February 27, 2010

Crew Portrait

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:47 pm

Bobby had an idea to take a crew portrait with all of us posing on the set. We need to try it again in a space with more light, but aside from being too dark, it’s a cute picture. That’s me in the window.

February 25, 2010

Tax Day

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:18 pm

You may think that Tax Day is April 15th. For many of us on the Acting Company tour, it’s today. This is our one true day off in New York since the beginning of December, and our next one isn’t until April 1. So this is the day that everyone has planned to do all the things one does at home — laundry, haircuts, and this time of year, taxes.

The most shocking thing about my taxes this year is that I only have four W-2’s. Normally I average about 10 employers a year. I take this as a good sign that I was able to work the entire year on just a couple jobs. I think I was unemployed for less than two months (less than half of May, and all of November).

Miraculously, I’m also getting money back this year, about $700. That basically never happens — one reason I think is because I tend to have a lot of little jobs, and little jobs tend to take out little taxes, without regard to what tax bracket your total income is going to put you in.

I still owed New York State $150, and owed Massachusetts $1. $1. I would love to know how much it will cost taxpayers to process my repayment of this shameful debt to the Commonwealth.

Anyway, I’m very happy, as that $700 will make it much easier to pay off my impending computer purchase that I really can’t afford to make just yet.

I did my taxes once again with TurboTax (in the last 2 years I’ve used the desktop version, not the website, because it allows you to fix more things manually). It went very smoothly this year, but I still hate that I have to file taxes for two states because they charge you $20 for an additional state, and then $20 to efile each state — so basically I pay $40 to say, “I made $xxxx.xx in Massachusetts,” which takes about a minute, and is probably the least complicated aspect of my taxes in general. I hate that. But I also hate dealing with taxes and money in general, so the less I have to interact with it and can screw it up, the better.

February 23, 2010

New York

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:24 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. We’re running in New York, which you’d think would lead to more free time, but it’s quite the opposite. To start with, I live an hour and a half from the theatre, so that’s three hours less in my day to be productive.

We have rehearsal or two-show days every day except for our opening night, when we just had a 6PM show, followed by a great party at Cibo. However, that party was followed by having to be at the theatre the next morning for a full day of rehearsal and performance. In the middle of all this, we have one day off coming up, but I suspect most people, like me, have a full plate of fun things scheduled for that day, like laundry and doing their taxes.

Baruch is a very different kind of venue from any we’ve played with this show so far. It’s a black box, and the set just barely fits. We actually removed the front row in the middle of the first preview, after spending the entire afternoon figuring out how not to skewer them during the fights. We have some modified blocking, and almost all the spike marks have changed to move the furniture upstage. We have a nice way to handle this though: our deck is marley, and has always had the spikes traced with paint pen in case they peel up. When we needed to respike we just peeled up the tape and put new tape elsewhere, touching up the paint-pen marks where they’ve gotten faded. When we go back on the road we’ll just put the tape back on the pen marks. It also came in handy during understudy rehearsal yesterday, where we wanted the understudies to do the real blocking — the original spikes are still there to use.

So basically this has been no vacation (thankfully we do have a 5-day vacation at the end of March!), but it’s been nice to be home anyway. I wish I could be here long enough to make it worth my while to spend time settling in.

February 21, 2010

Scotty’s Parking Job

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:09 pm

Last week we played at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV, which is on the top of a big hill. There are two levels of loading docks, which I never quite got the big picture on (it was one of those venues where I never saw anything outside besides the space between the bus door and the entrance to the building, which was maybe 40 feet.)

But I heard tales of how Scotty barely was able to fit the trailer at the dock, and how he had nailed it on the first try. Maybe 10 hours later, I was setting up for the cast’s arrival and had to get something from the dock, where I had never been. By this time it was dark, but as I turned to leave with my stuff, I did a double-take as I saw the wall on the far side of the trailer. The trailer is 53 feet long — the wall looked to be about 54 feet away! And there, at a 90-degree angle, was Scotty’s truck. Wow.

