November 1, 2010

Wheels Across the West

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:28 pm

At our first venue for the big show, on the campus of Cal State Northridge, a bunch of us on the crew decided we needed a better way to get around in sunny California. As foreshadowed in this post, we sought out portable transportation to make life on the road a little easier and more fun.

Tim bought a skateboard off a college kid, Meaghan and I ordered Razor scooters on Amazon, and Mariela picked one up from Target. Daniel was seeking out a used bike on Craigslist, but after some failed attempts, is finally getting one today, we hope.

I’ve been making good use of my scooter, running errands farther away than I would really want to venture walking.

Our scooter / skateboard parking at the Granada in Santa Barbara:

The Granada also has a sign insisting that if you block in somebody else’s vehicle you have to inform them. So this is me informing Tim. He didn’t take it well.

At night we had a production meeting at a seaside restaurant. After dinner we walked along the docks, where we sadly found a sign prohibiting skating, scooting, biking and any other forms of fun.

Our skating / scooting crew:

Me (PSM), Meaghan (ASM), Tim (Sound), Mariela (Wardrobe)

March 17, 2010

Should I Kill Myself Now or Later?

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:37 pm

This is April 5-10. What you are seeing here is iCal showing a selection of my calendars in 24-hour view. Those are all the hours in the day. There are no more — believe me, I have checked, and inquired into creating more. That’s it! Those little white spaces in the early morning are the only time we will not be working or driving, and I can assure you, will will most certainly be spending them sleeping!

It’s really more like one long day. I shall call it Thwiday!

Travel Days: Iowa –> Florida

I call this: On the Road Again,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:38 pm


After our 4AM load in and 3PM performance in Ottumwa, IA, we began loading out at breakneck speed.

On their way out, the cast posed for a picture before heading back to their hotel, anxious to begin their three-day trek to Florida.

The local crew was very ambitious and believed from the start they could break our record of two hours and 15 minutes. Here Nick and Jason enjoy the downtime the truck crew gets while waiting for the walls to be disassembled.


They did indeed break the record, by about two minutes! We then piled into the bus, on our way to the sunshine. But first we stopped at a local restaurant for dinner, where we ran into some members of the cast and production staff. We said our goodbyes, and then hit the road for real.

MONDAY: 10:00AM-ish

We awoke in Nashville, where our driver, Jim, lives. Jim parked the bus in the parking lot of a mall, for us to spend the day while he spent some time at home and slept. In addition to the bus, however, he also left us one of his own cars (!!) in case we wanted to get around town! Devon was pretty much the only one who used it, I think, to go to his favorite pancake restaurant. The rest of us were too lethargic to go anywhere but the mall.


Jim came back to the bus at our scheduled departure time, and brought with him a present to lend us: a Wii(!!). Now a Wii on a bus is not always a great idea, but this bus does have a slide, which makes it possible for two people to swing their arms around in the front lounge without breaking anything. We also learned sadly that our very awesome bus is not coming back on the next leg — somebody else wants it. We think it might be Jay-Z. Whatever. Doesn’t he know who we are??? We are hoping that Jim will be able to come back, though. Tour buses are like children: we don’t really care which one we get as long as it’s healthy.

With Jim back on board, we headed south!


When we didn’t stop for dinner for a while, and I got tired of the satellite cutting out while we were trying to watch a documentary on the Unabomber, I went to bed. I was awoken by Devon, asking if I wanted the best hotdogs in the world. I didn’t really want hotdogs, but I wanted something, so I got up.

When I got to the front lounge and peered out the window, I saw a surprisingly familiar sight: we were right in the heart of Atlanta, on Peachtree Street. I said, “wait, I know this corner!” and sure enough we passed by the stage door side of the Fox Theater, and I thought to myself, “this is the way to that burger place!” I soon realized that was our destination: The Varsity. I had never heard of their hotdogs, but I had been taken there at the promise of the best burgers in the world, when I was at the Fox for two weeks doing merchandise on the Scarlet Pimpernel tour back in 1999. Unfortunately, Varsity had closed five minutes early, and would not serve us. So we continued driving, watching South Park, and eventually stopped for fuel at a truck stop with a McDonald’s. Not so exciting. Then we went to bed for real.

TUESDAY: 10:00AM-ish

We awoke in the parking lot of our soon-to-be hotel in West Palm Beach. We were not officially supposed to arrive until Wednesday, so we just got a crew room for the first day. After a day-and-a-half without a shower, that was our primary concern, and we rushed through our turns in the shower until our scheduled 1:30 tour of the venue, which is right down the street.


The five of us who are involved in the onstage and backstage layout of the show (me, Nick, Bobby, Devon and Olivia) walked to the theatre, where we were met by two of the technical staff, to have a conversation we thought would be about how screwed we are.

The theatre is a black box with a raised stage. Even without the raised stage, it would be barely big enough to fit the set, and with the platforms, it is not actually as big as our marley floor (which we were assured would always be the minimum size of every venue on the tour). We’ve been talking about this on the bus, in hotels and restaurants all over the country for at least a month, so there have been many plans devised, and questions going back and forth to the venue staff about possible solutions.

