March 13, 2011

Maryville, TN

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:41 pm

At our last load-out, in Maryville, TN, some shenanigans were going on while I was on the truck. I only found out later because I was shown the photo evidence.

I had noticed during the out that Jackee had organized all our road boxes in the dock area, in the order in which they would be needed on the truck, and they were very neatly arranged back-to-back.

Somehow Meaghan wound up on top of the boxes. As I was shown the photos on the bus after we departed, I conducted a brief and largely uninteresting interview to get the story behind this.

“I just wanted to climb up there,” Meaghan said. As it’s a long way up, I wanted to know what she had used to get up there. “A chair, and Jackee’s hand,” she explained.

So. That’s the story. As it turns out, Maryville was our fastest load-out ever, at 90 minutes. Which explains a lot about how this picture came about.

March 10, 2011

Gonna Miss Touring

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:39 am

With the tour almost over, this morning I’m reminded of one of the things I’m going to miss most.

We just checked into a hotel this morning. We always arrive early in the morning after driving overnight, so early check-in makes our whole day. At this particular hotel we knew the manager, so when the rooms of the correct size weren’t ready for check-in, we got upgraded to suites because they were vacant. Regardless of the upgrade, this has been true of plenty of the hotels we’ve stayed at this year, many of which have been suites.

My bedroom is the size of my living room back home.
My bed is only slightly smaller than my bedROOM back home.
And my living room is the size of my entire first apartment.

It doesn’t help much when we rarely stay more than one night, and can’t really settle in. But still, it’s nice.

The one thing I will say is that at $89 a night, this particular hotel would be much more expensive to live in on a monthly basis than my apartment. So there’s that. I remember being on tour in 1999 and spending a week in a 1-bedroom suite with full kicthen that was huge and cost the same as my studio apartment. That was depressing.

The other thing about staying in such nicely furnished places is that I’m more inspired about ways I can make my apartment feel more like home. I’m out of town so much, and so often unemployed when I’m home, that I never really bothered to furnish it beyond the basics of bed, desk/chair and shelves. It really is more welcoming to come into a hotel room that’s nicely set up. So I’ve been observing things that make hotel rooms feel cozy and useful to me, in the hopes that I can inexpensively improve my own dwelling when I get back.

March 5, 2011

The Calling Couch

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:52 pm

I have several dreams in life. I’d like to be a Broadway PSM. I’d like to have an apartment with laundry machines in the unit. I’d like Hal Prince to see me call Phantom. Other than that, my dream was to call a show while sitting (or ideally, lying) on a couch. Preferably multiple times, but just once would be good.

Picture it: Phoenix, 2009

Our story begins in Phoenix, Arizona, in the spring of 2009. We were playing the Herberger, and I was assigned the orchestra-level booth to call from. At the time, it looked like this:

The couch was inspiring, but as you can see it’s way too low to see out the window. More than anything, I was frustrated and perplexed. All it needed was to be put on a 4×8 platform about 3ft high and it would be the most amazing thing ever. Why had it not been done? This haunted me for years.

This fall, we went back to the Herberger, where sadly, no further work had been done on the couch. In fact the sound console was on that table, blocking the view even more, and making the booth feel a little cramped.

Enter Fairfield, CT

A few weeks ago, we played a day in Fairfield, CT (just outside Bridgeport). Often when I scout my calling position I judge the booth based on how it looks from the stage at first. Does it look like there’s a crapload of stairs? Will I have to fight my way through the audience? Does it look nice and spacious inside? Is there a calling position backstage? Most importantly, is there a camera? If not, I generally won’t call from backstage unless there is literally no front-of-house position.

On this particular day it was a nice venue, and they probably had a backstage calling position, but I was predisposed to want to call from the house because our big bosses, Margot and Ian, were coming up from New York to see the show, so I wanted to be seeing the show as they were seeing it.

I spied a spot booth at center, which I always love for two reasons:
1. it’s generally unused, because our show doesn’t have followspots
2. the low window affords a nice view, and sometimes even a sill which can serve as a footrest.

So I declared that I preferred to call from the spot booth. It was many hours before I ever went up there. When I finally did, I was astounded to find…

It was not so much a calling couch as a couch for the spot ops to recline on when not doing cues. The couch was against the back wall of the booth, where it didn’t afford a full view of the stage, but dragging it a few feet toward the window provided a perfect view. I took a nearby wooden step as a footrest, and set myself up with a music stand off to the side. With my computer sitting on the couch next to me, I had a perfect setup.

