January 8, 2010

End of Tech

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:35 am

The show, she is teched!

Just as we got down to the wire, we finished the show with about a minute to spare! To be perfectly honest, we were writing light cues as we went through the tomb scene and I never got to call them, but they’re fairly simple and Michael and I felt we could see them in the first run-through. In our last moments we just ran the last few lines of the show again to make sure we got the final music and fade to black looking good, and then dismissed for the day.

Tomorrow the cast is called at 12:30 (making Nick, Ashley and my call 12:00 noon — yes, afternoon!), and we work for four and a half hours on a few notes (some funereal choreography and a wig quickchange) and then we’ll do our first run of the show around 2:00. After dinner we come back like it’s a regular show call, with a voluntary warmup, followed by fight call, and then the house opens at half hour for our invited dress. How “invited” one of those is can range from a few close friends of the creative team to a wider selection of friendly theatre people, to what we have tomorrow — 300 high school students from local Thespian societies, who are apparently so excited to attend the show that at least some of them have planned to wear formal wear. In response to this I am rearranging my wardrobe for the week to wear my dressed-up-for-calling-a-show outfit to the invited dress rather than to one of the public performances this weekend.

A few thoughts from the day:

We experienced one of the funniest, most pure forms of comedy I’ve ever witnessed in a tech: towards the end of the show, Romeo visits the shop of an apothecary to buy some poison, and calls out to the apothecary when he arrives. This scene is staged right in front of the staircase, and Sonny tried to knock on the set to summon the apothecary to crawl out from his hovel, where he keeps his business apparently somewhere under the stairs. Seems like a simple task. So Sonny knocks on the side of the stairs, and it’s rock solid and makes no sound. So he knocks on the decorative spindles on the staircase. Same thing. He tries the handrail. He tries the bench which is right downstage of the stairs. Every surface he tried to knock on had absolutely no resonance. Every time he tried something else everybody in the theatre howled with laughter. The stairs are steel encased in wood, and I guess this proves that they’re very well built! Eventually, the staging was changed so that he goes up the stairs to the first landing. From there he can stomp on the floor, which is lexan over metal grating, and that makes a satisfying noise.

Today was the first time the database has saved me by giving me an error when I schedule something against Equity rules. It’s always been a good guard against typos, but this time I was so sure in my incorrect math that I was actually digging in the formulas to figure out why it was broken. The formula actually thinks of the problem in a more correct way than I was counting it in my head (span of day minus length of meal break), and showed me that I had reduced the meal break without reducing the span of day, thereby making more working hours than allowed. So I felt like the time I took to build some rudimentary rule-checking into the schedule form was well spent. It doesn’t understand things like tech days, but when I get a chance to revise it before my next show that will be something I flesh out.

Another somewhat funny observation:

At one point we must have spent 10 minutes sitting watching the director, staff director, prop master, costume designer and prop crew gathered in a quiet circle, apparently discussing how Juliet can conceal a dagger on her person. As our lighting designer and I decided, we were witnessing the costume equivalent of everybody standing on the stage looking up in the air (it’s sort of a tech stereotype that if you see a large group of stagehands, a stage manager or two, and especially a director or designers all standing on stage staring silently and thoughtfully up into the grid… you’re not going anywhere for a while!)

Ow, My Ear!

By the end of today I have had a headset on my ear for 28 of the last 49 hours, and my ear was starting to hurt, despite the recent modifications I’ve made to my headset with a Dr. Scholl’s pad. I don’t have a default ear preference, though I generally have a strong preference on a per-show basis. It almost always has to do with which ear will generally be pointed at what I’m listening for — either at the stage, at people who might come up and talk to me, or at an audio monitor — and then putting the headset on the opposite ear. For example at Phantom on the deck I’m most often standing stage left facing upstage, meaning my left ear is pointed at the stage, so I always wear my headset on the right. Twice I’ve been cushioned from head injuries because I just happen to wear my headset on the right side, so I guess it’s a good choice. However, when calling the show I wear the headset on the left because the audio monitor is next to my right ear.

During a long tech I will usually try to switch ears every few hours, but in this case the comm rack is to my left and I’d be getting tangled all the time if I put the headset on my right side. I do think the Dr. Scholls was a great idea though. It’s definitely more comfortable than any on-ear headsets’ padding I know of. My custom orange earpiece foam cover is really starting to rip, and that’s making me sad (it’s a little smaller than it should be to fit properly, but it’s the only non-black one I could find, and I like it because no one can take my headset by accident, or “accident” even).

One more cute story:

In a fascinating example of how light and music can tell a story, we were kind of hanging out waiting for a light cue to be written. Ray (Friar Laurence) was lounging on an onstage bench up against the stairs. Laura (Juliet) was lying down in the tomb, where she had been for probably hours, with an occasional break.

While the cue was being built, a single par on the floor stage left was turned on, casting a wash of sidelight across Friar Laurence in his priestly garb, and creating grotesque shadows of the staircase all across the wall of the set. At the exact same moment the light was turned on, the sound department, completely independently, tested a sound cue of very loud, ominous music that we had never heard before. Everyone in the room had been just kind of doing their own thing, but for the few seconds that sound cue played, there was a very specific story happening onstage that captured everyone’s attention — the young woman laid out in a tomb surrounded by candles, the mysterious priest sitting nearby — was he there to dispel the demons, or might he be possessed himself, concealed in the disguise of a man of the cloth? Once the mood had been established, Laura played into it, reaching her arms up from under her shroud, an overhead shaft of light on her being the only other illumination besides the par and the candles. All the while Ray just sat there, silently contemplating… what?

And then the sound cue was cut off, and more lights were added to the cue, and it was just another moment in rehearsal. I feel like I studied directing for years where my teachers tried to teach us just that: it has nothing to do with your budget or resources. You can tell an entire engrossing story with a single light, the right music and some simple costume pieces like a priest’s collar and a sheer piece of fabric, without a word even needing to be spoken. I absolutely sucked at that when I was in school, and here it happened completely by accident. It was just a wonderful little moment that highlights the things that really make theatre work.

Tech Table

Finally, here’s a picture of my tech table, which I love very much, and will be sad to say farewell to after the afternoon’s rehearsal. I saw the booth for the first time today. It was rather uneventful. I don’t expect anything about it to bother me, but I didn’t see anything that blew my mind either (knowing this place, there probably is something, but like the electric pencil sharpener built into the cue light panel, you just need to know where to look).