April 30, 2007

First Day of Tech

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:06 pm

Yesterday we started tech for Back from the Front at the Theatre at Riverside Church. As I mentioned in my earlier post I’m really excited about the set, and it was so cool to walk into the theatre and find it sitting there, just as it looks in the model and on our former rehearsal room floor, except full-sized and able to be walked through in 3D. The production manager gave me a brief tour, which was like coming home to an old familiar place, with the exception of having to get used to where the escape stairs were and the navigation backstage to get from place to place on the set. I took a wrong turn a few times the first few hours.

After walking through the set I went in search of my prop table, which I quickly found in the very spacious upstage area. It was more like a prop buffet about 12 ft. long — already set up and loosely categorized by our prop mistress. That rocked! I set up a little office for myself by adding an adjoining table, and went to work with a roll of white spike tape and a Sharpie, marking the table for the location of the props. I amused myself with props for about an hour-and-a-half as the actors arrived and did a costume parade on the set. Then the worklights were taken out and I realized the escape stairs and platforms were pretty darn dark, so I went to work glow taping all the edges and steps.

The rest of the day was spent on a spacing rehearsal, with the lighting designer building cues around us, and with sound cues. We reached the end of the day and the crew called it quits literally three seconds before one of my biggest cues in the show. I was rather disappointed about that.

It’s been a nice treat that our day off fell today so we can all rest up for the week, but I’m looking forward to continuing tomorrow morning.

April 25, 2007

#1 Reason to Be Equity: There Will Never Be a Video Allowing the Entire Internet to Second-Guess My Work

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:59 am

An incident happened last week at monologuist Mike Daisey’s show in Boston in which a high school group of about 80 people (in a 300-seat theatre) got up and walked out in the middle of his show. Apparently they were a Christian group and were offended by the language in the show (despite apparently having been told it had adult language when they bought their tickets). If you want the full story, it’s on his blog (with video of the whole thing, too!)

But that’s not really my point. There’s been some wondering in the online communities about whether an event of this magnitude might have been staged to drum up publicity for an otherwise largely unknown show. One thing in particular that is used as evidence is that the house lights were brought up right away when the people started to leave. Some have pointed to this as an indication that the stage manager was prepared for what was about to happen. I don’t really have a strong opinion about whether it was staged, but from the moment I saw the video I was interested in the decision to bring up the house lights, simply because I wasn’t sure what I would do if that happened to me.

My final decision is that if I had no idea why they were leaving, I probably would have brought up the lights too, because if a third of the house suddenly got up and rushed out, I would assume it was due to some sort of danger, not because an actor said the word “fuck.” Whatever it was, it would probably benefit everyone to be able to see, and the performance would have to be stopped anyway due to whatever dangerous situation existed. But if the booth was open to the house and I could hear some sort of rumblings of complaints about the material and had a good idea of why they were leaving, they would get no help from me in finding their way out, and I would not turn on the house lights unless told to do so by the house manager or the performer himself. So if this get-up-and-walk-out thing was as sudden as it appears to have been, I’m going to say the stage manager had no idea what was happening, and probably assumed there was a good reason to bring up the house lights immediately.

April 22, 2007

Further Adventures with the Rubik’s Cube

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:34 pm

So since my first day with the Rubik’s Cube which concluded with me spending two hours at home fixing it, I think I have had a total of one day of rehearsal which did not involve me having to solve the cube at least once. Many days I have had to do it two or three times. I have saved the site I use to help me to my Treo’s web browser, so I can call it up during rehearsal to fix the cube as we work. Since my duties right now basically consist of taking prop notes and being on book, any time we stop to talk about blocking or character work, I use that time to follow the directions and fiddle with the cube. Of course viewing a graphically-intensive page on such a small screen can get confusing, especially when the diagrams to show the moves don’t all fit on the screen at once. I have hopelessly screwed up an almost-solved cube numerous times because I got distracted at some point and obviously did something wrong.

