For more than 20 years, Chris Lewis has worked backstage at Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Center Presents concerts, as well as rental events at Symphony Center. He also has traveled with the CSO on many domestic and international tours. In his current role as stage manager, which follows his tenure as a member of the house stage crew, Lewis finds it rewarding to “listen to the world’s greatest musicians every day.”
How long have you been working at the CSOA?
I started working at Orchestra Hall in November 1999. I became a member of the house stage crew in 2001 and have been stage manager since December 2018.
Could you describe your job duties as stage manager?
I help facilitate the set-up of all CSO rehearsals and concerts, including lights, sound, chairs, stands and all large instruments like percussion, timpani and harps here at Orchestra Hall and any other venues where the CSO performs, such as Ravinia and on tour. I schedule the stagehands at Orchestra Hall for all CSO events, all Symphony Center Presents events and rentals at Symphony Center. I am also responsible for moving all the cargo for the orchestra when they are on tour or runout to any venue in Chicago.
What was your career path before your current position, and what led you to the CSO?
I received my B.A. in theater production and design from Illinois State University. I am a member of the stagehand union IATSE Local #2 Chicago, which works to cover all jurisdiction in the theaters, arenas and hotels in the Chicago area. Previously, I was the stage manager and steward at the New Regal Theater on the Chicago South Side.
What’s one of the most rewarding parts of your job?
I get to help set up and listen to the world’s greatest musicians every day.
How has your role evolved this season with the shift to filmed performances for smaller ensembles, rather than live concerts with the full orchestra?
We still facilitate all the set-up needs for the CSO, just on a smaller scale with no audience and mostly with no conductors.
You’ve traveled with the CSO on tour across the U.S. and internationally. What’s one of your favorite tour locations and/or memories?
My first CSO tour was in 2002 to Lucerne, and since that tour, Switzerland has been one of my favorite places.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love to travel and spend time with family and friends. I’m also a fan of the Chicago Bears, Bulls and White Sox.
TOP: Stage Manager Chris Lewis loads cargo into Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall during the CSO’s February 2020 tour to Florida. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2020