We laid out Olivia’s tape measure to see how wide the set would be, and began brainstorming. We were told where additional platforms could be added to the stage, and where stairs could be located. As we talked over it, we got more reassured that there weren’t any major obstacles to the staging. The big thing was that we really didn’t think our platform, Fred, would be able to fit anywhere, even if he had to be lifted to stage level. Bobby and Olivia had planned to use Wednesday to go to Home Depot and buy supplies to build a mini-Fred. Thankfully, we realized we didn’t have to do that.

Somebody pointed to the slightly extra amount of width stage left and said, “it’s too bad that space isn’t over stage right, we could put Fred there.”

Massive lightbulb went off. “We can put Fred stage left. We’ve never had to do it, but it’s one of the possible plans for dealing with a Fred problem. It just means more light gets cast on the crew.” We’re also going to work with Devon to see if anything can be done so the crew isn’t walking straight through the light from the floor par. But even so, the fact that our real Fred can live on stage is better than any of the other possibilities, so we left after our short tour feeling much better about our load-in on Thursday.

Here’s a view of the house:


Back on the bus we began hooking up the Wii. After a couple quick games of bowling, Nick, Olivia and I went to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch, where we sat outside and drank pina coladas. The entire rest of the tour was worth it for that one hour. It felt like a paid vacation.


We ate way too much, and stumbled our way to Barnes & Noble, and then back to the bus, where Bobby and Matt were furiously battling each other on the Wii.

Here Nick and Olivia look on while Matt and Bobby race.


Me: asleep on the bus. Bobby texts me to let me know we can check into the hotel. I had asked him the night before if we had early check-in, and he said the front desk would have to let us know in the morning.

I was anxious to spread out into my own room, to take a shower, and to get away from any planned St. Patrick’s Day festivities, so I got up right away and gathered my stuff as quietly as possible, and headed to the hotel.

I was also anxious because I got confirmation that my new flashlight would be delivered today. For more about that, read my flashlight post.


I was getting my laundry ready when I happened to check Twitter and read that Nick was also doing his laundry. So we met up for lunch at the restaurant in the hotel, while waiting for our laundry.


After doing laundry, I have torn apart my suitcase, made piles of things, and have been making copious lists for what I’m going to bring home with me on vacation, so that I can lighten my load for the final leg. As I did on the last leg, I’m only taking my backpack and Acting Company tote bag home with me, so I have to think carefully about what will fit in those bags and can be taken on a plane. Getting my suitcase emptier is especially important because at the end of the tour I also need to be carrying all my personal possessions that normally live in the work box.

The rest of my night is free, who knows what I’ll do. I’d be happy to hang out and do some little projects, maybe read a little. 8:00AM load in tomorrow, with a 7:30 show. This one is going to require a lot of energy and clear thinking!

March 16, 2010

The Crew

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:54 pm

Nick has already done his crew post, but I’m going to do one too.

Left-to-right in the photo:

Bobby – Technical Director
Bobby is the boss of the crew, and also takes care of most things involving our travel, like bus calls, hotels, and collects the money for crew rooms and the bus driver’s tip. Bobby spends the entire load-in instructing the local crew in the construction of the set, and at load-out supervises taking it down. He doesn’t have a show track, although he has done the ASM track for a few performances, and did the one move the second props track has when we were short-handed.

Olivia – Props Supervisor
We called Olivia by name as “Props” for a couple venues, when it was discovered that that was her billing in the program (as opposed to everybody else who’s “Lighting Director,” “Wardrobe Supervisor,” “Sound Supervisor,” etc.). That got straightened out when we got to New York, where she was then “Properties Supervisor,” which we all then said in a haughty voice. Now she seems to just be “Props Supervisor.” Naturally, she’s in charge of props. She’s also our truck boss. She and I keep the truck pack paperwork updated as things change.

Devon – Lighting Director / Balcony Safety Test Dummy
Devon supervises the preparation of the lights during load-in, but spends most of his time on his Macbook Pro, creating a custom light plot for every venue, that takes into account how many instruments they have (and what kind), how many dimmers are available, and what kind of lighting positions exist. Basically every venue gets their own lighting design that recreates the original as much as possible with what’s available. Because he spends so much time looking at each venue, he’s often the first to catch potential problems and warn me and Bobby when we might need to prepare for something.

He is also the Balcony Safety Test Dummy because he is often the first person to stand on the balcony when it’s installed, before the stairs are attached to it. A lot of our focus can’t be accomplished until the balcony is up, so Devon is usually chomping at the bit to get on it as soon as it’s “safe.”

Me! – Production Stage Manager
I do all the PSM stuff of course — I call the show, write reports, make sure the cast has whatever show-related information they need (since I don’t travel with them, the company manager handles their day-to-day schedule, aside from rehearsal or show calls). During load-in, I look over the space with Nick and do some basic set-up stuff (claiming our office space, printing any additional signage needed), and then go help Devon with focus for the next few hours. During load-out I’m on the truck crew, and maintain the truck pack paperwork.

