Category Archives: Behind-the-scenes

Meet Octavio Más-Arocas

by Colleen Cook and DRM Productions

Octavio Más-Arocas is the second of three finalists for the position of Music Director of the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Más-Arocas tells us about his musical background, the family of conductors he comes from, and what he does when he’s not conducting.

This is just a fraction of our full conversation, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/sdClDMrQc1s

See Maestro Más-Acrocas conduct the Mansfield Symphony on March 25, 2017 at the Masterworks: Strife and Victory! concert.

Spinning Sisters: The Revolving Stage

By Colleen Cook

When you look at our staff list, the reality is that our titles are a little misleading. While we are each responsible for our primary job functions, each of our staff members possess unique and specialized skills and talents that overlap into many other areas of our organization, and are frequently showcased.

Mike Miller, for example, in addition to being President & CEO, is a talented sound engineer as well as a performer. Dauphne Maloney, in addition to being our Education Assistant and director of MY Theatre, is a skilled costumer. Her creations are seen in nearly every theatrical production on our stage.  Steven Au is our very gifted graphic designer and also happens to be an outstanding violinist who frequently plays with our Mansfield Symphony. And Jason Kaufman isn’t just our Facilities Manager, he also happens to imagine and build incredible sets for our productions as a set designer and carpenter.

Jason’s designs have created beautiful sets like we saw this season in Beauty and the Beast and A Christmas Carol. You might know Jason from Main Street Books, or perhaps you’ve seen some of his sculptural work around town – one of our favorites is the heart sculpture at Relax, It’s Just Coffee. Or maybe you’ve just admired his work from our audience – who will ever forget the haunting beauty and intricacy of the willowy branches in Beauty and the Beast in Summer 2016?

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Colleen Cook: When and how did you get into set building here at the Ren?

Jason Kaufman: The first set I worked on was Mary Poppins, I think. I wasn’t really lead on that, but I did pitch in quite a bit. I ended up as lead set builder when we had a staff member leave and we had a void where no one was really taking the lead and I just sort of ended up in that place. I really enjoy that position and I wanted to step into that. We had a really great intern for Mary Poppins, Abe Swanger, and he did such good work that we ended up hiring him and he became my assistant set builder. Abe is very skilled and our personalities meld very well, and we also have an unspoken understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we just know what needs done with very few words. It’s been a very seamless partnership.

CC: Can you tell us about your background in visual art?

JK: I’ve always been interested in art. I went to college at Kent State and I knew I wanted to do something in the arts. I thought maybe art education, but after a few classes I realized that wasn’t for me. I started taking all kinds of arts classes and landed in glassworking program at Kent. Their program is very sculptural-based, where you use glass with other materials, so less focused on craft-based vessels and blowing and more fine art based. I ended up getting a degree in studio crafts with a focus in glass-casting, and then I have a minor in fine arts.

CC: What’s one of the most challenging set pieces you’ve gotten to build to date?

JK: Definitely the revolve for the Sister Act set. It is built in a modular way, with a 12-foot wide disc that can be disassembled into 10 segments, made by creating our own tongue-and-groove pattern so they all slide within one another and are bolted together. But, that required a significant amount of engineering. Everything needed to fit precisely and has to be put back together exactly the same way each time. And then, once that was put together, we had to figure out how to motorize it, which took a lot of trial and error to get the gearing right on the motor and the drive wheel.

View from above: The Revolving Stage

View from above: The Revolving Stage (Photo by Jason Kaufman)

I had a lot of help from my dad Rick Turske, because I’m not as mechanically-inclined as he is. It was a lot of trial and error, and we actually found an old treadmill that we were able to remove the motor from and since the variable speed adjustment was already attached to that, we could use that. Once we got the gearing right with the wheel driving the turntable, it spins easily and smoothly. We’ve had five or six people on it spinning.

Here’s a sneak peek of the incredible revolving stage in action!

Sister Act runs March 4-5, 11-12 and will be incredible – learn more and get tickets to this awesome show here.

