October 31, 2009

Wrapping Up

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:55 pm

It’s almost time to say goodbye to Inventing Avi. We close tomorrow afternoon, bringing our two-month process to a very successful end.

It’s been a great time from beginning to end, and I’ve gotten to experience pretty much every aspect of the production in my journey from ASM to PSM.

We’re just enjoying the last few performances now, hanging out in the greenroom before the show. The “greenroom” kind of extends to the entire backstage hallway where the other dressing rooms are. People pretty much yell between any room in the backstage environment.

The show was filmed for archival purposes last night, which gives us Equity members a nice unexpected extra paycheck.

I’m very excited to have some free time to prepare for the Acting Company tour, but I will definitely miss this show and the people working on it.

Site Updates

I call this: tech — Posted by KP @ 4:54 am

You’ll see some changes to the layout happened overnight.

Dear IE6 Users: I hope you’re both happier now

It started out with me wanting to make the site look just a tiny bit better in IE6. Our computer at the office has it, which has given me an opportunity to see just how craptastic it is. IE6 users make up 1% of my traffic, so I’m not willing to compromise too much — make that at all — but I wanted to fix any glaring mistakes.

One thing is that my resume was illegible because IE6 doesn’t take kindly to being given font sizes in percentages. By switching to pixels everybody’s happy, and now some producer with an old computer who doesn’t know how to download Firefox can read my resume.

The other major ugliness is that IE6 doesn’t support transparency in PNG images. It does support transparent GIFs, but GIFs are naturally lower quality. I tried to save the logo as a GIF and it looked awful around the edges. I felt I had tried. But tonight, I decided to try again, and when I cheated by using the matte feature in Photoshop to tell it what color the edges should blend into (I chose my favorite gray, #333333, which blends quite well with the carbon fiber background), it actually looked basically the same as the PNG. And the file size is a third of the original. So now IE6 users will see the nice clean lines of the logo and the bullet points.

OK so how do I know this? I found a nice little program called MultipleIE. It’s a Windows-based program that only runs on XP. It automatically installs a copy of whatever old version(s) of IE you want, from 3.0 to 6.0, and does not interfere with whatever newer version you have. I run Windows virtually in Parallels, so it’s easy to flip between coding on the Mac and checking Safari, and then checking how it looks in Windows.

I still have some more little ugliness to address (some of it in IE8 as well), which I will look into some other time when it’s not 5AM on a matinee day.

Warning: More Geek Speak Ahead

This morning I was reading about CSS3 and HTML5, both web standards that are all new and fancy and not yet completely supported by even the most current browsers. But I found it interesting to think that I could start playing around with some of these features, so long as they don’t make the site look bad in older browsers.

The biggest thing I played with tonight is the idea of curved boxes. I’ve always wanted curved boxes, but my philosophy with this site is that I want it to be flexible and code-based, and not wrestled into looking pretty with a bunch of images strung together that only look good in one size window.

However, using the CSS3 properties -moz-border-radius and -webkit-border-radius (for Mozilla and Webkit-based browsers, naturally), you can specify the radius in pixels (I used 10). There are also ways to add curves to each corner individually. This is the page where I learned about it. The best part of all this is that if you’re using Firefox or Safari, the site will look really cool. If you’re using something else, it will just look rectangular instead of curvy, which is not as cool, but still not bad. It doesn’t punish people for having an older browser, it’s just an added bonus for those who do. That’s why I’ve always had text shadows, and have stuck to color combinations that are still legible without the shadow.

October 23, 2009

So There

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:45 pm

So you know how Josh just got a production contract and I’ve been running our show.

Well today I found out I’m getting a production contract, too.

…For two performances I did a month and a half ago.

After a series of negotiations on Facebook, I have made arrangements to sign this document, which will guarantee that last month I was able to pay all my utility bills. And probably used the change left over for a couple pumpkin spice lattes.

See, they’re actually required to tell you this when you sign it — it’s the first thing on the top. Josh’s contract is going to pay his RENT. I think PHANTOM describes mine quite well!

