packing-list

Someone asked (we are question driven!) me about some of the small details of gear and I wanted to share.

After a recent long-distance trip we had to make a fairly lengthy list of what to bring and not bring. Certain things we know that we can buy locally (cases of water, toiletries, basic first aid, melons[no really we use them for the show])  but other items we have to consider local culture and how to get from point to point with everything we need.

The basic list: Weapons, tent, water, fire kits, seating, tapestries, sundries and costuming.

It sounds simple but isn’t sometimes we have to make hard choices about items like poll arms or seating. Historically accurate seating takes up some space-more than a telescoping lawn chair but it sure does look nicer against a tent. It’s times like these I’m a bit jealous of musicians-1-2 bodies, instruments. But they tell me they have their own issues with space, onsite storage and weather conditions.  And there is environmental concern-I feel guilty about using water bottles but they transport well and cut down on transmitted viruses-and look terrible on a site.  But having them in the trunk once saved us when we did a fire show and the employer had no access to water-so we were dumping the most expensive water source into buckets for safety. Always it is about juggling space, site and need.

When we prep for a fire show we treat it as its own separate entity,  some folks don’t understand why it makes me crazy if we don’t line everything up at once so I can look it over-this nearly led to a bag of fuel being left behind.  We used to buy fuel at the performance location but since its use in methamphetamine making has blossomed we have to buy it locally with ID.  And for some reason it is difficult to buy lighter fluid in the winter in New England…

Weapons, we don’t call them that (and they are not edged so don’t technically count) they are stage props. Which is important to remember when Georgia State troopers in Macon County, GA  pull over your overladen,  out-of-state car full of swords and accelerants. We use gun cases for our high-end swords-which actually works out very well. We have only had someone freak out once and that was at the airport, once they realized it was swords and NOT guns. (???) After a number of incidents we have a “gear car” that travels with the essentials  even if members take a flight.

And people,  we have a pick-and choose roster so it’s key for commitment with our show to know who is and is not going and how much training/review  is needed and how many bodies to stuff in a car.  We have determined that five bodies in a Forester is too many, no matter how short the trip. Nothing is worse than arriving at a site with a car full of people who are as angry as a beehive struck with a rock.

And we have forgotten some important items-the two most memorable were 1) both sets of boots for the troupe leaders 2) the center pole for the tent.  The first was a MUCH more expensive lesson and the good that came from it is  that we have bags with visual makers to make things easier. An example is that I have a super-cheap bag that is tapestry on the outside  and lined on the inside-it holds all our leather items –boots, gloves, belts, frogs and sunscreen (it’s a product for skin, don’t think too hard about it)  And each of the troupe members has “a bag” that is distinctive to them and what goes into it. We have “the bag of dag.” That specifically holds daggers. We have a green duffle that specifically holds “light” weapons. And some folks ask why we prefer bags instead of hard cases and the answer is simple-it packs down easier!

And more important than the load, unload is the re-load. This is where things end up where they are not supposed to go.  When we found a desiccated six-month old sandwich in my promotions kit, it’s when we began cracking down on repacking at the end of a job.  We can’t afford to have weapons go missing or any other number of items. And no one is bringing home large presents for friends and family after a job-or glass items. And yes, we have troupe members who *always* forget a personal item at a show but we  have measures in place to scoop up after everyone!

So in short, if you are a single performer-you generally know what you do and don’t need. Two and it’s complicated but manageable. But any number of three or more and it has to be a team effort with a checklist. It’s not glamorous but is as much a part of the job as training or getting onto a stage.

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