Chicago, My Fair Lady,
When I began my career working with Theatre Now, touring was how we made our living. Theatre Now was the king of Bus and Truck. We took successful New York shows and recreated them so that they could fit, in those days, into two trucks, and travel the country. Now we have 18-truck shows, 36-truck shows, but in those days it was a much smaller operation.
I was surprised to realize that it was 30 years ago that I made my first call to Clark Transfer. I knew immediately that this was an organization that I could trust. I understood the concept of trucking you go from point A to point B. But the details of what went into it, I didn’t have a clue. I was a kid. I relied on Clark Transfer and I never ever had to bother to find out what went into it, I just knew that they were always there.
Norma, Cindy, Charlie, Gail, and everyone at Clark Transfer, you’ve made my life very easy all these years. With thanks and appreciation for always coming through. Keep Broadway moving another fifty years!
Les Miserables, Miss Saigon,
Phantom of the Opera…
I started my career actually greeting a Clark truck, driving up to the stage door of the Playhouse Theatre in Wilmington, having a tough time negotiating that famous back alley to get to the load in. So as long as I’ve been managing shows, Clark Transfer has been a part of my work. Over the years there must have been tens of thousands of moves and tens of thousands of trailers. Clark Transfer’s drivers have always been part of the crew. The consistency of Clark’s entire operation is absolutely something that we rely on. It’s an essential part of how we plan, to be able to present our shows. Our planning is down to the minute, moving these big shows, making deadlines, making curtains, making load-in times around the country. And knowing we can rely on Clark to deliver the show on time is essential. They’re the only transfer company we’ve used , for more than twenty years.
Clark Transfer has always been an important part of our success at Harris Production Services. My father, Joseph Harris, always used Clark, and now so do I.
Director of Productions,
The John F. Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts.
My first show was Hello Dolly, pre-Broadway, Carol Channing, at the National Theatre in 1964. I was one of those grunts 35 years ago, that was told to go to the truck, put my hands on it, let’s get it down the ramp, and into the theatre. I’ve been doing that for 35 years, and in those years I’ve been having fun with Clark Transfer, because they’re the ones that make this business happen from one show to another. Clark’s on top of their game.
It’s not like Wal-Mart, where you’re just unloading into a stock room. This is show business. At the Kennedy Center we’ll have 100 yellow school busses out there on a given day and we’ll have 35-40 Clark tractor trailers. So we have to coordinate all the traffic and with Clark I don’t have to worry about it. When you are a part of a can-do attitude that exists from the trucks getting there on time to backing that one out, getting the next one in, it’s a very special feeling. I depend on Clark. And now, since I took this job I have to deal with all the international shows. I don’t consider any other thing but to give it to Dan McClafferty at Clark. Then I don’t have to worry about it any more. It happens. That’s part of the family. That’s it.
When the Metropolitan Opera came to Wolf Trap we’d do four operas in four nights. Open air. As an opera was playing, we’d be backstage disassembling the show, trooping right out to the loading dock and onto the trucks. During intermission the set pieces were falling down onto the deck, the guys were running the flats to the trucks, the air was pushing the main curtain out so the audience knew something was going on backstage. During the acts the trucks would shift, quietly! Talk about an army of ants, and organized chaos! You have to think about this. Each opera was six trucks going out, and six trucks coming in, all within the space of three hours, while people are singing and dancing and the orchestra is playing. In the meantime the trucks are going in and out and being loaded and unloaded. And I used to stand back and say, ‘This is not happening. It is incredible that this is happening. I can’t believe that somebody isn’t going to run into somebody, that something isn’t going to happen.” But Clark did this night after night!
When you’re young and you’re going out on the road, and you’re learning the ropes, you’re scared to death. You’re afraid you’re not going to get the right show into the truck, you’re afraid of this, that, and the other well, I never worried about Clark. They told me, Ralph, we’ll be there when you need us. And they always were. They said, Even if we have to pull the trucks to the side of the road and reload, we will get your show there. And they always got it.
I started with Tyler Gatchell and Pete Feller and Artie Siccardi, and there wasn’t anybody else but Clark Transfer for them.
When I first came to this office there were four companies of Annie out touring. Companies of Evita that were out touring. And Cats. Cats opened in New York in 1982. The first national company opened in Boston in December of 1983. And there were four companies outside of the New York company. The company that’s out right now recently celebrated its 12th anniversary, and Clark has provided the transportation since day one. About a year ago we broke the longest touring show record, that used to be held by Oklahoma.
On a tour like this, the truck drivers become part of the family. It is a very close relationship. The drivers have gotten us out of a lot of tight spots.
We wouldn’t trust our scenery with anyone else.
To many musicians their instrument is like their child. It is more than just their livelihood it is like a living being, a family member. As soon as he or she puts it into a trunk I feel a huge responsibility, but I find myself saying it’s okay because I know Clark’s there. And that’s invaluable. To me you can’t put a price on Clark’s wisdom and experience of the challenges of the road.
We are the nation’s orchestra. It’s very important that when the truck pulls out, we’ve made the people feel good, and proud. Each year the National Symphony does our American Residency Programs in a state, where we travel to small towns, in and out of gyms, municipal auditoriums, down small alleys. Our driver, Ron Moore, always seems to find a way not to ruin the grass or crumble the sidewalks. And it’s very important to have trucking that knows instinctively what’s the right thing to do.
Moving shows is like making magic. In 1971 and 72 I worked with the John Houseman City Center Acting Company, which was trucked around by Clark Transfer. We had one truck and one driver. His name was Paul Campbell. And he stayed with the show the entire two-year touring period. I was company manager at that point much the same age as the actors. We were all very much in our twenties. Patti LuPone was a member of the company. Kevin Kline. David Ogden Stiers.
That was my first experience touring. Touring is a very complicated circumstance. Because you have a group of people who go into alien communities that basically stick together, and live together, and party together. But the truck driver is someone that everyone relies on for a lot a lot of extraordinary things outside of just trucking the shows around, which you would not suspect or expect. Sometimes the truck drivers are even psychiatrists.