InterAmerica Stage donates work to community theaters, Mark Black said. “It makes us feel a part of something.” (Courtesy InterAmerica Stage)
Mark Black is the president and founder of InterAmerica Stage Inc., a specialty rigging and stage machinery company, which opened its doors in 1989.
The company has worked on a raft of theaters in Florida, many of them historic theaters, including the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce, Falk Theatre at the University of Tampa, Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, Polk Theatre in Lakeland, Actors Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, Olympia Theater in Miami; Athens Theatre in DeLand; The Coliseum in St. Petersburg; and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.
Other projects have included Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vt., and The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Black talked with Brad Weissberg of VenuesNow about how he got into the business and how his company works on historic theaters as well as some of the country’s newest arenas.
How did you get your start in the business?
I stated in Caracas, Venezuela, working for Hoffend and Sons. In the late ’70s and ’80s we were it when it came to theater rigging and staging. I opened opera houses in Europe and Argentina. But I wasn’t one of the sons, so it was time for me to try something new.
When did IAStage take off?
We were discovered by Disney and they turned out to be a very good client who are very interesting — they are very much like a theater-world client. We’ve kept a great relationship with them for 27 years. Anything you walk underneath in a Disney park, worldwide, that’s cool is probably ours.
You are known for your skydecks, a tension wire grid. Where are these installations located?
We’ve got hundreds of installations like the new Chase Arena in San Francisco. Little Caesars Arena in Detroit has the largest skydeck in the world.
Why do like to work on historic theaters?
We like to work in them because it’s a different level, more intimate, more community-minded, and there’s a theater vibe and you are actually helping out the people who love theater.
Do you make money on historic theaters?
Not much. We don’t make money on any of the historic theater jobs we do. But we feel like we are serving the community. We actually donate a lot of the work to the community theaters we do, like the DeLand, Fla., theater, where we donated the main curtain and box curtains. It makes us feel a part of something.
Who brings IAStage in?
Often we are brought in by the theaters. They say, “Hey, do you think this is safe?” We are known as overhead safety contractors and riggers, and our opinions matters. They engage us to do an inspection, and they need an issue fixed. Community theater is great and filled with volunteers who may not have a good eye for dangerous situations and rigging.
We also have our own sewing shop, so we do high-end draperies. For a lot of these older venues, that’s really important. If the look of the drape is ratty and weird, it’s a turnoff.
Why do you do this work if it’s not profitable?
Probably 80 percent of our office staff and project managers are all grads of theater programs in the U.S. We have a lot of people who like theater. The other part is that if you don’t want anyone in the industry to come in and steal your business, you better be available.