Behind the Scenes: Sound, Lighting and Beyond

Audiences look forward to the day they can return to The Smith Center and experience world-class music, theater and dance productions again.

These shows wouldn’t be possible without numerous workers behind the scenes, whose duties include constructing sets, providing lighting and sound, assisting artists and far more.

The Smith Center continues to shine a spotlight on these important team members, with its special blog series that gives a glimpse into the daily roles of behind-the-scenes employees.

Today’s article in this series highlights John Trace, technical director at The Smith Center.
*Theater terms defined in italics

Question: How many years have you been in the performing arts industry?

John: Forty-one years.

Question: Can you please describe your job in a few sentences?

John: My job is to coordinate and schedule all labor, timing and technical requirements for all the shows here at The Smith Center.
That includes overseeing sound, lighting, video, staging, and finding and procuring any equipment needed that we may not have in-house, such as musical instruments and performance-specific furniture.
Also, I oversee the best technicians in the country, the tech crew* of The Smith Center!

*Tech crew / stage crew: The collective term for theater workers who supervise and operate the technical aspects of a production, spanning lighting, sound, stage and wardrobe

Question: What’s a typical day like for you… Or is there a typical day?

John: Each day presents new challenges. Every performance has different requirements that can’t be dealt with in a cookie-cutter manner.
For example, if we have a classical music performance, we deploy our state-of-the-art orchestra shell*, which takes a six-member crew four hours to put together, and another four hours to put away.

Or, if we have a touring Broadway production coming in, we have to remove, and store, all of our lighting equipment, as well as our soft goods* in order to have a blank canvas for the touring shows, which arrive with anywhere from four to 19 semi-trailers!
*Orchestra shell: A curved, hard surface designed to reflect sound toward an audience.
*Soft goods: Any cloth-based elements of stage or scenery, such as curtains and backdrops.

Question: What are the greatest challenges of your job?

John: It never rains, it pours! Most days, I’m juggling the requirements of several upcoming shows at once.

Question: What are your favorite aspects of your job?

John: Meeting and working with the most talented artists in the world makes this a dream job! Although when the curtain goes up, it’s pretty hard to consider it a job.
It’s been a privilege to meet and work with legends like Alan Alda, Joshua Bell, Lang Lang, David Sedaris, Ira Glass, Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett and Rita Moreno, just to name a very few.
It also a thrill to reconnect with old friends from Broadway, like Chita Rivera, Savion Glover and Ben Vereen.

Question: Do you have a stand-out memory from your work with The Smith Center so far that you would like to share?

John: From the unbelievable opening night, until now, there have been far too many stand-out performances to list here. The Smith Center has brought the finest Broadway, jazz, classical, dance, pop, rock, country, comedy, lectures, and family shows to Las Vegas, and continues to do so!

Question: Is there anything about The Smith Center that sets it apart in your line of work?

John: I’ve had the good fortune to work in many performing arts theaters in the U.S., and around the world. What sets us apart is the support we receive from our executive team and the Board of Directors.
Rarely do you find people in their positions with such a strong understanding of the theater’s technical operations! Their understanding has, and will, keep us on the technical forefront in an ever-changing industry.

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