If you have ever produced a show at Queen’s Hall, the Grande Dame of the Performing Arts in Trinidad and Tobago, you more than likely would have engaged with Curtis Bachan who was Technical Coordinator since 2002, and the Chairman of their Health and Safety Committee since 2008. After sixteen years at this institution, Curtis is now embarking on new challenges and opportunities. He recently sat down with the Trinidad and Tobago Performing Arts Network to share his journey in the field and his plans and ambitions moving forward.
Before receiving training at Broadway Lighting Master Classes in New York in 1996, he met Louis Woodroffe who invited him to work with the local music band ‘Fireflight’. It is through working with Woodroffe that Curtis discovered stage lighting and his passion for the craft.
Curtis would soon work on various shows including Godfrey Sealy’s ‘Rage’ fashion shows at Queen Hall and Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s concert at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. He also stepped in to light Godfrey Sealy’s ‘Role Call’ at short notice at the Central Bank Auditorium (CBA). Following his encounter with Benny Gomes, then Technical Coordinator of the CBA, Curtis was recruited to join their crew of stage technicians, and over the ten years spent with the CBA team, Curtis would learn even more about lighting design and stage operations under Gomes’ tutelage.
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In 1999, Trinidad and Tobago would host the Miss Universe Pageant at the Chaguaramas Convention Center. Excited by this prospect, Curtis researched the the lighting designer associated with the project. “If I could just get to work a follow spot for this show it would be amazing” Curtis recalled. After some emails and an eventual in person meeting with key personnel of the Miss Universe technical team, Curtis secured a contract for his company, Lightworks, which provided lighting technicians who worked for the pageant under international lighting designer, Greg Brunton.
This employment with the Miss Universe Pageant came on the backdrop of a massive campaign by the local promoters at the time requesting volunteers to work on different areas of the pageant, and raised some questions among other nationals who worked on the project.
“I remember when I submitted my invoices and I was being paid, I was asked why I wasn’t a volunteer like everyone else. I responded saying ‘I have a skill, I am a professional. We have persons who can perform a number of these services being requested and I think it is a bit unfair for local promoters to be asking for volunteers when we have professional technicians who have been involved in mas and theatre for years. Why are they being asked to volunteer when the producers have the capability to compensate them? […] I thought it was because we did not have people at the higher level to represent us, so that the professionals can be given their just dues.”
This sentiment would remain part of Curtis’ Ideology during his time at Queen’s Hall.
In 2002, encouraged by Heather Henderson-Gordon, General Manager at Queen’s Hall at the time, Curtis applied for and assumed the role of Technical Coordinator at the venue.
“Becoming the Technical Coordinator at Queen’s Hall was an intensely gratifying period – expanding my theatre skill sets, learning all aspects of technical coordination.” Simply put, the Technical Coordinator’s responsibility is to maintain support to productions being mounted, by ensuring that the theatre is staffed by trained technicians and equipped to accommodate the needs of the productions.
Under Curtis’ tenure as Technical Coordinator, Queen’s Hall saw the mounting of Geraldine Connor’s ‘Carnival Messiah’ in 2003, a production coming out of England, which was restaged at the same venue in the following year. At this restaging, experienced local riggers were being excluded from the process in favor of a technician from the UK. It is for this 2005 re-staging that Curtis would advocate for the employment of his fellow technical practitioners.
“… I appealed to Anne-Marie De Silva, the then chairperson of Queen’s Hall on the grounds that we have persons who can do the technical work in Trinidad and Tobago […] and so said so done. Anne-Marie was very supportive in standing by the crew and the technical coordinator.”
At Queen’s Hall Curtis also oversaw other big productions such as the first flying of performers in the refurbished Hall of Must Come See (MCS) Productions’ Peter Pan (2010), Eastman and Associates the Moscow Ballet on Ice “Swan Lake and Fantasy (2011), Porgy and Bess, (2005) by international production company Living Arts, as well as the annual productions of The Love Movement, the Marionettes Chorale, the LydiansSingers and First Citizens Bank’s Annual Sport Awards.
For MCS Productions’ Peter Pan, “One of the things we had to do with our crew was to send them to the gym months in advance of the production, to ensure they are fit and can pull the ropes [allowing the performers to fly]. That was a good experience.”
Another fond memory Curtis has while being technical coordinator, is the circumstances surrounding Queen’s Hall’s ban on projectile confetti in the space.
“We had an experience with a production one year, where weeks after, confetti was still coming down in unrelated productions in the most inappropriate scenes.” Todd Hill, the theatre stage manager was very instrumental in crafting new operating procedures where the confetti debacle was concerned.
Moving on from his long tenure at Queen’s Hall, Curtis notes “I’m at a good place in my life, I can try new things and focus on further self-development. Lighting design will continue of course, but I have also gone back to the UWI degree program to explore and rediscover the academic side of theatre and familiarize myself with the new processes and techniques developed since my last formal education in the craft. I will continue to lecture in lighting design and technical theatre, and I am finding so much joy in photography, so I will be venturing more into that as well.”
From all of us here at the Trinidad and Tobago Performing Arts Network, we thank you for the service you have provided to Queen’s Hall and in shaping the theatre landscape as a whole. With every ending comes a new beginning, so as you embark on your new journey in creativity we wish continued success and prosperity. Happy 2019.
Join us for Part 2 where we will explore some of Curtis’ major accomplishments as a lighting designer.