As the Stage Turns

It may not seem like much, but for the turntable that lives on the stage of the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre, 1.85 miles is practically a marathon.

That's the equivalent of how far the tiny turntable would have traveled during rehearsals and performances for Opera Theatre's 2018 Festival Season — if it wasn't attached to the stage, of course.

How many dizzying rotations would it take to travel 1.85 miles? One hundred and twenty, to be exact. And that's just for the two performances in which it was used this year – Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata and Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier.

Most of the time, the turntable functions as a way to change the scene without flooding the stage with crew members in the middle of a performance.

Since Opera Theatre runs multiple productions at the same time during the six-week festival season, an incredible 36-member crew is responsible for completely swapping out the sets between performances of different shows.

During the 2018 season, this was only possible with the help of 287 wheels, carefully hidden by carpenters on the back of sets and props so each piece could be easily rolled on and off stage.

This process is called a changeover. During the 2018 Festival Season, the most work-intensive changeover was La traviata, which clocked in at 2 hours and 20 minutes to assemble, mostly thanks to the intricate floral background.

Sydney Mancasola in La traviata at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2018.

Regina’s 20-step staircase and An American Soldier’s East-meets-West set were tied at two hours.

Kathleen Kim in An American Soldier at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2018.

Musicians and members of the Gerdine Young Artist Program in Regina at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2018.

Gluck’s Orfeo & Euridice was the shortest load-in, taking the crew only 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Jennifer Johnson Cano and members of the Gerdine Young Artist Program in Orfeo & Euridice at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2018.

Sound exciting? Wish you could see the magic happen? You can! Watch a timelapse video of a complete changeover from The Grapes of Wrath to The Trial during the 2017 Festival Season below.