October 30, 2010

Travel Day

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 11:58 pm

Today was our only long drive of the fall leg of the tour: Santa Barbara to Phoenix. It’s about eight hours of driving. I believe I’ve mentioned that we don’t have our “rockstar” buses on this leg. Because the cities are for the most part close together, the schedule contains no back-to-back one-nighters, and the majority of the schedule is sit-down weeks in Phoenix and Tucson, it was impractical to rent the usual two entertainer coaches. Instead we have a single coach bus, where cast, crew and staff travel together by day.

Today’s journey is the first long trip I’ve taken with the cast. The crew bus rarely travels by day for very long. We did it once last year as part of a two-day drive, and it was boring as hell. The cast has stricter regulations about breaks and such, which can sometimes be frustrating, but it definitely is nice to stretch your legs. You also get to get out and actually experience the places you drive through.

Most of our day was spent driving through completely empty desert. At one point we stopped at an unmanned rest stop at sunset. Here are some pics.

I was very worried about how we would pass the 8 hours without satellite TV, power outlets, refrigerator, or our bunks, but it was better than I thought. I listened to music and looked out the window for the first two hours, slept for the next two hours, which took us to lunch at a strip mall area in Indio, CA. When we got back on the bus we watched the movie Hook. We don’t have TV, but the bus does have small screens and a DVD player, at least. The movie ended just as it was getting dark and the dim glowing interior lights were turned on. I was lucky that I had no one in the row behind me, so I could recline my seat way back and curl up with my pillow into a pretty comfortable position.

We traveled through a little more desert in the dark, and then hit the outskirts of the Phoenix area, which seemed to wake people up a bit. We arrived at our hotel around 7PM, so there was still time to grab a nice dinner and go exploring. The crew went out in search of margaritas, which after much walking and many closed restaurants in the downtown area, we found at a quiet place called Mi Patio.

We actually get a day off here, our only one (for the crew) on this leg of the tour. Yippee!

October 28, 2010

Wireless Priorities

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 5:52 pm

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while.

For many years I’ve been a member of Howard Forums, where totally dorky people go to talk about cell phones. I’ve been a member since 2003, at which time I was struggling with a T68i on AT&T, and about to switch to Verizon when cell number portability was introduced.

Even back then, one of my primary concerns was tethering. The T68i was one of the first phones that could tether, via bluetooth or infrared (remember infrared?). At the time I wasn’t as concerned with tethering my laptop as I was with tethering my PDA (remember PDAs?). Back in the day, smartphones were either clunky, poor in features, or both. If you wanted a really good PDA you had to get its internet from the outside. So it was a big deal that the T68i could tether pretty easily (easily being a very relative term). Verizon, of course, didn’t want anybody tethering, sharing, communicating or anything else, because they hadn’t figured out how to monetize it, so their phones did nothing. Except make calls, which was something AT&T’s phones couldn’t do, at least not in NYC. People make fun of AT&T in NYC now, but in truth what we have now is a huge step up from when you could press your head against a window and still not be able to get a call out.

A brief aside: on the plane to California I finished listening to one of my favorite podcasts: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (iTunes link), and his 4-part series on the Eastern Front of WWII. In it he remarks that the battle between Germany and Russia (or more specifically between Hitler and Stalin) was not a good-guy-vs.-bad-guy fight, but bad-guy-vs.-bad-guy. As I was about to contrast the policies of AT&T and Verizon above, I was initially going to say matter-of-factly that Verizon locked down their phones because they’re evil, which in that context seemed to imply that AT&T was or is not. This is not the case. They are both evil, just in different ways at different times. Being a Verizon or AT&T customer does not put you on the right or wrong side of a battle. Like the Russian and German civilians, you will be screwed no matter which side you’re on or who is dominating the other at the moment. So never take my bashing of one carrier as an endorsement of the other.

Anyway, I don’t read HoFo nearly as much as I used to, since I have been a smartphone user since 2005, and there are generally better forums for specific smartphones, rather than having to delve into the particulars of hacking your phone to work with your PDA. As an iPhone user in particular, there are much more focused places I can get my tips and user support. HoFo is a great resource for talking about phones and phone networks, but I generally only check it these days if I’m having an AT&T issue that isn’t directly related to the iPhone.

Because of this inactivity, I hadn’t updated my profile in years. HoFo has some nice profile sections that allow you to add information specific to the topics discussed, such as what phones you own or have owned, and what’s important to you.

