June 30, 2009

MobileMe Caution for Stage Managers

I call this: mac — Posted by KP @ 11:41 pm

If you’re like me and are a member of Apple’s MobileMe (formerly .Mac) service, and use your MobileMe email address for business (or even excessive pleasure), you may need to know about certain policies they have to discourage people from using their accounts to send spam (as if a spammer is going to pay $100/year just to get an email address).

  • There is a maximum of 200 outgoing emails a day.
  • Maximum 1,000 recipients a day
  • Maximum 100 recipients per message
  • 20MB limit per message

The policies are outlined on this page.

I haven’t had a massive problem with this, although my SMTP server did stop working this morning. It being the day of the first rehearsal, you can imagine how many emails I’ve been sending to my cast of 59, plus the production team. Thankfully I was able to immediately switch to the smtp server used by my @thegobutton.net addresses, and didn’t think anything of it until I coincidentally heard of this policy a few hours later. I’m not sure if it was related or not, but given the size of the cast and the nature of my job, especially in preproduction and the early stages of the rehearsal process, it’s definitely within the realm of possibility that I will be hitting these limits at some point.

Currently the general email list (cast, plus the people in the office, director, designers, music staff and department heads) totals 75 people, so under different circumstances hitting 100 wouldn’t be that hard.

I still think the MobileMe service is a good value, especially with recent features they’ve added like Find My iPhone, but since I just learned of this potential problem, I thought I should mention it since it’s at least something to keep in mind when sending frequent group emails.

June 27, 2009

Dolly – End of Run

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:44 am

IMG_0760We close Dolly tomorrow, and I’m definitely going to miss it. The show has been a pleasure from start to finish. Our houses have been packed, and the response from the audience wildly enthusiastic. There are so many numbers that stop the show — “Sunday Clothes,” “Hello, Dolly” and “Before the Parade Passes By” tend to be the ones where the actors often get stuck standing there waiting for people to stop clapping for 30 seconds or more. It’s really fun to work on a good show, especially one that has such iconic moments as those three songs. The set is still unwieldy at times (it’s the most inconveniently overbuilt, bent-out-of-shape pile of steel and wood you could ever work with), but it looks great, and a lot of the light cues are really cool and fun to play with. For calling a show, it’s pretty high up there on satisfying experiences. Not so hard as to be frustrating, but it’s challenging to keep up to the level of all the other excellence on the stage.

Today I spent pretty much all my waking hours working on paperwork for Mame, and while I was at it, decided to do the paperwork for La Cage at the same time since they start off the same templates. All the Mame stuff got done, and except for the contact sheet which is half-done, La Cage is as good as it can get until we get closer. It took me six hours, right up until the time I had to leave for the theatre, but I eliminated a few hours of work for myself over the weekend — and over the weekend four weeks from now, when I’d need to do all that La Cage stuff. I’d have kept going too, if I didn’t have to go to the show!

Tomorrow I’ll probably spend some time taking notes on the Mame script, but I’m pretty well caught up until we have a schedule. We have a production meeting on the dinner break of the first rehearsal (I hate doing that, but we had to to accommodate people’s schedules). We’re building the set for this one, which is a big undertaking but also good because we don’t wind up with set pieces that are too tall for the theatre, which happens, oh, every time we use a rental set. A lot of it was built during this past week and is shoved in random corners of the building, like in the dance studio, until Dolly starts loading out tomorrow. The truck will arrive in the afternoon, and all pieces not used in the show will be loaded then. The rest of course will have to wait until they’re done on stage!

June 24, 2009

Equity Stage Managers and AFTRA

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:00 pm

Just sharing something I learned, in the hopes that it will help others who find themselves in this situation:

If you are an Equity stage manager and your show is filmed in such a way that you and the actors are paid through AFTRA, you may learn the hard way that once you have done this twice, you must join AFTRA.

EXCEPT, this is not quite true. Because stage managers are not performers, AFTRA waives the need to join the union and still pays you. Normally stage managers get the short end of the stick on Equity issues, but for once we get the far better deal! So if, as happened in my case, AFTRA makes a mistake and sends you a membership letter saying you need to pay them $1,000 before they release the $400 you’ve earned, just call them up and explain that you’re a stage manager and you should be all set! And try not to gloat in front of your cast, most of whom just got totally hosed.

Thanks to Nick for getting all “This is BS!” and doing all the research on this.

