At the time of writing I’m in Hamburg, about half way through a four month gig at a German variety theatre. Back when first arriving here, one of the many things I was curious about was how the actual daily schedule would go.
Well, now I know. Here’s an average evening when working at the Hansa Variety Theatre:
(Note that this is only the schedule for normal show days. Things get a bit more involved on Saturdays and Sundays when we have a matinee in addition to the evening shows. It also doesn’t cover time spent practicing, rehearsing, shopping for equipment, fixing equipment, and the various other things that go into keeping your shit together for 147 shows in a row. We’ll talk about all that another time.)
6:30pm: Arrive at the theatre. Say hi to everyone. Grab a coffee. Gossip at the water cooler.
6:40pm: Head to the stage. Set up and and double check the two video cameras I use (one for projecting on to a screen, one to record my act each night).
7:00pm: Doors open to the audience. Since this is a traditional cabaret-style dinner theatre, about a quarter of the audience comes early to eat. Backstage, everyone is getting changed, prepared, made up, and so forth. Depending on the act, this can be a very involved process.
7:50pm: Buzzers sound in the dressing rooms, and everyone heads backstage for the opening.
8:00pm: The band is introduced, plays for a few minutes, and then the curtain goes up to reveal a projection screen. The show begins with a 5-minute video montage of some of the acts that have appeared at the Hansa in its 179-year history. The cast hides backstage and gets psyched up.
8:05pm: Choreographed intro sequence. Essentially, as the MC lists the kinds of wonders the audience is going to be witnessing tonight, we walk on stage one at a time to visually illustrate said wonders, then walk off dramatically.
8:10pm: Since I’m on in two acts’ time, I get set up. Specifically, rig up my microphone, double check everything is in the right place, bring my stage gear box from my dressing room to the holding area backstage, warm up by running through the more difficult moves in the act a few times, triple check everything is in the right place, and breathe deeply.
8:25pm: As the Liazeed (the second act) leave the stage to intimidatingly thunderous applause, the curtain closes and the stage crew start getting rid of the Liazeed’s vast acrobatic table/machine/thing. My relatively minimal setup gets brought on stage. I muse briefly on how lucky I am to be doing an act that doesn’t require a shipping container worth of gear.
8:30pm: MC does the intro, curtain opens, I do my act and attempt to be charming.
8:45pm: I finish the act, reset everything, head back to my dressing room. Now, along with the rest of the cast, there is about an hour and a half to kill before the finale. I attempt (and occasionally succeed) to use the time productively.
10:25pm: Everyone gathers back stage for the curtain call. As the MC calls us, we enter, wave to the audience, feel the love, pose together, then get off the stage.
10:30pm: Show finishes, everyone gets changed, hangs out for beers backstage, then heads out to find food and/or drinks.
12:30am (depending on how much fun was had a food and/or drinks): Get home, spend 2-3 hours doing whatever you’d normally do after getting home from work.
3:00am-ish: Pass out.
11:00am-ish: Wake up, spend the day doing whatever it is you need to do, and head to the theatre.
Repeat this 147 times over the course of four months.