December 23, 2009


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:20 am



Count ’em. Three posts today. I don’t want to hear any crap about some of them being after midnight. You know what I mean.

Well I figured it out. See, most of us here have been feeling a little under the weather. I keep going to bed early because I don’t feel so great. When I get up early, I get back in bed because I feel like my body just needs a little more time to rest.

Well I have unlocked the secret of how some people can blog so much. See I go grocery shopping with some people. And I know some people buy Mountain Dew by the case. I buy a once-daily supply of Monster drinks, but I try to limit myself to one right when I get up, and some coffee when necessary at work, but other than that I try to drink water. As a result, by bedtime, I’m ready for bed. I have been a caffeine addict of varying proportions, and have done my share of blogging, gaming and web coding sessions that last until 6AM. So tonight I thought about how I keep trying to blog and get sleepy, and then realized that getting sleepy at 10:30 is perfectly normal, and that if I drank caffeine at night it would be easy to stay up a few extra hours. So, having enough energy drinks in the fridge to last me till the next grocery run with a few spares, I cracked one open tonight.

Three posts. Fear my blogging stamina!

I could keep going, I just don’t want to tire you guys out with reading. Goodnight.

December 14, 2009

Rehearsal Update

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:13 am

I know I haven’t blogged much this week. Believe me, with the Guthrie’s most famous blogger sitting next to me 8 hours a day, I get reminded when I’m slacking.

The Meet & Greet

This week we began with our Meet & Greet. Traditionally this would be done on the first day, but it was postponed to allow for a date when the artistic directors of the Guthrie and The Acting Company — Joe Dowling and Margot Harley — could both be present to speak at the ceremonial beginning of the rehearsal process. They both spoke of the great collaboration between the two companies that was started with last year’s Henry V, and how they were looking forward to keeping up the partnership with this production and others to come. Joe introduced our actors individually, who stood for applause from those Guthrie staff members gathered. They then introduced our director, Penny Metropulos, who introduced the production team (myself, Nick, our choreographer Marcela Lorca, and our voice and text consultants, Andrew Wade and Sara Phillips). Penny gave a basic overview of the concept for the show, the set and costume design, and the period the show is set in (roughly 1912), and why these choices were made. She gave a very moving talk about why the show is important and timeless to audiences.

Week Sort-Of-1 (Staging)

Once these festivities were done, we took a five, and crossed the doorway back into our usual rehearsal room, where we began staging from the top of the show. Now that the week is over, we are staged up to the first part of Act V, Scene 1 (Benvolio comes to tell Romeo that Juliet is “dead”). I think it would be safe to say we are about 4/5ths of the way through the show. We also spent the end of today’s rehearsal doing a stumble-through of Part I (i.e. the part of the show before intermission). We have also run other large chunks of the show, which provides a good perspective on how the whole thing fits together. There is still much that needs to be worked in more detail, so we are far from done, but we have a solid structure after little more than a week. Our cast is off book for a surprising amount of the show, and I think we’re all pretty pleased with how much we’ve accomplished so far.

Outside of Rehearsal Room 2, we have had costume measurements, some costume fittings, and a consultation for facial hair provided by the Guthrie’s hair department. Next week we have more fittings, and we begin sessions with our actors and voice/text consultants, where they will get one-on-one work on the text.

Outside of rehearsal hours, we had two conference calls this week. Navigating the schedules of about 20 people in three time zones, and trying to get all of them in the presence of a telephone at the same time has had my head close to exploding for much of the week, but we managed to get a lot hashed out. We had a small call on Wednesday between our set designer, lighting designer, director, staff director, and stage management team. Our designers (one in New York, one in San Francisco) only had 15 minutes each before they had to go to appointments for other shows they’re doing, so we very quickly went through the most pressing questions — new dimensions for our infamous platform (named Fred), and clarification of how the masking allows traffic on and off stage, and access behind the set. Our real production meeting involved a larger selection of Guthrie and Acting Company staff, where we checked in on a number of issues, and I accomplished my main goal of getting everyone to agree to a schedule for the actors’ call times for tech/preview week.

The Database

In technology news, our stage management database has really come into its own this week. I know I always talk about it and never actually explain it in depth. It’s still very much in development so the idea of stopping to blog in depth about it always seems premature. Features get added to it sometimes in the middle of rehearsal when the need for them is discovered.

With Nick and I on the same network, I open the FileMaker file on my computer, and create a local server. Nick opens FileMaker and loads the file that my computer is serving, so we’re both working on the same copy of the database. As long as we’re not trying to work on the same record simultaneously, we can each make independent changes at the same time, which has proven to be very helpful.

