SPOTLIGHT ON… Ponzer Berkman
I’ve spent 30 years in the real world learning how to plug things in; which is actually a lot more fun than you might think!
PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE:
I started in theater very early in life and worked primarily as a flyman and lighting technician, although I have also worked as a carpenter and backline tech. These days I work almost exclusively as a freelance Production Electrician, usually as a Lead or Master Electrician. The companies I work for are the usual lot of corporate party/concert tour type of outfits and I spend a lot of my time making sure the right kinds and amounts of power get the right places at the right times!
Freelance Production Electrician
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST LIVE EVENT JOB AND HOW DID YOU GET IT?
Working for California Stage and Lighting (rental house and event production) when I was sixteen, which like most things in life I got because I knew a guy.
HOW HAS YOUR THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE PREPARED YOU FOR WORK IN THE WIDER LIVE EVENT INDUSTRY?
It’s a good basis. The benefit of a more classical theatrical training is it gives a more complete understanding of the production process, and often a greater attention to detail; which can also be a detriment. Live event production moves fast, much faster than mounting a play in a theater. You need to be prepared to make it work, not make it art. Hopefully both, but not always.
IF YOU STILL WORK IN THEATRE, HOW HAVE YOUR EXPERIENCES WORKING IN LIVE EVENTS CHANGED HOW YOU APPROACH YOUR THEATRICAL WORK?
I almost never work in theater anymore, the money is nowhere near as good, typically. Other than a production of The Nutcracker I’ve been doing for 30 years (when I’m not out of town for real work) I’m pretty well done with it. Technical theater used to be an artistic outlet for me. Now I get that through other pursuits, and plug things in for a living.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST (GOOD OR BAD) ABOUT WORKING IN THE LIVE EVENT INDUSTRY?
Interesting question. I think the realization that whatever level of production you may work at it’s really all the same. People screw-up or do amazing work everywhere all the time. And so can you! Working on Broadway is pretty much exactly the same as doing a quality community theater production, provided the production team is dedicated to serving the show. I know because I’ve done both (How cool is that?!)
ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR THEATRICAL TECHNICIANS, DESIGNERS OR STAGE MANAGERS WHO ARE LOOKING TO GET INTO EVENT WORK?
Find companies that do event work, go to those companies and say “Hey, I want to do event work! I will carry heavy things! Can I come work with you?” Perhaps more artfully than that, but don’t be afraid to just reach out. If you’re young look into internships. You never know what might happen. I think it’s often the case that technical theater teachers and staff went to school with someone who is now doing live events, so ask them to put you in touch with them.
ANY OTHER THOUGHTS OR COMMENTS YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE REGARDING YOUR WORK IN THE THEATRE & LIVE EVENT INDUSTRIES?
It’s a terrible business! For God’s sake be a farmer or an investment banker or something!