I went back inside and said, “Oh my God, I just saw where the truck is!” and the crew confirmed that Scotty did it in one try, from the bottom of the hill. They also told me he took some pictures of it in the daytime, so I got those from him, so I can show off his handiwork.

The best thing about the above picture is Bam-Bam at the steering wheel, looking very proud of himself.

February 16, 2010

On the Bright Side, I Didn’t Die Last Night

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:48 pm

OK I’m going to follow up the death of Sadie with a funny story from last night.

We were loading out from Morgantown, WV. Our truck was at the dock, and next to it was parked a little box truck with some sound equipment in it. I’m not sure if it was gear rented by the venue for our show, or a totally unrelated show also going on at the school. Anyway, the point is it was not our stuff.

Shortly after they began loading this other truck, Olivia came back to our truck with some snacks — these things that were kind of like pigs in blankets, but with slices of sausage instead of hotdogs. While we were waiting for the next load to come from the theatre, we began eating.

I had taken one bite, when around the corner comes a giant speaker on a cart. Now to summarize in brief what our duties are on the truck crew, Olivia is the truck boss and calls the items onto the truck. I direct the items to the proper place and orientation according to our truck pack, which ensures that everything will fit. If something comes onto the truck that’s not what I’m expecting, or with different dimensions than usual, it’s potentially a big problem. Not being used to loading the truck alongside another one that didn’t belong to us, I was so startled to see this huge thing I’d never seen before that I inhaled a piece of sausage! After much coughing, and a trip to the hospitality table for water, I recovered.

Everyone was very glad that I didn’t choke on the sausage, because that would have been a really stupid reason to die.

In Memory of Sadie

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 12:19 pm

I’m sorry to bring everybody down with a somewhat off-topic post, but this is my little corner of the web and I must take a moment to share with you the memory of my dog, Sadie, who passed away early this morning from lukemia, at the age of 10 (or 70 depending on how you’re counting).

In fairness, I suppose Sadie really wasn’t my dog. My parents got her about a year after I moved out of the house, following the death of our previous dog, who died the week before I moved out. Talk about an empty nest. I would love to have a dog myself, but my lifestyle just doesn’t allow for it, so I have always considered Sadie my dog. When she was little she came to visit my apartment once, and within 30 seconds had peed on the floor. I wasn’t such a fan of that, but I enjoyed going to visit her.

Sadie was born while I was on the road in 1999. I was rather upset because I was excited to be a part of the choosing of the new family pet, and playing with a puppy (my first dog had lived 15 years, so I hadn’t had a puppy since I was three), but my parents were looking for a Tibetan Terrier, and when the breeder they were dealing with had some puppies, they couldn’t wait for me to come home. So they picked Sadie, who I should say was a very good choice, and sent me some pictures — which at that time, had to be printed on paper at a special store, and then put in an envelope and mailed to the person you wanted to show them to. I still carry one of those puppy photos in my wallet, despite the fact that now when people are sharing pet pictures on their phones, I pull out mine and say, “Here’s a video of my dog.” But I also have the puppy picture in my wallet.

Speaking of which, I have uploaded my video of Sadie, which I made when my parents got me one of those Flip video cameras for my birthday a couple years ago. It’s not really that exciting, I just wanted to play with the camera and she was the most interesting thing to film, although her interests at that particular moment were basically constrained to sniffing and lying under the dining room table.

Despite the fact that I didn’t get to see her very often, Sadie treated me like a member of the family from the very beginning. She always looked forward to being driven to the train station because she knew that meant I was coming. She enjoyed chewing on paper very much. For Christmas, she was always more excited by the wrapping paper than whatever toy or treat was contained within. Much to my initial dismay, she had absolutely no interest in playing fetch, and my old dog loved to play fetch, even when she could barely see anymore. I think Sadie was taking too much of a practical view on it — she never understood the point of running after an object, only to return it, only to run after it again. Which I guess I can’t blame her for. If she cared about the object, she would run to it, and then lie down to chew on it. Half the time she didn’t even care enough to chase after it once, she would just sort of turn her head back at the thrower as if to say, “So? It’s over there now.”