The database has a lot of different parts, but the one we’re using most in the context of blocking rehearsals is what I call “tracking.” It’s a chronological log of basically everything that happens in the show: entrances, exits, prop moves, sound cues, costume changes, etc. Initially, it was just filled with entrances and exits based on what is indicated in the script. As we have been rehearsing, that gets filled out and altered to reflect the actual staging, as well as provided with details like where a character enters from. Nick, like most ASMs, is in charge of props, so he primarily deals with adding props to the tracking sheet, as well as to a related sheet which is more for the purposes of prop shopping — it notes whether we have the prop (a rehearsal version, the final show version, something that might become the show version, or none at all), and if we have it, where it came from (so we know who it belongs to when we’re done with it), as well as any design notes, and the date the prop was added to the show (that part came from my good friend Josh, who likes recording dates, and helped me develop and test this part of the database while working on Inventing Avi Off-Broadway this fall).

So since I’m taking blocking, and Nick is tracking props, a lot of the time I fill in the entries related to entrances and exits, and he fills in the props. But sometimes one of us is busy working on something else, so we cross over a lot. And sometimes we neglect to whisper to each other “I got that,” and then we both create a record for the same thing, or both try to edit the same record. But it’s really cool to see the tracking table get filled out by both of us at once.

My favorite part of the database right now is a new one, that didn’t exist at all during Avi: the daily schedule and rehearsal report. The daily schedule has some fun features that inform you of conflicts for the date in question, does some basic math to stop you from breaking the basic Equity rules, and allows for the construction of a work list for the day that then automatically is added to the rehearsal report. The report is basically a bunch of text boxes, but it tells me with color if I’ve left something blank that can’t be left blank, or if I’ve marked it with my customary “(?)” sign, indicating that I need to come back and review something.

The true beauty of the report is what happens after it’s done: I press one button, labled “email,” and it creates a PDF of the rehearsal report, attached to an email addressed to the distribution list (determined by a checkbox on each person’s contact file). It also includes in the body of the email a plain text version of the report — not an exact copy of what’s in the PDF, but a bunch of code that includes exactly what I want, in the format I want. At the same time it creates a PDF of the daily schedule, and a plain text version, addressed to the cast. Filemaker could send these emails with no interaction if I wanted it to, but I prefer to use this opportunity to proof them before hitting “send.” The new little trick I added a few days ago reminds me to update the company Google calendar with the upcoming day’s schedule. It doesn’t do anything automatically, it just prevents me from forgetting by opening Safari to the calendar address. So far I’ve had that step in the script for two days, and both times I would have otherwise forgotten, so I’m very excited about that feature!

Moving On

The rehearsal process is interesting, but I also can’t wait to get to tech. I find rehearsal far more stressful, especially in this coast-to-coast environment. With the parties all spread out, I have to be the switchboard for everyone else on the production, making sure that everyone is in possession of all the knowledge they should have. That’s true in any production, but it’s easier when everyone is in one building, one city, or one time zone. Once we get to tech, we start to have more of the people we need on the scene in real time. We won’t have everyone in Minneapolis with us at once, but the collaboration becomes more and more in-person, until finally the show is frozen and we, the traveling company, will have everything and everyone we need to make the show happen each night, wherever we go. I am excited for all aspects of the process, but I’m trying not to get too much ahead of myself. First we still have a bit of staging and a couple more weeks of exploration to get through!

December 2, 2009

(Waves to Guthrie Fans)

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:48 pm

i_heart_mnGreetings to new readers from the Guthrie website!

As you probably know because you’re here, I’m the Production Stage Manager for the Acting Company / Guthrie production of Romeo and Juliet, opening in January.

First I’ve got a little backstory for you: I’ve been writing a blog/website about stage management, and the application of technology to enhance theatre management for about two-and-a-half years.

So last year, making my debut with The Acting Company as PSM of Henry V, I hired this guy Nick to be my assistant. Nick decided to create a blog about his experiences on tour, too. And one morning we came to rehearsal and discovered that Nick’s blog was all over the front page of the Guthrie website, and suddenly everybody was reading it! Our actors’ parents would come to the show and be more excited to meet Nick than to see their kids perform! Well Nick thought this was awesome, and indeed it was.

So the other day as we were waiting at JFK for our flight to Minneapolis, we somehow got on the subject of our blogging rivalry. Nick declared that once again he was sure to be the darling of the Guthrie homepage. Having significantly expanded my blog and website since last year, I retorted that I was just as likely, if not more so, to attract their attention. So we began googling terms like, “Romeo and Juliet Guthrie” to see what came up. Unfortunately we got through about 100 results and neither of us was listed. That put a temporary stop to the discussion.

