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Avaaz recently delighted audiences with sold out performances at Olney Theatre Center, and now Michael Shayan is going out on tour to celebrate and share his story with new audiences. Crafted by playwright and star performer himself and directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, this solo performance entertains, instructs, and tugs at the hearts of its audiences through the portrayal of a mother-and-son relationship. Click here to learn more about Michael Shayan and his play. With a lavish set made up of 9 chandeliers and a glorious "haft-sin," you might be wondering how Olney Theatre Center is planning to take this production on tour. I spoke with Kirsten Parker, Production Manager at Olney Theatre Center, to learn more about what it takes to put this show on the road.

Kirsten Parker brings her 16 years of combined experience as a Production Manager and Stage Manager in the DC theatre scene and for Carnival Cruise Lines. Her education includes a BFA in Technical Theatre - Stage Management from Point Park University and a MA in Theatre Arts - Arts Management from George Mason University. 


What are the most important parts you think about when putting a show, like Avaaz, on tour?

KIRSTEN: One of the most important parts of putting the show up is looking at the design and the elements in the initial design and deciding if those items are tourable. For Avaaz, a lot of what we have on the stage right now (at Olney Theatre Center) is glass. Not all of that is going on tour. We are replacing it with acrylics if we can find them in the same size. If we can't, then we plan for boxes to be placed around them to protect the glass. 

We actually installed and built the set in preparation for it to tour to any other location. Which is something we don't normally do. For example, the chandeliers are designed to just be hooked on to pipes at any house and be flown out. If the show weren't going on tour, we would have just needed to hang them up.

Is this the first tour Olney Theatre Center has ever produced?

KIRSTEN: It's probably Olney's first big professional tour. We have historically done the National Players as a tour, but that's more of an educational tour than a major production.

How does Olney Theatre Center oversee the production when the show is a state or more away?

KIRSTEN: We are hiring a tour manager who will be in constant contact with whatever venue that our show is going to. We will also be sending out a tech representative who might be Jerid (OTC's Director of Production)...might be myself... it sort of depends on what's happening in the schedule to be part of the load-in into the space. We have contracted the same Stage Manager, so the show stage manager is going on tour with the show to maintain consistency for the show.

What is challenging about putting a full production on tour?

KIRSTEN: The logistics. From its original design concept to the build to the storage, the way the show needs to tour has to be kept in mind and then also figuring out how you are shipping it. Are we putting it in boxes? Are we putting it in plastic bins, is it going on a truck, if it going in a freight car, sort of all of that? And what does all of that cost? And then projecting out the upkeep of maintenance. Replacement of costume pieces, replacement of props. Once they leave, you can't really see it, you just hope it gets fixed. 

We plan to send out additional materials and things so wherever it's at, it can be replaced. If it is one of the big "haft-sins" we actually have to order that again and ship it to wherever it is broken. We do have a couple of backups that would sit onstage until the new one arrives. But we would have to order it and ship it out to the theatres, where they would then put it together.

If I miss this show at Olney Theatre Center, where can I find Avaaz on tour?

KIRSTEN: The first stop is in Denver at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts running Oct. 4 - Nov. 17 2024 and then in Chicago at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater running Jan. 21 - Feb. 9 2025 with more venues to follow.

*To get the latest tour information, join our Avaaz tour emailing list to see if the show is stopping in a city near you.

Is there anything else unique about this process that you would want to share with our audience?

KIRSTEN: This was a much shorter rehearsal process than we have ever done. We've only rehearsed for a week in the space before putting it up. It was a show that Jason saw at Southcoast Rep, and knew right away it was a piece that he wanted to produce and put out on tour. Not much has changed from that original production, but enough that it is Olney Theatre Center's presentation, so the show does have a different costume, and the set changed a little.

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