“We’re the liaison between the architect and the artist – to help ensure the theatre functions well,” says Jack Hagler, ASTC, a partner in Schuler Shook’s Dallas office. Schuler Shook operates two primary practices – theatre planning and architectural lighting design – from four offices in the U.S. plus one in Australia.
On the theatre planning side, Hagler’s own career spans over 40 years as a designer, technician, contractor and consultant. He’s worked on a variety of assembly facilities, including professional, educational and civic theatres. Hagler’s résumé also encompasses hotel and convention facilities, houses of worship, theme parks and sports/entertainment arenas.
“The majority of our clients are architects, although, we are hired directly by theatre companies and theatre owners a good amount of the time,” states Hagler.
Functioning Effectively. “Most architects will design many buildings types in their practice – housing, offices, hotels, high rise office, retail spaces, parking garages. Most don’t specialize in theatres and may only do one or two in their career,” Hagler notes. “We help the architects and the theatre owners determine and design what the theatre venue needs from an artistic and functional point of view.”
The perspective Schuler Shook brings encompasses how performers feel and relate to the audience, and how performers move around on the stage and backstage. This perspective also considers how theatre technicians do their jobs, move throughout the building and use its equipment. Schuler Shook’s own staff, all theatre people themselves, work to anticipate how the audience and the artists will experience all aspects of the venue.
Hagler says his firm brings technical theatre expertise to their planning. “You have to know how to hang a light...how to page a microphone cord...how to push scenery…how to do all the backstage work,” he claims. “It’s almost impossible for us to bring someone into our theatre planning practice if they have not had theatre training and background.”
Fostering Partnerships. The hands-on proficiency Schuler Shook values among its staff also extends to the firm’s relationships with industry partners like Wenger and J.R. Clancy.
“Because we specify equipment like orchestra shells and rigging, it’s always helpful to see where that equipment comes from and how it’s built,” remarks Hagler. “To learn and understand what’s behind it, you really need to see the factory and how the equipment is being manufactured.”
With that goal, he helped organize a visit to Wenger Corporation’s headquarters last fall, attended by most of Schuler Shook’s theatre planning staff in North America. Hagler and his colleagues had the opportunity to tour the manufacturing facility and also meet Wenger and J.R. Clancy personnel, including those working behind the scenes, such as estimators and product designers. “It’s always nice to meet people we work with over the phone so we can put faces to their names,” Hagler says.
He consider manufacturers, like Wenger and J.R. Clancy, as partners in Schuler Shook’s theatre planning practice. “It’s not about us designing something and then Wenger or Clancy just bidding on it,” he explains.
“The relationship is not adversarial. It is absolutely a partnership,” says Hagler. “We need their help in understanding what their products are, how they work and how to apply them to certain projects when appropriate. And they need our help in learning about industry trends and what customers are asking for.”
This sense of teamwork extends from the drawing board and product development to the construction site. “When things come up – and we’re all human – some adjustments or tweaking might be necessary,” concludes Hagler. “We’re collaborators who deliver a successful solution for everyone.”