March 17, 2010

Should I Kill Myself Now or Later?

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:37 pm

This is April 5-10. What you are seeing here is iCal showing a selection of my calendars in 24-hour view. Those are all the hours in the day. There are no more — believe me, I have checked, and inquired into creating more. That’s it! Those little white spaces in the early morning are the only time we will not be working or driving, and I can assure you, will will most certainly be spending them sleeping!

It’s really more like one long day. I shall call it Thwiday!

Travel Days: Iowa –> Florida

I call this: On the Road Again,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:38 pm


After our 4AM load in and 3PM performance in Ottumwa, IA, we began loading out at breakneck speed.

On their way out, the cast posed for a picture before heading back to their hotel, anxious to begin their three-day trek to Florida.

The local crew was very ambitious and believed from the start they could break our record of two hours and 15 minutes. Here Nick and Jason enjoy the downtime the truck crew gets while waiting for the walls to be disassembled.


They did indeed break the record, by about two minutes! We then piled into the bus, on our way to the sunshine. But first we stopped at a local restaurant for dinner, where we ran into some members of the cast and production staff. We said our goodbyes, and then hit the road for real.

MONDAY: 10:00AM-ish

We awoke in Nashville, where our driver, Jim, lives. Jim parked the bus in the parking lot of a mall, for us to spend the day while he spent some time at home and slept. In addition to the bus, however, he also left us one of his own cars (!!) in case we wanted to get around town! Devon was pretty much the only one who used it, I think, to go to his favorite pancake restaurant. The rest of us were too lethargic to go anywhere but the mall.


Jim came back to the bus at our scheduled departure time, and brought with him a present to lend us: a Wii(!!). Now a Wii on a bus is not always a great idea, but this bus does have a slide, which makes it possible for two people to swing their arms around in the front lounge without breaking anything. We also learned sadly that our very awesome bus is not coming back on the next leg — somebody else wants it. We think it might be Jay-Z. Whatever. Doesn’t he know who we are??? We are hoping that Jim will be able to come back, though. Tour buses are like children: we don’t really care which one we get as long as it’s healthy.

With Jim back on board, we headed south!


When we didn’t stop for dinner for a while, and I got tired of the satellite cutting out while we were trying to watch a documentary on the Unabomber, I went to bed. I was awoken by Devon, asking if I wanted the best hotdogs in the world. I didn’t really want hotdogs, but I wanted something, so I got up.

When I got to the front lounge and peered out the window, I saw a surprisingly familiar sight: we were right in the heart of Atlanta, on Peachtree Street. I said, “wait, I know this corner!” and sure enough we passed by the stage door side of the Fox Theater, and I thought to myself, “this is the way to that burger place!” I soon realized that was our destination: The Varsity. I had never heard of their hotdogs, but I had been taken there at the promise of the best burgers in the world, when I was at the Fox for two weeks doing merchandise on the Scarlet Pimpernel tour back in 1999. Unfortunately, Varsity had closed five minutes early, and would not serve us. So we continued driving, watching South Park, and eventually stopped for fuel at a truck stop with a McDonald’s. Not so exciting. Then we went to bed for real.

TUESDAY: 10:00AM-ish

We awoke in the parking lot of our soon-to-be hotel in West Palm Beach. We were not officially supposed to arrive until Wednesday, so we just got a crew room for the first day. After a day-and-a-half without a shower, that was our primary concern, and we rushed through our turns in the shower until our scheduled 1:30 tour of the venue, which is right down the street.


The five of us who are involved in the onstage and backstage layout of the show (me, Nick, Bobby, Devon and Olivia) walked to the theatre, where we were met by two of the technical staff, to have a conversation we thought would be about how screwed we are.

The theatre is a black box with a raised stage. Even without the raised stage, it would be barely big enough to fit the set, and with the platforms, it is not actually as big as our marley floor (which we were assured would always be the minimum size of every venue on the tour). We’ve been talking about this on the bus, in hotels and restaurants all over the country for at least a month, so there have been many plans devised, and questions going back and forth to the venue staff about possible solutions.