During the first act, my board op, Alex, who was sitting in the adjacent lighting booth, was very much amused by my love of the calling couch. At one point I commented that the only improvement I would make if I was sitting down for a long run would be an end table with a bowl of snacks on it. Of course when I came back from intermission there was an end table (he couldn’t find any snacks), and a pillow so that I could sit up more comfortably (the couch had a very far-leaning back which made it hard to relax and see the stage). It might have been the greatest three hours of my career.

Here’s a very rough picture of my view:

March 3, 2011

Cool Lighting Museum

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:16 pm

I sometimes refer to the Majestic Theatre as the Lighting Museum, because Phantom uses such old gear, but we found another one at our venue in Potsdam, NY.

Check out this awesome light board with analog faders — by analog I mean there’s a little window on each fader and when you move it a picture slides up and down showing what percentage the fader is at. I don’t think they actually use it for anything, but it’s in one of the booths, and it’s awesome. I wish it had been plugged in. It probably lights up in really fun ways, too.

Another cool thing they do have in use is their patch panel. Our lighting director, Annie, took this picture:

Computers and modern electronics may be great, but early versions of inventions always look more badass. Gear that looks like it could either be used to initiate a performance of Shakespeare or launch nuclear missles is my absolute favorite.

February 20, 2011

(How Not to) Pick Your Wireless Carrier for Tour

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:08 pm

Just found it worth mentioning that we’ve been on the road about 3 weeks, have hit 10 cities, and this is the 2nd time that our crew members on T-mobile (3 people including our production manager) have been completely without service.

Yeah, I know they have cheap rates and flexible plans. Just something to think about if you’re going on tour. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen to other carriers, but our sad T-mobile subscribers have been experiencing epic communications fail so far at a rate exceeding anything I’ve ever experienced in recent years.

Of course if you’re on some really nice tour that only plays places like LA, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. then you’re probably OK. But if your itinerary sometimes contains places like Portsmouth, OH and Potsdam, NY you may want to pick another carrier.

February 15, 2011


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:38 pm

My job is sometimes hard.

I have a lot of responsibility, to make everyone happy, even when some people’s desires are in direct opposition to each other.

Sometimes I’m more-or-less asked to do the impossible, without the things I normally need to do my job.

I do a lot of physical labor in unpleasant weather conditions.

I don’t always get enough sleep.

I don’t always have access to a shower or a bathroom when I wake up.

Sometimes I just don’t get a day off for a while.

But when I do find myself in a place with a shower and a bathroom and a few hours before I have to go back to work, sometimes it has a private deck that looks out on this:

February 14, 2011

Eyewear and Touring

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:13 pm

Sometime over the summer, probably while it was sunny, I had a revelation: I was sick and tired of wearing glasses. They make it really inconvenient to wear sunglasses, they get tangled up in your hair, if you wear a headset for many hours a day, the headset can squeeze the ear hook on the glasses between your ear and head, which gets really annoying after 10 or 12 hours. If you’re really unlucky and have long hair, every time you remove your headset you’ll pull your glasses off, as well as yanking part of your hair out of place.

Not to mention you have clear vision through part of your field of view, but if you need to move your eyes but not your head, you have something blocking your view, and then blurriness on the edges. If I have my head down looking at my script and glance up, my script is clear but the stage is blurry, which is totally bass-ackwards for someone who is nearsighted. After wearing glasses with varying degrees of necessity since 3rd grade, I was fed up.

I was like, that’s it, when I get home I’m getting contacts! Then I was like, “that sounds expensive.” But then I was like, “wait a minute, my insurance gives me a free eye exam and glasses or contacts every 2 years!” And it had been 3 years since my last pair of glasses. So that was it.

I researched this the way anyone should: just before I returned home I posted a message on Facebook saying I was looking for a good eye doctor in Manhattan (preferably west side) who took the Equity insurance. I got 2 recommendations within a day. A well-known Broadway actress with a family, who lives in a classy neighborhood on the Upper West Side seemed like the most reliable source for a good doctor, so I started there. I was able to get an appointment with her doctor within a week, and got myself a new prescription for contacts. My last one was when I was 18, so I hadn’t worn contacts at all in years, because my prescription was so out of date.

I talked to the doctor a bit about touring to get his advice about sleeping with them, and how long I could safely leave them in. Since he’s a doctor, it was basically his job to say that some people leave them in a really long time with no problems, but if I sleep with them in or shower with them, I might be fine, or I might go blind. So… I’ve been pretty cautious.

Touring with Contacts

I’ve really enjoyed the switch to contacts in general. I’ve forgotten how much extra stuff you end up carrying around in your bag in exchange for not carrying glasses on your face. It’s not a problem if you’re living at home and put them in in the morning and take them out when you come home, but for touring (especially for someone like me who’s obsessive about carrying unnecessary things) it adds a couple extra items to the toiletries bag, and you will have to have access to drug stores to replenish your cleaning solution before it runs out. Plus, you still need to carry a pair of glasses as a backup (unless your job doesn’t require good vision — unfortunately mine does).


