November 30, 2010

Back to Work

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:49 pm

Yeah, I totally dropped off the face of the earth during our hiatus. I haven’t even done anything I normally look forward to doing for fun. I haven’t continued learning Java, worked on my database, played online games, or much of anything else. I’ve watched some movies and TV and listened to music while poking around on the internet, and went to Jersey to offer my opinion about a house a friend of mine is planning to buy, but the time went by much faster than I expected, and now it’s time to get back to work. I am actually on the clock now, after all — on LORT B scale (because I’m technically working at the Guthrie), as our general manager reminded me today — which resulted in me doing a happy dance, because I was thinking of this as part of my standard “in town” salary, which is much lower.

Today I came into the office for an hour-long meeting with our director, Ian, mostly to sketch out the schedule for the rehearsal process and touch base about a couple other things, such as how we’ll set up the rehearsal room. It was a good meeting, looks like things are under control. This is the third year we’re working on essentially the exact same schedule at the Guthrie, so all the weirdness that comes from rehearsing over Christmas and teching the week after New Year’s is old hat now. We have a very clear pattern to follow and so far we don’t seem to be straying too far from that.

Last week (or maybe the week before?) I got the draft of the script that we’ll start rehearsal with, set it all up with act-scene-page numbers and hard page breaks, and submitted it to the dramaturg at the Guthrie, who will see that it gets printed and bound for us before we arrive. That’s pretty much the extent of work I’ve been doing on the show.

This week I’ll be making an actor-scene breakdown, getting the database in shape for the new show, updating the contact sheet as appropriate, and creating a calendar to send to the cast and crew, incorporating what Ian and I discussed today.

My contract (as this is actually considered a separate production from the first leg of the tour) appears to have disappeared into the ether of the US Postal Service, so I’m still at the office, hanging out while a new one is printed. At least I can sign it here and not have to mail it back!

While I’m not thrilled about subjecting myself to the Minneapolis winter, it’s been very warm in New York — I haven’t put on a winter coat yet — and at this point I think I deserve to be cold. It should be a fun process and going back to the Guthrie now feels like going home. Actually I’m once again in the same apartment I’ve had all along, which does literally feel like home. Living there for two consecutive months a year is more than I can say about my actual apartment in New York, and naturally, not being in New York, it’s nicer than any apartment I could ever hope to possess myself. I wonder who will be below me this year to hear my chair scraping on their ceiling. And I wonder if they’ll nag me about it as much as Nick. Probably not, as it won’t be Meaghan, since she lives in St. Paul, and there’s no one else whose job description is “give Karen shit,” unless it was Daniel, but I think he’ll be in a hotel. So it will probably go unremarked, which will make me a little sad.

I kind of needed this day to get my head back in the game. The hiatus is so long (3 weeks including my pre-pro week, which thankfully they didn’t ask me to spend full-time in the office), that it feels like the show has closed. It’s going to be very weird to jump back into production with the same group, even though we’ll be working on a new show for the first 7 weeks or so. So seeing the people in the office has made it more real that this is actually happening.

Stay tuned, I leave for Minneapolis on Sunday!

November 14, 2010

Ye Olde Tyme Romeo and Juliet Crewe

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:09 pm

Ye Olde Tyme Production Stage Manageress

Ye Olde Tyme Assistant Stage Manageress

Ye Olde Tyme Master Carpenter

Ye Olde Tyme Proppe Mistress

Ye Olde Tyme Sounde Fellow

Ye Olde Tyme Wardrobe Mistress

Not shewn: Ye Olde Tyme Gaslight Directrix.

November 13, 2010


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:55 pm

Tonight is our 100th performance of Romeo and Juliet. We did 3 previews and 77 regular performances of the tour last year, and this will be our 20th performance of this tour.

In addition to me, the others celebrating their 100th performance are:
Ray Chapman (Friar Laurence)
Jason McDowell-Green (Montague)
Jamie Smithson (Paris)
Elizabeth Stahlmann (Nurse)

I was planning to do a little something to make some acknowledgement of it, but Ray was in my office a few days ago asking me to look up some other stat from last year, when he said, “We’re coming up on 100 performances, aren’t we?” I said, “yes, we’re very close,” but up till that point I hadn’t actually bothered to figure out which performance it would be. Fittingly, it’s a Saturday night. Upon hearing this, word spread through the company and everyone is quite excited. I have heard there are plans to go out and celebrate after the show. Not that we need an excuse to go out after a show.

