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January 6, 2014

A Brief Moment of Technological Bliss

I call this: computers,iOS,phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:09 pm

Just before leaving work I had downloaded a sample of a book I was considering buying, thinking I would read the sample on the train, and probably buy the book when I got home.

I started reading the brief introductory chapter on the platform, and when the train arrived the conductor announced it was going local. Realizing I was already halfway through the sample, and that I liked it, I regretted not buying the whole book for what was now going to be an even longer ride home.

Then I set myself a challenge: could I set up a hotspot with my phone, connect my Kindle’s wifi to it, purchase and download the book, all before the doors closed and the train left the station? Thanks to the new cell reception in many midtown stations, I had a precious few seconds left at 59th Street, before heading north into the great underground wilderness.

I’m pleased to say that I accomplished my goal, and was so engrossed in my book that I nearly missed my stop. Sometimes, despite the obstacles thrown in our way by patent lawsuits and greedy wireless carriers, we can actually use our inventions to accomplish the things they should be able to do. [Hugs Verizon.] I’m sorry about all the things I said about you. They were all 100% true, and you deserved to burn in hell at the time. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge when things cease to suck.

Telecommunications industry, you made my night.


Levels of Performance Pressure

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:00 pm

5. I have a friend in the house.
4. The Times critic is in the house.
3. I have a stage manager friend in the house.
2. My parents are in the house.
1. One of my Twitter followers is in the house.


September 16, 2013

Found: Women’s Black Jeans with Pockets

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:16 pm

Ladies! I have found a style of jeans that

a) come in black

b) have actual fucking pockets that can hold things

Behold, “Lee Women’s Misses Relaxed Fit Straight Leg Jean!” (Amazon link)

I now own (I believe) 5 pairs of them. And I’m just getting started. I bought 3 pairs in black, and one each in two different shades of blue, for those days when you’re like “I don’t have to wear black today, and damn it, I’m not!”

The cut is pure “mom jeans,” but you’re not buying these to win a backstage beauty pageant, are you? They’re black and they have fucking pockets, which according to my research, makes them unique among women’s apparel.

And before you think you have a pair of pants that fit the bill, I will share the cautionary tale of my favorite Old Navy “Rockstar” jeans, which several years ago were awesome, and if you buy the same style today you’ll find the pockets are about half as deep as they used to be (which is like an inch).

So stock up, this may be your last chance to purchase functional clothing!


March 15, 2013

In Which I Have a Long Run with a Show

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:23 pm

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you probably know that my luck with open runs is, shall we say, abysmal. In this post from 2007, I proposed a theory that Phantom sucks the long-run karma from everyone who works on it, taking whatever luck they had in their career to feed its insatiable appetite for a longer run. Six years later, I don’t see any real reason to change this theory.

Except, I’ve managed to get through six months as PSM of Silence! The Musical, and despite the fact that we’re not currently doing 8 shows a week, my job doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

I have some observations about my first experience of just getting to sit and relax into a run, in no particular order:

  • I just agreed to ASM a benefit. Not for the money, not for who’s performing. It’s ultimately a favor to a friend, but I don’t take every favor to a friend I’m offered! I said yes because I feel like I need to do something different to keep myself on my toes. I need to load in and tech a show in a day. I need to be backstage worrying about whether the right black stool is set for the next number.

    One thing I’ve been seriously concerned about for a while is how long it’s been since I’ve called a big musical. The kind of musical where you can kill people. Calling a small show has many perks (the biggest of which is not having to worry about killing people), but I wish I could get a little exercise at all the other types of theatre I haven’t been doing lately. The benefit won’t give me that exact experience, but it’s one variant of stage management to mix things up a little.

  • I’ve spent my whole life thinking my career is a journey to the promised land of sitting down on a show that will run for years and eliminate so much of the uncertainty and chaos that comes from starting a new show. I still think that’s a worthy goal, and constantly being in production isn’t my style either, but I find myself strangely enjoying my job when it gets “interesting.”

    I value my free time very much. I love having multiple days off a week. But when I have to put a new actor in, or go to a meeting, or coordinate something out of the ordinary, I always sigh at the prospect of having to do extra work, but also get surprisingly invigorated when I actually have to do the work.

    This is a totally masochistic career, but I’m conditioned to it, and when I have to buckle down and actually do the harder parts of my job, it feels right. It’s like how exercise is exhausting, but afterwards you actually have more energy.

