May 27, 2012

Triassic Parq – End of Week 2

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:42 pm

Another week of rehearsal comes to an end. Most notably during this week, I discovered the technique of measuring scenic drawings on a computer screen.

Yes it worked, and I didn’t even have to set my zoom level to something like 87.3% to get it to the right scale. There are old-fashioned ways of making theatre, like using a scale ruler to measure large rolled-up drawings that you keep in a corner behind your desk, and there are newfangled technological ways, like Vectorworks. And then there’s holding a ruler up to a PDF. Which also, apparently, works, at least for simple questions like “is the actual bench taller or shorter than the block we’re using in rehearsal?”

Our goal before we started was to have the show staged by the end of Week 2. I’m pleased to say that we made our goal half a day early. And it wasn’t one of those race-to-the-finish-line kind of processes where we just staged the show as fast as possible before going back and making it good. We took a lot of time along the way, and reviewed periodically, so not only does it exist on paper, but people actually know what they’re doing and have retained it.

Now we’re going back and doing what I would normally describe as “table work,” although in this case it’s more “sit in a circle work,” which is one of my favorite parts in the process. It’s sadly one that often gets skipped on a musical, because there’s just so much else to do in a limited amount of time. But it’s great that now that we have a solid sense of the big picture, we can go back and really explore what’s going on in individual moments, and apply that to the existing staging. We only had time to do that with two scenes yesterday, but it made an immediate difference.

I’m really excited to see what else comes out of these discussions. Between this and some improv exercises, a really detailed history has been created for the dinosaur community, to fill in the questions not explained directly in the script. Since most audience members probably aren’t familiar with the tribal structure that arises in the average genetically-engineered dinosaur park, I think this will help give a more complete picture of the world they’re stepping into (and speaking of stepping into, if you really want to step into this world, I recommend the onstage seating).

I’m still having a great time. My stage management team, which still doesn’t have a catchy dinosaur name, is still being amazing. They track the props, they look out for costume issues, they print and distribute the script updates, they ask the studio staff to crank the AC, they fill the water bottles, they get the coffee, and they keep the entire room fed with chocolate-covered small food items (espresso beans being the recent favorite). And a million other things expected and unexpected throughout the process.

From what we’re being told about ticket sales, we’re building an impressive advance, but for an Off-Broadway show to have any kind of advance is impressive. It’s really hard to get the word out before the show is open and people are seeing it. For that reason, I can’t wait till we start previews, because I think it will exceed expectations and I hope that people start to get excited about it.

If you’re in New York this summer, and you want to be like, “I read this cool website about stage management, and I knew this show was going to be amazing before anyone else,” you can buy your tickets now. And because you read this cool website, you now also know that to get 30% off tickets, you should use the discount code TPDINOS.

We ended our week with nearly everyone from the rehearsal room going out for dinner and drinks afterwards. It was a great way to celebrate the end of our second week, and the accomplishment of our staging milestone. On Wednesday we have a small press event during rehearsal. Due to what can only be described as awesome luck, we move into the theatre on Thursday. Tech starts next Tuesday. So excited!

May 20, 2012

Rehearsal Software

I call this: tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:36 pm

At the end of our first week of rehearsal, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the technology in use on this production.


By far the star of the show is Dropbox, which is used both internally by the stage management team, and by the production manager to coordinate paperwork across the entire production (except for the cast, who get things from me by email, which is so late-20th-century, but it’s good practice to keep tentative information and schedules that concern other departments from confusing them).

This is the first production I’ve done where I had my Dropbox, and subscribed to another one for the wider team. It’s a little confusing, but I think the dual Dropbox is necessary to keep stage management documents accessible for us to collaborate on, without becoming public before we’re ready to share them. The system I’ve come up with (so far) is that when a document is shared, the PDF ends up on the production Dropbox, and the files used to make it stay on ours (unless it’s a document meant for others to edit).

We also keep our master script on our Dropbox, but place a copy of it on the production Dropbox at the end of every rehearsal, so if the writers need to edit it, they always have a current copy they can build from, and anyone else can see the current script, while at the same time we have control of our copy and how the changes go into it. As it turns out, so far all the script changes have happened in the rehearsal room, and they’ve been tiny. I had a real industrial-strength policy to handle script changes, which to this point has been total overkill.

Which brings me to a piece of paper-and-plastic technology I call the “Triassic Parq Post Office.” It’s a box of file folders which function as mailboxes for everyone in the room. When we have new paperwork, it’s put in the mailbox and each person can check their folder to receive new pages, calendars, whatever. This is something I always want on every show ever, and never get to do, for various reasons. But part of my industrial-strength script update policy was, “screw it, we’re doing mailboxes.” So far they’re very popular, and so far we haven’t had a single script update that modified more than four words per day, so the advantages of the mailbox haven’t had a chance to shine.

Near the mailboxes, on a table that is designed to attract actors and creatives like flies to honey, is the food table. On it we have various snacks, and seven labeled water bottles that we provided for the cast, to cut down on the amount of wasted water and containers that results when using cups or unlabeled bottles. There’s a gallon jug that we continually refill and leave on the table, so water is always available without leaving the room (the water fountain is on another floor). My two interns keep the bottles filled at the start of the day, and as the day progresses. It’s kind of like magic. It also encourages me to drink more water, because I really don’t have to do anything to make it appear on my desk.

Here’s the food table.


We’re using Evernote more on this show than I have in the past, which is partly a testament to the improvements they’ve made in sharing support in the past year.