The joke among the crew is that after 100 performances of the balcony scene I will hit Shakespeare overflow and just start spitting out cues one after the other:
“Electrics 50, go. Electrics 51, go. Electrics 53, go. Sound 107, go. Electrics 54 and Sound 110, go, Electrics 56, go…”
And Meaghan will be running around backstage trying to figure out how to turn me off.

It’s actually been kind of nice to be with a show for so long. I’ve also done three other shows in between the two tours, which is good because I think I’d probably have gone insane by now if I didn’t have a few musicals with 600 cues thrown in to make things interesting.

I remember being in tech for Into the Woods and saying to the crew, “If in October I’m bitching about how easy my show is to call, I want you to slap me and remind me how stressed I am right now!” So it’s nice to take it easy again, and with a show that I already knew how to call.

There’s still plenty that I’m working on, though, mostly related to learning to anticipate the moves of the new actors. Meaghan is also learning the show, so that keeps me honest and makes me have to articulate my choices. There was one sound cue where I said, “Honestly, I’m calling it where Sonny used to pick up the basket,” which of course is totally not helpful to anyone but me, and while that was the easiest way for me to feel it out, that’s not why I continued to call it there. I continued to call it that way because it was still working, so I left it at that. Over the few days after that conversation with Meaghan, I continued calling it where Sonny used to pick up the basket, but watched and listened for what was really happening that made that cue work, and decided that it works because it happens at the same time the Friar speaks. I still use “where Sonny used to pick up the basket” as my way of anticipating when the Friar speaks, but now I’m more aware of what else is happening. Meaghan will have to develop her own method, which might be something like “when Alejandro reaches for his jacket,” but at least she has a more concrete goal to achieve.

For most of us, this will be the most performances of a single show we’ve done. I’ve done more performances of Phantom, but when last I checked I think I’ve only called it about 80 times. So I’m pretty happy. I’m also glad it comes so close to the end of the fall leg of the tour. The achievement kind of caps off this part of the tour and gets us ready to tackle something new in a few weeks, when we begin rehearsing The Comedy of Errors.

November 11, 2010

AT&T vs. Sucky Hotel Internet

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 12:46 am

OK, AT&T. You win. The Holiday Inn Express in Palm Springs, the Hilton in Northridge, the Sandman Inn in Santa Barbara, the Hilton Suites in Phoenix, and the Hotel Arizona in Tucson have finally broken me. Take your $10, and be happy.

My iPhone provides so much more of a reliable internet connection than the wifi at any of these establishments, that I have exceeded my 2GB data allowance for the month for the first time since giving up the unlimited plan.

I could have made it, I think. I was on day 28 of my month. If things had gone well, I might have just snuck in under the wire. But trying to stream TV shows on my night off sent me over the edge. It’s physically impossible. And it’s really pathetic that I could connect with a freaking phone and watch shows without interruption. On AT&T, no less! So I decided that the internet this month has been so sucky that I deserve to be able to watch a show I want to see on my night off, and I don’t care if I have to pay ten bucks to do it.

This is why I tolerate AT&T’s tethering plan. I know what happens when you tour. You get screwed over by every hotel you enter — blocking ports (this one blocks my favorite MMO, and AIM, of all things, and God knows what else), terrible bandwidth, and things that load so slow that whatever you’re trying to do just plain times out, even if that thing you’re trying to do is check your email. And then there’s the Herberger Theater, which blocks email ports. There are times when you are so frustrated by lack of bandwidth that paying $10 per GB for a connection that works and is yours alone is actually worth it. I knew this day would come, and I am not upset at AT&T. I kind of wish I hadn’t hit this limit on something so frivolous like a 500MB TV episode, when I have plenty of other TV shows on an external hard drive, but it was more about expressing my freedom to do whatever the hell I feel like on the internet, when I want to.

So there. Are you happy now, AT&T? I’ll be giving you your 10 bucks, and I said something nice about you. Mark this day on your calendar.

November 10, 2010

R&J Roundup

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:03 am

Another day, another student matinee of Romeo and Juliet for 500-something middle school and high school students.

Before I begin, I want to share a review from our time in Phoenix last week. I think it pretty much sums up the approach our show takes to R&J and what its unique and best characteristics are.

Today was our first performance in Tucson, at the Temple of Music and Art, owned by Arizona Theater Company. They’re our buddies, and there were many returning crew and staff members from when we played Henry V here two years ago. Most of the people I met on load-in day remembered me from last time. One was especially exciting, as one of our prop guys was not on the crew back then, but was in the stage management class that Nick and I had an hour-long talkback with after one performance (which apparently I didn’t blog about, because my computer was broken at the time). So it was cool to see that one of the students we met is now on our crew.

