By Ken Owens
As an entertainment journalist here in Las Vegas, my colleagues and I are typically sipping cocktails on the red carpet or interviewing stars in the Green Room. However, I recently spent two weeks backstage for the entire production cycle of the 2022 Latin American Music Awards; and what an experience it was! To witness going from an empty arena, to the full stage build, the live show, and then teardown back to an empty arena, I was given a whole new respect for the riggers, stagehands, and lighting and sound technicians.
I was a Covid Compliance Officer for the two weeks of the production. Our job was to monitor 100% mask wearing compliance by EVERYONE working in the entire Michelob Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort. We also sprayed high traffic areas with a hospital grade disinfectant to limit any contamination and spread of Covid. We distributed thousands of KN95 masks to all personnel entering the arena, and were Covid tested every two days.
Telemundo TV network is owned by NBC/Universal who has very strict Covid prevention policies during all of their productions. We all worked long 12 hour days. It took: 8 days to build-out the arena with the full stage, 3 days of lighting and sound rehearsals, 4 hours dress rehearsal, 3 hours live broadcast production, and then 22 hours to tear everything down and load-out.
Unfortunately for me, since I don’t speak Spanish, I couldn’t understand a single song, nor did I know or recognize any of the superstar performers. But, the music did sound great! The biggest problem with people not wearing a mask and having to be constantly reminded, was not with the performers or stage crew, but with the entourage of the performers…those hangers-on whose ego is bigger than their job title (personal assistants, security, publicists, dressers, etc. who accompany their bosses – the main performers).
I will say this, after experiencing the full production from the backstage view, the riggers, technicians, and stage crews are much more talented than many performers we see onstage! Seeing the choreography of having to change sets in the short couple minutes while commercials are running during a live telecast blew my mind. To pull off a 3 hour live awards show telecast with NO glitches on camera is a weekly occurrence for these talented entertainment professionals!
I will now have a deeper respect for backstage crews whenever I am watching a live production show or live TV broadcast. As an entertainment journalist, this truly opened my eyes to everyone associated with making those onstage look so good. Kudos to the hardworking backstage professions!