June 19, 2009

iPhone 3GS Day

I call this: mac,phones — Posted by KP @ 5:39 am

4:32AM (Yawn) Good morning! Almost time to go! Jean-Alfred will be picking me up at 4:40. I’m not really tired, but I had no idea what my alarm was doing going off at 3:30.

4:58AM We timed it well. One guy arrived about 10 seconds ahead of us. We’re 2nd & 3rd in line.
After a couple minutes we’re up to about 6 people. The security guard is letting us wait in the vestibule cause it’s raining. The doors will open at 6:00.

5:20AM I don’t think you can tell from the picture but they’ve set up some velvet ropes outside the store.

5:40AM We are in the mall now and in front of the store. A friendly Apple employee is chatting us up. He has the new phone to do all their sales stuff. Here’s a picture of the compass. He said there’s 400-something reservations here!

The current topic of conversation is the Palm Pre. People surprised they went with a plastic screen.
The view from my spot in line:

As has been reported elsewhere, there are two lines — one for reservations and one not. I’m glad we’re at the front since we don’t have reservations and there are over 400 people who do. I heard a rumor that they will pull people from each line in turn (I believe 3 reservations to every 1 non-reserved). No idea if this is true though.

Many more employees showing up, wishing us good morning as they pass.

6:20AM Lost you there for a while. Man this WordPress client sucks. Had to delete and reinstall.

They came around serving coffee a little while ago. The line is now getting substantial. It hasn’t gone outside the ropes yet. Jean-Alfred is estimating about 40 people.

Apple employees inside look like they’re having a meeting.

The giant iPhone in the window next to us is showing demos of the software, including MMS. Ummm. Are they trying to antagonize AT&T, or too lazy to have multiple videos for different regions?

6:37AM Employees still meeting. Nothing much is new. The line has only grown a little bit.

6:50AM. Meeting over. Employees manning battle stations. We may be going soon!

Manager heard asking employees if they’re ready.

Looks like they may just be waiting on the clock.

Employees look as restless as we are!

And we’re going!!!

Because they are taking more reserved, I’m the 1st person who didn’t get immediately to a salesperson.

Being helped. The guy went to get it.

Having problems with upgrade pricing. On hold with AT&T. I think Jean-Alfred is done. Looks like he went for the white one.

No he’s done with purchase, now has to activate (he’s switching from Verizon).

Jean-Alfred is done, now waiting for me! Still on hold after at least 20 minutes.

Apple Store still unable to reach AT&T in excess of 45 minutes.

The plan now is I pay full price and can return the phone within 30 days if they establish that I paid too much. Just waiting for my original salesguy to be free. Employees here are great, keeping those of us at the problem desk in a good mood. I feel bad for them being on hold with AT&T all day.

8:55AM I’m home now with my new phone. Sorry I couldn’t update, but once my phone switched over, I didn’t have all my apps on it yet (and didn’t want to bother downloading them). Setting up the phone now.

Jean-Alfred tried to take a picture of me leaving the store with my phone, but he took a video instead. It cracks me up, so I will share that.

9:20AM Looks like the Apple servers are having some problems (maybe AT&T’s). My phone restored, but doesn’t seem able to register. iTunes is hanging at “Connecting to iTunes Store.” It restored my icon placement and bookmarks on the springboard, but hasn’t restored any of my apps or music. I hope it’s not a repeat of last year where I had to wait hours for my phone to be able to sync. I hate that they make it so that you can’t accomplish anything with the phone until it’s registered. Oh, it just gave up with an error message. Now it looks like it’s letting me sync anyway.

Oh, P.S. at the store they also were pushing a 30% discount on MobileMe when you buy the phone. Good deal. Jean-Alfred signed up for it, and I bought it as well, since I can apply that to my existing subscription, basically giving me a discount on my next year.

To elaborate on what my problem with AT&T was…
A while back I checked my eligibility for an upgrade, and the Apple and AT&T sites were showing only the option to pay $699 full price without a contract extension. I emailed AT&T customer service about this, and it was explained that if I signed a new 2-year contract I could get it for $499. Well when I went to buy the phone of course that option does not come up. As I said, the customer care guy was on hold with AT&T for an hour before I left, and none of the store employees had successfully gotten a call through to an AT&T rep since sales began. So they couldn’t straighten it out, but I bought the phone for full price, with the promise that I could return it within 30 days if I later was able to establish that I was wrongly charged, and then re-purchase it for the lower price. So I have just sent an email to my AT&T person, asking if there’s something wrong with my account file that needs to be corrected to allow the sale to go through. As I said at the Apple Store, I’m starting to believe she may have just pulled that story out of her ass, since none of the Apple Store employees knew anything about the policy either.

