Behind The Mask: Production Management

Andrew in front of the Salt Lake City venue, Utah Presents.Just before he took off for Mrs Krishnan’s Party‘s second North American tour of the year, we caught up with Andrew Potvin to talk about the States, the Arts and the state of the arts.

From lighting theme park rides and showing celebrities around California to managing Aotearoa’s annual Arts Market, Andrew has done pretty much every job in the Entertainment industry.

Right now, he’s the Production and Tour Manager for Mrs Krishnan’s Party, which is a rollercoaster of a role in itself.

What kick-started your interest in entertainment?
I was born into it, really. Both of my parents were in the entertainment industry in some form or fashion.

Instead of getting a babysitter, my father would bring me to work and hide me behind a tech booth. I spent most of my childhood behind lighting and sound consoles.

A kid in a tech booth! What could go wrong?
Yeah, actually there’s a funny story where my dad got in trouble once because there was a wedding in the venue, and I decided to push all the buttons on the lighting console in the middle of the ceremony.

I wasn’t allowed back in the booth for a while.

You’ve been working in theatre for a while now. When did it catch your eye?
I met a girl in drama class in high school and decided I’d quit sports and join drama. That was the beginning of the end! I never left.

I wanted to be an actor for a while, definitely in musical theatre. I can’t sing or dance, but I like to try.

I knew out of high school that acting wasn’t going to be my venture in life, so I took advantage of my love for the back-of-the-house stuff and I have done almost every role in theatre since.

Which role is your favourite?
Tour management and producing is a good balance of keeping your hands dirty on the creative side and also being logical and forward-thinking. You make things happen.

Andrew Potvin and family stand with the Mrs Krishnan's Party cast in front of the cooking area

Before moving to New Zealand in 2009, you were based in America. What’s the theatre scene like there, compared to here?
There’s a lot more of it in America, especially in Los Angeles. There’s a really decent Fringe scene, much like here, but it’s on steroids; there are small, boutique underground theatres, every couple of blocks.

It’s a struggle, just like here, but people do it for a passion, and persistence continues to win.

What do you mean by the struggle?
You get knocked down in not getting auditions or particular jobs and over there [in America], there are a lot more opportunities which makes it a little bit easier.

Here, there’s not as much opportunity but at the same time, that creates a bigger sense of community and family; people have each other’s backs a little bit more.

I love the arts, I’ve been knocked down many times — sometimes my own fault, sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time — but persistence, hard work and passion carried me through.

I imagine you need a lot of that persistence when touring. What’s it like to go back to the States with Mrs Krishnan’s Party?
America is my home so I always enjoy the opportunity to go back.

I wish we weren’t touring in winter, so we could enjoy the outdoors! But that’s the nature of the arts scene there; people want things to do in the cold and that’s theatre. Going back also allows me to stop by my family.

Will you be catching up with them on the November trip?

Yes, my aunt and my father are coming to see the show in Sonoma which is quite cool, and my father is helping to drive the set from Salt Lake City to California!

So it’s going to a little bit of a family affair, but they’re excited at the opportunity to see the show. I’m sure they’ll love it.

Part of your role for the show is being the technician. Has anything ever gone wrong?

Actor Kalyani Nagarajan dances on a table

One night here, at the Q Theatre season, I forgot to fill up the water jug that holds all the water for the cooking. I had the realisation after the show had started that there wasn’t any water in it.

Throughout the show, the Venue Technician (VT) at Q Theatre was walking with jugs from the bar to Mrs Krishnan’s water station. We just had enough water for the dahl.

There was no audience interaction where it would be appropriate for us to get the water, but luckily we had Aquaman — what I called the VT — put jugs ‘outside’ the dairy; when Mrs Krishnan went out to talk to a customer, she came back with water. It was seamless.

That’s terrifying!
It was terrifying but we have beautiful moments, too. In one school show, a boy got up onto the table and started dancing with Mrs Krishnan. It was from the heart, and the fact that he was emotionally invested in the story meant a lot.

So you’re not ever tempted to do something else?
The experiences and people I’ve worked with are all in a variety of sectors but tourism, hospitality and arts are always at the heart of it.

At the heart of the three of them, you deliver an experience or service – telling a story or a journey to take them away from life’s struggles.

I don’t think I could ever do a nine-to-five office job that has nothing to do with any of those three things. It’s in my blood.