Today I realized the need for a cheat sheet, and I made a crude pencil one during rehearsal, which worked very well. Tonight I arranged the graphics from that site into a concise page, which should eliminate a lot of the delays in restoring the cube during rehearsal.

The actor who uses the cube in the show has really taken to it, and perhaps due to the fact that he spends a lot of rehearsal sitting around, has come up with a good system to screw up the cube enough that it appears to be sufficiently jumbled-up, but he can solve it in six moves without getting confused. Unfortunately our cube is rather cheap and gets jammed a lot — it’s quite comical that when he practices he solves the cube easily while delivering his dialogue, but as soon as he gets in front of the director, the cube refuses to work smoothly and makes the whole endeavor look like a bad idea. But we’re confident we’ll get it to work. I’ve been trying to break the cube in for him during rehearsals when he’s not around. Which is how I got it screwed up today — the first time. The second time was because my PSM was messing with it and handed it to me saying, “Here, see if you can figure it out — it’s only two moves away.” I failed. Miserably.

I hate doing props, but one nice thing about it is that you can pick up really random skills.

April 17, 2007

Prop Master’s Nightmare — The Rubik’s Cube

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:01 pm

So my show has a Rubik’s Cube in it. And it needs to be solvable on stage by the actor in just a few turns. How exactly this is going to be set up so it works every night, we haven’t quite figured out yet. My instinct is to let the actor take it home and play with it, and figure out what works best for him. There’s been some concern about the possibility of the Rubik’s Cube getting hopelessly mixed up, but I assured everyone that in the unlikely event something happened to it, there are sites on the internet that show you the moves necessary to solve it. No big deal.

So today… the Cube wasn’t needed in rehearsal, so it sat on the stage management desk the entire day, and to stay sane while being on-book, I began spinning the cube, always in one direction, unless I was looking right at it, at which point I would spin it once the other way, and then quickly restore it.

After four hours of safe operation, I started to get a little too daring, and you can guess what happened. Long story short, if you need to solve a Rubik’s Cube, this site is the best I found for simple instructions and illustrations. But I will never get back the last two hours of my life, and I leave you with this bit of wisdom: the easiest way to solve a Rubik’s Cube is not to mess with it in the first place!

April 10, 2007

Pimp Your Mac with Theatre-Related Icons

I call this: computers,mac,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:09 pm

If you’re a visually-oriented Mac user like me, perhaps you like to make your frequently-used application and folder icons distinctive so that you know at a glance what you’re looking at. I’ve downloaded lots of icons from the web, but often I find there’s not one appropriate for my needs. Which makes sense, since nobody (else) bothers making icons for stage managers, or bearing the logo of some obscure new play or musical nobody has heard of. So I’ve taken to making my own to make things easier to find.

So here are some of my favorites, available for download in two packages.

Package #1 – Basic Folder Icons

Only two here. One is my basic Stage Management folder. I keep this one in my Finder sidebar, so I have a quick link to all of my subfolders of show files and general paperwork. One of those subfolders is my Equity folder, which holds the PDFs of the rulebooks for all the contracts I’ve worked under. Very handy to have around.

Package #2 – Show Folder Icons

When I’m doing a show, the folder for that show is one of the more important items in my computer, usually making its way into my sidebar for the duration of the production. As such, I like to have a nice, very noticeable icon (preferably that doesn’t look anything like the icons for other shows I’m currently working on.) This is a collection of folders for shows I’ve done or am currently working on (only the one’s you’ll ever hear of). Sorry the one for The Fantasticks has that weird orange border. Never quite figured out why it was doing that. Of course the logos are copyright of their respective shows — I wish they were mine, I’d be a millionaire.

The shows included are: 42nd Street, Crazy for You, Carousel, The Fantasticks, The King and I, The Phantom of the Opera, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Singin’ in the Rain, The Sound of Music, and The Will Rogers Follies.

