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.