  • Our happy home at Times Scare is growing, as we begin sharing our stage with the new show Fucking Up Everything. Which is an ominous title for a show that’s coming into a space you used to have exclusive access to, but has so far proven to be untrue!

    FUE is in tech right now (first preview tonight), and while I’m glad not to be in tech, I also kind of miss it. Silence! was in a bit of a transitional period when I took over, having recently moved to Times Scare, but I basically came into a long-running situation. The last show I teched was Triassic Parq nine months ago, which was a blast, and not really that long ago. But long ago enough that the prospect of going back into tech sounds fun rather than miserable.

    I spent about an hour at the theatre today before FUE’s final dress, working with their PSM and Production Manager to look at what they’ve done during tech and address any final concerns, and it was cool to hang out at somebody else’s tech. I don’t often get to spend time at techs that aren’t mine. In this case, I do feel a bit of personal investment in it, as I’ve been having meetings, walk-throughs and exchanging emails with their team (several of whom I’ve worked with before) for over three months, and can sympathize with anybody going through tech.

In short, I remain stunned that I’m working steadily in New York, as PSM of an Off-Broadway show, a show that would have been my top choice out of all the Off-Broadway shows that are running, and have been doing so long enough that I can safely say if anything happens, it wasn’t the fault of my infamous Show Karma.

I’m really enjoying finding out what it’s like to just do a show for a while. I hope this won’t be the only time in my career that I’m so lucky, but I’m just grateful that I’ve gotten a chance to learn all the things I’ve never gotten to do before. Out of the ten tracks in my show, I’ve already taught two of them three times each, which is definitely not something I’ve ever had time for before. It’s equal parts “didn’t we just do this?” and “oh that’s no big deal, it’ll be fun.” Which pretty much sums up everything I’ve learned!


March 5, 2013

Evernote for Resume Management

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:18 pm

Earlier this week I had lunch with several stage management students from Ithaca College. I returned home with four resumes, which of course led me to consider the best way to organize these new documents.

Previously, I’ve kept a folder in the documents folder of my computer, in which I keep resumes of my friends and anybody else whose resume comes my way. If I need to write a note about who gave me the resume, I had to do it in the file name, which is kind of limiting. Also, it wasn’t on the cloud, which could be frustrating if I was out and about and wanted to reference or send somebody’s resume.

As I do in many matters, I thought of Evernote. When I got home, I scanned the paper resumes with my favorite iOS scanning app, JotNot Scanner Pro, which can also automatically send them to Evernote.

With these resumes, and the digital ones I already had in that antiquated local folder, I created a note for each person, with the title formatted as [name] – [job description]. The job description in this case being “stage manager.” I’ve created a notebook for resumes, as well as the tag “resume.” For people with whom I’ve done shows, I also added the tag(s) for the shows I worked on with them.

The best part of the whole thing, and what really makes it better than simply creating a folder in Dropbox or something, is that in addition to having the PDF or Word document, I can write some text about how I met the person, what I thought of them, what other people I know have told me about them, or really, anything. I could attach a picture or other related file if I had one.

Not to mention Evernote makes even scanned PDFs searchable, so a search for a person’s name, or a show they’ve done (maybe I can’t remember who worked on Wicked), will quickly help me to sort through the files I have.

I haven’t been so excited about a new workflow in a long time!


January 16, 2013

Hiatus

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:57 pm

Silence! has been on a hiatus for two weeks. This week we started rehearsing our new Lecter (the wonderful Sean McDermott), who will be re-opening the show with us this weekend.

You know how when you’re doing a show, you know all the words and you don’t even need to think about it, but if you think back to a show you closed a month ago, or a year ago, you can barely remember how anything goes? Or you can kind of mumble your way to certain key words or ideas, but you can’t remember how a song starts? This is how my week has gone.

I have a script, but hardly ever look at it or keep it anywhere near the right page. Our rehearsals are very fast moving and involve a lot of shoving chairs, desks, props and rolling panels around for our new actor, while playing all the necessary characters that they interact with. Usually it’s just me and our dance captain, Howie Kaye, playing the role of “Everybody Else.” We often end up frequently playing the same part in a given scene if one of us knows it better, but a lot of times it’s just whoever gets there first for any given moment. The first time we ran the show today, I may have played Clarice in a given scene, the second time it might have been Howie, and I played somebody else. The show is so funny that often we mix it up because everyone wants to play every part. The necessary component for that to work is that we both have to know everyone’s lines.

