December 30, 2011

How Was Your Day?

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:45 pm

My day has been OK. I didn’t do much, other than fix what I broke while moving my domain away from GoDaddy as part of yesterday’s “Move Your Domain Day.” (If you’d like to know more about why GoDaddy and the proposed SOPA legislation suck, my new registrar, NameCheap.com, has a decent summary.)

Anyway, my day was just OK until a friend and reader texted me this shot of what was transpiring on 42nd Street:

I actually knew nothing about this, which is a wonderful thing, as my life experience has taught me that anything involving that truck and 42nd Street must have royally sucked for whoever was involved, which thankfully was not me.

So I say, godspeed, unfortunate Acting Company employees and hourly laborers! May whatever you were doing have gone quickly and without incurring the wrath of the NYPD and/or studio management. And as this was less than 4 hours ago, at the very least I hope it’s not still going on!

February 9, 2011

Killing Time on the Bus

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:30 pm

Today has been a long day for the crew. After a very long, very hard day yesterday (for myself, I spent 4 straight hours on the truck in temperatures in the teens at load-out), we got on the bus around 2:30AM, and slept until around 10:00. Thankfully we had a late load-in because our local crew was on a tight turnaround from the night before, so we got to sleep in our bunks a little longer than usual, have breakfast in the green room, and shower in a dressing room, before the day officially began. There’s something to be said for starting at 8AM though — it feels much more productive, and we’re very used to the routine of what we should have accomplished by different times of the day, so we always feel like we’re way behind when we start late.

We awoke this morning in the parking lot of the Wharton Center in East Lansing, MI, which is a road house, currently host to the Shrek tour. …And us. It’s been a very long day, which included an hour-long visit from the cast a few hours ago, because the secondary stage is a thrust configuration, and we have to plan how to fit our proscenium-style shows (BOTH of them!) onto this stage, in the middle of a very busy 3 days here (we have 3 performances of R&J and one of Comedy).

For those of us not the TD, ATD or lighting director, we’ve actually had a lot of down time. We’re going a little bit crazy. You might say we’re getting a bit of cabin fever, or in our case, green room / bus fever.

So here’s a short list of what we’ve been doing today:
1. watching Dog the Bounty Hunter
2. watching NCIS marathon which is still ongoing
3. napping
4. playing frisbee down the length of the bus (a length of maybe 35 feet, down a corridor maybe 2-and-a-half feet wide — it’s very challenging not to let the frisbee ricochet off into a bunk.)
5. ordering pizza
6. fantasizing about Steak n’ Shake, which Bart (our driver) promised us for a late dinner when he left us this morning.
7. updating paperwork

Our long ordeal may soon be over. Well, at least today’s part of our ordeal. The cast told us that our hotel is amazingly nice. It’s also dirt cheap, which is win-win! So we can’t wait to check in and get a little rest in a real bed before our first 9:45AM(!!!) show.

February 2, 2011

We Will Never Be Warm Again

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:48 pm

Jackie (wardrobe supervisor) regards the truck pack at the start of load-in

The mantra of our day in Brainerd, MN: “We will never be warm again.” Meaghan coined this phrase sometime fairly early in the day, I think.

Long story short, we worked an 18-hour day, about 7 of those hours were spent outdoors loading or unloading the truck, and the rest were spent in a theatre that wasn’t very far removed from the loading door and aside from the dressing rooms, never reached what one would normally think of as an indoor temperature. I’m not sure what the temperature was throughout the day, but when load-out ended it was -30 with the wind chill. After nearly 5 hours of loading the truck, we should have been dead if that was the case, so I think the walls of the building, and the truck, shielded us from some of that, but still. It was well below zero all day.

And what I learned today, because we were short-handed and the show crew had to fully participate in all the loading and unloading, is that the Comedy set is ridiculously heavy. The deck, which is in theoretically 32 pieces (although we only used 24 here), is several layers of plywood and each piece weighs so much that every piece is individually demoralizing. The truck is packed too full with the R&J set to allow all the flooring to be on carts. We have one very high-quality plywood cart, but all the loads except the last one have to be unloaded once they’re in the truck.

