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Nathan Hubbard returns to La Cage aux Folles

“We’re downstairs in the pit”

Nathan Hubbard, beating the drum for the return to live theater.
Nathan Hubbard, beating the drum for the return to live theater.

Multiple San Diego Music Award-winning percussionist and producer Nathan Hubbard has always kept a lot of irons in the fire. So when San Diego shut down in March 2020 because of the pandemic, he lost a grip of work. Especially painful was the cancellation of a long run of performances in the pit band of La Cage aux Folles (known to movie fans as The Birdcage), at the Cygnet Theater in Old Town. “I’ve been doing productions at the Cygnet for six or seven years,” says Hubbard. “We had already been through the rehearsal process and had done one preview when we got shut down. Initially, we all thought we were coming back in a few weeks, but of course, that didn’t happen.”

La Cage Aux Folles

A few months ago, Hubbard got word that the Cygnet was ready to schedule live theater again, after almost 18 months of down time. “The first preview [of the La Cage aux Folles comeback] was September 10th. We officially opened on the 17th and we’re running all the way to November 7th.”

What’s it like to have steady work after such a long drought? “It’s been feeling really good. It’s a good test of endurance. Clearly, we’re all out of shape. So, we’re working up the endurance factor to do multiple shows a week and still deal with everything else in life. Right now, we are in week five, and we’re just kind in flow mode, it’s just about consistency, showing up and nailing the show every night. On the macro level, there is a kind of Zen feeling. On the micro level, you have to think about traffic, and making dinner, getting enough caffeine. But the music feels good, and we’ve been having fun. Everybody’s showing up happy to play, and the audiences have been really nice because they’re excited to have live performances back in their lives.”

What kind of precautions are being observed? Do you feel safe going to work indoors? “I do. We’ve been following Actors Equity protocols. Everybody is vaccinated, everybody’s wearing masks inside. There are temperature checks. We don’t see the audience at all, we’re downstairs in the pit. We don’t even go into the upstairs part of the theater.”

Hubbard plays all kinds of music, from rock to hip-hop and free jazz, and working in theater has traditionally been an important piece of his income stream. He’s been at this a while. “It started with a few shows at Palomar College as a student there back in 1995, and also at San Diego State in 1996 with Terry O’Donnell, who’s also the music director of this show. I’ve been working with him for that many years. I usually do one to three productions a year, so that’s probably 40 productions in the last 25 years.” He likes the work involved in repeated performances. “It really makes you dig in. As a musician, it requires digging deep into the music and yourself and your performance. You can zoom in and concentrate. So that’s good. Steady work is always great. It’s also nice to not have to set up. I literally walk in, take the cover off the timpani, turn my light on and I’m ready to play. After schlepping my drums all around town for all these different gigs, having a stable setup is great.”

When work wasn’t so steady, “I had to shift from doing so many real-time collaborations into a situation where I was producing and creating music by myself in my home studio. So, I’ve been doing a lot of that, which turned out to be super fun, and it allowed me to work in different ways.” Hubbard has a new EP dropping October 31 under his beatmaker-producer moniker Shadowfigure, Song of Forward, It will feature guests such as Alfred Howard, iD the Poet, and KILLcRey.

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Nathan Hubbard, beating the drum for the return to live theater.
Nathan Hubbard, beating the drum for the return to live theater.

Multiple San Diego Music Award-winning percussionist and producer Nathan Hubbard has always kept a lot of irons in the fire. So when San Diego shut down in March 2020 because of the pandemic, he lost a grip of work. Especially painful was the cancellation of a long run of performances in the pit band of La Cage aux Folles (known to movie fans as The Birdcage), at the Cygnet Theater in Old Town. “I’ve been doing productions at the Cygnet for six or seven years,” says Hubbard. “We had already been through the rehearsal process and had done one preview when we got shut down. Initially, we all thought we were coming back in a few weeks, but of course, that didn’t happen.”

La Cage Aux Folles

A few months ago, Hubbard got word that the Cygnet was ready to schedule live theater again, after almost 18 months of down time. “The first preview [of the La Cage aux Folles comeback] was September 10th. We officially opened on the 17th and we’re running all the way to November 7th.”

What’s it like to have steady work after such a long drought? “It’s been feeling really good. It’s a good test of endurance. Clearly, we’re all out of shape. So, we’re working up the endurance factor to do multiple shows a week and still deal with everything else in life. Right now, we are in week five, and we’re just kind in flow mode, it’s just about consistency, showing up and nailing the show every night. On the macro level, there is a kind of Zen feeling. On the micro level, you have to think about traffic, and making dinner, getting enough caffeine. But the music feels good, and we’ve been having fun. Everybody’s showing up happy to play, and the audiences have been really nice because they’re excited to have live performances back in their lives.”

What kind of precautions are being observed? Do you feel safe going to work indoors? “I do. We’ve been following Actors Equity protocols. Everybody is vaccinated, everybody’s wearing masks inside. There are temperature checks. We don’t see the audience at all, we’re downstairs in the pit. We don’t even go into the upstairs part of the theater.”

Hubbard plays all kinds of music, from rock to hip-hop and free jazz, and working in theater has traditionally been an important piece of his income stream. He’s been at this a while. “It started with a few shows at Palomar College as a student there back in 1995, and also at San Diego State in 1996 with Terry O’Donnell, who’s also the music director of this show. I’ve been working with him for that many years. I usually do one to three productions a year, so that’s probably 40 productions in the last 25 years.” He likes the work involved in repeated performances. “It really makes you dig in. As a musician, it requires digging deep into the music and yourself and your performance. You can zoom in and concentrate. So that’s good. Steady work is always great. It’s also nice to not have to set up. I literally walk in, take the cover off the timpani, turn my light on and I’m ready to play. After schlepping my drums all around town for all these different gigs, having a stable setup is great.”

When work wasn’t so steady, “I had to shift from doing so many real-time collaborations into a situation where I was producing and creating music by myself in my home studio. So, I’ve been doing a lot of that, which turned out to be super fun, and it allowed me to work in different ways.” Hubbard has a new EP dropping October 31 under his beatmaker-producer moniker Shadowfigure, Song of Forward, It will feature guests such as Alfred Howard, iD the Poet, and KILLcRey.

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Nathan Hubbard looks like SDSU professor Peter C. Herman's brother.....almost. Play that In Search of.... theme!

Nov. 2, 2021

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