For the fall tour (which was all in California and Arizona) I brought along an old pair of sunglasses that I rarely get to wear, and had a great time being able to slip them on and off at will, without losing clarity of vision. I was so excited that during the hiatus I bought myself a nice pair of Ray-Bans. Unfortunately, sunny days have been few and far between since November — generally the only thing they’ve been useful for is preventing snow blindness when walking to the Guthrie, but I trust by the time we end the tour in Florida, they will be awesome.

Contacts When Sleeping on a Bus

The main challenge I’ve faced with the contacts is what to do when sleeping on the bus. Being in a hotel every night is a pretty straightforward process. You take them out when you go to sleep, leave them on the bathroom counter, wake up, shower, and then put them in. Then you leave the hotel with all your stuff.

Living on the bus means you either take out your contacts before load-out is over, or take them out in the tiny bus bathroom, or take them out in the tiny bus bathroom while the bus is moving, which is an extra-fun time to stick your finger in your eye. Then you need a place to put your contacts case. I use the ClearCare case which holds the lenses vertically, and needs to be kept standing up. So I need a place where the case won’t fall over when the bus takes a turn during the night. Our wardrobe supervisor has provided us with some mesh hanging bags for our bunks, which are awesome for holding phones, wallets, glasses and whatever else, when gaff-taped to the side of our bunks. So far mine has failed at keeping my contacts safe, and I’m not sure I want to put the effort into actually sewing one of the pockets into a smaller size to hold the little container securely (since the whole thing has fallen off the wall a couple times anyway, as I noticed early this morning when I rolled over towards the wall and was like, “why is there gaff tape stuck to me?”) I think I need to come up with a better solution. I can think of a couple (a piece of foam the size of a soda can, with a hole in the middle for the container, which could be put in a cupholder), but will have to figure out which is easiest, most reliable, and least in everybody’s way if it has to be in a public (i.e. non-bunk) part of the bus.

The Insurance / Doctor Stuff

I wound up paying a little more than I expected to, but it was still worth it. My exam was free, which included all the usual checkups (I chipped in a little extra for a glaucoma test, since it runs on both sides of my family and I’d never had one done — I don’t know how old people do it, it was like a very hard video game). Years of Nintendo and Playstation allowed me to pass with flying colors, and I don’t think I’ll do that again for a few decades if I don’t have any problems. The contacts weren’t completely covered, but I did get a discount on them. I was given a trial pair, which I wore diligently every day for a week, and went back for a quick checkup to check that the prescription was still the best for me (the doc said the contacts may sit differently on the eye after you’ve been wearing them for a while). I needed no change. So then I ordered a year’s supply, which arrived a week or two later.

I got monthly contacts, but I do wonder if it would be a better idea to have daily disposables for touring. It would certainly be easier because I’d avoid the whole hassle of figuring out what to do with them overnight when I sleep on a bus and might get to shower halfway through my workday. I don’t want to end up losing a lot of money by switching to contacts, but I think it might be affordable enough if I can find them cheaply online.


Overall I’m very happy with my decision to ditch the glasses. I still wear them occasionally (like yesterday when I sadly dropped a lens into the hotel sink, and was surely not putting it in my eye!), but far more often I’m wearing contacts or skipping any eyewear altogether on a lazy day off. It’s a little more challenging for touring, but I really enjoy not having glasses on my face, and being able to wear sunglasses easily, and the benefits to stage managing — having my whole field of vision clear, and not getting tangled in my headset — have been great.

Typical Travel Day

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:49 am

Today we are in the middle of our first multi-day drive: from just outside Detroit to Vermont. We made our mid-trip stop in Buffalo, for no particular reason. There doesn’t seem to be anything to do here, but we could find equally no other reason to go to Albany or anywhere else that would have made a similar good stopping place (anything to do seemed to involve being outdoors, which we get more than enough of at work).

My day began with several staples of travel days:
1. A partially-pajama-clad meeting of the PSM, TD and lighting director, gathered around the LD’s laptop looking at a Vectorworks rendering of our set in an upcoming venue, scooting it upstage, downstage, left and right until it kinda-sorta fit in a way that made us stop saying, “oh shit.”

2. Showering in a crew room that is nicer and cheaper than any hotel we get to actually sleep in. This pretty much always happens. The room that you only use to shower and poop in is a room you’d kill to have for a real stay. That’s not to say that we don’t sometimes get to stay in really nice rooms (the Hilton Suites in Phoenix and the Towneplace Suites by Marriot in two different Michigan cities were notable awesome hotels so far on this tour), but the crew rooms are usually in the category of insane luxury. This one here is a Comfort Suites, which is one of my favorite hotels anyway.