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Lessons From The Second City

By Michael Thomas, Artistic Director

I have to admit, when our Marketing Director, Colleen Cook, asked me to write a blog about my time at the Second City I was a little stumped. “Write about something funny that happened. When something went wrong.” Of course, something going wrong was what we’d always hoped would happen. Someone forgetting to make an entrance, a missed sound cue, a server dropping a tray of glasses, a cell phone ringing… Those sort of things were like little gifts to the improv-trained actor because they knew that the unexpected is funny – and they can riff on it. Even in the worst of times – as when a drunken high schooler, celebrating her post prom at our show, vomited all over herself, the server and the unfortunate couple in front of her – I watched the actors on stage spin upchuck into comedy gold. For the rest of the evening, the actors would somehow find a way to work a barf joke into the scene – and it would send the audience into hysterics. We were taught not to resort to potty/childish humor, (see below), but when forced into it, we could keep pace with the best/worst of them.

Looking back, some of the funniest, (albeit frustrating) moments came when I first started improv classes. There was always someone in your class who ignored the basic rules of improv and would completely change the scene so that they could, presumably, insert what they considered to a funnier situation or even just a corny pun or one liner. For instance, I recall that our suggestion for a scene was “a man whose wife is cheating on him.” . My scene partner and I got up on stage and I began with “I’m so distraught. I know something is going on and it’s driving me crazy.” My partner responded with “What are you talking about? I’m George Washington and it’s my birthday!” The guy had clearly been sitting on his hands waiting to unveil a hilarious George Washington birthday party scene he’d concocted – and he was going to do it whether we liked it or not. Fans of the television program The Office may recall Michael Scott’s failed attempt at improv. When he doesn’t know how to end a scene, he simply pulls out an imaginary pistol and shoots all of his teammates dead. The star of that show, Steve Carrell, is a Second City alum – and I’m certain that scene must have been based on his real life experiences.

Of course, there were also many memorable moments dealing with certain members of the audience. I don’t think we ever did a single show when there wasn’t someone in the crowd who thought they were funnier than the folks on stage. It usually went down like this:
Actor: We need a suggestion for a place. Any place. A train station. A taxi cab. Your mother’s kitchen.
Man in audience: Poop!!!
Actor: (ignoring him) An amusement park. A doctor’s office. An operating room.
Man in audience: A urinal!!
Actor: (still ignoring him) Betsy Ross’ sewing room. The deck of the Titanic. A hamster cage.
Man in crowd: Someone farting!
Actor: (ignoring him again while cocking a hand to his ear) I think I heard someone call out “A basketball court!”
The unfortunate man in the audience really felt as though he was the first person in the history of comedy to think of toilet humor. I’m sure he envisioned the audience hoisting him upon their shoulders and celebrating him as the great wit of his generation. The Noel Coward of gastrointestinal-based comedy.

But what I remember most about my time at Second City is that I witnessed some of the best acting and storytelling I’d ever seen. When I was in acting school, we wrote off our comedy improv class as a silly, albeit entertaining, diversion from the much meatier works of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. But what I discovered at Second City was that the best improvisers are also the most profoundly adept actors. And why? Because they are always listening and reacting. They stay “in the moment” – so their reactions are always honest and believable. Some of our most renowned actors, including Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Alan Alda, Ed Asner, Alan Arkin, John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Mike Myers and Martin Short – as well as my friends Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey – were trained at the Second City. I spent four years there in the 1990s – and met some of the most incredibly funny, kind, giving and generous folks I’ve ever known. Unlike so many, I didn’t seek out a job there, but came onboard thanks to my friend Jeff Richmond, who directed many of their main stage and ETC productions. At first it just seemed like any other gig – and I honestly just did it for the paycheck. But I quickly discovered that what they do is truly an art form – and I had fallen, bass ackwards, into one of the most profoundly life-changing experiences I would ever know.

