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Stage technology project management

My name is Martin Johannes and I have worked at Bosch Rexroth for several years. I started out as a project engineer and then later became a project manager in stage technology. As I had previously worked in the theater and enjoyed working together with the artists there, I knew from the first day of my studies that I wanted to specialize in stage technology.

What has been your favorite project so far?

Portrait of a manager

I worked at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, where I was responsible for the mechanics subproject. The biggest challenge I faced here was definitely the sheer size of the theater and the vast amount of technical systems. We installed simply gigantic stage technology here, of a magnitude that has probably never been seen before: seven stage platforms, each measuring 22 meters deep and 3 meters wide, and able to travel up to 16 meters at a rate of 0.7 meters per second. The installation also included 79 machine hoists, each of which can lift a full ton, plus a further 100 point hoists each with 1-ton payload. And that was not all: The system comprised more than 600 controlled drives in total.

One aspect of this project that I particularly enjoyed was the installation of an orchestra shell, that is the acoustic space for the orchestra playing on stage. I planned this shell together with an acoustics consulting company in Munich and then installed it on site. I later watched on German television when it was used for its inaugural performance by the Milanese Scala Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. It was certainly very special for me to experience the results of my own work – which sounded great I should add. When you are part of a project for more than five years, you really put your heart and soul into it.

What are your tasks?

My current role is all about communication and organization. I manage the communication between the customer – that is, the theater – and the various trades involved in the construction as well as the relevant internal organizational units, such as procurement, controlling, and quality control. I play a very central role in this process, and at specific points, I have to make the right decisions to ensure that everything proceeds on schedule. One of the best aspects of my job is that I encounter many different views, mindsets and approaches to things, particularly in the world of theater. I am an engineer, after all, and we work closely with artists and other people in the theater who have a real knack for the performing arts. That is something that has always fascinated me about this industry. You have to really understand the people and their needs and requirements in order to solve a specific design problem, which may involve hydraulic systems or even the complete spectrum of electromechanical drives and controls.

What do you like about your job?

The thing I like most is the great variety of it. And the opportunity to work on big projects in small teams. Each stage technology solution poses its own new challenges. Each project is unique and involves an expectant customer who wants to see and hear their theater in the best possible light. The larger and more famous a theater is, the more the project is about part of the local cultural identity. This is something that you have to understand in order to fully appreciate what the project involves. It is often a profoundly intercultural experience. There are certainly few comparable industries in which you encounter such a heterogenous group of people. It is a job that is as rewarding as it is challenging. We all know the famous saying in the theater: “The show must go on!” Ultimately, we must do everything to ensure that the audience has the best possible experience. Everything else is secondary. And that is often how I judge things: If the audience applauds, I have achieved my goals.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like to spend my free time with my family and I also enjoy exercising – cycling and swimming offer the perfect balance to my professional life. I am also a keen traveler. My roots are in Swabia, which is why I also have a home there alongside my base of operations in Lohr am Main.

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