February 7, 2010

St Cloud, MN

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:59 pm

St. Cloud was the last stop on our grueling first week of touring. Based on the tech specs, we knew the venue was small and the path to load our boxes in would be tricky. After leaving the new, spacious, union house in Appleton, WI, we were expecting disappointment in St. Cloud. What we got was just the opposite.

We were greeted by Max, who was one of our most trusted local crew guys in our first stop of Moorhead, MN, who arranged to work on the crew in St. Cloud as well (about a 3-hour drive for him). It was nice to be able to look forward to seeing a familiar face, and one who was familiar with how our show goes up and down. The rest of the crew was equally eager, and somehow, with a really convoluted path from the street to the stage for our heavy boxes, and a 2-ft lift up to the loading door for the human-carryable pieces, this crew still managed to put the set up much faster than any other venue so far. I’m sure part of that is us learning to be more efficient, but without the right crew, everything would fall apart.

We actually had free time to get everything ready before the show. Nick and I had rehearsal for an hour and a half in the afternoon — our first understudy rehearsal. The cast had a relatively relaxing travel schedule, and with the rehearsal in the afternoon, they had plenty of time to see the venue and grab dinner before their warmup time an hour before the show. Also, they didn’t have to deal with the crew running around finishing the set and lighting while they were trying to do warmup and do fight call, which must have contributed to their sense of relaxation, even though the backstage area was more claustrophobic than usual.

There was a very nice greenroom, in which there were several copies of the local arts & entertainment paper, where we were the front-page article.

My calling position was in the house, just behind the back row. I chose to be positioned between the light board and sound positions, with my desk made from the lid of our light board’s road case, stradding the lighting and sound desks. It was actually one of the more comfortable calling desks I’ve had so far.

I generally dread calling from the house, or with an open booth window anywhere near the audience. Not for myself, but because I feel really bad for the audience who has to listen to me talk the whole show. Also, I believe that having to talk quietly, especially when calling to a crew unfamiliar with the show, leads to unnecessary mistakes because I can’t be heard as clearly as if I was speaking freely. When I heard a rumor that the show wasn’t well sold, I hoped there would be many rows between me and the nearest audience member. When I walked out into the house just before places, and saw the entire orchestra and much of the balcony filled, I was at once very happy for us, and also really sad for the people whose heads were literally three feet from my mouth.

However, being able to be in the house for the show — not in an open booth, but literally sitting in the back row of this beautifully restored old theatre — was well worth the challenges of calling quietly and clearly. It’s been a long time (since rehearsals during previews) since I’ve been able to watch the actors “in the room,” and then I was still too busy worrying about my own stuff to sit back and enjoy their work. And they have discovered a lot of great things since we opened. I was actually really moved by the show, and was very glad I had the opportunity to experience it from the house.

The best thing that happened, however, was the bat. We discovered during the day that a bat had found its way into the theatre. It hadn’t been seen for a while, and then during Scene 2, the bat comes flying out of the window in our set, and out over the audience, where it continued to soar around the house and the stage for at least 30 seconds. The audience freaked out. The cast was momentarily stunned, then broke into smiles, and then carried on bravely, accounting for the audience’s lapsed attention in the way that one holds for laughs but then presses onward. They did a great job keeping their own laughter together and bringing the audience back into the play.

The bat returned a few times through the play, most notably during the “lark” scene in which R&J are on the balcony, debating whether the bird they hear is a nightingale or a lark, thus signaling the approach of day. As Juliet is saying “it was the nightingale and not the lark,” the bat flies right past the balcony. I’m not sure if the full irony of that moment was understood by the audience, but we in the back had to really stiffle our laughter.

The load out went equally smoothly, not the fastest ever, but very good in relation to the difficulty of getting things to the truck. We then began our 3-day trek to New London, CT. Today we spent in Chicago, or rather in a parking lot near Midway Airport, surrounded by hotels, one of which we have a crew room in, where we take turns enjoying such luxuries as a shower and a real toilet. We also watched the Super Bowl on the bus, and did some troubleshooting to improve the TV picture and surround sound.

Tomorrow we’re going to Niagra Falls. I’ve never been, so that seems pretty cool. One of the reasons we chose to go a little bit north out of our way is so that Nick can be dropped off at his old college, where he’s talking to some tech theatre students. Then he’ll rejoin us at the bus.

I’m looking forward to our arrival in New London on Tuesday night because we’ll have real hotel rooms — for two days — in the same hotel! It’s practically like being landed gentry!