Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring The Fort Scott Scenery for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 45 – It’s the Last Midnight

Part 45: It’s the Last Midnight

Grand Lodge tour group at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016.

My access to the stage for restoration work was initially delayed from April 1 until May 9; the construction was woefully behind schedule due to excessive change orders. It was then further delayed until May 23. I would have just enough time to restore one scene and hang it for the opening on June 24.

These delays were problematic in securing individuals to restore the scenery. From the beginning of March, my restoration crew had remained on “temporary standby” the entire spring. Each week, I asked the CEO if we were still intending to restore drops for the June 24 opening. His standard response was “Certainly, ” but my biggest concern during this time was keeping a crew “on hold” without any guarantee of funds or a signed contract. This meant that they had to turn down other paying gigs and simply wait for me to call, “Start!”

Therefore, I altered the demographic of my crew, now targeting older theatre professionals and retirees who were interested in the experience and not necessarily the money. Then, if the entire project were postponed for months, they wouldn’t be financially devastated when they turned down other opportunities in lieu of this project. For the future, I would consider this a training ground for students. For now, I wanted a crew of competent adults who were familiar with historic scenery and could follow instructions. Although I had interviewed many individuals, I was hesitant to commit to students who needed secure summer work. I looked to my colleagues who were on sabbatical, those would not be teaching during May and June; those who had requested over the years to work with me on a restoration project.

On May 2, 2016, at 8:34am – three weeks before our restoration start date – I sent the following email to both the CEO and general director:

“Good morning. I hope you both enjoyed the weekend.
Two quick questions as we are three weeks away from starting the drop
restoration:
1. Can I guarantee my restoration crew a start date of May 23?
2. Have the requested restoration supplies been ordered?
Have a great day!“

Three minutes later at 8:57 am, I received the following response from the CEO: “Before deciding on when to begin drop restoration, we need to discuss the timing and availability of space and the time needed to rig drops. I suggest that we meet at 10:30 am tomorrow to discuss.”

I was told the next day that the restoration was now postponed until after the opening of the building on June 24, 2016. The new start date for the crew was now Monday, June 27.

Oh no, not again. I sent out an email to my crew “I am so sorry for the continued delays, thank you for your patience with our endeavor. The restoration work has now been postponed until June 27. I’ll keep you updated and confirm that date in early June.” As this was now after the opening, I created a new timeline for the first phase of restoration

By the beginning of June, all of restoration materials had been delivered and new timelines constructed for the first phase from June 27 through September 15. The general director had no intention of renting the theatre space that entire summer. On June 8, I emailed the CEO: “Today, I am confirming with the restoration crew that the project commences on June 27. Please verify this start date.”

The CEO immediately responded, “Work on the drops cannot commence on June 27. Construction delays due to untimely material deliveries and other factors make it necessary to delay the commencement of any work. Once a definite schedule is presented by the builders it will be possible to decide on a commencement date.”

“I completely understand and will release the crew from their obligation,” I emailed, writing, “As I explained to you during December 2015, I believe that some of the ready labor hires did not put the battens in the correct storage slots. The construction delay allows me ample time to identify and make sure that we will be able to locate and pull the necessary items for restoration quickly. Please verify that I will have access to the storage unit on June 27 as I know we all will be tired after the opening. See you on June 24 as I have everything prepped to staff the theatre for the grand opening and answer visitor questions! Have a great week!”

He confirmed that my access to the storage unit on June 27 and the music from “Into the Woods” began playing in the back of my mind:

“It’s the last midnight
It’s the last wish
It’s the last midnight
Soon it will be boom
Squish!

Told a little lie
Stole a little gold
Broke a little vow
Did you?”

To be continued…

State of the stage during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016.
State of the stage during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016.

 

State of the rigging during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016.
State of the rigging during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016.

 

State of the auditorium during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016.
State of the auditorium during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016. View of the balcony.
State of the auditorium during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016. Vertical panels were initially to have murals.
State of the auditorium during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016. Ceiling was initially to have constellations in blue sky areas.
State of the auditorium during Grand Lodge event at Minnesota Masonic Heritage center on April 7, 2016. View from the balcony.

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