Lately she had been having some health problems, but it wasn’t really anything too concerning until just recently. While we were at the Guthrie she was diagnosed with lukemia. The vet thought she might live a while longer with treatment, but then things went downhill quickly this week. She stopped eating a couple days ago, and by last night my parents had made arrangements to have her put to sleep in the morning, but she passed away on her own overnight. I’m very disappointed because we’re getting back to New York tomorrow, and the last time I saw her, right before I left, she wasn’t even sick. If she had lived another day-and-a-half I could have seen her. The plan is for her ashes to be scattered at the beach where she loved to play. I think she would like that.

February 15, 2010

Fairfax, VA

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:29 pm

Yesterday we did a performance in Fairfax, VA. This is the first venue on the tour (besides the Guthrie) where we also performed last year. I could picture the loading dock and some of the backstage hallways and dressing rooms, but didn’t remember much of the stage area. I had forgotten it was so big! Of course everyone on the crew wanted to know what it was like, and my memories of the two days we spent there (doing Henry one night, and The Spy the other) were kind of foggy. I remember it being very warm, and all of us hanging out on the loading dock in tee shirts, watching the sun set, sitting on the Spy columns, which were in storage there while Henry was up. It was such a nice moment, I took a picture of it:

It most certainly was not warm yesterday, especially when we started load-in at 5AM (we had a 4PM show)! Here’s the view of our loading dock. Now remember, we’ve spent the entire tour in Minneapolis, Fargo, etc. and now we’re in Virginia, and it’s supposed to be frickin’ warmer!!

I remembered the path to get to the campus food court very well, but was thwarted when two frickin’ feet of snow blocked the path I knew! And today we’re in West Virginia, and it’s snowing again! People are asking for refunds, the cast is going to arrive late, and apparently our trip to Ohio tomorrow is going to be right in the path of the storm. Lovely!

Anyway, back to Fairfax. The set went up very fast, helped by the fact that the venue had three Genie lifts, so carpentry and lighting could work independently without needing to worry about avoiding doing tasks that require a Genie at the same time. For instance today we’re loading in with one Genie, and it’s a lot slower. We travel with our own Genie, but it’s not the kind you’re probably thinking of with the bucket that goes up and down automatically. It has arms like a forklift, and it’s hand-cranked. We need it to lift the balcony and landing up in the air so they can be bolted to the wall and the legs can get under them, and that’s about all it’s useful for.

I called from backstage, from a rather fancy calling desk that I unfortunately forgot to get a picture of. It had cameras that could be zoomed and panned, which I thought was absolutely amazing, except that I then found out the tilt didn’t work, and whatever I did would affect the front-of-house TVs for the lobby, so basically I couldn’t play with it at all. I was all excited about having infrared, until the blackout at the top of the show, when I realized I couldn’t see anything. I think the camera worked, but the two small screens on the desk were suffering from low brightness or something. I ended up using the larger TV that was mounted over my head.

It was a busy day backstage, as Nick had to take a few days off for personal reasons, and Bobby, our TD, had to learn his track (which is really easy, but it was just a little sudden). Nick left early in the second act, so we had Bobby do the whole show, with Nick watching him as long as he could. This has made my desire to call from backstage more necessary, although I think we’d have been fine even if I couldn’t. Bobby did a great job. He’s a little bummed that he has to work during the show like the rest of us now!

