February 11, 2009

St. Louis Day Off

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:07 pm

Bus.  And truck.

We left Poplar Bluff last night around 1:30AM.  Load out was a little rough due to the fact that the theatre doesn’t have a loading dock, and getting heavy carts up a ramp to the truck (in the rain) is a lot harder than getting them down (in the not-rain).  We also broke a castor on our plywood cart, which holds all the pieces of our floor. So after the cart was all packed and strapped down, we had to take it all off and load it by hand.  Our pipe cart, which is the heaviest, scariest piece to move even on a level surface, was never even attempted to be loaded in one piece.  The cart, and the metal box built into it that holds our cheeseboroughs, was loaded first, and then every piece of pipe loaded by hand.  It was quite comical when a backlog was reached, and we had a line of about 12 people stretching from the truck to the door of the theatre with these pipes.   I was about halfway back in the line and took this picture.

After load out we went to a Huddle House nearby for dinner.  Some of us didn’t get anything to eat before the show because we were rushing to get ready.  I know Daniel and I didn’t.  He had to adapt the lighting design for a venue with less than half of the instruments the plot requires.  In each city, once everything is focused, the two of us sit down and flip through all the cues on stage and make sure they look like what they’re supposed to, and reprogram them as necessary.  We were doing that right up through fight call, and then continued to make changes during fight call. There’s one bit of fight choreography which involves almost the entire cast running around with swords and poles and jumping on things in near-darkness followed by strobe lights, and I wanted to make sure they had a chance to do it in the cues we had built, to make sure we had given them enough light — of course we hadn’t, so good to know.  This was our first true one-nighter, and it was exhausting, but kind of freeing in the sense that there was no time to get tired of being someplace.  If there’s something not to like about the venue or the situation — the stage right door is dragging on the floor, the dressing room paging system isn’t great —  who cares, we’ll be gone tomorrow!  Two things basically made it hard in Poplar Bluff: the performance which had been contracted for 8pm ended up being at 7pm, which we found out the night before.  If we’d had that extra hour it would have been perfectly relaxing.  Also, if we’d had enough instruments (and interestingly, cable) to do the usual light plot, much less time would have been wasted redesigning the show as opposed to just putting it up like it always is.

One thing I want to share about our lighting situation for educational purposes: the lack of cable actually presented a greater obstacle than the lack of instruments.  We don’t travel with a full lighting package, but we do carry some strips and broad cycs.  Unfortunately, due to the short cable supply at the venue, we couldn’t use them.  The Henry design depends a lot on powerful silhouette images of blue and red created on our RP screen/black scrim combo, and we needed a way to preserve that.  When I saw the solution I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: three par cans, hung side by side dead center upstage of the RP.  One blue, one red, one no-color, or something similar.  Behind the RP was hung the house’s cyc, to use as a bounce.  I thought, “we can’t seriously expect this to work!”  Well let me tell you, it worked!  It wasn’t beautiful.  It would make a lighting designer cringe.  But it told the story just as well as the full design does, and if you weren’t a lighting designer, you’d never know or care that the coverage wasn’t quite as even as it should be.   For all the effort designers put into lighting cycs — fighting for the right number of strips, and just the right angles, we lit the damn thing with one instrument!  It may not be elegant, but when your plot requires 132 instruments and you’ve got 60-something (40 channels), it’s nothing short of a miracle.  Towards the end of the show I actually forgot I was calling something we had just thrown together a half hour before the house opened.  It really did look close enough to the real thing, and Daniel set up a bunch of submasters so he could fill in gaps when our thrown-together design needed a little extra something.  As he was right next to me, I knew he was using them a lot, but most of the time I couldn’t even tell by looking at the stage.  He said it was like running a 2-scene preset board.  One of the interesting things about this tour is that there’s an understanding that we will play venues that can’t satisfy the technical needs of the production.  It’s part of the deal of bringing professional theatre to communities that don’t normally get it.  Our bosses back in New York understand that we will have to cut corners some places, and me, Joel, Ian and the supervisors are expected to make any changes needed to do the best show we can with what we’ve got in each venue.  This was the first time we’ve really had to think on our feet, and I think we did a really good job.