I had been hoping to call from backstage here, because I vaguely remembered it being possible, and happily it was quite a nice setup, so that’s what we went with. The only unfortunate side effect to calling from backstage on this show is that we have some floor-mounted pars that shine directly across the stage. Depending on the location of the calling desk, one or more of them might just be shining in my face for extended periods of time. There is one such light here, so I employed some sunglasses for the scenes where it’s on. Tim runs sound from right next to me, and prefers to pull up his hoodie and turn away.

After the show we rented a car and took a trip to Tombstone, AZ, where half the shops and attractions were closed by the time we got there, but we had a great time anyway, and got our desired fill of the old west. Here’s Olivia, Mariela and Tim walking off into the sunset.

We also pulled off the highway on the way back and parked in a totally deserted area to look at the stars. It was really cool. On the few occasions I’ve been able to see the milky way, it’s just been kind of, well, milky, just a slightly lighter band in the sky. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before where you can actually see the individual points of light of all the stars, which is a totally different experience when you consider what it means and our place in the universe. It was a really amazing sight, and I would have loved to study it all night, but it was getting really cold in the desert after the sun went down, so we only stayed a few minutes.

It was a rather long, but very productive day. Except for Meaghan, who got food poisoning the day before from our (formerly) favorite sushi place, and was functional by show time, but was taking it easy for the rest of the day and missed the trip. We brought her back some souvenirs, though.

November 8, 2010

RAM and Virtualization

I call this: computers,mac,pc,tech — Posted by KP @ 6:09 pm

For as long as I’ve had a Mac, I’ve had an install of Windows on it. Back in the day it was VirtualPC, then when Intel Macs came out it was Boot Camp and Parallels. I’ve had some trouble with Parallels over the years, but overall I’ve preferred it to the competing VMWare Fusion every time I’ve tried Fusion out. There’s just one problem: Parallels charges like $50/year for upgrades. And there’s always the same features touted: “faster, and you can play 3D games! No seriously, this time you can play 3D games. Not like last year when we said that and none of the games you play would actually work. This time we really mean it.” Anyway, working or not, for an $80 app, $50 for a yearly upgrade feels like a lot relative to the cost of the initial purchase, when the functionality doesn’t really increase in the same proportion. It’s not like 5/8ths of the app is new features.

This year, right around the time Parallels 6 came out, demanding $50 for what sounds like pretty much exactly the features I have now, VMWare sent out an email advertising a deal whereby a person owning a license for Parallels could buy Fusion for ten bucks. Think about that for a moment. You could spend $50 to upgrade an app you’ve already paid for three times before, or you could buy an entirely new app that does essentially the same thing for TEN BUCKS.

First of all, I haven’t been very happy with the performance of Parallels lately. I had 4GB of RAM in my Macbook Pro, and Parallels was running like crap. I’d tried all sorts of configurations, some worked better than others, but just opening the start menu took like 10 seconds sometimes. I wanted to upgrade to 8GB, but it was still pretty expensive, and I was broke.

When the VMWare deal came out, I jumped on that, of course, cause I’d pay $10 just to have someone find the person who decided on Parallels’ pricing model and kick them in the face. To get an app with it as well would be awesome. So I installed Fusion and it felt basically the same. It’s hard to say since I don’t have too much cause to use either, especially with the obvious RAM shortage I’m having.

Finally, I decided it would be really nice to be able to actually use these apps, and I once again researched the cost of RAM. I always buy my RAM from Crucial, at least for my Macs, because I just trust them. RAM is a hard thing to shop for. You really can’t tell what you’re getting ahead of time, and it can even be hard to tell after the fact if your RAM sucks. So all you really have to go by is the reputation of the company. Crucial was still a little out of my desired price range, but then I realized that Amazon actually sells Crucial RAM. Their price was better than buying it direct, and I had some gift certificate money to spend as well, which brought it down to a reasonable cost. So as we were going on the road in a week, I rushed to make my purchase.

The RAM arrived when we were in tech for Romeo and Juliet. I had it delivered to the office because I knew I’d be at the theatre 18 hours a day from then until we went on tour, so our company manager dropped by with it at some point during our day. I was going to wait until lunch to install it, but decided on a 10 that I had to try it. At the start of the 10 I shut down my computer and began taking it apart. When I was finished and had rebooted we still had four-and-a-half minutes remaining on the break. I was pretty impressed with myself.