Oh, and there’s also my icon for Adium (which is a highly customizable instant messenger app, if you’ve never tried it). It’s the Adium mascot, Adiumy, as a stage manager/tech person, with a cue light overhead to indicate Available, Away, Idle, Invisible, etc. Yeah, I know it doesn’t make any logical sense that the same lightbulb keeps changing colors. I really did want to have all the bulbs visible, cause I’m a perfectionist, but 128 pixels is 128 pixels, and it has to look better much smaller than that.

How It’s Done
To make simple icons, I use a shareware app called Can Combine Icons, which is incredibly easy to use if you just want to combine two icons or images, and it comes with a full library of standard Mac icon images to get started with. Some simple image manipulation and color changing is also possible, which works great when you want the folder color to match whatever else you’re putting on it. It’s only 10 bucks, and for how much I use it, and how you can create a professional-looking icon in literally seconds, it’s well worth it. I should caution though, that it doesn’t seem to have been updated in a long time, and I’m not 100% sure of its Intel-compatibility (though I can’t see why it should be a problem), and some comments on VersionTracker indicate the developer may be slow to generate registration codes now. But it’s one of the best apps I’ve ever purchased, so I can’t complain. And of course there is a free trial.

To change an icon for an application or folder, click on whatever icon you want to use (perhaps one you’ve downloaded here), and press command-i. This will open the item info window. In the upper left corner is an image of the current icon. If you click on that, it gets highlighted. Press command-c to copy the image. Then do command-i on whatever item you want to apply the first icon to, click on the icon image in the resulting info window, and press command-v to paste the icon. If you want to go back to the default icon for that item, command-x for “cut” will remove whatever custom icon you’ve added.

What I’m Working On

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:00 pm

Updates have been a little light for the last week, partially because nothing particularly interesting has happened, and partially because I’ve been busy with work, on a show that is quite interesting itself.

Now that we’ve got some digital publicity materials available, the time has come for me to plug my show. It’s a new play produced by The Working Theatre (who hold a special place in my heart since I got my Equity card with them). It’s called Back from the Front, by Lynn Rosen. I’m not the best press rep, so let me quote from the show’s publicity material:

Back From the Front paints an absurd picture of America at war, a hilarious and finally tragic portrait of a family coming apart at the seams. When a government liaison announces to the Walker family on national TV that their son, Robbie, who’s been mysteriously inaccessible since his helicopter was shot down in Iraq, will be delivered home for Thanksgiving, they are overjoyed. But when a strange young man in uniform arrives on their door-step, they go to record depths of denial to avoid the unbearable prospect of loss.

Yes, it’s a farce about the possible death of a young man in Iraq. When this job was pitched to me, my first reaction was that it would have to be some amazing writing, or else it was going to be really bad. The first read-through removed all my doubts — it actually works. It’s hysterically funny, and at the same time tragic and moving. And we have a great director and cast, so I can’t wait to see the full production, and hear how it plays with an audience.

The set design has me particularly excited, but I don’t want to say much, as all the really cool things about it are meant to be surprises. I didn’t even mind spending two hours taping it out on the floor this morning — I was just so happy to see it come to life in actual size, if only in the form of yellow lines on the rehearsal room floor.

It plays at the Riverside Theatre at Riverside Church (where I did my first professional show, so that’s another nice homecoming), throughout May.

April 4, 2007

This week’s Apple news

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 3:57 pm

Quick wrap-up of some interesting things that happened this week:
Steve Jobs will lead us from the evils of DRM
Some time ago, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter saying that he felt the future of digital music was to remove digital rights management and let consumers play their purchased music however they want and on whatever device they want. Well it’s actually happening. The iTunes Store will be selling DRM-free, higher-quality (256kbps) music published by EMI for $1.29. If you already own the songs you will be able to upgrade to the non-DRM versions by paying the extra 30 cents. You will still be able to buy songs in the original format for 99 cents if you choose. Some people are mad about the price increase. I think freedom to do what you want with music you own is worth more than 30 cents, so I’m happy. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before all the major labels convert.

