A CLOSER LOOK: Blue Man Group latest tour ‘teching and launching’ at Walton Arts Center

A Closer Look

Photo provided by Jennifer Wilson, public relations director for the Walton Arts Center.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The Blue Man Group will start setting up at the Walton Arts Center next month, becoming the latest touring production to tech and launch at the Walton Arts Center.

The Blue Man Group on stage. Photo provided by Jennifer Wilson, public relations director for the Walton Arts Center.

The Blue Man Group’s Speechless tour will be the eleventh touring production to tech and launch at the Walton Arts Center since A Chorus Line teched and launched in 1997, according to Jennifer Wilson, Walton Arts Center public relations director.

“Tech” is the stage performance industry’s term for when a show is first set up and rehearsed at an opening venue at the beginning of its tour. Blue Man will start its tech phase on the Walton Arts Center’s stage around mid-August. Performances are scheduled for Sept. 10-19.

“For us it’s great because it gets shows into our venue,” Wilson said. “They’re renting the space for a longer time, and then our audiences get first view of the new shows that are on tour.”

Fayetteville sees financial benefits when a touring show techs and launches from the Walton Arts Center, Wilson said.

“When you bring in a touring group you’re bringing in 50 to over 100 people, and they can come in for two to three weeks, and they’re spending money on food, hotels and even supplies. A lot of times they’re building sets, so they go to hardware stores to buy paint and lumber, and that benefits the community,” Wilson said.

Setting up and launching a tour from the Walton Arts Center has financial benefits for the production as well, Wilson said.

“If you think about it, these tours that go on need a location where they can all come together, rehearse together and [mount] the show,” Wilson said. “It’s a little expensive when you do it in New York. When you push it out into the country, it’s cheaper.”

Wilson said the rental rates to tech a show at the Walton Arts Center are negotiated and decided between the Arts Center personnel and the touring production’s personnel. She said the exact costs of rental rates are not publicized, but said rates vary according to how much of the Arts Center’s space the production requires.

Production scale varies according to the show and require different amounts of facility space. Wilson referenced previous shows Falsettos and The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical to explain the difference.

The Lightning Thief stage production. Photo provided by Jennifer Wilson, public relations director for the Walton Arts Center.

Falsettos had minimal sets and was a fairly small cast. Lightning Thief had large, intricate sets and costumes and a large cast,” Wilson said.

The tech phase usually last from a week to two weeks depending on the scale of the production, according to Wilson.

The Lightning Thief began setting up at the Walton Arts Center in late December and launched a week-and-a-half later. Falsettos started its tech phase in later January and launched a week later, Wilson said.

Whether or not other performances can be held at the Walton Arts Center during a production’s tech phase depends on the scale of the show, Wilson said.

Falsettos stage production. Photo provided by Jennifer Wilson, public relations director for the Walton Arts Center.

“With Falsettos, we had some limited shows going on while that was going on,” she said. “It depends on how large the tech production is and how much space they need.”

Bringing in productions to tech and launch at the Walton Arts Center does not affect the number of shows the Arts Center puts on throughout the year, Wilson said.

Falsettos and The Lightning Thief were the two shows teched and launched at the Walton Arts Center during the Art Center’s last season of touring productions. The Blue Man Group is the only show teching at the Walton Arts Center this season, according to Wilson.

Walton Arts Center personnel pursue one or two productions to tech and launch at the Arts Center each season.

“It’s something we’re always interested in pursuing,” Wilson said. “First of all, it gives our audiences access to the newest shows, and then the other part [is] it really helps build our reputation within the industry as a performing arts center that supports new productions.”

Wilson said the Walton Arts Center’s reputation attracts producers who seek to tech and launch their shows outside of New York.

“A lot of it is building relationships with producers and tours so that they know that they can trust us [and] our audience. It’s a trust we’ve established over the last 25 years,” she said. “The fact that we have done this 11 times speaks really highly of our organization and our community.”

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