Year In Review

Highlights of 2016, Looking into 2017… and a BIG announcement!

by Mike Miller, President & CEO

This has been one of the most exciting and expansive years in my history with the Renaissance, and it’s all thanks to our incredible staff, board, volunteers, donors, and patrons! We have truly got the best team of people working together to bring outstanding arts and culture to Mansfield, and I am proud to be a part of it.

This year, the Renaissance has reduced its total debt down to $150,000, down from $1.2 million when I took the helm in 2010. We’ve done this through streamlining our operations and programming, fundraising for debt reduction, and improving our business practices. We want the Renaissance to exist in Mansfield forever, and adopting a sustainable business model and operating within our means was critical, and we couldn’t have done it without our incredible team.

Another highlight for the Renaissance was Michael Thomas’ original production of Hot Mess: The Musical. Never before have we sold out a production before it even opened, but that was the case with this hysterical new musical that showcases Michael’s adept skill for musical comedy. Even more exciting, renowned Broadway producer Cameron Mackintosh has taken interest in the production and we will be taking our cast to workshop it in New York City in April 2017, following our spring revival of the production on our stage in Mansfield. We couldn’t be more excited for our artists at the Renaissance!

Our Mansfield Symphony conductor search has been a remarkable process, with over 100 outstanding applicants from all over the world for the position of music director! This speaks to the quality and reputation of our orchestra to have such a wealth of individuals vying for the position. Having the opportunity to showcase three of those conductors on our stage this season has already been a treat for our community.

And now for the big announcement…!!!

For me, one of the most exciting things of 2016 is only first being publicly announced right now, and that is our acquisition of a 15,000 square foot building at 166 Park Avenue West. Despite our large building, we have so many educational programs, performance groups, ensembles, and productions rehearsing in our space that we are constantly running out of usable rehearsal and performance spaces in our building. When we approached our board about a building that was for sale by the Richland County Land Bank for $89.00, but required $150,000 in work just to make it usable, rather than back away our board ran in and raised and supplied the funds in 10 days, fully funded through cash and in-kind donations. In particular, massive thanks go to Bill Hope of Alumni Roofing for providing a new roof for the building, and Ary Van Harlingen of Shaw Ott Medical and his team for remediating the extensive mold in the building and gutting it, as well as one anonymous funder.

Over the coming months we’ll talk a lot more about this space with you. We’ll be conducting a feasibility study, thanks to support from the Richland County Foundation, in order to determine what the community needs from this space. We know we’d like to see more rehearsal space, a more intimate performance space, and education classrooms. Keep your eyes open for a lot more conversation about this space soon. If you’d like to hear just a little more, you can listen to the Renaissance Podcast episode the Chairman of our Board, Rand Smith, and I released this week.

The Renaissance is committed to being the cultural hub for our community. We are energized by the partnerships we’ve formed with our region’s non-profits and we are delighted by the support we continually receive to keep our program vibrant and expanding. Thank you for making this the greatest job on earth.

Mansfield Symphony Cellist photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

What to Expect When You Come to the Symphony

by Colleen Cook and Chelsie Thompson

Something we hear from our patrons a lot is that one of the reasons they hesitate to come to a symphony concert is because, well, they just don’t know what to expect. Doing new things can be intimidating, especially if your perception of the experience is outside of your comfort zone.

So, here are some answers to some of the frequently asked questions about attending a symphony concert:

What should I expect?

Expect that you’re in for a treat! If this is your very first symphony concert, you might be a little nervous because this is all new to you, but that’s okay – you’ll soon realize that your role as an audience member is one of the best: to sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience. After all, the orchestra is playing this concert for you.

What should I be paying attention to?

