December 29, 2010

Look What the Cat Dragged In

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:03 pm

There’s always a part of my brain that knows when load-in is, but it’s not really connected to the walking-to-the-theatre-in-the-morning part, so it always comes as something of a surprise to me when I approach the Guthrie and see our truck at the loading dock. My first reaction is always, “what is that doing there?” Mostly because at this point my mind is still very much on finishing up our week in the rehearsal studio and also because I just associate the truck with performances and touring, and we’re still a long way from that. Mentally, at least!

December 25, 2010

Why it’s Christmas Day, sir!

I call this: computers,gaming,On the Road Again,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:26 am

Tis Christmas morning. I have an 11AM (my time) video conference scheduled with my parents for the opening of gifts and exchanging of Christmas wishes. As crazy as that sounds, it actually works quite well. This will be our third consecutive year celebrating in this way. There are maybe a half-dozen presents sitting on my couch right now, the remnants of a large package that arrived at the Guthrie earlier in the week. Some of the contents were meant to be shared, like food, and a cute, and rather beautiful ornament with a palm tree and flamingo that my mom sent so we would have something warm to look at during the blizzard. So that stuff has been in the rehearsal room pretty much all week.

There are a few wrapped gifts that I have no idea about, and those are waiting for this morning. One of them is totally a portable pack of tissues. I’m pretty good at telling my mom’s traditional stocking stuffers just by weight and feel, so I try to pick them up very lightly so as not to give it away. But I grabbed the tissues a little too forcefully and spoiled the surprise. I also got one for Thanksgiving/Christmas, which is the other holiday the Parlato clan celebrates on the Acting Company schedule, in which there is a tree, and presents, and family members all see each other face-to-face and have a big dinner together. The only difference is we celebrate it on Thanksgiving because that’s when I’m in town. That’s when the real presents are exchanged.

Last year my big gift was a super-warm coat from Eddie Bauer. It’s still awesome. I have yet to be cold this year. This year I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted until a few days before, when I decided to get something not very exciting, not something I can take on the road, but practical: a 2TB hard drive and enclosure for my desk at home. I was doing a little too much juggling of files between all my hard drives (aside from my Time Machine drive, which is half a terabyte, all the others are either 160 or 320GB) and it was starting to get dangerous in terms of losing track of data and deleting something. So now I have a place that can hold everything, and it’s also at a different location (usually) than my primary drives, so it’s safe against theft or other destruction. Of course I got an enclosure that’s very Mac-like and attractive. It has USB, FW400 & 800, and SATA. The HD is from Western Digital, which is my go-to brand in the superstitious art of deciding who to trust with your data (Fujitsu is the other brand I’ll buy if I have to, and in fact is what my Time Machine drive is). I only had a week to play with it and dump all my files onto it before leaving town, but so far it seems great.

For myself for Christmas, while ordering gifts for everybody else, I finally bought myself an account for Eve Online. I’ve gone through at least three 14-day trials trying to learn the damn game enough to where I could even decide if I liked it or not. I like the idea of a game that’s impossible to learn, but once you crack it open the possibilities become kind of limitless. The last trial I just finished convinced me that it was indeed fun, although there’s so much I have yet to learn, it’s really hard to tell long-term. The other thing it convinced me of is that it has really low bandwidth requirements, and at least in the small battles I’ve been involved in, can actually run in virtualization so well that you forget it’s not Boot Camp.

It seems like the perfect game for somebody on the road with questionable internet. If nothing else, you can log in for a few minutes a day to set your skills training, and still be progressing all day long. If I were home with a real computer, I don’t necessarily think I’d prefer it over Fallen Earth or Battleground Europe, but it seems to me like a game I can play without feeling like I’m fighting against my screen size, processor speed, lack of peripherals and bandwidth. Great FPS action is nice, but it requires all those things or else it totally sucks and you spend all your time pissed off that you got killed by lag or your connection dropped out just as you were supposed to do something really cool.