Tonight’s venue doesn’t have a great spot to call from backstage, and no camera, but we’re all going to be on the house wireless comm for the night, so I decided that I could deal with any little table, and if I have to get up and walk to a different wing to call a cue, it will be no problem. It would actually be kind of fun to be able to roam around. I put on one of our wireless towards the end of the show last night so that I could be one of the “candle ninjas” that turn off the remote-controled candles in the final blackout. The calling desk was a good 25 feet from the edge of the proscenium, so I had to be moving toward the stage while calling the last couple cues to get there in time. There wasn’t any technical reason that it had to be me doing it, it’s usually Nick cueing one of the local guys to push the button, but since being backstage, I’ve been determined to get to do it myself because I think it’s awesome.

February 13, 2010

Pittsfield, MA

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:26 pm

We loaded out from our matinee in New London, CT, and immediately jumped on the bus and began rushing to Pittsfield, MA for our 7PM load in. We grabbed McDonald’s to go at a truck stop along the way, and arrived with just a little time to spare. Being as rushed as we were, I don’t think any of us were expecting an easy night. We were scheduled to work till 1AM, at which point we figured we’d have maybe half the set up, and then come back in the morning to finish up after the 1-hour R&J performance. In addition, we were lighting the show with the house’s rep plot and Devon and I would need to spend hours basically recreating the cues as accurately as possible from scratch.

From the moment we walked in the door our mood lifted. The crew, led by their production manager, Chrissy, were very friendly and professional (it’s an IA house), and the shop area is spacious and very clean. Then we walked out onto the stage.

It’s really one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve ever seen. Suddenly all the work we had ahead of us seemed worthwhile.

What happened next is something I have taken to referring to as the Pittsfield Miracle. The entire set was completed in less than four hours from when the truck doors opened. Which is about half the time it has taken in any other venue. Nick and I were in our very, very comfortable office (with couches and private bathroom with shower), and would hear riotous laughter coming from the stage with great frequency. Every time we visited the stage they were way ahead of where they should be.

At midnight we called Bart back early to come get us, and then sat on the bus for the rest of the night, in shock and disbelief that the set had gone up so fast, completely unable to explain it.

The show the next night went very well, and we were very sad to say goodbye to Pittsfield. The best plan we came up with was to send travel vouchers to all the patrons who had bought tickets at other venues around the country, to allow them to fly to Pittsfield to see the show instead. I’m not sure if that would work out well for the company, but it would certainly be comfortable for us!

Welcome to Virginia

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:26 pm

For this entire tour, we have spent the winter in Minneapolis, Fargo, Wisconsin, several more cities in Minnesota, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Finally, we’re going to Virginia, and it’s about time!

We’ve spent the entire tour in some of the coldest places in the continental United States. And then we get to Virginia and there’s more snow than we’ve seen in the last three months combined! Not fair!

Adventures in Calling

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:48 pm

So far on this tour, since we left the Guthrie, every single performance has offered some new challenge to me in calling the show. I haven’t minded it, it’s kept a very simple show interesting. After running at the Guthrie, the one thing I’m most comfortable about is my ability to call the show, so I’m more than happy to make that harder for myself if it makes somebody else’s job easier.

In reverse chronological order (newest first), I will keep this post updated as I have more adventures.

Morgantown, WV

Again, due to Nick being gone, I’m more inclined to call from backstage even under somewhat less than ideal circumstances. There’s not a calling desk here, or a camera, and the view through the masking is a little chopped up, but in completely unrelated developments, we’re all using the house wireless comm, and so I decided that being on wireless, I can stand up and move around if I can’t see something from where I sit.

Fairfax, VA

I called from backstage again, but this time with a worse view of the stage, but with cameras. So it worked out just fine, but it was the first time I’ve had to really rely on a camera to see what I needed to see (aside from tech and the early part of the run at the Guthrie, when I was using the infrared). The real challenge, however, was that Nick had to go home for a few days, and needed to leave during the second act. He trained Bobby on his track before the show, and then watched as much as he could before he left, but really Bobby had to do the show for the first time on his own. The track is really easy, but it does require a certain extra bit of attentiveness on my part as well, because I have to be really paying attention to make sure I’m giving all the warnings at the right time, and thinking ahead to each sequence to see if there’s anything that should be explained ahead of time that might be disorienting to someone who had never heard it before.