Notice the beat of the music, and the way the tunes make you feel.Let your thoughts go, and instead, allow yourself to simply focus on what you hear. For just a couple of hours, you can pretend that there is nothing else in the world except the musical moment that you are experiencing at the time.
Here are a few things to look for:

    • The bows that the string sections use to play will always be moving in the same direction within their section.
    • Woodwinds will be adjusting their instruments and reeds, perhaps changing out their instrument to a smaller or larger model to play higher or lower notes.
    • The percussionists will be moving from instrument to instrument and changing the mallets that they use to play each one, with the timpanist occasionally tapping the drums lightly while holding his ear to them to make sure they are in tune.
    • The brass will be emptying their spit valves – yes, this happens, although any brass player will confirm to you that the “spit” is actually condensation that builds up in the instrument as they blow air through it. The French horns will be the most noticeable in this, as they are notorious for annoying their fellow brass players by purposely emptying up to ten slides in a row.
    • After solos, you might see the string players tap their bows lightly on their stand or the wind players tap their foot on the ground, or hand on their knee, to show their appreciation to the soloist during the music.

What do I wear?

Well, what do you like to wear? There’s no dress code for the symphony, so you’ll see everything from jeans and tees to cocktail dresses and suits. Going to the symphony is all about experiencing the magic of a live orchestra, so you might even notice that the orchestra dresses in all black so as not to draw your attention away from the music. Wear something that’s comfortable to you, and feel free to dress up as you see fit.

Where do I park?

You’re in luck – the Renaissance Theatre, which is the Mansfield Symphony’s home, has its own large parking lot, which connects directly to the back main entrance of the theatre (you can’t miss it – you’ll see four glass doors marked “Theatre Entrance” on your right as you walk towards the building). On busy nights, you may end up in one of our secondary lots: the two adjacent lots just West of the Ren on Park Avenue, and the gravel lot behind the main parking lot, next to the Sons of Italy building. You might also find parking on the streets in front of and behind the theatre.

Will it be interesting to watch?

There’s quite a bit going on during a symphony concert, which can have anywhere from 60 to 100 musicians onstage, so there’s plenty to see – in fact, when we add the chorus, the number of musicians onstage at one time can reach 170! The conductor is in command of all of these musicians at once, so his arms, hands, and the rest of his body are perpetually in motion to make sure that everyone is always on the same page.The musicians themselves are enjoying the music, too, so you’ll see some who are smiling, some with looks of intense concentration, and some moving to the beat.

Will I know any of the songs?

You might! You’ll probably know some of the music, and some of it will likely be new to you. Even if you don’t think that you are familiar with orchestral or classical music, chances are good that you hear it on a daily basis – it’s in commercials, movies, and in the background of radio ads. Since music speaks for itself, it’s used quite frequently to convey a mood or elicit an emotion in these formats. In fact, even current pop and hip-hop music often uses familiar melodies from classical pieces. Don’t believe us? Check out this list of just 25 of them on ClassicFM. (In case it isn’t obvious, our personal favorite is Nas + Beethoven).

Who are the musicians?

The Mansfield Symphony is an exceptional group of professional musicians from right here in Mansfield, as well as Cleveland, Columbus, and everywhere in between. They are professional musicians, music teachers, graphic designers, college professors, managerial professionals, and even music students who are currently completing their Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. They are all different in many ways, but one thing they have in common is that they love to play music for you, the audience.

Will anyone be singing?

We have a fantastic chorus, and they do accompany the orchestra on a few different occasions each year – the Holiday Pops is a perennial favorite, and we often perform at least one additional large-scale work each year that features our talented vocalists. In addition, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus is active in the community, performing an annual “Sing Out! Choral Extravaganza” with several area schools each fall – and this year, the chorus will perform their inaugural “Sing into Spring” concert in April. Shameless plug: if you love to sing, then this is the group for you!

Can I bring my children? Will they like it?

Children are always welcome at the symphony, but you’ll find that some concerts are better than others. Many regular season symphony concerts are almost two hours long, which can be hard for the little ones to sit through without getting antsy and distracting your fellow audience members and musicians. Concerts with lots of extra action onstage (like the Holiday Pops concerts)are a great first symphony experience for the family, as the multimedia and interactive aspects offer more to catch kids’ eyes and keep them engaged.