Also, despite my ranting about Parallels (I still think they’re greedy bastards), out of curiosity, when I started playing Eve pretty seriously a few weeks back, I tried it in Parallels 5 to compare it to Fusion. Perhaps not surprisingly, it ran a little better. I also really prefer Parallels’ UI, and the feature “modality” which shrinks your windows screen into a tiny semi-transparent floating window that you can keep an eye on and click things in. So having discovered a game I could actually play — and enjoy playing — without ever booting into Boot Camp, I decided that tipped the balance a bit, and I went back to using Parallels. After a few days of wonder at the miracle of virtualized gaming finally being playable, I took my $10 coupon that had been clogging my inbox, and bought Parallels 6 for $40, which honestly is at least close to reasonable. My beef with them is not that they charge for yearly upgrades, but that they charge more than $40. Out of principle I had refused to buy it at all, but honestly I installed Parallels 6 and it was so much better than Fusion that the experience of being able to fully play an MMO while not only booted into OS X, but with enough power left over to use OS X normally, with the MMO running in the background in full screen… well, it’s amazing. So I didn’t even do the whole trial of Parallels before I put the money down. If you’re interested, the upgrade price is $40 until the end of the year. And as I said in that link above, I needed to buy 8GB of RAM to make Parallels really run flawlessly, so that’s another requirement of getting this to work. It was a great investment, though.

Eve really wouldn’t have been worth buying except that it works so damn well virtually. It’s really low-maintenance tour gaming. So I guess you could say Parallels was the other part that made my Christmas gift possible, though I think of it more in terms of being a LORTmas gift. LORTmas is kind of like Chanukah, actually, in that it’s not celebrated only on one day. I celebrate LORTmas every Thursday at midnight for our two months’ time at the Guthrie, when that sweet, sweet LORT B salary drops into our bank accounts. As I interpret it, the point of LORTmas is that it’s a time when if you want something you don’t really have to think about it, you can just say, “Of course I can afford that, it’s LORTmas!” Which ends up being great fun because sometimes you say that about enough things that you lose track of how much extra money LORTmas actually creates, and you’re like, “Where did my rent money go?” But that’s all part of the LORTmas spirit.

EDIT: OK, here’s the ornament:

I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays! Back to work for us tomorrow!

December 23, 2010

Dropbox is the Shiznit

I call this: computers,mac,pc,phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:57 pm

Over the past six months or so, I’ve written a couple posts which mentioned my interests in incorporating cloud computing into my stage management life a little more. I talked about the wonders and terrors of cloud computing in general, and mentioned in passing about the software Meaghan and I are using on this tour.

Over the summer — I don’t think I talked much about it — over the course of three productions, I quietly and tentatively began using Dropbox to store my folder of show files on the cloud. I used to use MobileMe’s iDisk for this purpose, but being slow as all hell, and just as likely to corrupt and delete your data as to save your bacon when you need remote access to a file, I would periodically back up to MobileMe, but never actually trust it with the primary copy of the show files.

At the urging of several of my colleagues (and readers), I tried out Dropbox. As I said in one of my other posts, “It’s just like MobileMe, except it works.” So while it’s redundant, it’s also completely life-changing. Over the summer I went from cautiously putting my show files on it while keeping backups elsewhere on my hard drive, to using it as the primary storage point. I also back up to a Time Machine drive, of course, so in theory there is an isolated copy that’s at most several days old, even if Dropbox totally fails and deletes an important file both from the server and from my local copy.

The Acting Company tour this year is the first production I’ve done where every file related to the show (except the backup of our SFX files, which is over 2GB) is kept on the Dropbox, and is shared with my ASM. The files are also stored locally, so we also have offline access to the most updated files on our hard drives, for those times when we’re in a basement theatre or the bus has driven into a patch of wilderness, without ever having to think about making manual backups or syncing.

For all intents and purposes, as far as the show is concerned, it’s like both our computers share a single hard drive. And our iPhones can access that drive if they need to, as well. It’s like the most exciting thing to happen to stage management since the headset. Only once have I seen a situation where we both tried to edit the same file at once, and it seemed to have been handled safely, if a little clumsily, with a copy being saved in each of our names. For the most part, Meaghan has things she keeps paperwork on, and I have others, so the odds of us needing to edit the same file at the same time are surprisingly low. We tend to reference each other’s paperwork a lot, but not necessarily collaborate heavily on the same thing. In a different situation the limitations of this system might get more annoying.