We laid out Olivia’s tape measure to see how wide the set would be, and began brainstorming. We were told where additional platforms could be added to the stage, and where stairs could be located. As we talked over it, we got more reassured that there weren’t any major obstacles to the staging. The big thing was that we really didn’t think our platform, Fred, would be able to fit anywhere, even if he had to be lifted to stage level. Bobby and Olivia had planned to use Wednesday to go to Home Depot and buy supplies to build a mini-Fred. Thankfully, we realized we didn’t have to do that.

Somebody pointed to the slightly extra amount of width stage left and said, “it’s too bad that space isn’t over stage right, we could put Fred there.”

Massive lightbulb went off. “We can put Fred stage left. We’ve never had to do it, but it’s one of the possible plans for dealing with a Fred problem. It just means more light gets cast on the crew.” We’re also going to work with Devon to see if anything can be done so the crew isn’t walking straight through the light from the floor par. But even so, the fact that our real Fred can live on stage is better than any of the other possibilities, so we left after our short tour feeling much better about our load-in on Thursday.

Here’s a view of the house:


Back on the bus we began hooking up the Wii. After a couple quick games of bowling, Nick, Olivia and I went to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch, where we sat outside and drank pina coladas. The entire rest of the tour was worth it for that one hour. It felt like a paid vacation.


We ate way too much, and stumbled our way to Barnes & Noble, and then back to the bus, where Bobby and Matt were furiously battling each other on the Wii.

Here Nick and Olivia look on while Matt and Bobby race.


Me: asleep on the bus. Bobby texts me to let me know we can check into the hotel. I had asked him the night before if we had early check-in, and he said the front desk would have to let us know in the morning.

I was anxious to spread out into my own room, to take a shower, and to get away from any planned St. Patrick’s Day festivities, so I got up right away and gathered my stuff as quietly as possible, and headed to the hotel.

I was also anxious because I got confirmation that my new flashlight would be delivered today. For more about that, read my flashlight post.


I was getting my laundry ready when I happened to check Twitter and read that Nick was also doing his laundry. So we met up for lunch at the restaurant in the hotel, while waiting for our laundry.


After doing laundry, I have torn apart my suitcase, made piles of things, and have been making copious lists for what I’m going to bring home with me on vacation, so that I can lighten my load for the final leg. As I did on the last leg, I’m only taking my backpack and Acting Company tote bag home with me, so I have to think carefully about what will fit in those bags and can be taken on a plane. Getting my suitcase emptier is especially important because at the end of the tour I also need to be carrying all my personal possessions that normally live in the work box.

The rest of my night is free, who knows what I’ll do. I’d be happy to hang out and do some little projects, maybe read a little. 8:00AM load in tomorrow, with a 7:30 show. This one is going to require a lot of energy and clear thinking!

Flashlight Adventures: Novatac 120T

I call this: tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:28 pm

Getting a new flashlight has been something of an obsession of mine since we were in Pittsfield, MA, where the light board, SM desk and sound console were all in a row behind the back row of the theatre. At intermission, Devon, Matt and I all stayed at our spots and geeked out over flashlights, mostly Matt’s, and passed them back and forth.

Matt had the Surefire Aviator, which is very cool, mostly because of the intuitive way it works: push a little for a green (or red or blue if you prefer) LED, push a lot for bright white. Twisting the cap works the same way. However, it’s very expensive, even as expensive flashlights go ($239). It’s also just as big as the current Surefire flashlights I have (the 6P and the G2), which I don’t like because I can’t reach the tailcap while also shielding the light with my hand (which is rarely that important — the only situation in the entire theatrical universe I’m aware of where you need that much control over a light is when decking The Phantom of the Opera, but unfortunately if I’m going to drop that kind of money on another flashlight, that’s what it needs to be able to do.) While I greatly admire the Aviator, it’s just not for me at that price.

The other light he has is from a brand I was unfamiliar with: Novatac. They don’t make as many different models as Surefire, but they also provide tactical flashlights for law enforcement and folks like that.

The one Matt has, that I ordered, is the 120T — which is really small, only takes one 123A battery, and provides 120 lumens at its maximum brightness, but also has two other brightness levels of .3 and 10 lumens. It also has a “disorienting strobe” feature, which is great if you want to stun a perp so you can take him down, or if you’re doing a production of Gypsy in your living room.