It’s amazing how quickly that ability goes away when you’re away from the show. I must confess to being the most affected by this among myself, Howie and Brian, our musical director. To be fair they’ve been with the show for over seven years and I’ve been with it for less than six months, but I was still surprised how many times I would get two words into a scene and go totally blank.

Not totally blank, maybe. Something like, “Dr. Lecter… uh… didn’t he… you said he killed someone? He’s killed someone before? He’s uh, what do you call it, a first killer’s… fledgeling transformation. Shit. Anyone?”

I’m very happy to be back at work, though, and excited to be resuming rehearsal in a position where I generally know what the hell is going on in the show, which was not at all the case when I started this job and did my first couple of put-ins. This is our first Lecter since I’ve been with the company, so I’m kind of excited about that. It’s the easiest track to teach, and there haven’t really been any surprises. There are still a few roles left that I’ve never put in (which we’ll be covering in the coming weeks with our new male swing), so there are a few things that are still fuzzy and will soon be clear.

Including Lecter, we have to teach seven roles to get us fully prepared with new actors and understudies. I’m going to be in rehearsal for the rest of my life!


January 11, 2013

Vermin in My Boots

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:43 pm

Have you ever been grossed out by a pest problem at your theatre? Ronica Reddick feels your pain. Our “Ardelia” hates mice, and the mice seemed to be making the Silence! dressing rooms their summer vacation destination this past year.

Naturally Ronica did what anyone would do, and wrote a song about it. And then recruited one of our musicians, Nick Williams, to record it with her. And then recruited me to co-direct and edit a music video of it. And finally, she got every single person who works on the show to be in the video, all without letting them in on the secret of what the video was about.

It was something of a closing present for us, before going on hiatus. Our theatre shows movies sometimes when we’re dark, so we were able to do a fancy screening of it for everyone, including popcorn. The video even made it to BroadwayWorld.

Check it out:


November 2, 2012

Hurricanes and Stage Management

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:49 pm

I want to talk about keeping communication going on a show, with a constantly changing performance and rehearsal situation, in the midst of a weather disaster where the people involved in the show may lose power, internet, cell service, or all three.

As Hurricane Sandy approached, we waited to hear what would happen to our performances on Sunday, before the storm hit. My experience in the past has been that when there have been potential cancellations of shows, Broadway collectively decides what to do (through the Broadway League), and most other shows just follow along. This is what our producers were doing as well. The biggest component of the decision is usually transportation issues. When the audience can’t get in, there are always some tourists trapped in Times Square with nothing to do, but if the people who work on the show can’t get to the theatre from wherever they live in the outer boroughs or surrounding communities, the show can’t go on. On Saturday the MTA announced that it might shut down at 7PM on Sunday, and we knew that if that happened, we couldn’t have a Sunday night show because there would be no way to get home.

Sunday morning I got a text from an actor, which was my first indication that the MTA had indeed decided to shut down. At that point it was just a matter of time to wait for official word from my GM, and a decision on whether we would go ahead with the matinee.

Soon it was decided that we would do the matinee, but the evening show was obviously cancelled. I used my favorite notification method of the modern world, sending an email to 56 people involved in the show (many of whom probably really didn’t care if we had a show, but you never know who might need that information), along with a request for the cast, crew and orchestra to reply to let me know they got the message. When that was sent, I drew up a small list on a post-it, numbering 1 through 12 on one side, and then separate spots for crew and orchestra. In the 12 spaces I wrote the names of my actors, and then filled in the names of the crew and orchestra, making sure to take subs into account. Then I waited for the emails to roll in, and crossed off the names as they checked in. After an hour I texted the three people who I hadn’t heard from, and got replies from them fairly quickly, satisfied that everyone needed for the operation of the show knew what was going on.

We did the matinee and then went our separate ways to wait out the storm, and see what the fate of our Tuesday night show would be (as an aside, we upgraded to an 8-show-a-week schedule this past week — or attempted to — leading to a lot of jokes that this is a sign from God that we shouldn’t do 8 shows).

Most people were keeping in touch on Facebook, and as the night, and the next day went on, some people lost power and managed to post about it, or text me, and every time I heard something that indicated a person might not have full access to the internet, I added their name to a list and made note of the circumstances. By the end of the day on Monday I had a complete picture of who had power, internet and cell service. I referenced this list every time I had new news to share, to make sure I texted the people who needed to be texted, and noticed the ones who didn’t respond, to keep tabs on the fact that they might not have gotten the message.

