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Show in a box

posted by Amy Bobeda on Tue, Feb 8, 2011
in Costume shop , General theatre talk , Our shows

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Many things come in boxes -- presents, shoes, refrigerators, a man named Jack, and (more often than not due to our current economic state) plays. I’m not quite sure who coined the term “show in a box,” but when Berkeley Rep does a coproduction (Compulsion, and the upcoming Ruined), remounts an old production (The Arabian Nights), or takes on a travelling show (The Great Game: Afghanistan) we send and receive the show literally “in a box”.

Receiving shows in a box is a little like Christmas when you think you know what your mother bought you, but you’re not quite sure. You’re nervous that it’s not quite the right thing, or was too expensive. You worry that Santa broke it as he tossed it down the chimney. However, you’re ecstatic to open the box.

Like any other production, shows in a box require some preparation. The marketing department plans the cocktail menu and produces the signage. The electrics department receives the light plots in advance so they can efficiently hang the lights. The production departments pour over paperwork from the shows’ previous locations (in the case of Ruined we have had many conversations with the Huntington Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse in preparation for the show’s arrival), but mostly, we wait with baited breath for the truck of boxes to arrive.

In the costume department, we receive giant wardrobe boxes full of clothing, and we begin to play the “who wears what” game. The advantage to a show in a box is that usually the same actors travel with the show and help us get up to speed while we help them settle into a new town.

Sometimes things arrive broken. Maybe a pair of socks is lost in transit. Perhaps the scenery needs some touch-ups from the paints department. Often staging evolves from one theatre to another.

While the show in a box isn’t quite as exciting as building a show from scratch, there is something magical about being one of the legs on a play’s journey.


One of the costume boxes for The Arabian Nights.

Check out costume fellow Amy Bobeda's blog.


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