May 31, 2010

Because It’s MY Database

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:03 pm

Still doing paperwork. Now I’m working on the weekly schedule. One of the hardest things in the first week is learning people’s names. This is like 10 times harder in preproduction because you don’t even have faces and performances to associate with who is playing what role.

So I’m going through the schedule trying to fill in who is called for what scenes, and I’ve decided in this case it’s easiest to go with actors’ last names rather than characters. Only problem is, I get to the first one and I know it’s Little Red and the Wolf, but I’m drawing a total blank on both their names. So I took 15 minutes and decided to solve this problem once and for all by adding a feature to the database.

I could have given it a very professional name, such as “Name / Role Cheat Sheet” or something like that. But this is my database, and until such time as it becomes someone else’s database, this particular feature is going to be called “ZOMG HALP!!!” because that’s what I’m thinking when I need it. Yeah, I do think like a lolcat sometimes. What of it?

I have placed a big red ZOMG HALP!!! button on the main page, which pops up this screen in a little window, that can then be tucked off in a corner where it’s always visible. It can display all the contacts associated with the show, but I’ve added a button which narrows it down to just the cast, since that’s the most common use. Here it’s showing the cast in the order I added them to the DB, which is an approximate of order-of-importance list, which I decided to leave as-is because it might be handy. It can also be sorted alphabetically by any of the fields which would be more useful at other times.

March 11, 2010

Filemaker 11 Released

I call this: computers,tech — Posted by KP @ 8:07 am

My Twitter feed lit up the other day with news that Filemaker 11 has been released.

I use Filemaker to design a stage management database that does pretty much everything I need to do. Ever. So of course this is a big deal to me.

New Features

Charts is the one they’re really pushing in the marketing, but have you ever seen a stage management chart? I mean it would be cute if you wanted to look at trends, like have a little pie chart showing how many tickets you sold relative to capacity or something, but I don’t think a stage manager has ever needed a chart.

The two words that got my attention were “filtered portals,” which is one of those things I’m always shocked it doesn’t do already. A portal is like a window within a window, for lack of a better term, that pulls data from some other table in the database and displays it as a list. For instance, my venue information layout contains data about a single venue (name, address, union status, etc.) and within it has two portals — one for all contacts (pulled from the contacts table) that have that venue in their “company” field, and another for all performances that are listed in the event table as occurring there. So when I look at each venue, I see all the contacts associated with it, and all the performances that happen there.

However, my event table tracks rehearsals, previews and performances, which are indicated by a drop-down menu to choose which type a particular event is. Most of the time this isn’t a problem because we’re mainly doing shows, but for example at the Guthrie, we were rehearsing there for a month. If you look at the Guthrie’s venue entry, you’ll see all the rehearsals as well. There is currently no way to tell the portal “show me related records from the events table, but only the ones that have ‘Perf’ as their Type.” It seems like a really obvious feature, and one that always bugs me that it’s been missing. So for that alone I want to upgrade.

Upgrade Pricing

I have Filemaker 10. I paid $300 for it. Like six months ago. The upgrade pricing for Filemaker 11 is $179. The cost is high, but for apps like this I expect it. What makes it frustrating is that it’s $179 whether you own Filemaker 10, 9 or (for the first six months) 8. So basically there’s no incentive to upgrade to every version. Which for a large corporation is probably a good idea anyway, since changing the compatibility of your database every couple years would be a huge undertaking. But it would be nice if they threw a bone, even a small one ($20?), to people who care enough to want the extra features right away. Why are people who bought the program 5 years ago paying the same to upgrade as me who bought a version that’s only been out a year? Lame. Very lame.

Now instead of immediately hitting the “purchase” button upon the logic of “11 is better than 10” (I call this the Spinal Tap Theory of Software), I’m going to really have to look into the features to see if it’s something I will get significantly more productivity out of. And I may try to save up some Amazon gift certificates or get it for my birthday rather than buy it right away. If I didn’t need a new laptop, things would be different, but I’m being very cautious about spending any significant money until after the computer is purchased, so that I can examine how broke I am before proceeding with purchases that might become lower-priority in light of my brokeification.

January 19, 2010

Teaching the Database to Speak

I call this: tech — Posted by KP @ 2:40 am

I have to tell you what I learned tonight. I must caution you, there is some geek-speak below, in as plain terms as possible.

I was watching a screencast from Filemaker, about the fun new things you can do in Filemaker Pro 10. This isn’t really news to me, as I’ve been using v. 10 for months, and the last version I owned before that was v. 7. But this particular screencast began by talking about the ontimer script feature. That’s not something I’ve really worked with much, except that I have a Filemaker clock that I found online, and basically tinkered with just enough to add it to my database, without exactly understanding how all of it works.

This screencast explained it (it’s actually really simple, it just executes a specified script every however-many seconds), and suddenly I figured out how to do something that I knew was theoretically possible, but thought was outside my programming knowledge: to get the performance report to remind me to make calls based on what time it is.