3. Changing my shoes in a roadside snowbank. It was a small snowbank this time. But generally we go from having loaded a truck the night before (for which I wear my truck-loading shoes), to a day off, for which I wear my not-loading-a-truck shoes (lightweight running shoes). I keep my spare shoes in a separate pocket on my main suitcase, which rides under the bus. I usually don’t get to wear my not-loading-a-truck shoes, so I try to wear them whenever I can.

4. As I was writing, Matt grumbled from the back lounge that he’s hungry, which I agree with. Figuring out when to eat on these days can be tricky because you need a critical mass of people who have showered and want to eat before anyone will go out. There’s a Starbucks a short walk away. I’m thinking I may go myself, just for an opportunity to stretch my legs and have some alone-time, and see something other than the bus, a hotel, or a theatre.

February 9, 2011

Killing Time on the Bus

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:30 pm

Today has been a long day for the crew. After a very long, very hard day yesterday (for myself, I spent 4 straight hours on the truck in temperatures in the teens at load-out), we got on the bus around 2:30AM, and slept until around 10:00. Thankfully we had a late load-in because our local crew was on a tight turnaround from the night before, so we got to sleep in our bunks a little longer than usual, have breakfast in the green room, and shower in a dressing room, before the day officially began. There’s something to be said for starting at 8AM though — it feels much more productive, and we’re very used to the routine of what we should have accomplished by different times of the day, so we always feel like we’re way behind when we start late.

We awoke this morning in the parking lot of the Wharton Center in East Lansing, MI, which is a road house, currently host to the Shrek tour. …And us. It’s been a very long day, which included an hour-long visit from the cast a few hours ago, because the secondary stage is a thrust configuration, and we have to plan how to fit our proscenium-style shows (BOTH of them!) onto this stage, in the middle of a very busy 3 days here (we have 3 performances of R&J and one of Comedy).

For those of us not the TD, ATD or lighting director, we’ve actually had a lot of down time. We’re going a little bit crazy. You might say we’re getting a bit of cabin fever, or in our case, green room / bus fever.

So here’s a short list of what we’ve been doing today:
1. watching Dog the Bounty Hunter
2. watching NCIS marathon which is still ongoing
3. napping
4. playing frisbee down the length of the bus (a length of maybe 35 feet, down a corridor maybe 2-and-a-half feet wide — it’s very challenging not to let the frisbee ricochet off into a bunk.)
5. ordering pizza
6. fantasizing about Steak n’ Shake, which Bart (our driver) promised us for a late dinner when he left us this morning.
7. updating paperwork

Our long ordeal may soon be over. Well, at least today’s part of our ordeal. The cast told us that our hotel is amazingly nice. It’s also dirt cheap, which is win-win! So we can’t wait to check in and get a little rest in a real bed before our first 9:45AM(!!!) show.

February 4, 2011

Truck Pack Victory

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:25 pm

Here’s what our first truck pack looked like:

Our next one was slightly more efficient, but ended up basically looking the same, as far as everything being piled up right to the doors.

So yesterday, Daniel had a plan. He’s made me truck boss for this tour, and in the morning started talking to me about his ideas for the pack. My brain was still frozen from Brainerd, so I made him draw me a picture of the floor pack, which resulted in this piece of abstract art:

So last night, having not even been present for the load-out from the Guthrie, and having been a pusher/loader for the load-out from Brainerd who spent very little time actually in the truck, I had to make this pack happen.

We were at an IATSE house, and I was given four dedicated truck loaders, who were of the opinion that our 150-lb sections of flooring were nothing to worry about. This is a fantastic thing, but having such an efficient crew made the fact that this was a brand-new pack, and I didn’t even really know the old pack, much more stressful. It was just me and the loaders on the truck, with Meaghan sometimes acting as a runner between the truck and the theatre, and Sara (our new prop supervisor, who also functions as ATD) on radio with me, keeping me informed of what scenery and props were available for the pushers to bring out.

I’m sure we all were on high alert trying not to slow down or demoralize our crack crew with the fact that yes, we have a plan, but basically, we’re pulling this truck pack out of our ass. Actually it went very well. Here Daniel inspects the final result. Look at all that room!

I forget what exactly our time was, but it was somewhere between two-and-a-half and three hours. Which is half the time it took us at the last venue! And I should mention, there were two ramps involved. Had we had a loading dock, I can’t even imagine how fast it could have been, though with dedicated loaders and pushers, we spent very little time on the truck waiting for scenery anyway.

It was a very successful night, and I’m kinda-sorta looking forward to the next one, though we will be hard-pressed to find another crew so willing and capable of doing all the heavy lifting for us.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »