December 23, 2009


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:20 am



Count ’em. Three posts today. I don’t want to hear any crap about some of them being after midnight. You know what I mean.

Well I figured it out. See, most of us here have been feeling a little under the weather. I keep going to bed early because I don’t feel so great. When I get up early, I get back in bed because I feel like my body just needs a little more time to rest.

Well I have unlocked the secret of how some people can blog so much. See I go grocery shopping with some people. And I know some people buy Mountain Dew by the case. I buy a once-daily supply of Monster drinks, but I try to limit myself to one right when I get up, and some coffee when necessary at work, but other than that I try to drink water. As a result, by bedtime, I’m ready for bed. I have been a caffeine addict of varying proportions, and have done my share of blogging, gaming and web coding sessions that last until 6AM. So tonight I thought about how I keep trying to blog and get sleepy, and then realized that getting sleepy at 10:30 is perfectly normal, and that if I drank caffeine at night it would be easy to stay up a few extra hours. So, having enough energy drinks in the fridge to last me till the next grocery run with a few spares, I cracked one open tonight.

Three posts. Fear my blogging stamina!

I could keep going, I just don’t want to tire you guys out with reading. Goodnight.

A Lesson in Taking Blocking

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:07 am

OK stage management students. I know you googled something like “stage manager blocking” or “professional stage manager blocking,” so before you click on that link from SMnetwork.org or something like that, I’m glad you’ve landed here.

Here’s what it’s all about.

Here’s a photo. You’ll have to click on it to see it in full size to get the full education from this.

This is an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act III Sc. 3.
The notation on the page reads:

(FL) treats (R) like a little bitch DL

In the key I’m using for blocking, FL is Friar Laurence, R is Romeo, naturally.
(For more about what Friar Laurence has to do with stage management, you really should read my post on the subject.)

To cover all my bases, I have also included one of my much-beloved groundplan stickers, upon which I have indicated an area of the stage marked “region of holy pwnage.”

Now under this page is another one which contains all sorts of details like who crosses where and whatnot (which is why there are corresponding numbers on the text page), but the page you see pretty well sums up the action of the scene.

I hope you had a good chuckle, you can carry on being all serious now. Someday I swear I will do a good page on the website about how I take blocking, as well as how I do my calling script. I even have scanned a couple of pages of previous scripts, but I really want to take the time to do it right. Until then, I will take 10 minutes to be a wisegal.

Week 3… or Something

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:41 am

I have no idea what today is. I have given up trying to describe our process in weeks. I know today is “the day before the day off,” that is, we have one more rehearsal (tomorrow) before the day off — which, conveniently, is an almost unheard-of TWO days off, namely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

In order to amass this wealth of days off at one time, we’ve been working approximately forever since our last day off, in accordance with the Equity rule that allows you to rehearse more than six consecutive days in order to provide a day off for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, one of which is required to be a day off. By getting both, we screw up our schedule for a couple weeks (continuing the confusion because we took New Years’ Day off as well). The nice thing is that at the end of all this we end up with two days off in close succession right before tech, which will be welcome.

So it’s starting to feel a bit like the last day of school. We finished staging the show today, and then did a run of Act II. Tomorrow we’re doing just a few little pieces and then running the show for the first time. If all goes well we then plan to do notes and will be let out of class early to romp in the snow!

The last few days have been interesting. We’ve been trying various methods to gather up some more accurate rehearsal props — actual wicker baskets instead of backpacks, period rapiers instead of modern fencing swords, cloth handkerchiefs instead of tissues, that kind of thing. With our props having to be built or shopped in New York, we’ve had some setbacks in getting everything, and a few days ago I began what if I were a politician I might term a “surge” to try to get some extreme action taken to help us.

One of the solutions involved our swords. When all is said and done, our dueling families will confront each other with sword canes. We’ve had some delays getting the canes from the supplier, so in order to start fight choreography we had been using some borrowed fencing rapiers. As a halfway point between the modern rapiers and the sword canes, it was suggested that we use the 18th-century rapiers from last year’s The Spy, which were kept in the props box when the road boxes were loaded in New York. Not-so-conveniently, the truck is waiting in a lot about 20 miles from Minneapolis until load-in day. So early Monday morning, Team Stage Management got up and drove out to the trucking facility and climbed a snowbank into the back of the truck to retrieve the swords, and another cardboard box of props that we found. It actually probably took us less than 15 minutes once we got to the truck. We came prepared for the lock, doors and everything else to be frozen shut. We had flashlights, hammers, multitools, and a travel mug filled with hot water. We had permission from the office to break the lock if needed. As it turns out, the only tool we used was the key, which had been overnighted from the office the day before.

The snowbank even helped. My biggest concern about the trip was that I have never successfully climbed into the back of the truck from the ground. I would guess the floor of the truck is about shoulder-height on me. The first step is probably about waist-high, and there’s not really anything to grab onto to hoist myself up with the proper leverage. So when I saw the snowbank, I was relieved. It gave me the few extra inches I needed to get on the step, and from there I found a few little metal protrusions to grab, as well as the handle on the hamper strapped to the wall. Getting down was another ordeal. As I complained about how there aren’t grab irons, and how anyone was expected to do this, Nick was telling me to stop being a wuss and trying to explain what I was supposed to be grabbing, and then as he watched me actually try to do it that way, he says, “Oh, I get it — your arms are just too short!” I was like, “No shit my arms are too short! That’s what I’m talking about!” Anyway, I got in and out without hurting myself, so I was happy about that.

The truck had only arrived the night before, and the lock opened easily. The #2 road box — the weapons case — was the very last box in the truck, as promised. It was strapped with the doors facing the wrong way, which required moving a bunch of blankets and removing a couple load bars that were on the floor in order to pull it out, but after a brief struggle with two load straps, only one of which was ornery, I squeezed between the rows of boxes and pulled out all the weapons that were in any way useful. Then we pushed the box back, strapped it up again, closed the doors without too much fail, put the lock back on, and headed to rehearsal.

The one disappointment of our trip is that we couldn’t get to our stage management road box. We have been given a vague hint that there was a snarky note for Nick put in the box when the truck was loaded. Despite our frustration at having to make this early-morning journey, the bright spot was potentially getting an early look in the box. Unfortunately, behind the weapons box, the wall of road boxes was formed by three wardrobe gondolas and the TD’s box. Without a dock to unload on, and with limited open space in the back of the truck, there was no way to even locate our box, much less play Tetris and try to get to it. And we also couldn’t get a glimpse of any of the set either, which would have been the other item of interest.

Despite the not-wanting-to-go-anywhere-at-eight-AM and not-our-job reactions to this event, it was really fun to see our truck again. Despite the early mornings, late nights, inclement weather and hard physical work that always come along with it, I really enjoyed touring last year. I’ll be honest, I load the truck out of guilt that I’m the only person on the bus who doesn’t have to load the truck. Can I sit in my bunk and watch TV, sleep, or play on the internet while everyone else I live with is working their ass off until 3AM? But despite the obligation of my conscience, I took pride in being part of the crew. I am perfectly capable of getting my hands dirty, though I don’t have to do it anymore. I was a carpenter. I was a (very short) electrician. I can help. So I enjoyed knowing every inch of the truck pack, I even kind of enjoyed the day we all had to build the set ourselves because the venue didn’t hire enough crew. I learned exactly how the set was assembled, bolt by bolt, and for the rest of the tour I was able to use that knowledge to have a better understanding of situations. So of all the people in the employ of The Acting Company or the Guthrie in Minneapolis at the time, Nick and I were uniquely suited to going into the truck, getting what we need, and securing it without any trouble.

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the truck’s arrival at the Guthrie — the day we walk up to the theatre and see it in profile next to the street, proclaiming our arrival to all passing cars. To me the truck represents our movement, the excitement and anticipation of a new place. It heralds our arrival and our departure. So just to see it sitting in a lot, here in Minnesota, is a step in the right direction. I’ve learned it’s actually going to make an appearance at the Guthrie tomorrow, so they can unload the marley floor — I guess the cold isn’t good for it and they want to give it time to thaw before laying it. I’m not sure if the trailer is staying on the premises or going back to the yard again.

I meant to more heavily document our adventures on the truck, but the whole thing happened so fast (once we got through the 5 or 6 people at the storage yard who had never heard of The Acting Company or a truck arriving the night before from New York, and found the one guy who knew where it was) that I forgot to take pictures until we were pulling away. Take a look at the next Pulitzer for photojournalism here:

So here’s a brief glimpse of our set, our equipment and our tools, like an embryo in the petri dish of a frozen truck lot.