This is what my profile looked like when I found it:
I think the most important phone feature is:
reliable reception

I think the second most important phone feature is:
fast data

I think the third most important phone feature is:
lots of software choices

Is this the answer of an iPhone user? Fast data, yes. HSDPA is far faster in theory than Verizon’s EVDO could ever be. Software choices, well yes, there’s an app for everything. But my #1 priority was reliable reception. At the time I updated this, I’m sure I was a Verizon user. That just struck me as really odd and strangely hypocritical. Not that there’s anything wrong with changing one’s priorities, but it’s interesting how a phone can suddenly make the most important priority a non-issue.

So I updated my profile, since it was embarrassing that I was an iPhone user and said that on my profile, and also since it’s obviously no longer true for me. So I thought about it for a few minutes and decided on:
I think the most important phone feature is:
easy sharing of data between cloud and desktop

I think the second most important phone feature is:
fast data

I think the third most important phone feature is:
reception (mostly for data)

You know what else is really interesting? No mention of tethering in either case. What is up with that? Is it because those other things like reception and bandwidth are requirements for tethering? I suppose tethering isn’t actually a “phone feature” as much as it is a carrier decision. Most advanced phones support tethering from the manufacturer, whether the carrier chooses to enable it or not is something else entirely. In fact if it wasn’t for tethering, I wouldn’t be writing this post, cause the Hilton wants $10/night for internet. Thanks to tethering, I blog on.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting to get this unexpected snapshot of my changing beliefs about mobile computing, and how the industry has changed consumer expectations in recent years.

October 27, 2010

Crew Transport

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:54 pm

Being in sunny California, on a nice sunny college campus (Cal State Northridge), we have collectively decided we need a better way to get around.

Tim, our sound supervisor, wanted to buy a skateboard. He called a bunch of local people on Craigslist, to no avail (since we don’t have transportation to meet anyone). So he sat on campus with a sign saying “Need skateboard, will pay $$” and two $20 bills clipped to it. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, he had a skateboard.

Meanwhile, Meaghan and I have decided that we want Razor scooters. One of the guys on the crew at the Guthrie had one last year, and it was cool. We were trying to get to a sporting goods store or a toy store to find one, but suddenly realized the wonders of Amazon Prime. So within about 10 minutes we had ordered two scooters (a red one for me and a purple one for Meaghan) and had them overnighted to our next hotel in Santa Barbara. We’re both very excited to play with our new toys on Friday!

Load in is going well. The crew here is very nice. The beautiful weather and relaxing campus atmosphere has definitely made a potentially stressful day more relaxing. I still think it will most likely be a 20-hour day, but am hoping for the best!

October 26, 2010

More Early Tour Pictures

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:58 pm

I’ve been taking lots of pictures this past week, so I’m going to share all the miscellaneous ones with you:

On our load-out day from Pace in New York, the truck was parked outside by the time we arrived for the matinee. On our dinner break before load out Tim, Olivia and Meaghan posed with the truck.

Meaghan was wearing a bandana on her head for the final performances at Pace. She said she felt like a Russian peasant woman, which I thought was especially appropriate when she came down the stairs carrying the water jugs for backstage, as though she had just pulled the water from the well. So I took a picture, which she requested also show that she was transporting Lady Capulet’s black shawl in the back of her hoodie (the shawl is hidden in a tiny box in the set for most of the show).

A random shot of the truck pack. I took this mostly to help document the configuration of the sound boxes, as they’re of a different size than last year’s package, so the positioning of this section of the pack is new.

The back of the set during load out from Pace. About half of it has been taken down at this point.

My hotel room in Palm Desert. I got up early and sat, not really out on the balcony for most of it, but I had the door open and sat right next to it while working at the desk, and it was awesome. My current hotel room in Northridge also has a balcony, but it looks out on parking garages and things, and doesn’t have any chairs. So, not as cool.


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:59 pm

We arrived last night in Palm Springs, CA. We knew right away that we were someplace nice because the airport had an outdoor plaza separating the gates from the baggage claim. For this group of mostly New Yorkers and Minnesotans, such architecture was completely inconceivable.

Here we are at LaGuardia, waiting for our first trip as a company.

This morning we had our first tour performance, of our 1-hour trunk show of Romeo and Juliet. This is done out of costume, with basic props. For a brief primer on how this works, this post is a good introduction (bear in mind it refers to last year’s tour). Because we don’t have any performances of the big show here, the truck has gone on to Northridge from New York. So the 1-hour trunk had to go on the plane as checked baggage. The trunk is huge and weighs about 100 pounds. We were very concerned about it. We also almost missed our connecting flight, and everyone’s biggest concern was the 1-hour trunk making it onto the plane, nevermind our own luggage. But my seat was perfectly positioned to confirm the good news:

The most concerning thing about it is that due to the fact that we’re doing the actual show fights in the 1-hour this year, we need to use the show weapons. So the stakes for losing or damaging the 1-hour trunk are far greater than they would be otherwise. The cane swords used by Mercutio and Tybalt are handmade for this production and essentially irreplaceable. The other swords would take some time to get duplicates of. We’re hoping to have duplicates of the fighting swords made before the spring tour, but for now we just have to be really careful with the show swords.

