your official position at DMMO and how long have you worked with us?
I am the Technical Director and this is my 6th season.
Q: How did you get started in the industry?
Since I can remember, the performing arts have always been a part of my life. I knew since 8th grade that I wanted to be in technical theatre, so I started out working many hours at Pit and Balcony Community Theatre in Saginaw, MI. As I started to grow my skills, my family decided that I should go to Interlochen Arts Academy to hone my skills even more. At IAA, I majored in technical theatre and then went on to college for a BFA from Emerson College. Though long winded, this progression from where I started is how I ended up here.
Q: Describe a typical day in the life of a technical director. What are your main tasks? Is there any aspect of your job that would be surprising to the audience?
My typical “day in the life” can be all over the place. I have 2 departments that I manage/supervise/advise. The main department I manage is the Scene Shop. Each year, the scene shop gets to build one of our Main Stage shows. The crew consists of a Technical Director, Assistant Technical Director, Shop Foreman and 3 carpenters. While my ATD drafts and crew are feverishly building the show, I am the one who makes the schedule, interfaces with all of the other departments/artistic staff, orders/sources all materials, engineers show designs for rep, keeps people safe via company policies, drives our trucks, goes to production meetings, budgets the shows, and cleans the bathrooms when it’s my turn. I also work closely with the stage operations department. Many times I end up having to go help trouble-shoot why something isn’t working on stage. Other times I go to touch base and brainstorm how to better rep pieces. During the change-overs and load-ins, I also help keep an eye on how things are progressing, and give suggestions of how things could run more smoothly.
Q: What are some of the challenges with the shows this season?
One of our challenges this year with Billy Budd is that the set is very large. It is probably one of the largest sets we have built since 2012. The size of the set is a challenge because we have had to be working 12-hour-days (and many times longer) for the past 4 weeks to hit our goals. Every year we also have the challenge of the playing circle. The PC is the semi circle that is downstage of our orchestra pit. We have no accurate drawings or templates of the space, so we constantly have to cut to fit to make it look as good as possible.
Q: Where have you worked and what has been your favorite production to work on?
I currently work as the Stage Carpenter at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, MA. We recently did a show of Topdog, Underdog that I was very fond of. All elements of the show were so in tune with each other, I could have watched/ran the show for weeks. When I’m not running a show, I am either working on the shop floor, or helping draft the next show. I freelance as a draftsman for various companies and designers. Currently I draft for the Boston Lyric Opera when they need Designer Drawing “digitized.” This consists of me having to work with the designer and the TD to make CAD drawings that can then be sent to a build shop. Other companies I work for have been more as a freelance technical director. Recently I worked with Parallel 45 (Traverse City, MI) on their show Alice in Wonderland.
Q: If you had one superpower, what would it be?
I think that my superpower would be to manipulate matter. I could build scenery faster!