October 11, 2018

Harrison Rabel, Director of Production

It might come as a surprise that VDA’s Somerville warehouse is home to a full-scale fabrication shop, with a team of highly skilled, educated, and efficient craftspeople, each trained to produce a high caliber of work. With specialists in scenic painting, woodworking, welding, sculpted facades, and faux finishing, as well as a network of bona fide freelance artists on our roster, VDA has the capabilities to create a totally unique, customized design for your next Corporate Meeting, Tradeshow, or Themed Event. Over the past few years, the fabrication shop has taken great strides to hone in on the creative process, to help better their ability to bring to life the intricacies of a design, considering what materials, the treatments, turn time, and life span of the project, among other factors.

We’re excited to share a series of blog posts over the next few months in which we’ll be highlighting the different branches of the fabrication team – paint, metal, and woodworking!

For the first post in the series, I sat down with Harrison Rabel, Director of Production Services. In his role, Hari, as he’s known in the VDA office, sees his job duty as that of facilitator. “In terms of leadership style, I really feel like my job is to put the tracks in front of the train,” says Rabel. “I make sure people have the information they need to build what they need to build, to paint what they need to paint. I’m just making sure we stay on the road.” For Hari, it’s been about 30 years of experience in the creative services industry, in one way or another, something he describes as a challenging, collaborative environment, and a great experience.

From Psychology to Tony Awards.

Growing up on the South Shore of Massachusetts, Hari began his career in production as the Master Carpenter at Bridgewater State College (now University) where he taught students to put stage sets together. Hari worked his way through his degree, teaching at Bridgewater by day, and taking classes at Boston College by night. Despite his passion for theatre, Hari’s degree in Psychology set him up for a career in Social Work, and he spent the years following graduation working at a group home for troubled kids. After a few years Hari realized he missed the “theatre thing,” and spent the next phase of his career touring the Chicago theatre scene where he worked as a staff carpenter at the Court, Shubert, and Steppenwolf Theatres. In his time at the Goodman Theatre, Hari’s team would regularly send set pieces to Broadway, which garnered a couple of Tony Awards for their set builds for Death of a Salesman, a very proud moment in his career.

The one greasing the wheels…

A member of the VDA team for a little over 12 years, Harrison started out as a Senior Manager of Production Services and recently stepped into the Director role. Since August 2017, Hari has been building off the great foundation laid before him, and working on fine tuning and tweaking process, to make his mark as he oversees the fabrication shop. Quick to credit the unmatched collaboration and strong dynamic of his team, Hari noted that the build process at VDA all starts with a conversation. After a design is approved by the client, Hari sits down with the creative team to review drawings and really get inside the designer’s head to see what they were thinking for the booth design, stage set, etc., asking questions about build, material, and what sorts of choices need to be made to meet client goals and ensure the structure will stand!

Hari’s process requires a lot of going back and forth, trying to come up with a concept that is feasible to build, given time and tools, will be safe, and will go together and can quickly be disassembled on site at an event. This requires a lot of close collaboration with the sales, design, and project management teams, and being aware of the minutiae of each job, considering time frames, shipping dates, structure size restrictions, and all those other details that might be found mundane. Hari doesn’t consider his position very glamorous, but at the end of the day, he is the one greasing the wheels to ensure his team has the information and guidance they need to succeed.

Coming up in our next newsletter we will further explore the capabilities of our fabrication team as we take a deep dive into the paint shop, sitting with Paint Shop Manager, Helen McCarthy, to discuss her talents and experiences. We’ll review painting techniques, creative process, and shop lingo. Please stay tuned for our next chapter!

If you are interested in learning more about our team’s capabilities, and how VDA can be an integral part to your next experience, please contact sales@vdaproductions.com or call 888.868.9200 for more information.

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