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Project Management and Custom Sewing for the American Repertory Theater

60 Marvel Velour fabric panels in Rouge cover the production space

Stephen Setterlun, Technical Director at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University, was staring down a fast approaching opening for Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. His production specs called for over 60 Marvel Velour fabric panels in Rouge, each in a unique size, many with different hanging finishes. He needed the reassurance that his project would be completed on time with precision, technical skill, and closely matched dye lots of fabric. 

With the pressure of the short deadline looming, Setterlun turned to Rose Brand’s project management team. He was impressed with Rose Brand’s large stock of fabrics and sewing capacity. When discussing the project, he felt reassured when “a number of individuals from Rose Brand responded very quickly with a plan and a commitment to make it work on time.”

While the actors were busy rehearsing, our project managers were busy reformatting drawings and the production team began sewing individual panels. Tom Sullivan of Rose Brand was responsible for preparing the drawings Rose Brand received. Sullivan says, “Setterlun’s team provided us with specs for the space and the fabric panels. We quickly reformatted the drawings for our production department and shared the new ones with A.R.T.” From there, the quantities and sizes for fabrication were confirmed. The shared plans for the production were described as “very, very helpful” by Setterlun and “served to eliminate surprises and streamlined communication challenges.” 

A key in getting this project sewn and installed for opening night was time management. Production was staggered so the assembly team at A.R.T. could begin installation while the remaining panels were produced. As installation of one set of panels was completed, another set was received. 

Aside from time management and man-power to finish all of these panels in a two week period, fabric was just as important. Setterlun admits, “When time is short, inventory alone can be a savior and in this case it was.”

This was a fast-paced job with a high quantity of panels. What made it even more challenging was that nearly each piece was unique in size to accommodate architectural and seating impediments. This project involved a great deal of collaboration with production teams to ensure everything was sewn correctly and in time for dress rehearsals. 

Throughout its history, the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University has been honored with many distinguished awards, including four Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Jujamcyn Prize, and numerous Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards.

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Scenic Design: Mimi Lien, 2015 MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Winner Director: Rachel Chavkin Technical Director: Stephen SetterlunPhotos: Evgenia Eliseeva

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