From Steve Jobs Theater to Chili Peppers Tour: Behind the rig with McLane Snow
McLane Snow, who received a B.F.A. in Technical Direction from UNCSA in 2007, is a busy man. He’s flying back and forth between his home of Winston-Salem and Sandy, Utah, where since February he has been helping supervise a team installing technology for the $65 million Hale Centre Theatre.
That’s just one of the many projects that Snow has worked on with TAIT Towers-Stage Technologies, the company behind some of the most advanced stage technology in the world.
Among his specialties, Snow leads teams during large-scale installations. Oftentimes he is working with technology and systems that are the first of their kind, which requires managing large numbers of people and troubleshooting cutting edge tech.
Snow’s work has included building out theaters for the Disney Dream cruise ship, the Macau City of Dreams Hotel, and the new Steve Jobs Theater at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters (with the J.R. Clancy company). He’s put together shows for Bon Jovi and Britney Spears, worked the Academy Awards and a Star Trek film and even taught at his alma mater.
We talked with Snow about his work with TAIT and others, and the role that UNCSA has played in the career that has taken him around the globe.
First, tell us a bit about TAIT and your work with them.
I’m essentially a freelance automation installation supervisor and technician, and do a lot of work with TAIT—one of the biggest companies in the game. Whether it’s setting up a rock and roll tour or doing automation and installation on big projects like the Hale Center Theatre, my work with them is varied.
My introduction to TAIT was working with them on a Kylie Minogue show in 2011, which was a big one for them. I’d never been on a tour—I had done a lot of rock and roll load ins and load outs but this was my first tour, and we were working with a fairly new automation system. This included learning a lot of water effects, including touring with 15,000 gallons of water at a time. At the time, it was a new thing for production to be working side by side with automation guys like me, and with so much technology on the road. We got it up and running, touring through Europe, America, Asia and South Africa.
I got to see the world one arena at a time—that was my introduction to rock and roll touring and to TAIT.
What other work have you done with TAIT?
I did a big Metallica tour movie with them, and have worked on a lot of different projects. I range the gamut between construction site installation to rock and roll tours to film work.
Last winter I went over to Europe for them with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which was a significant tour from a technological standpoint. TAIT worked with the Chili Peppers to design a huge kinetic sculpture (the largest kinetic light display in touring history). In our business we work with axes, and up until then, a big show had about 100. That show had 1,000, which really was unproven technology. It was a lot of machinery and things to balance at one time, but we got the rig dialed in. The audience enjoyed it and artistically it added a lot to the show.
Above: Watch the automated lights from The Getaway World Tour.
It was so new, but the Chili Peppers and TAIT put together a great team and we ran it well and safely every night. When I wrapped up with that leg of the tour I passed along the work to another UNCSA alumnus, Casey Roche (’04). He, along with alumnus Blaine Potts (’01), helped me get my first job back in the day in Las Vegas with Le Rêve… that’s how it works. We all help each other out.
Was there a particular show during your UNCSA years that stand out?
Honestly, we did so many shows, I’m not sure I could name the most memorable. The one thing I do remember is doing a project for faculty member Jack Miller, who had a company building automation equipment. We worked for him as well as doing productions at school. I also remember working on a big project for the Prague Quadrennial (the world’s largest scenography event).
How did your education at UNCSA prepare you for your career?
The programs at UNCSA are designed to give you a fundamental base, so when you graduate you are prepared. You learn about the business and importantly, how to interact with technology and work with people.
I think that’s part of the secret at UNCSA: becoming prepared to work with people and interact with teams. Not everyone has those skills. There are people who have been in the business a long time and don’t have them. But they’re key.
For me, as a person from a small town in North Carolina, it was the first time I met a lot of people from all walks of life. I think that’s part of the secret at UNCSA: becoming prepared to work with people and interact with teams. Not everyone has those skills. There are people who have been in the business a long time and don’t have them. But they’re key.