We’re performing two back-to-back performances of the 1-hour at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA. This theatre is awesome, and I was immediately sad that we won’t be doing the big show here. This would be a wonderful venue to play.

The green room is by far the greatest I’ve seen. Here are some pictures:

After being slain, our dead characters hang out in the greenroom watching the show on the big screen:

There’s also an enclosed patio (with a grill!) just off the greenroom, where John, Stephen, Jonathan, Whitney and Ben relax between our back-to-back performances.

There’s even a lady on staff who serves drinks and provides other food services. Not only an amazing greenroom, but someone to serve you! Crazy!

As is the custom for the 1-hour, Meaghan is in charge and I’m here to help set up props and wrangle actors. Since this is a big venue, it’s very good that I’m able to be here, as the distance between where she’s calling from and the stage is quite large, and the setup and turnaround time between the shows is short.

Everyone was very happy to find such a nice place for our first shows out of New York. The student audiences seemed to enjoy themselves. The talkbacks were brief but the questions were very good. The 1-hour is always kind of a weird thing, but so far it seems to be a good experience for all of us, and I’m glad for the new people that it’s starting out this way. People are prepared for the fact that it can be performed in less-than-ideal conditions, but it’s nice to start at pretty much a perfect venue.

October 24, 2010

Getting Real

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:52 am

We are totally leaving tomorrow.

We are totally loading out tonight.

These slow realizations have been dawning on all of us, I think pretty much starting with the point that we ended our final rehearsal on Friday afternoon.

Friday night was our first performance, and in the Acting Company tradition, before the show the traveling company was presented with gift bags of swag that serve to make life on the road easier while promoting the company.

This year’s bag included:

  • very classy tote bag, the same one we got last year, which is good, because the new people have been eyeing the ones used by returning company members enviously for the past month
  • red metallic bottle opener — much nicer than the black plastic ones we gave out as local crew swag two years ago
  • Acting Company hat
  • pen, which is also what we’re giving the local crews this year.
  • pack of Romeo and Juliet postcards
  • two Acting Company luggage tags which make it very easy to spot friendly bags coming off the baggage carousel

Meaghan posed with our spoils of tour:

What the gift bag means to me is that we are very, very close to leaving. For the most part, the gift bag represents packing — the tote bag ends up being used as a carry-on by most people, and the luggage tags of course only serve one purpose. Once we’ve got the gift bags it’s time to get serious about preparing to leave town.

I’ve been sick most of the week with this respiratory thing that’s been sweeping through the company. As of yesterday there’s just some gunk left in my lungs but I don’t feel sick anymore. But instead of using my time outside of tech to pack, do laundry, clean my apartment, or do anything productive, I slept. Today I finally got up early to do laundry. I called the car service. I’m blogging. So that’s a start. My suitcase has been largely packed since I got home in late August, but of course things have been going in and out as needed.

We have a matinee today, and then load out at night. The first load out is always a big mystery. As of last night the plan was to basically keep the truck pack from last year, with a few alterations. Olivia, Daniel and I have been brainstorming about it all week. We don’t think the previous truck pack is necessarily the most efficient way of dealing with things this year, but we don’t want to waste too much time making mistakes. We also don’t have a dock here, and the truck will probably be parked around the corner from the door to the theatre. Which reminds me, I’m totally wearing the wrong shoes.

Well I must go prepare to get my laundry and rush off to work!

October 19, 2010

Tech Photos!

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:39 am

We’re five hours into tech. Here are some dinnertime pics!

Meaghan bought an awesome clipboard when we started rehearsal. It has a compartment inside, and a small pencil compartment at the bottom. I was kind of lusting for one in rehearsal, now it looks even more awesome in tech.

There’s a long stairway from the dressing rooms down to stage left, overlooking the prop tables.

Stage left. Props on the left, stage management road box on the right, sound console in the rear.

The backstage headset station. Meaghan’s beltpack, containing everything you could possibly need: leatherman, Maglite, pencil, chapstick, cell phone, Tootsie Pop.

October 16, 2010

On the Cusp of Tech

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:54 pm

We finished our three weeks in the rehearsal studio today. I don’t think I got a break all day from 9AM to 8PM, except about 15 minutes to scarf down a slice of pizza at around 4:30 while Meaghan minded rehearsal. We rehearsed lots of scenes, ran Act II, loaded out all our props, furniture and road boxes from the studio, rehearsed some more scenes, and then restored the rehearsal room to its natural condition.

