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As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Day on the Set

Rule #15 – Write your observations

In my lifetime, I’ve been to my fair share of concerts and plays. I’ve seen how teamwork is needed to put a great performance in front of an audience. But never the precise choreography that goes into taping a television show. Check this item off my bucket list, Self.
I got my chance to be part of a “live” studio audience at the end of January. My sisters and I all took the train to New York City, then a cab from Penn Station to ABC Studios on 67th Street to be part of the audience for “The Chew”. For those of you who still consider the world of daytime television a vast wasteland, “The Chew” brings together five chefs in one program. They do some cooking on the show, and share the recipes. They get you up and moving. They talk about balance in everything you do. And, to boot, there are these five crazy personalities…
Welcome to ABC Studios – home of “The Chew”

When we first arrived, we queued up and were given a call ticket. Then we moved into the waiting area. Here we had a quick snack while other audience members gathered and checked in. Everyone made sure they looked their best before being called into the studio. All rest room visits were done too, since once seated, you couldn’t leave.

Audience area – check in and wait here until called for seating

When it was time to take our seats, we were called by numbers and led into the studio. There we were grouped onto bleacher seats. Our seats were at the very top, close to cameras. Some members were seated at the eating tables, which meant they tasted all the recipes. Those who sat behind them were always on camera. We ended up seated just next to them in the clip shot area… when they clip to the audience, there were our faces. The seating gave the impression of being totally random. However, they filled the seating area for the side that would get the most “face time” over to the far side behind the cameras themselves. All empty seats were taken by interns, “go-fers”, and other staff persons, so the audience would look full.

It takes a while to get everyone seated and camera ready

Ushers led us past the quiet hubbub of the pre-show to our seats. As we walked in, many faces on the floor looked intense. The food prep people were busy plating up all the finished dishes and getting the pieces ready for the chefs. Cables ran everywhere. The producer and director were reviewing camera angles with the stage manager. As we passed the camera, we could already see the script on the teleprompter. It looked like Clinton Kelly was going to get the first lines in today’s show. 
Now settled in our seats, the audience warm-up person comes out and starts our part of the show. He’s a local stand-up comedian, who works with the show to cue the audience and keep us into the action. While he works with us, the larger set pieces and cameras are moved into their starting positions. The producer, Gordon Elliot, comes out to the audience and makes an appearance. He graciously welcomes us to the show and thanks us for our participation.
Food prep, audience prep, and Taster’s Row prep – all part of the teamwork

We audience members practice our cues, loud clapping, laughing, and dancing. Then, out comes Michael Symon, one of the chefs. He comes up into the audience to greet us all. He’s in full make-up and camera ready, but takes a few minutes to talk to us and welcome us to the show.
We get a chance to practice “dancing” when Carla Hall comes up into the audience to dance with us, Ellen-style. The cameras begin shooting their audience cuts with Carla up in the audience. She danced around with us for about 10 minutes, cameras filming as she went to different parts of the audience.
Then it was time to begin. The pre-recorded pieces were meshed into the live shots at this time. We got to see the show on big screens mounted around the audience area. Cameras put the action up live. We saw the show as it was filmed. And the count down began… cue audience. 
We cheered loudly as all five hosts came in and took their seats. The show started with a discussion of their favorite comfort foods. A super fan was then brought out of the audience and played a matching game with the five hosts. She walked off with a signed recipe book and a front row seat in Tasters Row.
Michael Symon demonstrated his favorite trick to make corndogs at home. Mario Batali took us all on a field trip to Russ and Daughters Deli to check out the no-cooking foods available on the Lower East Side of New York City. Clinton Kelly brought out Dule` Hill from “Psych” and together they made spaghetti carbonara. Carla Hill helped out Michael with his recipe and took a few dancing lessons from Dule`. Daphne Oz took it easy and just shared stories this show. She is close to delivering her first child and standing for long periods was getting uncomfortable.
After the show, Carla Hall, Daphne Oz and Dule` Hill

We got to watch the team work that is needed to put a television show on the air. It’s a delicate ballet, and all participants know their parts and play them beautifully. After the show taping, we sat in as they cast did promos for the show, next week’s shows, and a few segments that are available only online. Once the total taping was finished, Daphne stayed out and talked to members of the audience as we left. No one was getting autographs, however. We were the morning taping and they were bringing in people for the afternoon taping. It was the day after one of the big snows we had in January. They asked us if we wanted to sit in on Katie Curic’s show and possibly come back for the afternoon taping. The weather was wreaking havoc on this studio audience thing these shows need to succeed. 
Oh yes, we’ll be back. It will be a spring day, though, with no snow and hopefully no wind. The technical parts of plays, shows and concerts fascinate me. I love to see how things work. So count me in. I will be back. 
Maybe you might like to join us, or go on your own. Check the show’s website for information about free tickets: http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew . We may see you there.

 All photos are the property of Marge McGugan, and may not be used, or copied without written permission. Portions of this post are reprinted in the Arden-on-the-Severn Newsbuoy article, "A View from the Passenger Seat".