Jason – Wardrobe Supervisor
Jason also served as Assistant Costume Designer on the show, so he’s been with the show longer than the rest of the crew. Naturally he maintains all the costumes and wigs, and he also has a full show track, which incorporates all the most difficult parts of the three wardrobe/hair tracks that existed at the Guthrie, so that the cast has a consistent person doing their most difficult changes. He is also on the truck crew, where he is immensely valuable for his height, long arms, and strength. Jason and I do the wall pack, which is its own special kind of Tetris with dozens of different-shaped pieces that have to go in the right way or else they won’t fit.

Nick – Stage Manager / Human Cue Light
Unless you’ve been blog-reading under a rock, you will have seen me reference Nick’s Tour Blog before. Nick has been my assistant since last year. During load-in he does most of the stage management stuff, such as putting up the callboard and directional signage around the theatre (using his signage purse), taping actors’ names over their dressing tables, distributing and collecting valuables bags, and using his trusty roll of white gaff tape to mark out which wings actors should enter from, and where obstacles exist backstage. He also assists Olivia with the setup of prop tables and the placement of Fred the Platform, which almost always requires some discussion. During the show he runs the deck. His track consists mostly of being a human cue light, cueing actor entrances (and a few crew moves) with hand signals. We decided this was easier and more reliable than worrying about actual cue lights, and unlike last year, his track is really simple, and without those cues he’d probably die of boredom. At load-out he’s on the truck crew, where his specialty is strapping all our stair units to overhead load bars.

Matt – Sound Supervisor / Stunt Carpenter
Matt loads in the sound equipment and mixes the show, as well as tying our wireless comm into the house system and making sure there are backstage monitors, and paging when available. He has one of the shorter load-ins, so he has taken on a role we like to call Stunt Carpenter, because he does a few specific parts of the set construction that are too difficult and/or dangerous to give to the local crew, most notably the attachment of the cornices (which are huge and waaaay heavier than they should be) to the top of the set. If he’s done with his Stunt Carpenter duties onstage, he usually joins the truck crew for the part of the truck pack where the cornices and other large objects are lofted up over the road boxes into the nose of the truck.


Bobby has been filming our load out from various locations in and outside the theatre. He has compiled all these into a single video showing the entire process. Note especially the part of the truck footage where we occupy ourselves for the half hour we spend waiting for the walls to be down.

If you’re interested in seeing more, the videos are online in their entirety:

February 27, 2010

Crew Portrait

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:47 pm

Bobby had an idea to take a crew portrait with all of us posing on the set. We need to try it again in a space with more light, but aside from being too dark, it’s a cute picture. That’s me in the window.

August 10, 2007

Night Crew

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:32 pm

The night before opening of 42nd Street, we had our final dress, did some fixes and notes, and dismissed the cast around 11:00PM. By midnight our production meeting was over, and I was well on my way to going home. On the stage and in the shop, however, the crew had been working since the run ended, cramming in all the little details that still remained to get in shape for the first performance at 2:00PM the next day — painting, set repair, refocusing lighting instruments. They stayed until 3 or 4 in the morning, returning at around 10 to continue work and get ready for the show.

Before I left I took some portraits of our hard-working crew:

Ray touches up the paint job on one of the “Lullaby” stair units.

Christina lurks under the other stair unit, doing the same thing.

Jamie starts painting a column to match the pink marble style of the existing ones that frame the proscenium.

Who says the wardrobe crew can’t do physical labor? Joe sets up scaffolding.

Matt refurbishes the edge of the big dime to make it nice and shiny. Here he shows off a technique known in the theatre industy as “gaff-painting.”

August 7, 2007

Fun Things in the Shop

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:58 pm

Just five minutes ago I was dragged skipping into the shop by our master electrician, Steph, and knew immediately what I was going to see.

Here Nick, Steph and Justin show off their creation. It’s been a long and complicated process to turn the giant marquees from the national tour (this is the smallest one) into something that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars in bulbs, and require more power and counterweights than anybody should really need. A bulk order of Christmas lights arrived in the morning, and even up close they look quite a bit like real marquee lights. They won’t be hung until all the marquees are done tomorrow, but for now we have an empty pipe with — I kid you not — an upside-down desk lamp and a clip light taped to it to represent the marquees for lighting purposes. It’s hysterical. I’ll try to get a picture of it.

Competing with the marquee builders for my attention is head painter, Matt, who is refurbishing the fabric on the Regency hotel unit.

The third and final project currently underway in the shop involved Scott, Tim and Ross climbing around on top of the “Buffalo” cars.

When I inquired what exactly they were doing, I was told, “attaching mirrors,” with the express instructions that it was to be pronounced “murrrs.” There’s murrrs all over this set, most of which are in need of something between cleaning and replacement. With a lot of the big fixes done, a lot of the little projects in the next two days will involve making all the murrrs look respectable.