As soon as we had the studio looking clean and orderly, with all the chairs and tables stacked exactly as they were when we found them three weeks ago, Meaghan and I lugged the last remains of our rehearsal supplies down to the theatre (the Schimmel Center at Pace University) to check out the set.

We’re not planning to be back until the morning of tech on Tuesday, so we wanted to stop in and make sure everything looks good. The theatre is really nice. It’s much wider and less deep than I pictured, but it seems very intimate. It reminds me of some of the venues we played in the early days of the tour last year. The deck is of a nice size, with sufficient wingspace on both sides, a large-ish shop upstage and enough room for an onstage crossover. The backstage area reminds me a lot of our venue in Philly where we closed the show last year.

I had been warned that the dressing rooms were up a long flight of stairs, but what we found up there was not at all the dark and dirty dressing rooms I pictured from my experience of narrow backstage metal staircases. The staircase, though very long and somewhat narrow, is sturdy and safe, and leads to the cheeriest backstage area I think I’ve ever seen. The color scheme and lighting create a warm and cozy (cozy as in comfortable, not cozy as a euphemism for too small) atmosphere. The green room is off the hook. Everything is red and gold — there’s an entire wall covered in gold silk. It looks like it should be Queen Victoria’s sitting room or something. I’ll have to get a picture sometime this week.

Feeling very good about the accommodations, we returned to the stage to scope out the set. If we encountered this house on the road, it would be a very good day, so it’s nice that we get to spend a week here. The set looks pretty much as it always has — it was initially a little disorienting when we first saw it from the back of the house because it’s been cut down a little, I think by 2 feet. I did my usual inspection, walking up the staircase shaking everything looking for loose bolts. It feels like we’ve never left. I feel very confident because we’ve had most of last year’s crew involved in some part of this process, so there’s a clear handing off of experience with the show to our new crewmembers.

Tuesday we’ll start tech. The cast has been running the show for about a week and a half, so they are very accustomed to the sequence of the show. We’ve had all the show props and the actual prop tables in the rehearsal studio, so I think they will adjust quickly to the stage. Navigating the stairs, and adding the element of costume and wigs will be the biggest adjustments for them. Tech-wise, the show already exists, it will just be a matter of seeing if everything looks and sounds the way it did before, and if we still like the way that was. Including rehearsals, I’ve probably called this show about 90 times in the past year. I’ve never teched a show that I already knew so well. I’m prepared that problems may crop up, or there may be things we’re asked to change, but it’s nice to have a very solid framework to follow, and to only need to make changes to that, rather than starting from scratch, as one normally does in tech. I’ve also gone through three weeks of rehearsal knowing what my cues are, and have watched this cast with that in mind.

We’re very close to our departure. Just three days of tech, culminating on the third day with an invited dress rehearsal, then three performances, and the next morning (Monday) we get on the plane to California. This weekend is our last time off before our first day off on tour, on Halloween in Phoenix, AZ. Crazy! I need to pack!

I’ve got a lot of work to do this weekend, mostly with the script. We’ve been making changes to the text up till today (and might make more), so I didn’t want to commit to a script until today’s rehearsal was done. I’m going to send the revisions to the production team so they can show up on Tuesday with all the changes, and then re-do my calling script with the current text. I’m going to start with last year’s calling script and just edit the text, as that seems easier than adding hundreds of cues into the new script (as each cue involves messing with margins, borders, underlining, colors, etc.) Check out the scripts page to see what it looks like. You can even download last year’s script from that page.

It’s still tech, but I am determined to have fun.

And as we depart New 42nd Street Studios, I want to share my favorite bit of signage:
You know for every rule like this, there’s a good story.

October 10, 2010

A Day Off

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:17 am

Day off #2 of the Romeo and Juliet remount.

We’ve now been working for two weeks, have staged the play and run it successfully, and continued tightening choreography, fights, vocal work and scene work.

Today I slept past 8AM. I didn’t need to go much further than that, because I went to bed at like 9:00PM, trying to finish a podcast (Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History,” which I’ve had in my podcast list forever, but have just recently actually started listening to, and it’s EPIC!) Anyway, when I ceased to be able to piece together Mr. Carlin’s words into coherent sentences explaining the fall of the Roman republic, I turned it off and went to sleep.