Pittsfield, MA

This was a really big challenge. We didn’t do the show with our own light plot. We used the venue’s rep plot and focus, with our color in it, and a few specials, as well as our set-mounted lights, which are pretty numerous. Basically the entire lighting design had to be recreated from scratch using whatever we had at our disposal. Corey, the staff director, asked Devon and I to create six different looks which could be used to roughly cover the whole show. I took out my backup calling script and on the drive to Pittsfield, scratched out the internal cues we wouldn’t need.

Due to the ease of load-in for the set, we had time to be more ambitious. We created the six basic looks first, and then started at the beginning of the show, modifying each one to better adjust to the needs of the scene and the feel of the original cue. After four hours, we had almost 50 cues (the show only goes up to 135 to begin with).

I marked up my backup script for calling this particular performance, which is a lot easier than modifying the main calling script and then removing the changes. This way if something like this should have to happen later in the tour, we will still have a script to base it on. I took the time to hole punch it, but then decided I didn’t need to bother to put it in a binder.

In a way it was an easy show because I had less cues to call, but I had to be very alert to which cues were in, and in a few cases made decisions on the fly to move cues where we replaced a multi-cue transition with a single cue. The show looked really good — when we saw it, we were actually amazed at how close it looked to the real thing.

New London, CT

This wasn’t so much a problem, as an opportunity. There wasn’t really a decent front-of-house position for me to call from, and there was a really nice calling desk stage right. Every venue has slightly differently-spaced masking based on where the available linesets are, and this one seemed to have a pretty clear view to the deck from where the calling desk was. I decided early in the day, based just on the lines drawn on the marley and where the legs were in the air, that I could call from backstage, despite the fact that there was no camera.

Indeed that’s what I ended up doing and it was awesome. I generally love calling from backstage most of the time, and it was great to be able to see the actors close up and watch the show from another angle. I also like to be back with everybody and feel like part of the backstage world. I took over the stage right cues that Nick does with hand signals, and I would have gotten to use the remote to turn off one of the remote-controlled candles, but the local guy who was supposed to do it had already been told about it, and I didn’t feel it was right to take away the one somewhat interesting thing he gets to do in the whole show. Someday. Someday.

Now that I know how easy it was to see all my cues, I can be a little more liberal with deciding if I can call from backstage in a given venue. Unlike Henry V, in which the whole set was a wraparound semi-circle, this one can definitely be called without a camera if the masking is in the right place, so that increases my options.

This is the calling desk during load in. That big binder isn’t mine, that’s the lighting book. None of that crap is mine. During the show, I had my script and my computer on the desk.

St. Cloud, MN

Everything was actually fine here, but the calling position was literally right behind the back row — at a table, not behind a booth wall or anything. So calling clearly enough to be understood by a crew unfamiliar with the show, but quietly enough not to disturb the people three feet in front of me was a challenge.

Appleton, WI

The house wired comm was having trouble talking to our wireless system, so I called the show wearing two headsets — thankfully they were both lightweight, and to be honest, it wasn’t as uncomfortable as you might imagine. Making sure both booms were near my mouth was the most difficult part.

I prefer to call the whole show on all channels so everyone hears what’s going on, but in this case I told them I would be calling only to the channel involved in most cases. I was just afraid of fumbling with both talk buttons and screwing something up if I was always trying to activate both.

Grand Rapids, MN

Monitors so quiet that I couldn’t hear the show beyond mumbles. Once you know a show well enough, it’s pretty easy to know what the actors are saying just by their inflection, but the downside is you have to follow where they are in the text very carefully so you don’t get lost.

Moorhead, MN

We had a bad headset cable, which caused me to lose comm twice within the first few minutes of the show. I was across the booth from the light board and the sound console was right outside the open booth window, so I was able to keep things going until we got it fixed.

Older Posts »