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Marci Skolnick: Behind The Scenes At #WeMakeEvents USA

Marci Skolnick: Behind The Scenes At #WeMakeEvents USA
By Michelle Sciarrotta

Marci Skolnick is a Stage Manager, Show Caller and Road Manager who is working with #WeMakeEvents in the USA. Marci’s work collaborations include the Public Theater, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Blue Man Group, and the Las Vegas residencies with Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl, and Christina Aguilera:The Xperience. She is the Actors Equity Association liaison chair for Las Vegas, and recently became a Regional Director of Las Vegas for #WeMakeEvents North America.

“On September 1st, 2020, #WeMakeEvents North America, a coalition of industry professionals supported by trade bodies, businesses, unions, and non-profit associations, lit up more than 2,000 performance venues, iconic structures, and residences in red in over 75 cities and towns across the United States to raise public and media awareness in support of the live events sector. The initial goal was to light 1,500 buildings, and the results were way beyond our expectations” – We Make Events Website

Hi Marci, thanks for talking with us at TheatreArtLife. You recently became Regional Director of Las Vegas for #WeMakeEvents North America. How did you first get involved with the campaign?

I joined the #WeMakeEvents campaign as a participant on August 19 during the walk/drive down the Las Vegas strip in order to raise awareness for the millions of live events workers who are unemployed nationally, and specifically the 68,000 live event workers who are unemployed in Las Vegas alone.

After the drive down the strip I was so inspired to help that I joined the WE/EC Las Vegas committee to help plan the September 1st event. Over the next two weeks I coordinated talent, liaised with our wonderful PR rep Alissa Kelly from PR Plus, maintained our social media pages and called the event at the Plaza Hotel that was featured on the national live stream.

How do you feel the event went on September 1st and what was your experience?

I think the event itself went well.  Las Vegas certainly stood out amid the live stream with our flashy production. I’m not aware of another city that featured Antonio Restivo (from season 5 of AGT) eating fire in the desert, a dozen or so acrobats, singers, stilt walkers and aerialists cavorting on a fire truck, all while wearing masks. We had a brilliant road case push and truss garden at the Smith Center’s Symphony Park and several truss sculptures that spelled out Red Alert and We Make Events, not to mention all of the buildings that were lit up red all over the city.

Smith Center – Photo by Carrie Johnson

Las Vegas is so saturated with performer and production talent that many, many people wanted to help. And I think it’s important to mention that all of our talent and production help was strictly volunteer and all of our gear and materials were donated, right down to the red bandanas on the technicians.

The experience at the Plaza was just magical. Every person that I saw was just so excited to have a chance to do what they love for the first time in almost 6 months that the air was electric. After the live stream people were crying and resisting the urge to hug. It felt so good to be practicing our craft in a safe way, for a good cause.

The event came together, both locally and nationally, so quickly that I think it’s a miracle that it went off as well as it did. The perfectionist side of me sees all kinds of little improvements that can be made in all areas, but that’s how we learn, grow and do better next time.

Lightning in a bottle might be messy, but you can’t look away from it.

Knowing how uncertain things are looking for the entertainment industry as a whole, what do you hope will happen next following this campaign? What would be the “best case scenario”?

I hope that the #WeMakeEvents campaign brings awareness to the larger scope of the entertainment industry plight. When the average consumer thinks about cancelled events they think about the shows they won’t attend, the celebrities and performers they won’t get to see.

The more enlightened might think about the technicians who run the lights and the sound. My mom is quite worried about the stage managers. Hardly anyone thinks about the domino effect on industries like marketing, custodial, security, designers, doormen, wig makers, set, light and costume designers, merchandise vendors… I could go on.

If we make enough noise, perhaps North America will begin to understand just how many lives are affected while the entertainment industry remains necessarily dark.

Awareness brings compassion, and with compassion, hopefully, comes assistance. Hundreds of thousands of industry workers who make a decent living suddenly cannot pay their rent nor feed their families.

My bigger hope for the movement is not only national support, but localised support. I’d be over the moon if congress would bring back a portion of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance money that had been supplementing unemployment in America, or pass the RESTART Act that has stalled.

But in the spirit of the grassroots beginnings of #WeMakeEvents I’d personally like to see local communities get involved. Local food banks and homeless shelters are overrun and depleted. Small donations to those entities and other local charities can make a big difference in a community.

How are you doing and have you been coping through the Covid-19 pandemic?

I’m one of the lucky ones. My last employer took care of me long after tour stopped, and it allowed me to hold on to some savings. Las Vegas is a tourist-based economy and we’re probably the hardest hit city in America, economically, but the time off has allowed me to spend time with my amazing mother and my cat Pico de Gato. I strongly believe that, once there’s a vaccine, the industry will come back stronger than ever. We need stories and storytellers. It’s what makes us human.

Have you found any organisations that might be useful to those who are struggling at this time?

Lots of organisations are working hard to support our industry. HopeLink of Southern Nevada is giving rent, mortage, utility and other assistance to any Nevada residents who have been affected by Covid-19. Their first annual Jammin’4Hope livestream telethon is coming up on November 8, in support of the Las Vegas live entertainment industry. To learn more check out the HopeLink website here.

And I always want to give a shout out to the Actors Fund, an organisation that fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan.  Since March 18, the Fund has provided more than $15 million in emergency financial assistance to more than 13,000 people in the industry. They are an incredible resource for those looking to find health care, affordable housing and assistance in career transition. Find out more about everything they have to offer here.

Also by Michelle Sciarrotta:

UK Live Music Scene Has First Outdoor Gig & Plans To Reopen Venues

Alice Smart: Interview with a London based Costume Constructor

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