This was our first audience that seemed to be made up of people who don’t get much exposure to Shakespeare.  They were a very quiet audience, but they livened up a bit in the second act, and were very appreciative at the end.  A number of people seemed to have left at intermission, which we assumed meant they didn’t like it, but one of the local guys believed they may not have known the show was over.  It’s really fun to perform for an audience that’s familiar with the show and follows it easily, but really the mission of the Acting Company is to perform for audiences like those we had last night.  If we’re the most professional theatre performance that comes through that venue, then we’ve accomplished our goal, and hopefully they got something educational and enjoyable out of seeing Shakespeare performed live by professional actors.

Nick and the cast stayed behind and performed the 1-hour Henry this morning for about 500 students, which apparently went well according to his report, except that the door on their bus broke in the morning and they had to take cabs!  It’s fixed now, and they are currently en route to join us in St. Louis.

As for me and the crew, after eating at Huddle House in a downpour and tornado warning, we got back on the bus and hit the road for the 2-hour drive to St. Louis.  I don’t know how long it actually took because I was exhausted and malnourished and damp and disgusting and went immediately to bed.  The drive was pretty scary.  The rain was ridiculous, first of all, but I could feel the wind pushing the bus to and fro, drifting all over the place.  It felt like we were going really fast, but I think that may have simply been the fact that we were driving into the wind so it felt like more resistance.  Not being able to see anything from the bunk, it’s sort of like a trust exercise.  You lie down in the dark and close your eyes, and no matter what you feel or hear, just trust that Bart’s not going to drive us into a tree or off a cliff, or get us sucked up into a tornado.  I don’t spend that much time in tornado country, and I’ve never seen one, but the idea of a tornado warning at night is very scary to me.  I mean, seeing a tornado is bad.  I figure not being able to see a tornado is worse!

Anyway, we apparently made it without tornado interference, as when I woke up we were in the parking lot of our hotel in St. Louis.  We arrived sometime overnight and Bart went to his room to sleep and left the rest of us sleeping in the bus, to check in whenever we felt like waking up.  I was desperate for a shower so I got up around 11AM, dressed and ran around in the rain trying to figure out which cargo bay my luggage wound up in.  Then I checked in and took the best shower ever.  Any shower would have been the best shower ever, but the water pressure was especially good, too.  I unpacked a bit, gathered up my dirty laundry to do tonight, bought a Mountain Dew from the vending machine, but having not bothered to bring my computer bag from the bus, eventually ran out of things to do, so I have returned.

By the time I got back, Daniel was up and at the desk in the front lounge, no doubt working on a light plot for some venue in the future.  That’s basically all he does.  I feel like at this point in the tour, there are many people whose jobs suck more than mine.  I’m not really used to that.  Anyway, I counted the number of closed curtains in the bunks (not counting Nick, who is traveling with the actors on this trip, and whose job also currently sucks more than mine), and determined that the back lounge would be unoccupied.  I was very pleased to find that the case, so here I sit, feet up on the leather couch.  The wind is still blowing the bus side to side.   Now people are starting to wake up and come visit me.  Our plan for the day is that when Bart has had enough sleep, he will come back to the bus and take us to see the St. Louis arch.  I’ve never been here, so I’m excited about that, because it’s pretty much the only thing I know about St. Louis.   Our plan to go go-carting has been squashed by the fact that the track we planned to visit has apparently shut down!  We were so excited, we even invited the cast to come with us tomorrow, and they were really looking forward to it, too.

Our schedule here is kind of nice.  We have the day off today, then load in at 8AM tomorrow (for Henry), but then have no show or anything else at night.  Friday Nick and the cast have a 1-hour Henry, which I suppose I’ll drag myself out of bed for if there’s no reason not to,  and then we do Big Henry at night.  Then Saturday at 8AM is the changeover to The Spy, and a performance that night, then we hit the road for Glenn Ellyn, IL.

1 Comment »

  1. We did a Moby in Maine with only 12 lighting instruments and a two-scene prefade board. Sadly, venues with less than required happen more often than you’d like!


    Comment by stagefocus — February 12, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

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