10:20AM Done syncing for the moment. I think maybe the speaker is just a touch louder when playing music. I’m listening to the same song on both phones side-by-side. The 3GS just sounds a little “fuller” somehow. Entirely possible it’s my imagination.

I’m still not able to access the App Store. Also my MobileMe SMTP server isn’t working. Incoming mail seems fine. Hardly surprising, I’m just really frustrated that no decent push-enabled apps have shown up in the store yet, and I want to see if more have been approved!

I may go back to bed now. I need to be still awake and calling a show in about 12 hours, and that just ain’t gonna happen! Maybe the server traffic will be better when I get up.

4:00PMI slept for a couple hours. By the time I got back up, OS 3.0 jailbreak is available for the 3G. Did that. All is well and the 3G works fine with the 3GS’s SIM card. Not sure what AT&T thinks of that. I’m sure they have some problem with me using the SIM card for the phone I paid $700 for in the phone I paid $500 for, for which service I pay $100/month. Those couple KB of data must really be causing some irreparable harm to their business because I used a different but almost-identical piece of hardware to consume it. I’ll be cautious with my data usage until some time passes and there are no horror stories from other people.

Also, I got a response to my email from a different rep at AT&T saying my problem is being forwarded to a “specialty group” and I will be contacted within one business day for more follow-up.

UPDATE: Just a couple hours later, somebody from AT&T called me, which I appreciate. Turns out I’m actually NOT eligible and the customer service lady who originally handled my inquiry, in her “extensive review” of my account seems to have neglected to check that I was eligible before telling me I was eligible. Well the good news is that it will all come out in the wash next year, as by paying $200 extra this time, I will be eligible for $400 off the next model.

I haven’t touched on this now because unless one wants to do complex testing, it’s kind of hard to objectively test speed. But lest you think the phone is not faster, let me just say it is. It’s snappy. I also noticed a speed boost with 3.0 on my 3G, but I wasn’t sure if that was simply because I was using a non-jailbroken firmware. Jailbreaking adds some background processes, so a legit firmware always runs a little faster anyway. Which is why I hope AT&T gets their tethering plan together quickly so I will never need to jailbreak again.

But with the 3GS, there is a definite speed improvement above and beyond the performance of the 3G. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to upgrade. Annoying splash screens on apps that almost made me want to delete them are now gone in just a second or two. The camera takes pictures faster, everything just kind of zips along. To me even a couple seconds’ difference is a huge advantage in usability, because I will now make decisions differently. If I only have a couple seconds to take a picture or jot a note to myself, I may now bother to do so where before I would have thought I wouldn’t have time.

I can’t wait to play with the camera more. I think this is the best thing about the phone for me. I take a lot of pictures, in situations where a phone camera is not really the best choice. Almost all the photos in this blog in the last 9 months or so were taken with my 3G iPhone, as well as my entire Flickr photostream. One of my Flickr photos of the St. Louis arch was even chosen to be published in an online travel guide. I have been very impressed with the ability of the iPhone to take decent pictures and upload them instantly and with GPS coordinates to various places on the web. I think it has changed the rules of casual photography, especially for bloggers. The 3G does pretty well for a phone camera, but I think the 3GS will close the gap between phone and real camera even more. When I’m someplace more interesting than my apartment I’ll start taking some pics for a later post.

Important Tip!
gpsI was about to write a strongly worded post about how the Maps app doesn’t show the direction you’re facing to take advantage of the new compass, but TUAW has a post explaining all. You just have to hit the location button twice to toggle it on, and then you can spin around and the map will rotate so that the direction you’re facing is always “up” on the map. As someone who is frequently away from home and in unfamiliar places, this may be the greatest feature ever. I feel like a character in a video game now.

June 18, 2009

iPhone 3GS News Coming Soon

I call this: phones — Posted by KP @ 9:19 am

picture-1Well it’s just 22 hours or so before the release of the iPhone 3GS here on the east coast. Hello, Dolly! has its first performance this afternoon, then we have a little party at our choreographer’s house (famous for her midnight volleyball games, although this time it might be “rainy, early-evening volleyball”).