October 20, 2009

Day 1 as PSM

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:48 pm

So today was my first day as PSM. I got in early to make sure the theatre was open for Michelle to bring the laundry back at 4:30. At 5:30 more people started to arrive (it was a 7:00 show). Mark Waldrop (director) comes in, which I was expecting, because he said last week he’d come to watch the show Tuesday night. But he’s not here to watch the show. He’s here to talk to me about scheduling rehearsal! At this point I’m imagining the text message I’m going to send Josh. We were all under the impression there would be no rehearsal once the show opened. I actually thought it was contractual, but soon discovered when I actually read the LOA that it’s not.

The thing is that the show is doing well and there are a lot of people hoping it will have a life after this, so even though we only have two more weeks, this is important time for the writers to make adjustments and try them out in front of audiences. So here I am, first day, scheduling rehearsal. And the lighting will need to change so I’m working with the designer about that.

The show itself went really well. I was saying early in the evening how I was worried about Mark watching because the 2nd performance is always the worst one. I was secretly happy when he said he wouldn’t be watching, but as it turns out the show was perfect. Which must be a world record or something because I find most 2nd performances are disastrous. You get relaxed cause you’ve done it once, and forget that you still don’t really know what you’re doing.

The other thing I was able to experience by calling the show alone for the first time is that it’s really fun. It’s got just the right pace of cues to have lots of action with just enough down time. Not to mention the show is just funny, and that alone will keep me entertained for another 13 performances.

Google Wave

I call this: computers,tech — Posted by KP @ 12:44 pm
Update: I have made a much more comprehensive post about Wave.

So after some begging and much waiting, I got myself an invite to Google Wave. I haven’t had much opportunity to try it out since as far as I know only one person I know has it. I’m looking forward to it being released to more people so I can start playing around with it. It does look like it would be very helpful for conversations about productions, especially since the nature of my upcoming tour has us rehearsing halfway across the country from where the designers and crew are, and from where the set is being built.

Here’s a cute YouTube video that I found which explains “3.5%” of the functionality of Google Wave, namely how it can replace and improve upon email.


I like to keep things forever, and I tend to refer back to them over time. My email folder goes back to 2003 (I can’t remember what I did to lose my data from before that, but that’s when I got my Equity card, so it covers pretty much all major shows I’ve done). If I can manage not to screw anything up, I fully expect to be able to be able to read my emails from 2003 fifty years from now. If I can’t, something is wrong with the choices we have made technologically. I don’t have a problem with cloud computing, as long as I can have a copy of everything locally, in an open format that doesn’t depend upon one company staying in business and supporting that format for me to continue to be able to access and manipulate my data. If Google Wave catches on, I will need to know that it can be saved with the same certainty as email.

It’s still very much a beta, but I like the concept in general and I’m excited to see what it turns out to be useful for.

October 19, 2009

Movin’ On Up

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:07 am

The big news this weekend is that Josh, my good friend and current PSM, has been hired as an emergency replacement ASM on the Rent tour for the next 4-6 weeks. This happened on opening night, and took about a day and a half to get resolved.

The final outcome is that Josh is leaving the show after today, I’m becoming the PSM, and my assistant from the road, Nick, who was to be our sub for Josh’s scheduled day off on Halloween, was rushed into training to become the full-time ASM. Today I called the show for the first time, and thankfully didn’t screw anything up.

Let’s be honest: the absolute best thing about this is that it means I can stop wearing black. It’s been a really long time since I was an ASM, and my wardrobe no longer supports long-term wearing of black, and I miss my comfy white-and-green Pumas. Today was awesome. I wore not a stitch of black!

October 13, 2009

Geeking Out About Color

I call this: computers — Posted by KP @ 2:29 pm

I’ve been kind of obsessed with color since I started web design.

Picking the colors for the new site was a huge mental undertaking, and I think I’ve got something I’m kinda happy with for now. Let me introduce you to my colors:

#FF4F03 This is the primary color used on the site. Let’s just say I have the hex code memorized. It’s the link color, and the navbar and most orange things are based off of it in some way. That picture of the tech table on the front page is tinted with this color. It’s kind of everywhere.
                           #F02311 This red is used very sparingly, on the line that divides the main content from the sidebar, and as the text shadow and underline for the H3 headings. The most interesting thing about this color is that on colourlovers.com it has been named as “Sex on the Floor”.
#FB8400 This orange carried over from the old site, kind of by accident. I had finished the site but was still unhappy with the colors I chose for the H2 heading. When I was updating the blog colors it looked so much better than what I was about to replace it with that I kept it.
#666666 I like grays a lot. I also like grays that have hex codes that are easy to remember. You will see this is a pattern. This is my default medium gray, it’s also used on the H1 headings.
#333333 This is my favorite gray. It was used a lot on the old site. All the “black” text on the site is actually this color.
#4D4D4D This one is my 2nd-favorite gray. It’s around here and there, mostly for text. It’s most prominent as the H3 heading (with that “Sex on the Floor” color as text shadow).
#F6F6F6 This was a new one for me. It’s only used on the front page for the box that I call “topfeatures.” That box used to be a darker color but when I used the orange mentioned above for the headings it looked muddy, so I needed something that was not quite white but would allow the headings to pop.