Honestly I don’t notice the speed all that much when going about my normal OS X activities. 4GB is still plenty for day-to-day work. However, there is a HUGE improvement in running Windows simultaneously. It almost feels as smooth as if it’s running natively. I have 3GB allotted to the virtual machine.

Gaming-wise, I don’t ever expect it to compete with running in Boot Camp, but you can actually get things done in games. Especially if you’re playing MMOs or something that doesn’t require instant reflexes all the time, it would be perfectly serviceable for doing more leisurely tasks.

As far as Parallels vs. Fusion, I don’t really have enough evidence to do a side-by-side comparison. I was also running last year’s Parallels and upgraded to this year’s Fusion, so that’s not really fair. I would have to buy Parallels 6 to really say anything. I will say that the one thing I miss from Parallels is Modality mode, in which you can have a tiny, semi-transparent window showing your Windows screen floating over your Mac stuff, and actually click in it and do stuff. If you’re doing background tasks, such as installing software, in Windows, you can keep an eye on its progress without it taking up your screen. There doesn’t seem to really be an equivalent to that feature in Fusion, which is a shame. Honestly, as software, I’ve always liked Parallels better and would never have been inclined to switch, except for the exorbitant cost of keeping up with the latest versions. The only reason I have v. 5 is that it was offered as part of a bundle, where for $50 I got Parallels plus like 10 other apps. If that happens again I’ll probably end up with a v. 6 license at some point, but I feel the official upgrade cost is pretty insulting.

It’s not really my intent to make this post a comparison of the two apps. The point is equally valid for both: if you’re struggling running virtualization because of RAM issues and are considering investing in more RAM, do it! It’s totally worth it! It will change the way you use your virtual machine.

Life Lessons for the Road

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:12 pm

When you’ve just gotten into a city, and are determining what time you need to wake up the next day, don’t make any assumptions until you know how the water pressure is at the hotel.

If it’s normal, your normal time will be OK.
If it sucks, you will need more time.
And if it’s awesome, you will probably want more time.

November 7, 2010

Hipstamatic: Acting Company Obsession

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:10 am

We are obsessed. Most of us. With the app Hipstamatic. In very brief, this is a $2 camera app for the iPhone that takes faux-vintage photographs. There are a ton of such apps, I already owned a couple of them, but Hipstamatic has been sweeping through our company like wildfire. We have several bloggers, and many more Facebook photographers, and most are capturing life on the road through the distorted lens of this app.

I think the reason is that Hipstamatic prides itself on being random and unpredictable. The viewfinder doesn’t actually show you exactly what you’re framing in your shot (like a real camera), and you can shake the phone to completely randomize the lens, flash and film effects put on your photo — you won’t know until after you take it what it’s going to look like. It’s not the best for accurately documenting things, but the casual photos it creates are much more interesting to look at.

Here’s an example of our truck loading into 42nd Street Studios in the rain last month, as captured by one of our actors:

I finally broke down and installed the app last night (I own the other app by the same developer, SwankoLab, which I’m honestly not that thrilled with, so I was resistant). On my journey of exploration, I went out to the stage, which seemed like an interesting subject. Here are a couple of our set:

Our office door:

Even the most mundane subjects seem more interesting. Check out my hotel room as I write this post:

This will probably get old after a while, but I think it will also result in some photos coming out better than they would have otherwise. I can’t wait till we get to the Hotel Arizona in Tucson. There’s something just not right about that place, and nobody understands what I mean. I think the vintage look of these photos will help to capture the mood it gives me.

Let Me Tell Ye: Daylight Savings

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 9:58 am

Phoenix this morning at 6:38 (or 5:38 depending on who you ask)

Today is daylight savings “fall back” day in the US. Except in Arizona (except in the Navajo Nation part of Arizona, which follows the rest of the country).

Now I think daylight savings is stupid, because I’m not a farmer, and I can afford electricity, so I was very glad to find myself in Arizona for the time change, so I could avoid all the drama associated with it. I sent an email to my cast last night reminding them — don’t touch your clocks! Don’t let your mother, your Facebook friends or anyone else remind you to “fall back” tonight. You simply don’t have to do anything, and you will be telling the correct time. How difficult could that be, right?

Well let me tell ye.

There has been some kerfluffle in the press about the iPhone’s daylight savings bug. Basically the clock updates correctly but somehow the alarms get messed up. It only happens if you use a recurring alarm, and since I usually have to be at work at a different time every day, I don’t use recurring alarms, so I thought I was in the clear.

