INSIDE Chico State
0 April 3, 2003
Volume 33 Number 13
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Inside

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Behind the Scenes

The Show Must Go On
Daran Finney and the art of indulging performers

Daran Finney helps coordinate the smooth operations of 30,000 schoolchildren pouring into Laxson Auditorium every year to see daytime performances.

Daran Finney helps coordinate the smooth operations of 30,000 schoolchildren pouring into Laxson Auditorium every year to see daytime performances.

Daran Finney has been the marketing and publicity coordinator for Chico Performances, part of University Public Events, since 1996. “We are called presenters, we present artists. I’m the marketer. Dan [DeWayne, director of University Public Events] books the acts; I market them.” What does that mean? “I get butts in seats, any way I can do it. Preferably, paid butts.” Does she have stories about the stars she works with? Just like Jimmy Durante, she‘s got a million of ’em.

On “other duties as assigned”
After working all day setting up for the Chico World Music Festival, I had to take an ailing Dave Grisman [famed mandolinist] from his hotel to the hospital. Finally, after three hours, the doctor, a big Grisman fan, told me that, yes, Dave could perform, so I sped back to his hotel room, stuffed his clothes in a paper bag, grabbed his priceless mandolins, burst back into the ER, and very assertively dragged him out of the hospital, loaded him into my car, and drove extremely fast to the theatre with two minutes to spare before curtain. That’s the part of my job we call “other duties as assigned.”

On hangin’ at the mall with Keb’ Mo’
Keb’ Mo’ realized that the next day [after his Chico show last October] he was going to Salt Lake City, Utah, and he didn’t have a hat, a parka, or mittens. So, the minute they pull up, he says to me, ”I need to go shopping.” We went to the Chico Mall, and he bought a hat, gloves, and a shirt. That’s a true example of making sure the performer is happy.

On dining with her favorite author
My boss didn’t believe me that Diana Gabaldon [author of the Outlander series] was going to sell well. I have four sisters-in-law, and we drove Diana to dinner, just talking her ear off about all of her books. She had sold 700 tickets … my boss was walking around with his jaw hanging on the ground. She gave a lively talk, a huge Q&A period, and the bookstore sold more books than they’ve ever sold in the history of any performer or lecturer who sells books.

On indulging performers
We had a funny situation with Judy Collins. Right before she came, we had an incident where we had lost Laxson; one of the gables had fallen down. We had to use Neighborhood Church as it was the next largest venue in town. She had a very strict rider [in her contract]. She needed free-range chicken [for her dinner before the show]. She had to have wheat-free pasta. Judy Collins is a very big name, a very big draw, so we got a caterer to follow her dietary guidelines. One of her restrictions was that her food could not be served in the same room in which she was dressing. We had to set up her dressing room in a small chapel, and, as it turned out, she had to eat her dinner in there. Sometimes riders go out the window, and we serve food in a chapel. She also had a limo ferry her around. The limo driver, who was young and wearing a cowboy hat, knew he was picking up someone important at the airport, but he didn’t know who. He pulls up to the church, she gets out, and we lead her to her “dressing room.” He says to me, “Who is this lady? Is she a big religious star?” He thought she was Tammy Faye Baker or someone like that.

On writers with stage fright
Anne Lamott was very nervous about speaking here. She stayed in the Green Room as she prepped for her talk. When she was ready, she came out and gave a tremendous talk. Same thing with David Sedearis. He was nervous about speaking, but once he got on stage and found that the crowd was with him, he was great.

On getting priorities straight
You really have to be the kind of person who doesn’t care that you are meeting someone famous. Being star struck doesn’t work. You have to walk that fine line between what the artist wants and what would make a good experience for him or her and what you can do and what’s going to make the best performance for your audience. We don’t have lasting relationships with stars. We have lasting relationships with the people who come to our theatre and live in our town—that’s what’s important.

Lisa Kirk

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