Today as we were locking up our rehearsal room, we heard someone at the other end of the hall exclaim, “It’s Karen and Nick!” We didn’t recognize these people, so we were a little surprised. As they came closer, I think the first thing the young lady said was, to Nick, “I read your blog!” Which sent Nick up and down the halls doing a happy dance, of course! Once Nick had contained himself and returned, they introduced themselves as James Scott, the General Manager, and his assistant Lauren. After much continued discussion about how popular Nick’s blog is with the Guthrie staff, I asked what the hell a webmaster has to do to get some love around here. Nick will characterize this as begging. Perhaps it was. But you must understand, I’m desperate at this point. Lauren took down the name of my website, and then we talked a bit about some work stuff she needed to tell me.

Nick and I were on our way upstairs to see Faith Healer, and by intermission I had an email from Lauren saying that both our blogs were now linked on the website, under the title “Blogging Stage Managers Return to Minneapolis!” which I think is an awesome title. I also submit Blogging Stage Managers for your consideration should you be looking for a band name.

So welcome, and now you know how much it means to me to be acknowledged as the other half of the Blogging Stage Managers! Look for us to continue our tales of Romeo and Juliet as we create it here in Minneapolis and tour it around the country.

And if you’re interested in stage management or technical theatre, or computers, I especially encourage you to take a look at the rest of the site as well!

October 8, 2009

On the Road Again

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 2:00 am


It’s time to resurrect the Tour Mini-Blog. This year it’s being renamed “On the Road Again,” because of this iPhone wallpaper I happened to stumble across a while back.

It’s still almost two months before we begin rehearsals for The Acting Company’s Romeo and Juliet in Minneapolis. It’s three months before R&J opens at the Guthrie. And it’s almost four months before we actually hit “the road” and pack our as-yet-unborn creation into a 53-foot truck and start driving it around the country.

But the story of this process actually goes back much further. This tour was in the works long before last year’s tour of Henry V and The Spy concluded. The show has been picked, many of the venues were booked, and some of the roles were cast.

When the tour ended, my role on it went on hiatus. I had been spoken to unofficially during one of our New York visits and was given a sneak peek of what was in the works for this year and was asked to come back. I indicated I was definitely interested but my schedule and lack of time at home were things I wanted to think about.

In early summer I started talking again with the office and gave my committment. They were having meetings with all the returning people to talk about how things went last year, but as I was out of town I couldn’t attend, so I was asked to submit something written. I sent in my manifesto, but was pleased to learn that while I was philosophizing about team-building experiences, Nick was meeting with the new production manager and talking about practical stuff like the need for a wireless broadband card for stage management and/or working Internet on our bus. Nick deciding to return was also a great relief, and when that happened (maybe around August) I started really looking forward to getting to work. For a while I was getting concerned I might end up the only returning person on the crew bus.

Also in August I went through some drama figuring out what my fall show would be. I had kinda committed to Inventing Avi pending my final decision a few days later, when I got a call from a well-known Off-Broadway company looking for a PSM. That dragged on for at least a week while they waited to find out if their regular PSM could clear her schedule. The problem was that the show closed on November 29th. November 30th was supposed to be the day we’d fly to Minneapolis to begin R&J. Since I had more options for the fall than I knew what to do with and the tour is my biggest job of the year, I wanted to clear it with The Acting Company before pursuing the job. They thought I was crazy, but gave me permission to take the job. In the end the job went to the other person, so I was spared the stress of having to go right from one to the other. With Avi, I got a month between gigs, which is why now, a month before we begin rehearsal, I consider this the real start of my process.

When I got back in town things had calmed down again and I began a new show, which is currently in previews. Today The Acting Company had their annual flu shot scheduled, which is part of the program offered by the Actor’s Fund to provide free on-site flu shots to shows and theatre companies. Due to the cramped quarters on the tour buses and the fact that we travel with no understudies, it’s something that we are especially encouraged to take advantage of. I wasn’t especially looking forward to being stabbed in the arm, but I was very much looking forward to seeing everyone that I haven’t seen since the tour ended in May.

The best thing that happened to come up was that I got to meet the new general manager, Nancy, who I soon discovered is awesome. A-freaking-mazing. I had a single theoretical question for her, but we were soon joined by my assistant, Nick, and our company manager, Steve. I lost all sense of time, but we must have spent about an hour in an impromptu meeting, discussing a variety of topics.