So I went to bed last night and set my iPhone alarm for 6AM so I could do some laundry in the morning. I set my hotel alarm clock for 6:38, as I generally like to have an alarm that will catch me should I fall back to sleep.

Well the next thing I know the hotel alarm is going off, and it’s 6:38. And I’m like, WTF? So I look at my phone, and it says 5:38. And I look at the stupid digital alarm clock on the table that has like 3 buttons, and it’s 6:38. So I’m like, “clearly it’s 6:38.” My phone has fallen back.

Now it should be noted that this is not the alarm bug. I have no doubt that the alarm would have gone off had the phone’s clock ever reached 6:00. The problem is that at some point in the night (2AM, I imagine), the phone’s actual clock fell back when it wasn’t supposed to.

It’s set to get the time automatically, which as I understand cellular phones, means that the network pushes the correct time to the phones. Whatever tower(s) you’re connected to (obviously somewhere in the middle of Phoenix) should tell your phone the local time. So why did it fall back? I have several theories:

a) AT&T’s towers don’t know what time it is, or where they are located. I don’t find this hard to believe.

b) The iPhone overrides the signal from the towers and triggers a time change without checking where the phone is located. I could also imagine this.

But I’m going to lay the blame squarely on this messed up daylight savings system in general, that even in places where it doesn’t exist, somehow manages to screw everything up.

Let me tell ye my general opinion of time. There is one time, the time we are living in. If I call someone in Australia, I can assure you we are talking to each other at the same time, despite the fact that technically I am talking to him yesterday. I think it would simplify things greatly if people around the world thought of things in terms of “what time is it right now?” rather than “what time is it here?” This association of the time with the position of the sun in the sky is so last millennium. I’m sure there are people in rural areas and less developed countries who do use the sun, but I would venture to guess that they don’t actually need to know if it’s 4:38 or 5:42, and if they do, they own a watch or maybe even a cell phone.

If there was simply one time, then areas could decide for themselves when it’s convenient to work based on the local daytime. Someone might work 9-to-5 in New York and 6-to-2 in LA, and both experience the same amount of daylight. A child could start school at 8AM in London and 2AM in Miami and both have the sun up when they’re waiting for the bus. These decisions about when to work are already rather arbitrary. Schools all have their own schedules, businesses may work 9-to-5 or 10-to-6, etc. What difference does it make what we call it? At least we would know that when everyone in the world says something is happening at 8:00, we would be talking about the same moment in time for everyone.

Let me tell ye, if I ever become President of the World, first we are building a rain bubble over Manhattan, and then we will all start using the same time and never change it.

November 6, 2010

Surprise Blackout

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:31 pm

This afternoon we were having a leisurely Saturday matinee, maybe two-thirds of the way through our first act, when suddenly we had an OMG Surprise Blackout!

Artist’s rendering of the event:

Surprise blackouts are never fun, although they definitely help to pass the time!

The basic story is that the house’s light board crashed. We have kind of an interesting lighting situation here. Our board sends its cues to a submaster on the house board, which then sends the signal on to the lights. The house has a backup board, but because the cues are coming from our board, their backup board is kind of out of the loop. The house ME, Greta, is totally awesome, and as I have learned, decided to make the backup board somewhat useful by taking two of our well-lit cues (a daytime and nighttime look) and saving them on submasters on the backup board so we would have appropriate looks we could use in the event of a crash. We were in the blackout for about two seconds before the daytime cue came up.

Greta and I talked for a few seconds, during which time I learned of this rather impressive backup plan we were witnessing. The cue that was chosen was a very good stand-in for most of our daylight cues, that would not seem out of place in any of the remaining scenes in the act. Greta wasn’t sure exactly what would happen if she tried to unplug our board and put it into their backup board, and once she said the magic words, “I’ve never had to do this before…” I decided that this lovely daytime cue was perfectly fine for the rest of the act, rather than risking another blackout while the boards were swapped.

So I got to call the last 20 minutes or so of the act without having to call light cues, except for a manual fade to black at the end of the act. At intermission our board was plugged into the backup board and all was well in a few seconds. The main board couldn’t be reset because it would have taken out the house lights, so we didn’t have a backup for Act II. Which is OK cause usually you don’t have a backup at all, although the very fact that the venue has a backup board in such a state of readiness is perhaps not the most encouraging sign of the reliability of the main board. It’s a Strand, I’m not sure exactly what kind (ours is an ETC Express 250).

Thankfully all was well for the rest of the show! Hopefully that will be the last surprise blackout we encounter!

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