Also, here in Minneapolis, Meaghan has been using the Guthrie-provided laptop. She can’t install Dropbox on it, sadly, but can still access and upload files through a web browser, which is not nearly as convenient, but still a great option to have when you’re using somebody else’s computer that’s locked down.

My favorite story comes from the New York rehearsal process of R&J: we made a change to the script, and some hours or days later, I went to add the new text to our Word file of the script. When I got to the appropriate page there was a happy purple bubble pointing to the already changed text telling me that Meaghan had made such-and-such an edit on such-and-such a date. After last year’s extensive re-writes, which Nick and I took turns updating by emailing the file back and forth to each other (and having to be very meticulous about who had the absolute most current file), I was actually stumped for a moment at how this had happened. But it’s so simple. There is really only one copy of every file, so there’s virtually never an issue of “my copy”/”her copy.” We’ve been working this way for three months now, and I can’t imagine how stages were ever managed before this!

So I just want to say to any stage management team: Dropbox. Do it. It will change your life. In the good way!

Let Me Tell Ye: Words No One is Allowed To Say For Two Days

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:17 pm

Let me tell ye. I have been working for ten days straight. I am going to burn the metaphorical yule log for two days, and I hope I do not hear the following words for at least 48 hours:

1. groceries
2. shoes
3. handcuffs
4. bowler [hat]

That is pretty much my week-and-a-half summed up in four words. None of which has particularly much to do with the fact that today we completed our second full run of the show, and it’s falling-down funny (I keep waiting for something to make Ian actually fall on the floor — he’s come almost all the way out of the chair a couple times, but we’re not quite there yet).

But such is life that the things that take up most of my time are the little details that go on in the background, and if I’m lucky, most people on the production never know or need to worry about any of the convoluted process by which they’re made possible.

Yesterday, after I slapped a metal door frame a little too hard in response to #1, Meaghan was like, “can I help?” to which I responded, “there is nothing that can be done for this, it can only be solved by my death.” There is no way I know of to avoid these kind of situations short of not becoming a stage manager. Run away! Hit the back button on your browser while you still can! And if it’s too late to save yourself, well, take comfort in knowing that everyone is going through it.

And with that, I wish all you dear readers a safe and happy holiday. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, then even better — you probably got a couple days off for free just to chill. Which, after a video chat and remote present-opening with the fam in the morning, is what I intend to spend it doing!

And no, I don’t have the same Christmas tree on my desk as I did last year. That’s a recycled picture, cause I never got around to taking a shot of the cute ornament my mom sent me. It’s made all of glass, with a palm tree and flamingo inside a glass ball with sand and a couple shells loose at the bottom. It’s so that we think warm thoughts in rehearsal. It seems to be working.

December 20, 2010

Comedy of Errors: Video of the Day

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:00 pm

In our rehearsal process we occasionally start the day with a YouTube video that somehow relates to our process (Abbott & Costello and Charlie Chaplin are frequent inspirations).

Today’s video of the day is a British commercial for Barclay’s Bank featuring Samuel L. Jackson giving a speech from Comedy of Errors, which happens to be the scene we’re starting with today. Crazy.

December 19, 2010

Video Proof I Miss All the Fun

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:49 pm

OK, I haven’t gotten the backstory on this yet, but it has come to my attention on Facebook that a video has been placed on YouTube featuring… pretty much everyone at the Majestic Theatre dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”

I’m sorry I can’t embed it, but please follow the link.

Yeah rehearsal is going well, I paid the rent and my credit card bill on time again this month… but I am not making an ass of myself on this video, and that makes me very sad. The closest I’ve come is orchestrating Ye Olde Tyme Romeo and Juliet Crewe, and that isn’t even remotely in the same league as this for elaborate backstage shenanigans. I don’t know what the hell is going on back at the ranch, but I’m glad to see that it continues to defy its old reputation as “the House of Hate.”

I’m having a great time on the tour, but I really hope that my life works out to give me some quality time with the Phantom phamily this year.

December 16, 2010

Comedy of Errors: Staging Rehearsals

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:15 pm

At the end of each rehearsal we have a little pow-wow lasting about a half hour to 45 minutes (if we’re lucky!) with the rather many people who are in the room, behind the tables each day.