My initial request was about the possibility of Nick and I traveling to Minneapolis a few days ahead of the company so we could do our preproduction at the Guthrie and get our supplies in order, tape out the floor, and generally settle in before being thrown into rehearsal. It looks like that should be no problem and our apartments will be ready. It’s currently planned that we will have two days there not counting the travel day, which should be plenty.

We also decided which days we would take off in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, we talked about a shared Google calendar among the various management departments, concerns about the buses, and the possibility of getting the stage management road box sent to Minneapolis ahead of the set, or at least getting access to it and shipping part of the contents. We also all left with a tentative performance schedule.

I’m very excited to get more into the process, especially after my current show opens. I have been doing a lot of work on my stage management database during Avi but it still needs a lot more work to be ready to begin rehearsals for the tour, and I think the month of having no job will go by very quickly.

May 23, 2009


I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 5:53 pm


Since I created this blog, I have long dreamed of having a full website where people would go for stage management tips, tricks, stories and downloads. I was held back only by my complete inability to properly design web pages.

A while back I purchased Macheist Bundle 3, which includes lots of fun software. One of the more popular apps is Espresso, which is a new app for web developers. While on tour I started feeling a little bit inadequate as a geek because I didn’t know any modern programming languages. So since I have this random free copy of Espresso, I thought I’d take some time to start out small and work my way through hand-coding websites in HTML, CSS, and onward from there. With nothing but free time between the tour and the Reagle season, in just a few days I had progressed through HTML to basic and intermediate CSS, and I decided to go ahead and buy the domain I’ve had my eye on for over two years, thegobutton.net (thegobutton.com, unfortunately, was taken, otherwise I probably would have bought it when I started this blog).

Along with that I purchased a hosting plan from godaddy.com, and uploaded the little site I developed onto it, and began expanding it. As of this writing, I have been working on this little project for three days, and I am ready to announce it on the blog. It’s very much a work in progress, there are a lot of placeholders, but if you’re curious to see what I’m working on, you can browse around, and there’s a forum that’s up and running, too (what I need a forum for at this point, I don’t know, but I like forums).

This blog will eventually move over there, as soon as I figure out exactly how to do that. In all likelihood I will install WordPress and transfer all the posts over.

And I promise, the banner will calm down. I needed to design a dummy one to get started, I had new Photoshop filters to play with, and things just kind of went from there.

End of Tour

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 12:33 pm

Well the end of the tour has come. I’m sorry I didn’t have any posting to do during the 6 days of our final leg. Our internet problems continued and worsened, to the point that there really wasn’t any convenient time to sit and relax with internet access that might have lent itself to blogging. On top of that, there wasn’t really anything spectacular to blog about. It was kind of same-old-same-old. We came, we saw, we did shows. We finally got to perform The Spy a bit, between the end of the New York run and the final leg, we actually did more Spy than Henry. It finally started to evolve into something as natural as it had been when we rehearsed it in New York way back in November/December. It was kind of sad to see it finally coming together too late, and to get a hint of the potential it might have had if not for all the misfortunes that befell it (and the fact that most of America’s presenters apparently had no interest in booking it).

Overall the tour turned out pretty well after its rough start. There’s a lot I think we can do better next year if we build on what we learned this year, and I hope to be a part of that. Romeo and Juliet and a workshop of a new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland are on the agenda for next season.

I think this concludes the Tour Mini-Blog, I hope you had fun reading of my adventures this season. I’d like to give one final plug to my Flickr photostream, over yonder on the right sidebar. It contains almost daily photos from life on the road, along with some pretty detailed descriptions, and it covers some aspects of the tour I didn’t blog about (and certainly was too lazy to post photos of in the blog).

December 14, 2008

Stage Management Stardom

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:15 am

I must blog about the fact that Nick’s blog got blogged about. Yesterday Nick discovered that his blog is rather prominently linked to on the front page of the Guthrie website. Apparently my blog just isn’t good enough. But I think Nick has been posting a little more frequently than me, and his blog is dedicated solely to the tour, so it’s probably a good choice. Anyway, it’s nice to see a little stardom for the stage management team.

November 4, 2008

Recommended Reading

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 6:12 pm

Are you SO curious to know what it’s like to be a stage manager on The Acting Company’s 2008-2009 tour that reading one blog about it isn’t enough? ¬†Well then you need to head over to Nick Tochelli’s Blog! Nick is my ASM, and he’s recently started his own blog just for the tour. ¬†He has some interesting time and temperature widgets which don’t do much of anything while we’re in New York, but once we’re on the road they’ll illustrate how much we are freezing our asses off in Minneapolis relative to if we were sitting comfortably at home. ¬† I’m sure as things progress I’ll be linking to some of his posts to further illuminate stuff that I write about.