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‘Let’s Get the Show on the Road™’

By on October 11, 2018
Clark-Transfer-Wicked

Spotlighting Entertainment Industry Transportation & Logistics

In the highly specialized world of OTR transportation for show business, one company has been known for setting new standards since 1949. Clark Transfer has built and maintained a reputation for unparalleled reliability and quality of service. To learn more about the unique nature of this business, four professional drivers involved in moving the Broadway show, Wicked, from Toledo to Toronto shared their stories with RoadKing readers. As the final curtain closed, a fleet of 12 trucks was poised to be loaded for the 300-mile trip. 

The day was Sunday, June 17, a scorcher in west suburban Toledo as the afternoon temperatures on the asphalt parking lot of the Stranahan Theater nudged against the century mark, with near-record humidity and dew points. Father’s Day matinee and evening performances were closing out a very successful 11-day, 16-show run. Twelve empty trailers were silently awaiting the sequential arrival of their designated roll-on containers and carts, as 12 owner-operators and their tractors assembled, one by one, during the course of the afternoon.

The core Wicked team, totaling approximately 120 specialized professionals including local labor, had the responsibility to breakdown the entire set, pack hundreds of containers and carts and load them into their respective trailers—all within a five-hour window. As the clock struck 10:00 p.m., more than a few team members probably downed at least a few swigs of the popular energy drink having a similar name. One by one, the trailers would be loaded and released to begin their north-of-the-border treks.

Gary-GraffAs the lead driver, Gary Graff is the onsite liaison with the Wicked team and keeps track of the dedicated Clark Transfer owner-operators, as well as the independents hired for this move. He’s been driving professionally for 25 years, all but the first two for Clark Transfer. When team drivers are required for longer hauls, his wife, Linda, or brother, Bob, answers the call. Gary’s depth of experience in the world of show business is self-evident.

“We’re not just hauling freight,” Gary said. “Each one of the 12 trailers assigned to Wicked is transporting hundreds of thousands of dollars—some even a million—of equipment, staging, lighting, costumes, scenery, props and the like. A 13th trailer hauls Wicked merchandise. Over the course of my 10 years with Wicked, I’ve only missed two moves. It’s been an outstanding experience, one that I wouldn’t trade for any other driving job. When we arrive at the next venue, the staff and crew at the new host theater are happy to see us and ready to begin the unloading sequence. Virtually 100% of our freight is no-touch.

“To speed the setup process, a second set of two advance trailers hauling duplicate staging and equipment leapfrogs ahead to the next venue on the schedule. When these two trailers leave Toledo, for example, they’ll be heading to Detroit. The Wicked advance crew that handles these technical aspects of setup is also working one venue ahead of the primary Wicked team that will be in Toronto before Detroit. With this approach, the show maintenance crew has some added time to service the equipment and test the tracks for anything that moves and cables for anything that flies.

“At Clark Transfer, we take great pride in working as a team. From our ownership to the management staff in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the drivers in the field, we’re focused on getting the show on the road. Crunch time for us involves loading in five hours or less from one venue, traveling to the next, and quickly unloading. Everything we do is geared to run like clockwork. Minimizing that interval from move-out to move-in provides our customer with the setup time needed prior to raising the curtain on the opening performance at the new venue. By extension, our organization and teamwork contribute significantly to the teamwork required by the Wicked team. In that sense, we’re part of a well-oiled, finely tuned machine. 

“One of the best parts about my role with Wicked is the downtime that I have, particularly when the show schedule keeps us at one venue for a shorter run, measured in days rather than multiple weeks. I’ve been able to see the sights and visit some tourist attractions, much as a vacationer would do. That’s a big plus compared to the daily deadline pressures of hauling freight. During longer Wicked runs, I may be assigned to drive for other Clark teams. Sometimes, we deliver new trailers for Great Dane when the drop point is along the way to reconnecting with a show that’s approaching its next move.”

——–

Jeff-SealesJEFF SEALES

ESPERANCE, NY

After four years of hauling bulk petroleum and paper products for regional carriers, Jeff found a home when he connected with Clark Transfer in 1990. “I was assigned to Phantom of the Opera from 1991 through 2010,” said Jeff. “Three national tours, involving 69 cities and 189 moves enabled me to see most of the country. Now, I prefer to work closer to home, mostly in Washington D.C., Baltimore and New York City. There’s always something moving since these areas are blessed with many venues. New York alone has about 150 theaters. Many shows start out in the smaller venues before gaining notoriety and advancing to a national tour. Occasionally, I’m involved with other shows such as tonight’s Wicked move to Toronto. 

“While the cargo we haul is critical to these shows, the driving part of this job is just driving. I like the people we work with, and I enjoyed working with my younger brother who formerly drove for Clark. The no-touch freight is great. I prefer being an owner operator. I can work as much as I wish. Dispatchers work with us to preplan our schedules. There’s no forced dispatch. When I need a break or want to be home for a family event, the discussion is a two-way street. There’s full understanding of the service we provide and sacrifices we make in meeting customers’ needs. The ratio of work to money is good.”