I wanted to get a good night’s sleep, but also to be able to get up early enough to be productive in the morning, because I do have something to do today which threw a wrench in my plans to sit in my apartment in my pajamas all day playing on the internet, before ordering Dominos for dinner and watching football. As I may have mentioned, my good friend Josh is the ASM for the current Angels in America revival Off-Broadway. I did some work with him on their stage management database over the summer, with the reward of getting to see the show. Well the show is impossible to get tickets for, so there were no comps to be had, and even the staff-rate tickets are hard to come by. But having never seen the show on stage before, I was pretty determined to see the two parts in order, and he managed to snag me a staff ticket to Millenium Approaches on my day off a few weeks ago, and just yesterday came through with one for Perestroika for today. So while the day off is sacred time, I do consider myself very lucky to be able to see both parts of this great production, and at an affordable price no less. How many times in one lifetime can one say they “never got around to seeing” Angels in America? I felt bad enough about it the first time. Buying tickets to multi-part plays can be daunting and discouraging (and expensive), but I really need to get better at it. I’m glad (with Josh’s help) I pushed to try to see this one properly. The first part was fantastic, so I can’t wait to see the rest! And if you really want to see it, I hear the cancellation line has a pretty good rate of success.

Otherwise today, I intend to blog (obviously succeeding so far), and will try to meet up with Nick over iChat to help him out with his wedding database woes, which I have been ignoring the pleas of in my inbox. Well not ignoring, I’ve actually been checking in on it several times a day, polling my brain activity, and deciding that it’s of insufficient power to remotely troubleshoot someone else’s database at that moment. As he correctly surmised in his post, it needed to wait for a day off.

Otherwise, I need to do laundry. Maybe I could start packing a bit. I kind of started packing when I got home in August, but obviously some things have needed to be removed since. There comes a week when the clothes that come out of the laundry don’t go back in the closet, but go into the suitcase, or neatly laid out near it, and I spend the rest of the time wearing clothes that will not go on tour. I think that’s probably next week, though. And since it will be late October in New York, and the first leg of the tour is all in California and Arizona, I actually think the clothes I wear for tech week would not be the same ones I’d need on tour anyway. I haven’t put any real thought into which clothes I’m bringing, but the nice thing is that next week we actually get two days off in a row, because of the transition from the Sunday day off to Monday off. So hopefully I’ll have ample time to prepare before the excitement of tech. We leave the day after our final show here, so there’s no stopping once we start tech. Thankfully our company manager took pity on us and got us an afternoon flight!

In the meantime, we still have two weeks left in New York: one in the rehearsal hall, and one at the theatre at Pace University. The first leg unfortunately did not get filled up with as many venues as initially hoped, so we have a three-week layoff around Thanksgiving, and will be back at home probably before we know it.

October 8, 2010

Today in Pictures

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:24 pm

This morning we did our first full run-through of the show. It’s only been six-and-a-half days since we started staging the play. It went very well. Some fun stuff has been happening around that.

This event is quickly making the rounds on everyone’s Facebook pages.

Last week when we were staging, Alejandro (Romeo) was looking for a place to sulk to get into the proper frame of mind for his first entrance (where he’s been hiding in the woods pining for the fair Rosaline). He chose one of our prop boxes, which currently sits empty in the back of the room. It soon became his favorite spot to recline during rehearsal. Today Jamie (Paris) and Ben (Tybalt) demonstrated this rehearsal room oddity for the camera.

It’s pretty common for people to develop “their” place in the rehearsal room or offstage in the theatre — usually a favorite chair or corner. Clearly this is his. So Meaghan made it official by labeling the box.

And finally, a shot of our bed / tomb, which is named Fred. Sometimes really difficult pieces of scenery attract so much discussion that somebody finally decides they need a name. Well Fred had a name months before rehearsal started last year, long before he was ever built. And he has been known as Fred to everyone who has ever worked on the production — directors, designers, cast, crew, staff and local stagehands around the country.

The real Fred is with us in the rehearsal hall this year, which is a great luxury. He also has all his blankets, pillows and padding. During today’s run, his bedding got a little disheveled in the course of all the dying and such, revealing the lovely period padding underneath. You don’t think we’d have Juliet lying on that thing motionless for a half hour with anything less, do you?

And finally, he’s a slightly weird panorama of our rehearsal room, taken with the iPhone app 360 Panorama. The concept is cool: you slowly turn your phone and it stitches the image together in real time. It works about… this well:

I have better luck getting decent panoramas with Pano, though it’s not really designed to take full 360-degree images.

That’s the stage management desk on the right, and the director’s desk on the left. The director and myself sit at the inside places closest to center, with our respective assistants on the outside. It’s also a good idea to have the stage management desk on the side by the door, because it conveniently positions the ASM in the best spot to discretely enter and leave the room.

Older Posts »