You can also give us a call to ask whether a specific concert might be okay for kids – we can give you some insight on the music and length of the concert that may help you make your decision. And if you’re still not sure, why not try out our interactive Teddy Bear Concerts with members of the Mansfield Symphony? These concerts are slated for afternoons three times each season, and offer a small group or soloist from the MSO accompanying an original story or children’s activity.

When should I clap?

Okay, this is a very common question, with good reason! After all, no one wants to be “that guy” that clapped at the wrong time. There are a few easy spots to remember:

  • At the beginning of the concert, the Concertmaster (a.k.a. the first chair violin) will enter the stage to tune the orchestra. As he or she enters, clap to welcome him or her.
  • When the orchestra is done tuning and the Concertmaster sits down, the Conductor will enter the stage, so you’ll clap to welcome him or her as well.
  • If there is a soloist, they will enter the stage when the orchestra is ready to play their piece, and the audience claps at that time.

It is also appropriate to applaud at the end of each piece – and this can be a little tricky, since some of the songs you’ll hear have multiple parts, which are called “movements.” The movements are listed in the program, and the orchestra and conductor prefer that the audience does not clap between movements, as they need that time to concentrate on the next part of their music.

A good rule of thumb is to watch the conductor: the conductor will turn around when it’s time to applaud. If the conductor’s hands are still in the air, or is still facing the orchestra, then most likely they’re still concentrating and need quiet. When the conductor’s hands drop, and he or she turns to face the audience, the orchestra is ready to hear your appreciation and applause. If ever in doubt, just hang back a bit – regular symphony-goers will help you know what to do by starting the applause at the right time.

How do I buy tickets?

Easy-peasy: you can purchase tickets through the Renaissance Box Office by calling (419) 522-2726, or visiting in person. The Box Office is open 12-5 Tuesday through Friday, and 2 hours before every show, but you can purchase online anytime.

We hope this is a helpful guide for any symphony-goer. Did we miss your question? Comment below and we’ll happily answer you! If you’d like to see what performances are upcoming in our Mansfield Symphony’s season, you can find that out right here.

SchoolBusesOBB_Web_PhotoByJeffSprang

Why Your Ticket Purchase Isn’t Enough

by Jessica Dulle, Director of Development

Ever ask yourself, “Why do many theatres ask for donations when I already purchased tickets?” The truthful answer is several theatres are nonprofits and unfortunately your ticket purchase doesn’t cover the costs to keep the theatre open.

Running a theatre is an expensive business. If your favorite theatre is historic, it costs even more to keep the doors open.

“What are some of the costs,” you might ask yourself. Like any other business, theatres must think about administrative, maintenance, technology, and marketing costs. Getting you to our productions requires lots of dedicated professionals working long hours for months. No worries, we don’t mind. You leaving the theatre memorized by seeing one of our performances make it all worthwhile.

Many theatres also dedicate some funding to giving back to your community. This investment regularly goes into educational programming. Research proves that children who are exposed to the arts regularly earn higher grades, have bigger career aspirations, and are more civically minded. Adults and senior citizens also benefit from being engaged in the arts.

Armed with this knowledge, theatres invest dollars into educating members of our community and many times won’t turn them away if money is an issue.

Another unknown factor is several theatres don’t know how many audience members will show-up until almost show time. Unlike other businesses that produce items based customer demand, theatres will put on the same performance no matter how many people show up. This means theatres sometimes lose money producing some of your favorite shows.

Nationwide, theatres estimate having 60% audience capacity to their performances.

This is all wonderful information, but you may wonder, “how do theatres keep their doors open if my ticket purchase isn’t enough?” The answer is lots of diverse revenue streams. Funding can come from individuals, corporate sponsorships, endowment gifts, foundation grants, state funding, as much more.

These wonderful contributors also keep your ticket prices affordable so you’re not spending $150 to purchase one ticket.

While running a theatre is a complex business, supporting one doesn’t have to be. Consider making an investment in your community the next time your box office ask “would you like to add a donation to the theatre with your ticket purchase?”