August 11, 2011

First Production Meeting

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:34 pm

So yesterday, as I said, we had our first production meeting for Ain’t Misbehavin’. Brian, my good friend and PSM, is out of town so I attended the meeting on his behalf and took enough notes to pretty much summarize anything a PSM could possibly want to know about what was said in a room for two hours.

The time I spent last night watching the YouTube videos of the ’80s television special paid off. Despite being at a table with five people who clearly have spent a lot more time thinking about the show than I have, I never felt like I didn’t know what everybody was talking about.

We met in a private room at a restaurant (my favorite restaurant from my Frankenstein days, actually), which gave the meeting a nice casual environment. It was just me, our producer, set/lighting designer, costume designer, sound designer, and director (original cast member André De Shields). André brought a vintage windowcard from the original production, which we propped up at the end of the table for inspiration. Actually it became very effective for discussions throughout the meeting because it has a large color photo of the cast and set, so we referenced it throughout the meeting when talking about costumes, hair, design motifs and scenic construction. Of course having spent 13 years as a Broadway merchandiser, what I noticed most about it was the incredibly thick cardstock they used for windowcards back then. Today’s windowcards would not stand upright on a table. I tried to find a picture of the windowcard online to use for this post, and I can’t find one. That’s a rare poster, there.

The designers also brought in their research photos — books of ’20s/’30s-era paintings and architecture, and costume photos from several rental houses that are being considered. I don’t always get to attend these early design meetings, but I always enjoy it when I do. I spent way too many years being taught how to do this in directing school to go through my career without seeing it done in the real world. It always comforts me somehow to know that what I recall as a rather tedious part of my education is really exactly how it’s done at every level. It seems much more important when you know it’s actually going to be used to put on a real show for real people, and not just for a theoretical classroom project.

As far as the structure of the meeting, we basically went around by department, in great detail, and then called it a day. Well, no, then we spent about another hour afterwards having sushi and talking more casually about the show and getting to know one another on a personal level. It was a lot of fun. I had been a little worried about stepping into this meeting with a bunch of people I didn’t know (I worked with André as an actor a couple months ago, but just for a day), and having to fill the role of PSM when I wasn’t entirely sure the whole production team even knew I existed. But everybody made me feel totally welcome and like a legitimate member of the team.

When I got home, I typed up my notes. People who know me may be surprised to learn that I took them using a technology known as “pen” and “paper”, but I often will go to a meeting like this prepared for both laptop- and notepad-based note-taking, and determine the method based on what everybody else is doing, and how much room is on the table. It was pretty much an even mix of iPads, MacBooks, and paper, but I decided that there is still something about taking notes on paper that gives more of an impression of attentiveness (which kinda sucks, considering how much better notes you can take electronically), so I went with paper.

At home, I went through my notes and typed them into Evernote, arranged them into a logical order, and expanded them into coherent thoughts for Brian. It’s a little different taking notes for somebody who wasn’t there, versus taking notes for yourself, or to be distributed to the production team by email. Basically I tried to attend the meeting as a PSM and document every thought I had, so that Brian has the full context for what was decided and why, as well as where the various people involved stand on these decisions. After I got everything into Evernote for myself, I made a Word document and tidied it up a bit so it’s easier to read in outline form, and sent it off to Brian.

We start rehearsal a month from tomorrow. I don’t know when my next obligation to the show is, so for now I’m going back to finishing Season 4 of CSI.

August 9, 2011

Slowly Starting the Stage Management Engine

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:35 pm

I’ve been pretty quiet lately. I went through this phase of “write a blog post about something every day,” and then I went through this phase of “Netflix fixation and getting addicted to episodes of long-running television programs,” and now I’m at a point where I need to start paying attention to things outside my apartment because I’m about to start a for-reals job.

The job actually doesn’t start until the second week of September, but I have my first meeting tomorrow, so it’s kind of important. I’m going to be the ASM on Crossroads Theatre Company’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’. One of my closest friends is the PSM, so it should be a fairly low-stress return to having a regular job. I was really hoping my first job after the tour would be as an assistant, so I’m glad it worked out that way. I may also end up subbing as PSM at some point, so I still have to sort of approach it with that mindset throughout the process.

…Starting with tomorrow, where I will be attending the first production meeting, representing the stage management team. So I’m trying to go in as prepared as possible, by watching old clips from the TV special of the original Broadway production on YouTube.

You know how watching a recording of a show never captures the magic of seeing it live? 30-year-old grainy video compressed for YouTube doesn’t help either! But it’s definitely more helpful than being totally unfamiliar with a show. Seems pretty easy from an ASM’s perspective, although I don’t know exactly how faithful we’ll be to the original staging. While in many cases that may be a “famous last words” thing to say, I find that when it comes to assessing a deck track, first impressions are usually correct. I have much experience at seeing a show and later finding the kindest way possible to ask my friends, “is your track as boring as it looks?” and pretty much always being right. I’m not complaining! It doesn’t look deadly boring, probably more like simple tasks to accomplish every 3-5 minutes throughout the show, which is a nice way to enjoy a simple deck track.