As I mentioned, I use ColourLovers.com to find new interesting color combinations and to play with palettes. It’s a cool site.

Grand Opening!

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 12:32 am

balloonsIt’s time for HeadsetChatter.com to be unleashed on the world! The dust has been cleaned up from the site redesign, and pages have been added and updated.

Tell your friends, tell your enemies!

Don’t forget to follow @headsetchatter on Twitter!

October 10, 2009

Learning to Call

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:03 am

Today we had another 2-hour rehearsal before the show. Rehearsing during previews has been getting tedious, but today ended up being very productive, perhaps for me most of all. When I arrived Josh told me that Mark planned to use the time for a speed-through of the whole show. I commented about what a shame it was that I hadn’t begun learning to call, since it would be a good opportunity to take a crack at calling.

Josh responded kind of positively to that, and I said, “well, how self-explanatory is it?” I had not even looked at the calling script yet. He thought maybe I could do it. So we got Mark’s blessing, and I worked out with the PAs how they would cover my deck track (without costumes it’s possible for the three tracks to be done by two people). Mickey will be doing my track when I call (the ASM will do his track), and he took the opportunity to practice, including a couple of the costume things, just so he could get the hang of it.

While Mark gave notes from last night, I looked at Josh’s script for the first time, and quickly read through as much of it as I could, trying to picture everything as I went. I asked Josh a couple questions for clarification. I got about halfway through Act II before Mark was done with his notes and we prepared for the run.

Calling the show went much better than I thought. I only screwed up a couple things, mostly due to wrongly anticipating a couple of the bumps on the repetitive but not-exactly-the-same scene change music. Mark was very happy with how I did, and he and Josh agreed that I would do fine if I had to call a performance in an emergency now. I’m scheduled to call both shows on Halloween, and maybe a few earlier, so we still have some time for me to practice.

I’m just so glad for the opportunity to have done it. Under normal circumstances, my only training would be working with Josh in an empty theatre and trying to picture the actual show going on. Then I would have to train my sub on the deck, so that I could go up to the booth to watch Josh call a performance, then call the show a couple times with Josh watching, before being able to sub for him. It’s not the most comfortable way to learn anything, and it creates disruption by pulling me off the deck for three or more shows. This way, I got a rare opportunity to actually practice calling the show with the cast doing a full run-through (and the fact that it was a speed-through added to the challenge). Generally the only time you get to do it with the cast is when there are paying butts in the seats, so there’s no room for mistakes.

Calling the entire show before even beginning to train removed any anxiety I had about learning the show. It also shortens our training time immensely because instead of having to take up several performances to learn the show I can just work with Josh privately and then do the show once with him watching to make sure everything goes well.

For the show itself, it was great to get to see it again. During rehearsals in previews I’ve sometimes sat in the house and seen the final product, but I haven’t seen many parts since we were in the rehearsal studio. The show was also very fun to call. One thing that I think helped me is that it’s mostly audio-based. Most cues are called on words or music, which helps me because although I can’t see the show, I can hear it, so I’m familiar with the music and the actors’ delivery. The stuff that’s visual I’ve been lucky enough to get to see from the house or watching the video monitor in the green room.

Knowing from the time I was hired that Josh had days off scheduled had me watching the whole process keeping in mind that I would probably have to call the show. We weren’t completely sure until recently, because we wanted to decide whether it would be easier to teach someone my deck track or to call the show. As the show evolved in tech, my track got about twice as easy, and the show became more complicated to call, so the decision became clear that I would call. The plan for Mickey to do my track came about because of all the quickchanges I do. He’s there every day to observe what I do, and the cast is already very comfortable with him, which I think is especially important because most of the actors I change are women. His track has gotten much easier lately and involves mostly “pull this,” “push that,” “be tall here” and “catch this prop, ” which will take much less time to teach to someone new than which pair of glasses Stanley should be wearing for which line of dialogue or how the clasp on Alix’s suit jacket works.

