July 19, 2007

King and I Final Week

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:34 pm

We are quickly coming to the end of our run of The King and I. A large chunk of the 42nd Street set has infiltrated the back of the shop, as seen at right. The metal things in front are the marquee signs for the ballet, which have a place in my heart as I built all the marquees by myself when I did the show in high school. We don’t have a lot of height on our stage, so we will have to see if we can use all of them. One of the big vertical signs is 15 ft. tall, which will fit, but may or may not look silly.

I have to explain this photo. A couple performances ago, a mysterious paper fish on a stick appeared swimming across my booth window. I found this an excellent piece of entertainment during a long show, and the fish made several more appearances. Eventually it was joined by a squid or octopus of sorts, and they would have some sort of a battle. Tonight things quickly advanced: the fish and squid were present, but were later replaced by a shark and a larger octopus, who also did battle. In what I thought would be the highlight of my night, the fish appeared swimming peacefully, when a can perhaps representing a discarded piece of trash or a toxic spill floated down into view, causing the fish to go belly-up. Little did I know.

It was during Act I Sc. 7, Anna’s bedroom, that I was minding my business watching the scene, when I detected another stirring below the booth window. I was looking forward to seeing what was coming next, but completely unprepared for what happened. In one smooth motion, a complete panorama of suspended sea creatures was hung over the entire center panel of the booth window. I didn’t even have a chance to see it all before I completely lost it. I spent the rest of the scene laughing with tears streaming down my face and gasping for enough breath to give my warnings. They were only up for a few seconds because the ends had to be held by hand. By the start of the second act I was ready to enjoy them calmly, and as soon as the Entr’Acte began they were put back up with tape (which is when I took the picture, which doesn’t even show the full width of the display), and I happily called the rest of the show with my new sea creature friends.

Also, a small note in honor of a Reagle landmark:

This the majestic Eagle Lake, sometimes called Lake Eagle. We’ve had a few days of rain, and the lake was in full form today in our parking area most used by crew and orchestra. This isn’t the biggest it gets, as the rain has been intermittent, but this is the biggest I’ve seen it this year. I made the mistake of not pulling all the way up to the edge of the warehouse and had to go wading to get my bag out of the trunk.

Just a few more performances and we’re on to the final show of the season.

July 12, 2007

King and I Opening

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:25 pm

We had our first performance today, a matinee. Well it was a matinee when it started, at least. This show is long. The running time hasn’t changed very much at all through tech, but the show has always felt so fast that I would stare at my notes checking and double-checking my math, thinking there’s no way it can be 2:42 without intermission. It’s now down to 2:40, but the house generally requires a 20-minute intermission, and God help us if we go up late. Today we started at 2:12, which was not the best way to begin a 3-hour show. We had some latecomers, a lot of whom were elderly and in various stages of disability, there was a line for the wheelchair lift, and by the time everyone was settled in, our estimated end time was approaching Les Miz proportions. And I’m not talking about Les Miz after the cuts.

Also at the performance were the students from Reagle’s summer theatre camp. There are about 80 students for the camp’s second year of operation. The camp is taught by members of the Reagle staff with master classes from visiting artists and technical personnel from the summer shows. Earlier this week the kids had a class with choreographer Gemze de Lappe, along with some of the show’s dancers, where they learned choreography from the show. We had a talkback with them after the show, which was attended by more cast members than I expected, enough that we couldn’t all sit on the edge of the stage. The kids were very enthusiastic, asking good questions. I can tell from these events that before they see the show they have spent time learning about it. Next week they will have their master class with me, which will be held at the theatre and include a backstage tour. I have a great time with that kind of stuff, and I can tell they’ll be a good group.

The show itself went very well, and we had a larger audience than I was expecting. I had heard numbers like 800 being thrown around a couple days ago, but I don’t think I believed them. In my very unscientific estimate out the booth window, I’d say it was closer to 900. Anyway, it’s already a bigger house than any on the last show. We’ve got a few production photos up on the website now, which were taken at our dress on Tuesday (minus a final coat of paint on some of the set), courtesy of production photographer Herb Philpott. This one captures best what I sometimes stop and gape at in certain cues:

Set: gorgeous. Costumes: gorgeous. Lighting: gorgeous. And all gorgeous in harmony with each other. This show is pretty. It’s not fast, it’s not difficult, but it just looks so good I feel like I’m still doing something helpful.

July 10, 2007

Oh My God, It’s a Truck!