A sample of what’s in our notebook:

  • A note where we indicate the page numbers that have changed that day. This makes it easier at the end of the day to quickly make a PDF of the day’s changed pages for printing.
  • A note for each of our production meetings (we’re up to #4, which is our next and last one) where I jot down questions that I want to bring up. During the meeting this is also the note where I take down the meeting minutes, which later get cleaned up and emailed to everyone. This note is pretty much only edited by me, but everyone can reference what I plan to ask about, and what the results of previous meetings were.
  • The rehearsal day checklist, which is kind of obvious, but I like having it just to remind us of the really basic things we need to get done, which I feel is perhaps even more important when you have a lot of people on your team and it’s easier to lose track of what hasn’t been done. The list includes things like lowering the shades on the windows (to keep the temperature down), checking the spike tape on the floor hasn’t been damaged, schedules are printed and distributed, water is refilled, the room is set correctly for the day’s work, etc.
  • A couple of cut-and-pastes from emails that have useful information we might want to reference in the future: our company manager’s summary of ticket policies, the description of a set piece that the designer sent me in response to an inquiry about how it works.
  • Cast checklist. Easy way to take attendance, or track the completion of something in which the names of cast members need to be checked off.
  • Music teaching checklist. Lists all the songs, and we check them off as they’re taught. You can also do the same thing with staging or choreography.
  • List of cast birthdays. One of Ashley’s first tasks during pre-production was to find out everyone’s birthday so we could have spectacular celebrations of the birth of our collaborators… only to find out that only one person has a birthday through the end of our currently-scheduled run in August (which is only one more reason we need to extend).


We considered more extensive use of this app, but the fact that multiple iPads can’t access the same file makes it a $200 waste of money for more than one person to own it. Marshall (our director) bought it, and uses it to plan blocking before we started staging. In rehearsal, he also sometimes uses it to help the cast understand the big picture, by showing them the overhead view of the stage picture, so they can better understand where he’s asking them to be. StageWrite exports to PDF, which the rest of us have access to. Ashley found this very useful when creating breakdowns during pre-production. Of course we expect things to change as we’re staging, but having all of the director’s initial ideas clearly mapped out in a single PDF is a great head start. I have great hopes for this app, but they really need to make it possible to share the file so multiple people can edit it (I wrote to the developers about this when Marshall and I first discussed using it, and this is something they plan to add in the future). Sharing and syncing is becoming such an important part of how software works, that paying $200 for something that keeps your data stuck on a single device seems kind of old-fashioned. I look forward to it becoming more flexible.

May 16, 2012

First Week of Rehearsal

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:20 pm

We’re midway through our first week of rehearsal of Triassic Parq now. And mercifully, I am finally only working on one production, and able to devote all my time to it. Which means occasionally having time for blogging what I hope will be a very interesting process.

To recap, I spent last week in the office. I have an army of assistants on this show: my ASM Ashley, (who you may recall from the time I spent at the Guthrie in 2010, and my recent reading with The Old Globe this spring), and interns Carly and Sarah. At least one of them was always in the office, so I had lots of help printing and organizing paperwork, making Staples runs, attending meetings, trying kneepads on visiting actors, and a bunch of other random things that came up. We also found a few occasions to have lunch or dinner together as a stage management team, to get to know each other and figure out how we’re going to divide up the work.

This past Monday we began rehearsal. Our meet & greet, Equity meeting, and read-through went very smoothly, and with the pressures of putting on a punctual and organized first rehearsal for our assembled guests out of the way, we got down to the business of learning music for the rest of that day, and the following day.

Today was our first day of staging, and it was a lot of fun. I’ve probably said it a million times, but I hate taking blocking. However, I actually had a pretty good time with it today. By the end of the day I was feeling a little fried, as I’m sure the actors also were by having to retain so much new choreography, as well as lyrics and notes, but I really enjoyed seeing the show take shape, and tried to put all of my concentration into learning the show (even the choreography, which I usually leave to the dance captain, and don’t try to memorize or document down to every count). You may know that I don’t have a great track record of successful open runs or transfers. I have a strong feeling that this is the show that has a serious shot at being a hit, and I’m putting my all into treating it as such from a stage management perspective.

As always, I was dreading taking blocking, up until the point where I had to put pencil to paper to scrawl down the starting positions of the cast for their first entrance. It’s amazing how much more important and engaging it can feel when there’s at least a possibility that the blocking you take might need to be passed on to a successor, or used in staging a future production. There’s a lot that would need to happen before that becomes a reality, but then it would be a little late to decide to take good blocking, so I’m just going to assume that I’ll want all my notes to be as detailed as possible.

After rehearsal we had our third production meeting. We have been meeting regularly on Wednesdays since two weeks before rehearsal began, which I think is rather dedicated of us. We also have a meeting next Wednesday, and that will probably be our last one, as we move into the theatre a little more than a week after that, at which point we’ll be meeting daily. Our previous meetings have been well over an hour. This one was much shorter, more of a check-in, and as usual filled with people in good spirits, displaying a lot of enthusiasm for putting this show together.

I’m very excited to share more about the process as it progresses!

I leave you with a photo of our rehearsal room, which is actually within a couple inches of the width of the stage at Soho Playhouse (lazy stage managers, rejoice!). Also, that may be the most obnoxiously-placed rehearsal room column I’ve ever seen. It has, however, justified the presence of four stage managers in the room, as we all have a slightly different angle to report to each other what’s going on on the other side of the column.