At the end of the 2009 school year, through the Office of Arts and Special Projects, The New York City Department of Education and The Fund for Public Schools decided to create PS Arts Week as a celebration of student achievement in the arts.
They envisioned three consecutive evenings at world class venues celebrating student achievement in the arts. Wide Angle was brought in to figure out how to actually execute 35 performances by over 500 schools kids over three days at the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall and New Victory Theater on 42nd Street.
Each evening was dedicated to a specific art form, Dance, Music, and Theatre and each venue presented its own logistical challenges. The Apollo had backstage space for roughly 80 dancers and we had close to 200; Carnegie’s Zankel Hall had never staged an orchestra of more than 40 pieces, two of the six groups performing that night had over 50 (one was a 55 piece steel drum band and another was a 60 member orchestra) and finally; at the New Victory Theater, we had 13 different school groups performing scenes, each with prop, costume and set elements.
Impossible? Close. While the numbers of performers and performances looked far greater than the venue’s backstage capacities, we saw a bigger picture and developed solutions. The planning process with each venue was complex and the execution of the plan created a “backstage choreography” of its own - relying on using “front of house” areas for backstage support. While the challenges for each venue were unique, our solution was based on creating a uniform structure, consistent team, and vocabulary for managing the large numbers of people involved.
The results of the three nights were amazing. All three shows ran without organizational breaks (or intermissions) and were finished so that the school kids could get home at a reasonable hour. The venues skepticism at our ability to execute the plans was replaced by a string of compliments for our team. And most importantly, the Board or Education and Fund for Public Schools was able to provide the students with a first class performance experience.