The report already has an “intermission calculator” where I can enter how long I want the intermission to be, and based on the end time of Act I, it displays what time I need to call 5 and places (assuming it takes 3 minutes from calling places to actually being able to start). It does the math for me, but it doesn’t help to remind me in any way, I still have to keep watching the clock.

Well using the ontimer script, which I have running every 10 seconds when the performance report is loaded, it records the current time as a variable, and then goes down the list of possible calls (30 minutes, 15 minutes, 6 minutes, and 2 minutes before the scheduled start time, as well as the “call 5 at” and “call places at” times from the intermission calculator), comparing the current time to those times.

I added a series of fields to each report that corresponds to each call that needs to be made — by default the value is 0 (the call has not been made). The script looks through each of the possible calls whose value is 0, and then looks to see if the current time is greater than or equal to the time one of the calls is due. If so, it says — out loud — the call (i.e. “Half hour please”) and then displays a pop-up window saying “Call half hour now!” Once this window is dismissed, the call field changes from 0 to 1, and from that point on, the script no longer worries about that call.

It’s absolutely hysterical. But most of all, it’s going to be very handy. From here pretty much anything is possible. Now I’ve got it to send me a text message when it makes a call, so even if I’m not in the booth I’ll get the call wherever I am (except for the places calls, where I should already be in the booth). At the end of the script it checks to see if all the calls are marked as “1” and if so, it ends the timer script.

I can’t wait to start using this tomorrow!

I’m so excited I made a movie demonstrating how it works. I suggest watching it at Youtube where it’s in higher resolution.

November 23, 2009

WHAT? I’m sorry Calendar, I Can’t Hear You!

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:27 am

A Conversation

Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 3.28.09 AM
My calendar is trying to tell me something. Something about next Monday, and I’m like, “Dude, Calendar, I don’t have a job, I have, like, nothing to do all month. So why are you so concerned with how I divide the hours of the day between sleep, playing online games, and building the stage management database? I have, like, forever!”

And my calendar’s like, “Blah blah blah Thanksgiving.”

And I’m like, “Yeah, I know, Thanksgiving is like, in a week or something. I’ll figure out what time my train is the night before.”

And my calendar’s like, “You know, Thanksgiving is actually Christmas in your world. So… presents…”

And I’m like, “No, Calendar, you see, Thanksgiving is Christmas for me! I intend to buy all my Christmas presents at the Mall of America once I have money, and then ship them home, so Christmas for my family is, like, Christmas.”

And Calendar starts to say, “Well, actually you should leave yourself about a week, cause remember what happened last year when you tried to mail them on a Saturday…” and I’m like, “Just shut up, I got that, OK?”

Which then returns us to the subject of next week. And finally I’m like, “Alright already, WTF is next week!?”

My calendar throws me a pitying look, and is like, “November 30th. November 30th is next week. It’s actually a week from today.”

And I’m like, “No it’s not.”

And it’s like, “See, look, here’s this month. Here’s today. Here’s next week. See it’s the 23rd. And the 30th is like, seven days later. And you still have to deal with Thanksgiving, so those aren’t even real days.”

And I’m like, “Shit.”


I’ve actually been pretty well packed for a while. Most of my clothes are folded in piles on my couch. I’m getting some more clothes for Christmas (aka Thanksgiving), so I’m waiting on making final arrangements. All of my non-clothes stuff is in my suitcase if it’s not needed. I have a database just for keeping track of everything I plan to tour with, and which compartment of which bag it should be in. My apartment has remained consistently clean since Inventing Avi closed. So really, I could pick up and go to Minneapolis at any moment.

The work side of things is taking a little longer. First there’s the big issue of the stage management database. It’s new, although I got to test out some parts of it on Avi, so I want to be way ahead of myself to find any problems that pop up. Most of it has been built since Avi closed, and there are still a few more things that haven’t been done at all (like the rehearsal report, which shouldn’t take too long now that the show report is done and working beautifully).

A few little things I love:

  • Show report practically writes itself. Put in the date and it fills in all the venue info and lets you select the time of the performance based on the scheduled performances for that day.
  • 1-click sending of the report that creates a PDF, pastes a plain text report into the body of the email and sends to a list based on a checkbox in their contact profile.
  • Venue profile contains a tab that embeds the Wikipedia page for the town the theatre is in (generated dynamically based on the theatre’s address).
  • Rehearsal schedule planner that turns colors to let you know when you’re violating Equity rules, or aren’t using all your allotted time.

The main problem I’m having now is that we still don’t have a final script, so once I finish the reports and a little bit of tidying, I will quickly run out of things I can do until I have the data pertaining to the show itself. There are a number of things I want to expand later, but I’m trying to keep focused on the things that need to be done to start rehearsal, and then the things that need to be done to start touring, and then all the goodies later.