——–

MELODIE VOBRAK

ERIE, PA

Driving professionally only eight years, Melodie launched her career with a major national carrier. That provided a wealth of experience and the credentials to advance her career. She signed on with Clark Transfer in November of 2013. “I’m primarily a spot driver right now, accepting assignments wherever needed for a run,” said Melodie. With no forced dispatch, I have the freedom to accept or reject opportunities. For example, I prefer not to take on New York City assignments. I just concluded a five-month run assigned to Sound of Music. That’s the longest I’ve been with one show. I love opportunities to travel west and across Canada. 

“I enjoy going to different places, meeting the backstage show people, seeing different cities, dining in a variety of restaurants. Enjoying local foods. The work is fun, entertaining and educational. Our lead drivers have been great to work with, real gentlemen. They make our jobs easier; help us solve problems. Handle working with the stage crew. It’s great to be part of a fine-tuned operation that’s dedicated to meeting customer needs. I’m seeing more and more women out here now. Gary’s brother, Bob, has done some team fly-in trips with me. I love being a Clark owner-operator, making good money; having plenty of work.”

——–

Randall-GeorgeRANDALL GEORGE

HARRISBURG, PA

Considering he’s worked for Clark Transfer three different times and had a long break between stints behind the wheel, it’s clear that Randall George didn’t burn any bridges. With some early experience driving for a national van line, Randall bought his first truck and signed on with Clark in 1976. He developed a favorable impression of the company over the course of nine years, moving Broadway shows, ballets, symphonies, musical entertainers and new car shows among other assignments.

After accepting a heavy haul job for two and a half years, he came back to Clark for another nine years in an office capacity. The lure of heavy haul took him back on the road for 11 years. In 2011, Randall came back to Clark as a driver. He’s driven for 26 of the 43 years that he’s maintained his CDL. He bought and paid for three trucks while driving for Clark, the latest being a 2013 Mack.

“I like being independent, running my own business, operating across 48 states and Canada,” Randall said. “I go wherever I’m needed. Things can change fast; sometimes you’re diverted. It’s all part of business and serving customer needs. The pay is excellent, I’ve been treated very well, and I watch others do the loading and unloading 99% of the time. “Some Clark drivers have been here 20, 25, 30, even 40 years. You feel like part of a family; the headquarters staff accommodates our personal lives. We enjoy steady, year-round work. The company has been good to me. The work is interesting; the variety of things we do keeps us on our toes. I’m enjoying my time on the road. We respond to emergencies, roll with changes, and always have new challenges on the horizon. Clark Transfer provides a great opportunity for responsible owner-operators who share the company’s commitment to getting the show on the road.”

 

Clark Transfer Snapshot

Clark Transfer has proudly served the entertainment industry since 1949, and is currently under the direction of second-generation owner, Norma Molitch Deull. The firm has grown and prospered serving a wide range of clients who are engaged in a variety of events including:

  • Broadway shows
  • Touring theatrical productions
  • Ballet and opera companies
  • Symphony orchestras
  • Corporate roadshows
  • Circuses
  • Political and trade conventions
  • Television and movie productions
  • Popular musical acts and variety shows
  • Large-scale special events and spectacles

Clark relies on its team of experienced drivers, specialized equipment and integrated support to guarantee that client moves go smoothly. Opportunities include single owner-operators, team drivers and part-time fly-in drivers who help keep things moving on longer hauls. Drivers are supported by the headquarters team, a network of agents, a crisis-tested 24/7 dispatch operation, and a sophisticated global tracking system. Whether by land, sea or air, Clark has a reputation for doing whatever it takes to serve client needs, backed by a willingness to go above and beyond to deliver the goods on time and in perfect condition. For almost 70 years, Clark has focused on an absolute commitment to excellence by doing one thing extremely well.

You can learn more at ClarkTransfer.com. 

 

The Wicked Storyline

Wicked-statueWicked tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda (whose name later changes to Glinda the Good), who struggle through opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government, and, ultimately… Elphaba’s public fall
from grace.

From the first electrifying note to the final breathtaking moment, Wicked—the untold true story of the Witches of Oz—transfixes audiences with its wildly inventive story that USA Today cheers as “a complete triumph! An original musical that will make you laugh, cry, and think.”

Wicked, the Broadway sensation, looks at what happened in the Land of Oz… but from a different angle. Long before Dorothy arrives, there’s another young woman, born with emerald-green skin—smart, fiery, misunderstood, and possessing an extraordinary talent. When she meets a bubbly blonde who is exceptionally popular, their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendships… until the world decides to call one “good,” and the other one “wicked.”

The untold true story about the Witches of Oz transfixes audiences with its wildly inventive story. It will send your spirits soaring to heights you’ll never forget.

About Warren Eulgen

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