Something familiar. Something peculiar. Something for everyone.
AN EXCLUSIVE FROM INSIDE, THE STRAZ CENTER’S OFFICIAL MAGAZINE
Jim Gaffigan’s upcoming comedy special will appear to be a single performance, a seamless set of the comedian’s anecdotes and observations.
The special, though, which will be taken from Gaffigan’s shows at the Straz Center’s Carol Morsani Hall, likely will be pieced together with clips from all four shows.
Gaffigan will have to perform his sets as close to identically as possible, said C.J. Marshall, the Straz Center’s vice president of operations, “so that if they chop and splice from different nights, it all appears to be the same performance.”
Marshall and the production team, under Director of Production Services Gerard Siegler’s leadership, are the Straz Center’s coordinators for these performances, making sure the cameras get what they need to create the special, and also to make sure the live audience gets what it paid for.
“We have to do all sorts of additional adjustments and considerations to optimize for video, which oftentimes doesn’t necessarily make it the best for live performance,” Marshall said. “There’s got to be a little bit of a compromise there. So for instance, in a normal show where we would turn the house lights off completely once performance starts … for this production, we’ll probably end up running the houselights at a fairly high level so that when you see the audience laughing at a joke or something, it’s not just a dark room.”
There will be fewer seats available for the shows because of the film crew’s needs. “There will be multiple cameras placed throughout the auditorium so that they can get the shots and the different angles and things that you’ll eventually see on the special. And so that involves physically removing seats from the auditorium and bringing in additional equipment to support the camera equipment and the personnel who are operating them.”
Considering how big Morsani Hall is, there should still be plenty of seats left over.
There also are audio considerations. “The microphones have to be exactly the same in volume and in tone and the way we equalize the mics and the way they sound, because we want the audio to be consistent across the entire final presentation,” Marshall said.
Attaining continuity would seem to be much simpler with only one performer onstage. Maybe so, but there still are plenty of opportunities for glitches.
“What hand is he holding the microphone in? Let’s say that on the first night he coughs during a joke, or an audience member makes a noise and they want to take that out,” Marshall said. Editors “may want to splice in only two words from another performance to cover that cough or noise.
“But if on one night he’s got the mic in his left hand and on the other night he’s got the mic in his right hand that will make it difficult,” Marshall said. ”And that’s where you have to get a little bit creative. Like, “OK, we going to have to zoom in on his face for three seconds so we can’t see his hands, or whatever it may be. There’s an entire team dedicated to continuity to make sure that everything that the camera sees is exactly the same.”
Caught in the Act imagines the continuity team’s office looks like this every day.
The performer has to be aware of continuity as well.
“He’s got to deliver the jokes the exact same way,” Marshall said. “It’s almost like it’s scripted. You might think that comedy shows are a bit more improv-y or a bit more impromptu, but for something like this, it’s got to be very, very, very scripted, even down to his mannerisms or where he’s physically positioned himself on the stage.”
And, of course, once the theater is modified and the performances are complete, it’s time to un-modify it.
“If the crew has a day or two before the next production begins loading in, great. If not we just throw as many people at it as we can,” Marshall explained. “We come in at 10 p.m. with 50 people and work 14 hours straight putting seats back because they’ve got to be ready for the next performance.”
All in a day’s work at the Straz.