February 4, 2010

Tour Week 1

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:47 pm

We are now halfway through Week 1 of our actual touring schedule. Apparently, unless my dashboard widget is lying to me, it’s Thursday. Before I looked at it, I thought it was Saturday, but felt that was probably just my imagination and it’s really Friday. But no, I guess it’s Thursday.

Our last venue was in Grand Rapids, MN. The venue was in a high school, but gets a lot of touring shows. It was a very nice, intimate theatre with a semi-thrust stage. Unfortunately our show is designed for a proscenium, so due to the lighting needs, the first electric has to be over the edge of our marley deck, so we couldn’t use the apron as a playing space.

We’re in Appleton, Wisconsin. Last night during load-out in Grand Rapids, MN, a bunch of us were sitting in the green room finishing up paperwork, and I pulled up my venue database, which has many features, including that it automatically pulls up the Wikipedia page of the city in question. We learned many things about Appleton. Apparently in the late 1800s it was kind of a big deal — it had a large paper industry, which spurred development of electricity far ahead of most cities. We also found this interesting because our show takes place in 1912, and has a little throughline about how excited the Capulets are to have electric lights at their party. As I said to the assembled crew in the greenroom, “Appleton’s gaslit streets were replaced with electric lights in the year…” and everyone said, “1912!”

In addition to having been a pretty big deal back in the day, Appleton also has a very new, very fancy theatre, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. The theatre seats almost 2,000 and has three balconies, in a horseshoe configuration.

We’ve had some young and eager student crews (I have no idea what has happened to the poor high school kids we kept up till 3AM last night, but their parents must be pissed at us!), but today we have an honest-to-goodness IATSE crew. Sometimes that can be a mixed blessing, because a non-union crew can be used more flexibly, and we can pitch in to do more of the work ourselves if necessary. But at one point today a few of us were standing around watching a group of about six or seven stagehand-looking stagehands (men and women) putting up the walls and platforms of the set, and we remarked to each other how exciting it was to have an IATSE crew. It’s really a completely different energy.

Here’s a picture of our set facing out towards the house.

Last night at some point late in the day, our lighting director, Devon, mentioned that to speed things along, he would like me to call focus. Now, I am well aware that in the “real world” of touring, one of the stage managers generally does so. I have hung out with friends doing focus on the Phantom tour, but I am a bit embarrassed to confess I’d never had to do it myself. So when I was asked, I was rather excited because it’s something I need to get experience doing, so that I don’t make an ass of myself when Broadway calls, now that I supposedly have “touring experience.” Then I realized where we were going today, and I was kind of mortified. I told Devon, “You couldn’t have asked me to call focus with the high school kids? I would have been perfectly confident to do it with a high school or college crew. But I have to do it for the first time with an IATSE crew?”

It actually went really well. We only had one or two guys focusing at once, which was a relatively easy way to get into it. I also had no familiarity with the lighting channels used in our show and what they do, and now that I’ve seen it once, the order in which one would want to focus makes logical sense. We aren’t completely done at this point — we had to skip the lights that need to be focused on the balcony, because it’s not assembled yet.

For once, we don’t have a show tonight — but we do have a 9:30AM show in the morning, so all our work has to be done. It’s good that we have some flexibility because we got here late. The driving time between our load-out last night and this morning’s supposed 8AM load-in was far longer than the time we had. Once load-in is done we will get to check into our hotel and have a shower for the first time in a few days. Then we’ll do the early show and have the rest of the day to spend in Appleton.

For additional reading, I suggest the following of Nick’s blog posts. He has already said pretty much exactly what I would say if I went into detail about our first two venues:
Moorhead, MN
Grand Rapids, MN