Today may have been our last day of rehearsal, unless we do a few hours on opening night, which I hope will not happen. It will be very nice to be in full show mode!

October 8, 2009

On the Road Again

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 2:00 am


It’s time to resurrect the Tour Mini-Blog. This year it’s being renamed “On the Road Again,” because of this iPhone wallpaper I happened to stumble across a while back.

It’s still almost two months before we begin rehearsals for The Acting Company’s Romeo and Juliet in Minneapolis. It’s three months before R&J opens at the Guthrie. And it’s almost four months before we actually hit “the road” and pack our as-yet-unborn creation into a 53-foot truck and start driving it around the country.

But the story of this process actually goes back much further. This tour was in the works long before last year’s tour of Henry V and The Spy concluded. The show has been picked, many of the venues were booked, and some of the roles were cast.

When the tour ended, my role on it went on hiatus. I had been spoken to unofficially during one of our New York visits and was given a sneak peek of what was in the works for this year and was asked to come back. I indicated I was definitely interested but my schedule and lack of time at home were things I wanted to think about.

In early summer I started talking again with the office and gave my committment. They were having meetings with all the returning people to talk about how things went last year, but as I was out of town I couldn’t attend, so I was asked to submit something written. I sent in my manifesto, but was pleased to learn that while I was philosophizing about team-building experiences, Nick was meeting with the new production manager and talking about practical stuff like the need for a wireless broadband card for stage management and/or working Internet on our bus. Nick deciding to return was also a great relief, and when that happened (maybe around August) I started really looking forward to getting to work. For a while I was getting concerned I might end up the only returning person on the crew bus.

Also in August I went through some drama figuring out what my fall show would be. I had kinda committed to Inventing Avi pending my final decision a few days later, when I got a call from a well-known Off-Broadway company looking for a PSM. That dragged on for at least a week while they waited to find out if their regular PSM could clear her schedule. The problem was that the show closed on November 29th. November 30th was supposed to be the day we’d fly to Minneapolis to begin R&J. Since I had more options for the fall than I knew what to do with and the tour is my biggest job of the year, I wanted to clear it with The Acting Company before pursuing the job. They thought I was crazy, but gave me permission to take the job. In the end the job went to the other person, so I was spared the stress of having to go right from one to the other. With Avi, I got a month between gigs, which is why now, a month before we begin rehearsal, I consider this the real start of my process.

When I got back in town things had calmed down again and I began a new show, which is currently in previews. Today The Acting Company had their annual flu shot scheduled, which is part of the program offered by the Actor’s Fund to provide free on-site flu shots to shows and theatre companies. Due to the cramped quarters on the tour buses and the fact that we travel with no understudies, it’s something that we are especially encouraged to take advantage of. I wasn’t especially looking forward to being stabbed in the arm, but I was very much looking forward to seeing everyone that I haven’t seen since the tour ended in May.

The best thing that happened to come up was that I got to meet the new general manager, Nancy, who I soon discovered is awesome. A-freaking-mazing. I had a single theoretical question for her, but we were soon joined by my assistant, Nick, and our company manager, Steve. I lost all sense of time, but we must have spent about an hour in an impromptu meeting, discussing a variety of topics.

My initial request was about the possibility of Nick and I traveling to Minneapolis a few days ahead of the company so we could do our preproduction at the Guthrie and get our supplies in order, tape out the floor, and generally settle in before being thrown into rehearsal. It looks like that should be no problem and our apartments will be ready. It’s currently planned that we will have two days there not counting the travel day, which should be plenty.

We also decided which days we would take off in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, we talked about a shared Google calendar among the various management departments, concerns about the buses, and the possibility of getting the stage management road box sent to Minneapolis ahead of the set, or at least getting access to it and shipping part of the contents. We also all left with a tentative performance schedule.

I’m very excited to get more into the process, especially after my current show opens. I have been doing a lot of work on my stage management database during Avi but it still needs a lot more work to be ready to begin rehearsals for the tour, and I think the month of having no job will go by very quickly.

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