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:12 pm

When I arrived at the theatre today, I was shocked upon arriving at our parking lot to find a trailer parked at the loading dock. I was highly confused about what show we were doing, as it’s not customary for a truck to show up on the day of the first dress rehearsal. I quickly realized that this must be the first of the 42nd Street trucks, arriving simply because it can. Reagle owns the set, which like all of the sets that they rent out, is stored in its trailers and parked at an off-site facility when it’s not needed, packed and ready to be driven wherever it needs to go when rented. It won’t be unloaded just yet, but as King and I‘s set is almost completely stored on the deck, there is lots of room in the shop for 42nd Street to start coming in and being put together during the run of King and I.

Tonight was our first dress rehearsal, first rehearsal with orchestra, and the first time we ran the show like a performance. Usually these things don’t all happen on the same night, but the show is in such good shape, the slightly unconventional schedule shouldn’t hurt us at all. I called the show from the booth tonight. This was only my second time calling a real run, and the first time to really get the uninterrupted flow of the show, but I find it so relaxing I didn’t mind. Our master electrician suggested it because she reminded me that when I call from the tech table with the orchestra, the sound is so loud that it gets into my headset and drowns out the calls. I normally move to the booth for the Tuesday run, but usually having had the first dress on Monday to call from the tech table. The show is very quiet at times and we’ve had to really struggle for the crew to be able to talk quietly enough so it isn’t distracting, but loud enough to hear each other. So as much as I wanted to stay in the house for one more day, it was more important that I be able to speak as much and as loudly as I have to, so I welcomed the move to the booth.

The run went very well. I had to adjust a little bit, as always, to figure out what I’m listening for in the orchestra in cases where it sounds much different than it did on the piano. I’m having a great time calling this show. It’s easy, but quite rewarding. All the design elements are beautiful and complement each other very well, I find the show itself funny and moving, the actors are great to watch, the dancers are amazing, the singers sound wonderful, the kids are cute. The show is looking to be a solid three hours with intermission, but I have not yet gotten bored while calling it. And calling the ballet is like its own little show-within-a-show, and while it’s still relatively easy, it stretches slightly different stage management muscles, so it provides a nice change of pace for about ten minutes toward the beginning of the second act. We have one more dress rehearsal and then the first performance at 2:00 on Thursday.

July 6, 2007

King and I Approaches Tech

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:10 am

I’m sitting in the theatre, approximately 21 hours before tech begins. I got my cues at the paper tech this morning and have some time to kill before the 1:30 rehearsal. The paper tech moved along quickly, and with some discussion of other production-related issues, came in just under two hours, which is pretty much perfection. I’ve done some for more complicated shows that have taken four hours. Approximately 140 light cues, so not a very busy show, but enough to keep me entertained. Just on paper, I see a few cues I’m already looking forward to. I think the “Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet will be fun, but not too hard as to embarrass me, as long as I can keep following along quickly enough. Shouldn’t need to call anything off the score, which I like. My opinions on that change, but with recent shows I’ve tried to reduce it, because I find that following the score means keeping your head in the music too much and not looking at the stage. Even with Singin’ in the Rain, I called the 13-minute ballet off the score, but in reality I only really followed the music for a couple cues, and for the most part just flipped ahead to the next cue and knew what it was, so I could be looking and listening instead of being buried in the book and counting.

Took this picture just a few minutes ago:

They just put in our groundrow that will go behind the palace. The picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but it’s really nicely painted, and the set looks fantastic under the lights. I’m loving the gel colors on this show.

Another picture I shot a few days ago but never had a post for:

The drop you see downstage is brand new and was specially designed to match our set. This is the “Corridor drop” which is used for almost all the downstage scenes. The audience spends a lot of time looking at it, so it’s a good thing it’s pretty. This was taken right after it arrived and was hung.

June 30, 2007

A Run of Act I

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:54 pm

Not counting our read-through, we have just completed our fourth day of rehearsal of The King and I. The crew was given the weekend off, as many of the large pieces of the set were put up by Friday. This also benefits us greatly, as we have free access to the stage for the weekend rehearsals.

First thing in the morning, we ran Act I, just because we could. It was a nice feeling. Immediately following that, we ran the ballet on the stage for the first time. I had the opportunity to see the entire ballet for the first time on Friday afternoon in the dance studio, without the singers present. I considered that also a great advantage, to see the whole thing so early in the process, especially since I often have trouble getting sufficient time to attend the dance rehearsals. The dancers are already doing a fantastic job, and I’m sure in the next week Gemze will get even more out of them.