Novatac also sells a highly customizable programmable version, which is controlled with a single button. I read the whole user manual, which is fascinating, but decided against it when they said “if your flashlight does x you may need to perform a soft reset.” I’m sorry, I’m a computer person, but my flashlight is one thing that should not ever need to be soft reset. The programmable one is also more expensive and harder to find discounted on Amazon. The 120T retails for $149, but is frequently offered for less on Amazon through third-party sellers, and now by Amazon themselves: NovaTac 120T Tactical LED Flashlight. When I finally purchased it, it was $100, which is the lowest I’ve seen it. I had planned to use my Amazon credit card gift certificates to pay for the whole thing, but they have been stuck in the mail for a month, and I gave up waiting.

To make myself feel better about this unnecessary delay, I took advantage of the quick shipping time predicted and had it sent to our hotel in West Palm Beach, where it arrived today, rather than having to wait until we’re on vacation.

Of course as this is our day off, I haven’t had any time to actually use it in a real-world setting, any more than I already have by trying out Matt’s. But I’m very excited to begin. Once I’ve had some time with it, I’ll add it to the tool reviews on the site.


While the flashlight is definitely bright and easily portable, one thing I’ve learned is that it requires good batteries to get the most out of it. 123A batteries are very expensive (about $7 each if you buy them in a drug store or something), and I have purchased mine at bulk rates of about $1.50 each for years without thinking anything of it. One day months ago, Matt ran out of juice and I gave him one of my batteries. He immediately noticed how cheap my batteries were. I can’t say it’s ever bothered me when using a Surefire or other high-end flashlight. I’m sure they don’t last as long, or shine quite as bright, but the Novatac really suffers and flickers with the lower-quality battery, and I noticed it right away the first time I had to change the batteries. Thankfully it only requires one battery.

I Have Found a Use for Twitter!

I call this: tech — Posted by KP @ 2:47 pm

So I’m at the hotel on a day off, thinking the rest of the crew is off partying for St. Patrick’s day. I settle in to sort my clothes for the laundry. When I do chores I generally like to put some music on.

I discovered yesterday that the hotel’s internet can’t handle Pandora reliably, so I start the Pandora app on my iPhone. I decide to tweet about how ridiculous that situation is, and open the Twitter website. In my feed I see a post from Nick (@nicktochelli) about how he’s doing laundry. Son of a bitch!

So I sent Nick a text asking if he was hogging the only machine, or if there were more. It also made me realize that I had a potential lunch buddy at the hotel, and wouldn’t have to go seek food alone.

Nick got back to me and said that he was moving on to the dryer so the washer would be available. We decided to have lunch at the bland and overpriced restaurant in the hotel, so that we could attend to our laundry, and because it’s raining and there’s nothing else close by.

See, without people tweeting things like “I’m doing laundry,” I would have dragged my ass, and my dirty clothes, all the way down to the laundry room potentially for no reason! This way I found someone to have lunch with and we got to coordinate our laundry cycles so I could get a machine easily.

The Map

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 10:22 am

Behold, the Acting Company tour overlaid on the only map that truly matters: AT&T’s 3G coverage.

AT&T has claimed that they cover 97% of Americans. I often feel like it’s The Acting Company’s mission to bring Shakespeare to the other 3%. To be honest, we’ve only been in a handful of places where my phone didn’t work at all, and I imagine that AT&T considers all of them to be part of their coverage area because your phone might sometimes work. Of course when you’re a stage manager trying to put on a show and you can’t reliably send or receive phone calls, text messages or email at your hotel, your venue, or anywhere in between, “in an hour there are many days,” as Shakespeare says.

But actually when you look at it, we only spend maybe half the tour in places without 3G coverage. At least according to this map. What it doesn’t show is that in places like Fairfax, VA, which is very close to Washington, and within the 3G bubble thereabouts, there is no AT&T service in the dressing rooms, which are only maybe 30 feet from the loading dock. I blame that on AT&T regardless. Buildings are made of concrete. People live and work in buildings. Plan for it.

Incidentally, the reason that Verizon works better indoors is because the frequency they operate on penetrates walls and floors better, so even with equal numbers of towers, they will always have better building penetration than AT&T (at least on the current generation of frequencies). However, with good service, AT&T does have theoretically higher speeds. Actually just the other day we were in 3G coverage somewhere and I ran a speed test on my phone and was getting speeds higher than the theoretical maximum of Verizon’s EV-DO Rev A. So it does pay off in the real world occasionally, I guess.