Then tomorrow at the crack of dawn — literally — I will be traveling with my friend and co-worker Jean-Alfred to the Apple Store, where we will line up for the new iPhone. I did it last year, but I was by myself so it was kind of boring, and I was there for four and a half hours with only a Windows Mobile phone (yuck!) to keep me entertained and informed. I think this year will be much better, and I hope I will not be standing still in line for an hour or more while AT&T’s servers are crashed.

I plan to blog our experience in line, so check back tomorrow!

June 12, 2009

Dolly Week 2

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:48 pm

Sorry I haven’t been around much. I’ve been so busy, I don’t feel like I ever have any free time. I actually have a decent amount of time off, but I don’t ever feel like I have time to be alone and uninterrupted long enough to attempt something that requires more than a few minutes of intense focusing. I have been trying to ensure I get enough sleep, especially since I have forsworn soda and to a large extent, coffee, and can’t rely on caffeine to make me functional. I also don’t have exclusive use of my car on this show, so I never go anywhere on the meal break and don’t accomplish much outside of the theatre and the housing, and when I’m at the theatre I never seem to be able to find a quiet place to work without disruption. Everything else in my life is falling apart, but I’m in better shape and the show is going smoothly, so I guess that’s something.

Rehearsals are going really well. The show is going to be great, and Rachel York is going to be an amazing Dolly. I’m very proud of what we’re accomplishing. We’re a little behind where I’d like to be in that we start tech tomorrow and there are still new things to teach today, and we won’t get to do a run before tech (though we will have done something resembling a run for each act — a week apart), but I think tech will go relatively smoothly.

My suspicion about tech is that it will be a show like Carousel, where each act only has a few scenes, and things will progress much more quickly than it seems because really not that much changes. The few changes are huge, but once they’re done, the majority of stage time sits in long scenes. At least it’s my hope that that’s the way it will go. I’m a little nervous starting tech, but the show is going to be so good, all we have to do is get through it.

June 6, 2009

Dolly – 1st Weekend

I call this: summer stock — Posted by KP @ 6:56 pm

We’re into our first weekend of Dolly rehearsals, and things are going really well. I have had hardly any time at all to see the ensemble, but they seem to be moving quickly. We’re all together this afternoon, so I can begin learning the full-company musical numbers.

Rehearsal with the principals has been great. They are all very talented, but most of all have great chemistry together. We are still deep in the stage of blocking and learning lines, but I’m very anxious to see just how good the show gets once everybody is secure in what they’re doing.

Tomorrow we’re going to do a workthrough of Act I. Should be exciting!

June 2, 2009

Day 1 of Dolly

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:26 pm

dollysetOne rehearsal down, 14 to go!

The first day went very well. We had a production meeting in the morning, which was very productive. I think we’ve got a great team for this show, and started off on the right tone of friendly collaboration. A bit of the set has been assembled on the deck, which is always fun, and gets some good discussions going.

Our afternoon consisted of music rehearsals with the principals. Some old friends, one new friend I made while sharing a bottle of wine until 2AM last night, and our leading lady and leading man — Rachel York and Jamie Ross, who I met for the first time today, who were both lovely. Again, a great atmosphere in the room — I think we’re going to have a fun time.

In the evening, we had the full company — not quite all 51 of them (I think that’s the latest count), but enough — and did a read/sing-through of the show, and some fittings. So far the vibe is relatively relaxed and friendly. I’m really looking forward to doing this fun show with this fun group of people.

It’s kind of fun — in the way that being on a roller coaster is fun because you think you might be killed — to be PSMing a giant musical again. The challenges of touring were interesting, but there are lots of stage management muscles that have had a chance to atrophy in the last six months, and it felt good to work them out again. As much as every day on tour was a new adventure, I’ve forgotten the absolute terror that comes with pretty much every day in a summer stock season. Every day is a battle — you can feel great about a victory at the end of one day, but the next day you have to suit up again and start over, and earn that day’s victory. This is not to say that it’s an unpleasant work environment, or a battle against other people — the battle is you against the show, and overcoming whatever complications the day might throw at you.

Our director said something today which I appreciated: “People say that good casting is the most important thing in the success of a show. It’s not. It’s the PSM, then the casting.” I’ve never heard anybody say that before, but I like to think it’s true. I hope that the show makes my life easy, but if it doesn’t, I hope I have the presence of mind to make all the right decisions and make the process go as smoothly as possible for the other hundred or so people who depend on me.