When we got news of the cancellation of the Tuesday performance, I even posted it on Facebook, just in case there were some people who had no access to their email or cell phones, but somehow were able to get on Facebook. I was able to cross off some names on my notification list based on their “likes” rather than responses to my emails or texts.

In addition to the questions about whether the show was going on, we had a lot of other issues hanging in the air. Even without the storm, this was a rough week for us, with numerous actors out, a put-in that not everyone was available for, and even a day where we were going to have to do the show with one track cut. As much as Sandy screwed up our plans, she also inadvertently fixed some of our problems: we had the luxury of being able to postpone the put-in rather than do it with many elements missing, and one of our actors who was supposed to be leaving town had his flight canceled, so he ended up in the show, giving us enough actors to cover the show properly. A lot of emails were flying around trying to work out all these things, and waiting for pieces of the puzzle to fall into place, but in the end it worked out quite well.

Thankfully no one on the production was completely without a way to get in touch with the outside world, and the worst case I had to deal with was an actor who had to leave his house and go down the block to get cell service, and thus would get my texts and emails, but only when he went out to seek them. We were especially lucky that no one’s home was significantly damaged.

Aside from the lights flickering ominously for several hours, and the wifi seeming to freeze once in a while, I never lost power or internet. Having to move out of Chelsea is the great heartbreak of my life, but there are some advantages to living on a mountain, miles from midtown. The disadvantage came on Wednesday, however, when the subways weren’t running, it’s been about 130 years since the streets of New York could handle road traffic without them. Buses were “running,” but it seemed to be a universal truth all over the city that the only way to actually get anywhere was to walk.

There are a bunch of us who live in Washington Heights, and my ASM Cassie and I decided to walk, as we didn’t want to risk being late, and at least we’d be sure to arrive at the time we intended. I walked about 30 blocks to her place, and then we walked another 120 blocks to the theatre (a total of 7.7 miles for me). It was actually a nice walk, and I got to see some parts of the city that I don’t usually pass on foot. We took some photos along the way, which are on display on Silence!’s Facebook page (I hope that link works). It took us a little over two hours, and we were pretty exhausted by the time we had to work, so the show is kind of a blur, but we did it. On the way home, the six of us going to Washington Heights piled into one person’s car, and with the traffic largely gone, we got home in a civilized manner.

I’m glad the shows are up and running, but the commute is still very rough for everyone coming from Brooklyn and Queens, so I’m hoping they get service back soon. I hope all you readers in the area got through the storm without too much trouble!


September 9, 2012

Opening Wishes

I call this: Uncategorized — Posted by KP @ 12:23 am

Tonight was (or is, I guess, it’s 9:03 there) the opening of Silence! in LA, which production I am very grateful for, as it’s the whole reason there was a job opening for me in New York.

Many of the people I’ve met in my short time on the show are working on that production, and all of us at Silence! New York are very excited to hear that the show is wowing audiences in LA.

For the past week, we’ve been asked to prepare an opening night gift for our LA colleagues: to shoot a congratulatory video backstage, and to take individual photos holding up a sign expressing our best wishes.

I helped out with taking a lot of the photos, and shot and edited the video. Today the Silence! LA Facebook page presented a compilation of our photos and video to the LA cast, as seen here:

The people I work with are crazy, in the best possible way.


August 23, 2012

The Best Thing About My Job

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:04 pm

You may know I have a bit of a problem with long runs. Namely that I never get them. While my most extensive experience with long runs involves a show that’s soon to celebrate its 25th year on Broadway, I still consider Silence!, which has been running a little over a year, to be a long run in terms of any show that I’ve worked on full-time.

So right now the thing I find most different from the shows I normally do is when I wake up in the morning and one of my actors is sick, and I’m like, “Oh, too bad! Feel better!” and then I send a couple texts and emails and go about my day.

We don’t have the most secure understudy situation in the world (1 male and 1 female swing), and there are definitely scenarios where very bad things could happen if the wrong two people were out, but for most cases we’re covered, and I didn’t even have to teach them their parts!

Taking over a show that’s already been running has been a strange experience for me, and in some ways I’m dealing with new-show issues (like the recent move to a new theatre), but walking into a situation where — first of all, there are swings — and everybody already knows their jobs, definitely eliminates some of the things I normally have to worry about (like that at any moment an actor could lose their voice or get food poisoning, and we’d be screwed). And on top of that, I have a sub! How cool is that?


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