There’s me and Meaghan, Ian our director, our two Jesse’s, both assistant-directorial types, who, in the style of our show, we have taken to referring to as Jesse of New York and Jesse of Los Angeles (and our two Elizabeths as Elizabeth of New York and Elizabeth of Minneapolis). Jesse of New York is our Staff Director, who maintains the show on the road, and Jesse of Los Angeles a former company member and budding director. Andrew Wade, our voice and text consultant, is also there, as well as Allie, the Guthrie’s Literary Intern, who assists our dramaturg and is in the room with us almost all the time.

At this meeting we talk about how the day went, and what we hope to accomplish the following day. We make the next day’s rehearsal schedule, including any costume and wig fittings that have been requested, and go down our respective lists of notes for the report and anything else we need to bring up with each other. Then I send the report, Meaghan and I publish and print our respective schedules (she handles the Guthrie format for the stage door), and we go home.

Tonight after this meeting, as Meaghan and I were walking out the door, Ian mentioned that there was one more thing he had been meaning to discuss with me, namely, “What has happened to your blog?”

Indeed, I haven’t been blogging nearly enough in proportion to the exciting things I should be talking about. Apparently when Ian recently spoke to a class of the Guthrie’s BFA students, it was mentioned by a student as a good source of information about the tour, lending further embarrassment to my lack of posting. The truth is I’ve been gathering material for an epic post about our rehearsal process, and then, well, we had a day off and I got lazy.

So without further ado, here’s what’s been going on, up to Day 9 of rehearsal (you can already read about Day 1.)

The big news is that by tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, we should have staged the play, maybe even run it. This play is a very different experience for me in my time with the company, because it’s short and has relatively few scenes (only 11). It’s estimated to be about 90 minutes with no intermission, so the rehearsal process has felt much more productive because we can focus in on things more at length without worrying about staging three hours’ worth of text. We only do about two scenes a day, which on paper looks slow, but without the pressure of having to cover 30 scenes, we’re able to spend much more time refining what we work on, taking chances, and changing our minds.

The Set

The biggest boost to our productivity is that we have most of our set in the rehearsal room. And now I have pictures.

The basic element of the set is three sets of full-stage silk curtains which are suspended across the stage at varying heights between two towers. Black aircraft cable is strung between the towers and the curtains ride on them basically in the manner of a shower curtain. The engineering of this has been a huge ordeal for months — we can’t assume a theatre has a fly system, so the curtains must be supported from the ground, but then how do you counterweight a 30-foot-long expanse of cable with huge curtains hanging from it, without the towers being pulled over?

The answer: water. We thought we’d be carrying literally tons of counterweights on the truck, much to everyone’s dismay. What we ended up with is six large Pelican cases, which are watertight. When filled with water they weigh about 200 pounds each, and have wheels and handles for easy movement. The truss attached to the offstage side of the towers gets progressively longer the taller the tower is, allowing that 200lb box at the end to balance the load. I’m really glad it’s not my job to figure that kind of stuff out (I wanted to be a director, I thought my career would involve no math), but it works.

This view is offstage looking upstage-right. Because our rehearsal room is not as wide as the stage, the third tower is constructed a little differently. That piece joining the 2nd and 3rd towers is actually the extension of the 3rd tower’s leg that will run straight offstage when there’s more room. As you can see, there’s not a lot of offstage space here, but our cast has very quickly gotten adept at stepping between the bars and under the cables without jostling anything, which bodes very well for backstage life in tech and on the road.

Trying to stage this show without the curtains would have been nearly impossible, so I’m very grateful (as I’m sure the actors and the creative team are also) both to the money people and the technical people who have made it possible for us to have our actual set to play with for our entire rehearsal process. During the final week in the studio, once the scenic load-in begins, obviously the set has to go upstairs, but by then we’ll have had plenty of time to learn how it will be used and can mark it.

The other element we have in the room is the metal contraption shown upstage in the first photo, which in great understatement, is called simply “the ladder.” The platform is eight-and-a-half feet high (incidentally the exact same height as the balcony in R&J, which gives us a handy point of reference for how tall it will feel on stage), made of steel and wood, on locking castors. Much like our platform in R&J, named Fred, the unit has so much inertia and the castors are so solid, that it never needs to be braked, which is a great advantage, though it’s nice to have the option. The platform at the top is large enough for some furniture, and the inner triangle underneath provides an interesting space to duck in and out of. The height of the railings means it can only travel under the yellow curtain, but we haven’t felt the need to cut it down. It’s actually really cool how it can hide behind the yellow or white curtains for different effects. It was very imposing on the first day it arrived, but we have found it to be effective in many scenes, and the actors took to it right away and began experimenting with ways to use it. From a technical perspective, my experience has been that it’s a solid and well-built piece of work, constructed right here by the Guthrie’s prop shop.

So so far, all of our potentially problematic scenery is working great, and here we are on Day 9 using all of it. The only other scenic elements are an upstage wall with double doors at the center, and a painted deck with an apron extension, made to look like a tile floor. As far as props we also have three luggage trunks of varying sizes (built from scratch to be stood on, opened, and rolled by picking up from either end, so they’re very versatile), and a number of chairs, tables and hand props that appear in the room as we find the need to request them. We’ve been very well-supported on this show, and it’s been enormously helpful, since so much of the discovery of the staging and the comedy is born out of interacting with the set and the props. We even have a dimmable lighting instrument in the room to work on a particular scene that heavily relies on shadows made behind the curtains. Consider me a happy stage manager.


As far as everything else going on, we’re done with costume fittings until tech. We have a few wig fittings here and there, and are adding a beard for Ageon, which he just had a consultation for the other day. Nothing gives me stress more than trying to work fittings into a rehearsal schedule, so despite the fact that I wanted to kill myself in New York when trying to schedule fittings for two shows around a rehearsal schedule, I’m glad it’s been very low-key here.

The shoes went to be rubbered today. We don’t have a wardrobe person in Minneapolis, so this has become a stage management problem, which earned a name. Scenic people like to name particularly problematic pieces of scenery (R&J has Fred the platform, and Betsy (a wall), and then there’s Wall 3B, which we call by its proper name, but affixed a photo of fossilized dinosaur dung to, to make our feelings about it known). Anyway, much like this, when a project starts to become disproportionately difficult, I give it an official name. This one has been known as Project Rubber. I received word this morning: “Project: Rubber: Part One: The Reckoning (aka There but for the Grace of God) is complete.” So that’s off my plate.

We’ve rescheduled our weekly grocery runs around our somewhat brutal Christmas schedule. This is always an issue, because we rearrange the days off to give us both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, followed by New Year’s Day. That’s great, but it means we work ten days straight. Also our only days off for two weeks are national holidays, and no one wants to go grocery shopping (or drive us to the grocery store!) on those days, so we have to work the grocery runs into our rehearsal days. This year it’s infinitely easier because we’re doing 6-hour days, starting at 9:30 (to the chagrin of some), so we’re done for the day at 3:30 with time for groceries remaining. But it’s something I always have to work out with the Associate Company Manager, and I’m glad it’s out of the way and less of a pain for all involved than it usually is.

Straight 6’s

I just wanna talk about straight 6’s. For those not down with the lingo, a “straight 6” is a kind of rehearsal day allowed by a vote of a 3/4 majority of an Equity cast wherein you’re called for six hours, and instead of a real lunch break you make one of your breaks 20 minutes. And then you’re done. Unless you’re really far from food and/or have no fridge or microwave available, it’s a pretty awesome way to work. Usually the resistance comes more from directors, who do lose an hour or more of each rehearsal day by doing it that way, depending on the contract. But especially in a case like this where we’re rehearsing a comedy that requires the actors to be inventive and spontaneous, sometimes you get more work out of people in 6 good hours than in keeping them around the building for a 9 or 10-hour day.

A lot of it is just psychological. Here in the dead of winter where it’s dark before 5:00, it feels really good to be done for the day at 3:30. Not to mention that every day kind of feels like a day off in a way, because there’s still so many hours left to do shopping, watch TV or be productive in other ways. I have only very rarely gotten to do shows where the straight 6 was the status quo, and I’m totally in love. I was telling Meaghan the other day, I’ve done about 60 shows, and I think this is the 2nd or 3rd that has done so. It’s not appropriate in many cases (musicals especially), but when it is, it’s wonderful.

In fact, last year after the first preview of R&J at the Guthrie, I was having a drink with Ian when he first started trying to sell me on the 2010-2011 tour. All I remember about what he said was, “and when we’re doing Comedy at the Guthrie I want to do straight sixes.” I don’t think I heard anything after that, because I was penciling in “2010-2011 Acting Company Tour” from September 2010 to April 2011 in my mental calendar. Honestly, that was a huge mark in favor of doing the tour this year, and it has been everything I dreamed it would be. What should be the most stressful month of this job has been really nice — partially because things are truly running more smoothly than they ever have — but in large part because I don’t feel like I spend every useful hour of my day locked up in rehearsal.

I think it’s really important as a stage manager to stay attuned to your own sanity. I have learned that there are certain things that seem minor but greatly contribute to my sanity. The length of my commute is one. Length of the rehearsal day is another — they’re kind of related, they both ultimately determine how much free time I have. And I have learned in touring that the added expense of having my own hotel room is more than made up for in the reduction of stress it provides. These are just things to consider when weighing the pros and cons of a job, and not to be underestimated.

In summary

That’s what’s been going on this week. I think I’ve covered enough that I can show my face in rehearsal tomorrow morning. Next week we start fight rehearsals — this show isn’t as traditionally fight-heavy as R&J but our good friend Felix Ivanoff will be back to lend his insight to the various beatings and physical comedy throughout the play, which I’m sure will be lots of fun.

And as always happens, Christmas will distract us and then all of a sudden OMG we’re loading in, we’re doing designer run-throughs, and the next thing we know we’re on stage. But things seem to be on track and I’m excited to get to the next stage of the process. I can see a clear path ahead to bring this thing upstairs and show it to many thousands of people, and then for our truck and our rockstar buses to show up in the parking lot and take us to Brainerd and onward.

December 12, 2010

SNOMFG: The Minneapolis Blizzard of 2010

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:09 pm

We found out Friday during rehearsal that there was a storm a-comin’. Some people thought it would be the storm of the decade. Some people were like, “it’s Minneapolis, they’re not afraid of snow.” We devised our rehearsal schedule for Saturday in such a way that if the people who weren’t staying within walking distance of the Guthrie got snowed in, we wouldn’t be totally screwed. Then we went to bed.

The storm began around midnight Saturday. Before I left the house at about 8:30AM, I looked out the window and could barely see the Guthrie. I live about two diagonal blocks away.

Out the Window

Here’s my typical view:

Here’s the view on Saturday morning (the camera is panned a little more to the right):

When I left the house there seemed to be about 6-8″ already on the ground. We began our rehearsal day, occasionally peeking out the window (we keep the blinds down usually) to see that our usual view of the Mississippi and the factories across the river was a view of total whiteness. You couldn’t see the river at all. One of the bridges was the faintest shadow. Then we decided this needed to be seen from the Endless Bridge (which I spoke about a bit at the end of my last post).

The Endless Bridge

On our lunch, I walked out to the end of the bridge.

Here’s a picture of me in 2008, also during a snowstorm apparently.

Note that you can see the snow-covered river, the bridge, and buildings on the other side.

Here’s the view on Saturday. I didn’t go outside because the snow was about a foot high in front of the door, so I had to take a picture out the blue window. The bench in the foreground is the one I’m standing against in the above picture. The whiteish spots are the reflections of the other windows on the bridge.

We finished rehearsal at 3:30, with the snow forecasted to continue until midnight. By the time we left rehearsal the snow was over a foot. I walked home through sidewalks completely covered in a foot of soft snow, that had had barely any covering them when I walked them in the morning. That was exhausting. Around the same time the city/county stopped bus service and recalled the plows from the roads. I think this is when people started to realize how screwed we were. I was just glad all our actors could get home.

This morning we woke up and had to make it back in for another 9:30 rehearsal, with the city covered in snow and temperatures now hovering around zero. Meaghan called me just as I was about to leave the house to report that her car was stuck in an unplowed driveway to the Guthrie’s parking garage. I joined her — thankfully she had a shovel in her car, and I cleared a neater path as she guided her car between the snowbanks.

One of our actors’ car was snowed in at home, but he couldn’t take public transportation as he did the day before, because bus service wasn’t resuming until 10AM. He eventually managed to get a cab, and was miraculously only about 15 minutes late.

After getting my morning workout shoveling the parking garage, we finally got to the rehearsal room, where our director told us about the Metrodome roof caving in overnight. I was staring right at it while shoveling snow, and didn’t notice. So before rehearsal I took a quick trip up to the 9th floor lobby, which provides a perfect view out its crazy yellow windows.

The Metrodome

Here it is last year, just before the final Vikings playoff game:

And today, as one of my actors described it, “Like a souffle that couldn’t.”

Also, there’s a crazy video of the inside as the roof came down:

All in all I believe it was recorded as 17″ of snow. The streets seem pretty clear, at least around here, but the sidewalks have taken all of the snow that was plowed off the street, and are still piled up several feet high on some blocks, especially at the corners. I will have to be more selective about which streets to walk down. Getting home today was a bit of a mountain-climbing adventure.

Towards the end of rehearsal today I got creative with my water bottle, which seemed to sum up what this weekend has been like:

December 8, 2010

First Rehearsal, Minneapolis

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:10 am

Today we began rehearsal for The Comedy of Errors, the second of the shows we’ll be touring with this year. After our successful remount and fall tour of last year’s Romeo and Juliet, we’re starting from scratch with a new and very different production.

As is the custom in recent years, it’s co-produced with the Guthrie Theater of Minneapolis, who invite us to use their amazing facility and staff to rehearse and premiere one of our shows.

I got into town on Sunday, and yesterday Meaghan and I spent the day at the theatre, meeting with people and setting up our rehearsal room.

In the lobby I got my first look at our new posters. The Guthrie did their own logo for R&J last year, and now we have a Comedy logo to match!

This morning we had the great pleasure of having our truck show up bright and early to unload part of the Comedy set, which consists of a series of curtains suspended by towers at varying depths across the stage. Because of the very specific design of the curtains and the intricate uses they’re expected to have, we have taken the rather ambitious step of having the actual scenery in our rehearsal room for almost the entire process (from day 1 until the day they’re needed to go upstairs to the stage). The arrival of the truck also allows us to have some of our road boxes in the building, namely the much-appreciated stage management workbox, and some other boxes which contain useful items, and things of a fragile nature that would not benefit from spending a month in a frozen trailer parked in a field in St. Paul (such as wigs).

The Guthrie crew set up the towers and curtains this morning, under the direction of our TD and set designer, who are also in for a few days to oversee the beginning of the process.

At noon-ish, Meaghan and I went up to one of the classrooms in the building, where we conducted the Equity meeting, to allow the crew time to finish in our rehearsal room. It was a casual and fun-filled meeting (it’s quite easy when the whole company has already been working together for months), the highlight of which was one of our actors who had clipped an article from the Equity newsletter by union president Nick Wyman, and read aloud this very funny and accurate piece about what usually happens when it comes time to elect a deputy, and encouraging members not to dread this duty.

With the meeting done, we returned downstairs to our rehearsal room for the meet & greet, which at the Guthrie is a big production involving the whole community of staff, not just those involved in a specific production. Artistic director Joe Dowling introduced Acting Company artistic director Margot Harley, and both spoke about the continuing collaboration between the two companies. Our director, Ian Belknap was introduced, and he spoke a bit about the play and his ideas for it, before introducing brief design presentations from scenery and costumes. It was really cool that in addition to the set model, the gathered audience was actually sitting within most of the actual set in 1:1 scale. The cast and the rest of the creative team were introduced, and then there was some time for mingling, before we were left to begin rehearsal.

It was a good day of table work. I find it really interesting to start a process with a bunch of people who pretty much all know each other intimately already. The whole cast, stage management team, and our staff repertory director have been through a 4-week rehearsal process together, followed by weeks of touring, so it’s already very much a family. Ian hasn’t been our director, but as associate artistic director of the company, he’s been very much a part of our lives throughout the process, so there’s not that usual weirdness of everybody feeling out the director’s personality. The majority of us have worked at the Guthrie before, so there’s a familiarity with many of our “new” collaborators already. I definitely feel the difference that it makes in the early hours of rehearsal when everyone already feels safe and has nothing to prove in the rehearsal room.

Most of our costume fittings were done in New York during the R&J rehearsal process, and tomorrow and Thursday we’ll finish them up. It was a huge pain trying to get everyone into the shop outside of R&J rehearsal time, but the payoff is that we don’t have to deal with it now. We have some wig fittings later this week, and then hopefully that should pretty much be it.

All-in-all it was a very smooth first day. It was a lot of fun to see everybody at the Guthrie. It definitely feels like coming home. We don’t have a stage management intern to guide us through the Guthrie system this year, but between Meaghan’s experience spending a full year as intern and ASM (including the initial Acting Company/Guthrie collaboration on Henry V), and my two previous shows as PSM, we have pretty much learned all the procedures and people that need to be known to stage manage here.

As much as I generally find it frustrating to go back into rehearsal when we’ve already rehearsed, teched, opened and toured a show, I’m actually looking forward to this process. So many of my collaborators are old friends by this point that I’m just excited to work on it. Also, this is the first comedy I’ve done with the company, and it’s short, so that’s a nice change from the 3-hour tragedies and histories we’ve done before!

I think Comedy and R&J are such polar opposites that this tour will be incredibly fun to perform in rep. One show will be easy to load in, funny, short, but probably more hectic and stressful to run. The other will be hard to load in, emotionally intense, long, but more easy and slow-paced to run. There will be things to look forward to every time we switch shows, and I think that will keep us always looking forward to whichever one we’re doing.

And I’m once again staying in what I have come to call my “winter apartment,” which I will have lived in for six months of my life by the time we leave for the road. Sometimes I think a change of scenery might be interesting, but I had loads of fun getting dropped off at the garage door with my suitcase and my groceries, and just busting in and unpacking everything in about 10 minutes. Everything already has its place, its shelf, its drawer, which outlet it gets plugged into, as comfortably as if I’ve lived here all my life. Almost every time I come home to my NY apartment (which I moved into in 2006) I fumble around for the lightswitch on the wrong wall. So I feel at least as comfortable here. It’s nice to have some consistency in my rather inconsistent domestic life.

I think I’ve said before that I believe that when you tour a certain part of your brain gets set aside solely for remembering your hotel room number and which way to turn when you get out of the elevator. Usually, for me at least, this works surprisingly well, even when you have to memorize a new 3- or 4-digit number every day or two. I think it’s somewhat related to keeping a mental picture of what the hallway looks like and that somehow helps you to remember the room number. Very seldom do I experience something that happened to me in Tucson a few weeks ago, where I went to the front desk for something, and they said, “what’s your room number?” and I went, “…uhhhhh….” (what city are we in? Tucson. 8th floor, turn left, turn left, turn right, turn left…802!). So being in an apartment that’s familiar for two straight months might as well be like owning a house.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something about the weather. I was afraid that coming from California and Arizona, this would just be torture. The temperature has been in the teens since we got here, but so far it doesn’t bother me. I think it’s some kind of sense memory, that when I see these streets and buildings, my body just expects to be frozen solid, and 15 degrees feels warm, because it is, relatively speaking. I love this city, and I swear some day I will see it not covered in a sheet of snow and ice, and it will be awesome.

The underside of the Endless Bridge, as seen from the rear of the lobby. I love the Endless Bridge. It’s just ridiculous. It’s one of the longest cantilevered structures in the world (this photo actually makes it look much shorter than it is), and it doesn’t really have a purpose other than to be cool. Working here for the first time was a big culture shock in terms of theatre architecture. Broadway houses are so much about efficient use of space and maximizing seating capacity, that they don’t even allow room for things like an elevator, or adequate restrooms. And then there’s the Guthrie, that has a 178-foot-long, 30-foot-wide, two-storey-high bridge to nowhere, just because. It definitely makes you feel like you’re working someplace special, and by extension, your work must be important because this impossibly flamboyant building exists just to house it. Working here is kind of intoxicating. Everything is a heightened experience because the building itself is so weird and intriguing. You just go to a meeting and you’re like, “Why does this room have diagonal yellow windows?!?” It makes working anyplace else seem incredibly dreary.