For the last few evenings we’ve had access to the stage after the crew finished for the day, and we had been working with the principals and singing ensemble on stage, as the dancers did their thing in the dance studio. We’ve now reached the point in the process where it’s beneficial to swap that: the dancers have learned their choreography, and a lot of what remains is for them to adjust to the exact dimensions and surface of the stage. The principals now begin blocking for Act II, which works just as well in the dance studio at this point in the process.

In the three hours after lunch today, we blocked a good portion of Act II. We also accomplished costume fittings for the children and many of the ensemble. All in all we are going to be in great shape when we start tech in six days. In fact, I think my little trick of pre-tech will mean a very smooth run (or two!) of the show with scenery, before we ever start tech. A lot of this is because the very straightforward technical operation of the show will make it easy to do with a reduced crew. I’m enjoying the show itself and I look forward to putting the technical elements on it very soon.

June 26, 2007

King and I Day 1

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:03 pm

First rehearsal for show #2. The day began for me in the morning with our first production meeting. It was a fairly leisurely meeting, with a scene-by-scene discussion of each set and any issues brought up. The recurring debate: fly in hard flats for quickness of scene change, or take the time to set them by hand on the deck, to avoid ugly aircraft cables catching the light (especially given that the pieces will be silhouetted at times)? I love the elegance of flying stuff, but aircraft cables are indeed ugly, and not particularly at home in the royal gardens of 19th-century Siam. This matter is still undecided. Attempts will first be made to conceal the aircraft cables behind other objects, and if that doesn’t work, I think we’ll wind up with the stuff being set by crew, which will mean we’ll be pushing to make the scene changes in time.

The theatre is building its own set for this show, which has been pretty rare in the years I’ve been here. The set is being recreated by our very talented head painter, Matt, based on the design used for an earlier production. While I’ve seen pieces of it under construction in our warehouse, this is the first opportunity I’ve really had to see all the plans and have it fully explained. I’m excited about it. After the meeting Matt took me back to the warehouse to look at it again, now that it’s closer to completion, and I have a better context for it.

Here’s a view of some of it. You can’t see the best stuff in this photo, but the colors for the palace are very rich, and at the meeting Matt displayed a sample of the fabric for Anna’s bedroom drapes that I’m absolutely in love with.

Simultaneously, the most significant project of the year was going on onstage: the replacement of the entire deck surface. The deck has been due for replacement since at least last year, and Singin’ in the Rain sealed its fate with the inevitable water damage. As I mentioned last week, several sections had to be replaced during the run, including one emergency replacement at intermission. The crew did a lot of work today, almost all of the new surface has been laid. It still needs to be screwed down more permanently and then painted, but it looks great already.

I also got to see something I’ll probably never see again — the actual stage floor of the Robinson Theatre, just before the last of the large pieces was laid over it.

It’s your typical hardwood floor you’d find on a school auditorium stage, that someone obviously made an attempt to paint black at some point. Over that is laid a layer of Homasote to give the surface a little cushioning, before the top layer of tempered Masonite is placed. I have been informed that tempered Masonite is preferable to regular ol’ Masonite because it will be more durable. The darker black squares in the back and left are already finished, and the lighter black band in the upper right against the wall is the last of the old surface that has yet to be taken out. Eventually the surface, which is already black, will all be given a coat of black paint, but it’s being left au natural for now as it needs some time to dry out to avoid warping. It looks very clean and pretty, and best of all it will be a nice safe, even surface for our performers to work on.

Bye-bye old deck!

Our rehearsal schedule in the afternoon was very easy — just music rehearsals with a few principals. I sat around and worked on some leftover notes from the meeting, and getting the contact sheet ready. In the evening we had the whole company present. Seventy-seven. Yes, 77. Seven seven. Forty-nine adults, twenty-eight children. This is only slightly more than my previous Reagle-high of 72 for Carousel. I’ve heard people saying 61 all day, but by my count I get 77. To be perfectly honest, I think once you get beyond 50 it’s all the same.

Anyway, with this mass of people, we did a read/sing-through of the show, including watching the DVD of the movie for the ballet scene. Our choreographer, Gemze de Lappe, was the original dancer portraying Simon of Legree in the “Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet, and she also dances the role in the movie, which I didn’t know until recently. She’s wearing a giant mask so it’s impossible to tell it’s her, but it was fun to see her performance from over 50 years ago. I have no doubt she could do it today at 80-something! She doesn’t join us until tomorrow, but I’ve worked with her before on Carousel, and she’s quite an amazing lady.

Tomorrow is our first full day of rehearsal, and I’m looking forward to it.