For about seven years, I worked for a company called “Capital Concerts” that only puts on two televised shows a year. One show is the day (Sunday) before Memorial Day, the “National Memorial Day Concert”, and the other is always on the Fourth of July, “A Capitol Fourth.” The company spends the year preparing for these two huge shows (concerts), and they are very successful. I was lucky enough to work on them for seven years before I had my children.
The “set” consisted of a large stage that was rebuilt each year from the ground up on the West Lawn of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. This is a beautiful location where you can see the Washington Monument. A band shell was erected a couple of years after I started to protect performers on stage from rain and other weather. And because these two shows are live, talent (actors, singers, National bands, local chorus’ etc…) rehearsed all over the city – in the hotel we stayed in and worked from, for instance or in a room in the Kennedy Center until they were able to used the stage of the West Lawn towards the end of the week.
I started out as a Production Coordinator for these two shows, and I enjoyed the job. My last year there, I was considered Senior Production Coordinator, so I supervised other Production Coordinators for the show. A Production Coordinator on these particular shows started about a month or so before the first show, the “National Memorial Day Concert” and was responsible for air travel for all the crew and staff that was not local, hotel accommodations, helping the talent department with the same, running the production office, taking charge of “runners” or production assistants (who made coffee, ran errands, delivered scripts etc…),dealing with the Script department , and helping the Production Manager who worked at the location or “set”. So this was (is) a very busy but rewarding position. Years ago when I applied for this job, it was through an online ad I’d found after I’d returned to the DC area from Los Angeles. But most people get hired through word of mouth and other entertainment contacts.
What was great about this job was the adrenalin and passion. Everyone who worked(s) on these shows
stayed(s) a while like I did until something else takes them away from it. Because it is for PBS, the money is not the same type of Hollywood money most crew and talent normally get, however, the shows are so loved, that crew and talent come back year after year. The worst thing about the job was it was very hard work. And tiring. I got sick a lot of years from the lack of sleep or regular exercise. The work was constant and there were no set hours. Your work day could be anywhere from 12 – 18 hours.
Most of the actors and actresses and other talent I met over the years were pretty nice. Kristin Chenoweth was a doll, and actually had to borrow my sweater one night for rehearsal because she was so cold. Ronan Tynan was a gent, Chris Noth classy and a little aloof. Aretha Franklin was definitely sweet, but not easy to work with because she has a lot of phobias, such as a fear of heights that would keep her from the higher levels of a hotel. There were some that came in, stayed at a private location, like Tom Hanks, so that we did not really see them/him until the day of the show. Tom Wopat, liked to hang out with staff and crew and he really liked the women. John Schneider, who is very strikingly, handsome and sweet. He and Tom Wopat sang together for one show. Having Stevie Wonder on the last show I worked, and I did get to meet him briefly, was special. Everyone loves him, and he was constantly surrounded by family and security because of this.The cast for both shows by “Capital Concerts” has always been a wonderful mix.
The last year I worked on “A Capitol Fourth”, I was able to go on stage and be ON the show. Vanessa Williams sang with Elmo, and families from the cast and crew were able to sit on stage with their children during this performance. I was pregnant with my son, but my daughter who was going to turn three a week later loved it. It was a great way for me to sort of be “sent off” from the show since it was my last. Once I gave birth to my son, I took a hiatus from production work all together.
I would absolutely love to work again on shows – live shows, taped shows, movies etc..Starting a family and having a husband that travels for work six months out of the year has made it hard, but it is certainly something I would do again given the opportunity. It was wonderful to be a part of something you truly help set up and put together. I miss that feeling.