Complete My Album
In more minor iTunes news, there’s this new feature available now on the iTunes Store that will be helpful for people who own songs from an album and don’t want to pay the full price when they later decide to purchase the entire album. If you go to the Complete My Album icon on the store, it will show you your albums and how much it will cost you to complete each one. Cool way of doing it, I think. Unfortunately, you only have six months after purchasing the song to be able to apply it to the album cost. That’s kind of lame.

Lower prices on Cinema Displays
Always a good thing, given the high price of quality flat-panel monitors. The prices are:

  • 20-inch: $599
  • 23-inch: $899
  • 30-inch: $1799

Personally, if I was in the market for one, I would be cautious, because a price drop usually means something better is around the corner, and the discontinuation of the standalone iSight would seem to indicate that soon all Apple monitors will have built-in iSights. Even if you’re not interested in an iSight, you never know what crazy improvements they’ll come up with. But if I had unlimited funding, I might be interested in one (or eight) because of this…

8-core Mac Pros
I don’t get as excited about processors as some people get (at least when I know I’m not going to be using them), but I do know that quad-core is all the rage, and two quad-cores is naturally double the rage, and as a result people have been hoping for the announcement of an 8-core Mac. Congrats.

So it uses two of the ‚ÄúClovertown‚ÄĚ 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 processors which should give it a rating of “really fucking fast” on my personal benchmark against my 1.25GHz G4. It can take up to 16GB of RAM, and I’m not sure if this is new to this model, but the video cards can support up to 8 monitors (I assume that would mean 4 of the 30-inch ones). Damn. If I had a million dollars, I’d buy one of these and 8 23″ monitors wrapped around my entire desk, just because I can.

So how much does it cost? Well the starting price on the Apple Store is $2499 for a Mac Pro, but that’s not for the new chips. I configured a system with the 8-core chips, 16MB of RAM, and eight 23″ HD monitors, and it came out to $19,473.90, including tax. As this is only slightly below my average annual income, I think I will have to settle for the Macbook Pro I’ve got my eye on.

April 2, 2007

GTA IV Update

I call this: gaming — Posted by KP @ 3:37 pm

So I went to Gamestop today (the 8th St. & Broadway location) and reserved my copy of GTA IV for the PS3. I was very excited to be presented with a sticker in return. I remember when San Andreas came out they gave out a giant sticker to people who preordered, but gave it out with the game, which is a nice surprise, but kind of upstaged by having the game itself in your hands. This way is much better, I think. Unfortunately I don’t really have a good place to put it, so for now it’s just lightly stuck to my computer.

The minimum deposit for the game is $5, which is what I paid, considering I don’t even own a PS3 and am not 100% sure that that’s the platform I’ll be going with. Not to mention that I really have no idea where I’ll be working in October. I could be touring Europe for all I know.

One thing that sucks about the way Gamestop does reservations is that you have to be there in person. Last year I wanted to pre-order the DS Lite, but I was going to be working in Massachusetts for the summer, and it was being released about a week after I arrived. I asked my local Gamestop if I could pay them and have the game held at the Gamestop up there. Nope. I called the Gamestop up there and explained the situation, and asked if I could reserve over the phone and pay by credit card. Nope. So when I finally arrived, I picked up my rental car and immediately tore down to Burlington to make my reservation in person. I got the second-to-last one. I don’t really see what the problem would be with allowing someone to make a reservation with whatever store they’re going to be near on release day.

April 1, 2007

GTA IV Trailer Released

I call this: gaming — Posted by KP @ 4:54 pm

I don’t know how this escaped my attention for two days, but Rockstar Games has released a trailer for the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV, which will be set in a city resembling New York. The release date is still set for October 16. The Rockstar website for the game still has no other content besides the trailer, but so far it looks awesome.

I’ve been holding off buying a 360 or PS3 until the release of this game. I’m still thinking I’ll wind up with the PS3 because I find the controller much more comfortable than the X-box, especially for someone like me with small hands. Not looking forward to the cost of it, but I still have a long time to make that final decision, and find out what the differences will be between the two versions of this game in particular.

My day tomorrow:
9:30 Dentist
11:30 Go to Gamestop and preorder GTA IV