There’s no dock, of course, so we had to use the ramp. Oh, and when we arrived the ramp was covered in snow from riding under the truck, which we had to continually try to clear with a broom to keep our stuff from skating down in freefall and killing everyone. Also, if you grabbed onto a several-hundred pound thing and held onto it tight, it would simply pull your entire body along with it as your feet slid on the snow on the ground. But with enough people doing this, I guess we at least created enough resistance to have control of most things. Purposely grinding the castors into the side of the ramp to create friction also helps a lot.

The first load of flooring we took down had probably 10 people holding onto it, and one brave gentleman tried to get in front of it on the ramp. We got about halfway down when gravity really started to take over and the cart started accelerating beyond our ability to slow it down. I started yelling at the guy to get out of the way, because other than him nobody was going to get hurt if we lost control of it, and the scenery would probably survive too because the base of the ramp was covered in several inches of snow which would stop the cart before it slammed into the wall of the building. We managed not to run him over, in fact nobody got hurt at all except our TD, which was minor and not snow-related, and mainly resulted in him doing the entire day in a pair of pants that became more and more comically ripped as the day went on. Later on, I was stupid and was working in the truck alone, and became trapped for about 5 minutes when the load I was strapping shifted and an 8-foot strip light wanted to tumble down. I had to keep hands on it, but was otherwise fairly secure that the rest of the load would fall the other way if it went, so I waited to be rescued while nobody felt the need to come out to the truck or take a smoke break, or come anywhere near the open loading door for an unusually long time.

Anyway, it was a painful, miserable time on and around the truck, and we all had to take frequent breaks to come inside, where it wasn’t much warmer, since the loading doors were open. To get warm at all you had to spend some time in the dressing room. Towards the end of the night one of the locals gave us a tip: not only go to the dressing room, but turn on the mirror lights and warm your hands by them. Here Meaghan demonstrates the technique:

Note Meaghan’s nice new truck-loading jacket. She says it’s very warm. I’m a little jealous. I don’t have a truck-loading jacket for this kind of weather. When I saw we didn’t have enough crew I just dug out my windbreaker to put it over my sweatshirt, and I was wearing a T-shirt under my turtleneck because I knew it would be cold for load-out. But I’m not, you know, supposed to actually be loading the truck, just pushing and strapping things into place. Actually I’m supposed to be sitting in the bus watching TV while everyone else works, but I’ve never done that.

We finally finished just before 2AM (the show being so short, came down around 9PM), and limped to the bus on our frozen feet. I brought my remaining half-bottle of Ketel One from our stay in Minneapolis onto the bus, planning to pour one out in memory of the unopened $40 bottle that was destroyed in a tragic slide-retracting accident on the bus just before our departure from Brainerd last year. That was easily the saddest day of the tour last year (for me at least), and I hoped to make it right by successfully sharing my vodka with the crew at the end of the day. Little did I know we would need it so badly! So this time I smartly kept it in the cabinet until we were on the bus, and we toasted to our survival.

Our departure was also filled with uncertainty, as we were driving right into a bad snowstorm on our way to Madison, WI. During the show ideas were being tossed around about us staying another night in Brainerd, since we had a day off and the hotel had the rooms. But we left it up to Bart (our driver) and he felt better about pushing on ahead of the storm and stopping mid-way if we needed to. We made it to Madison a few hours later than we should have (it took 8 hours instead of the projected 6), but sometimes after a day like that I prefer arriving late because it means we can sleep longer! I was very grateful when my alarm went off and I cracked an eye open to check my GPS and saw we were nowhere near Madison, and rolled back over. I had slipped a doom-and-gloom note into the report last night about how we were uncertain whether the crew would make it on time, or what would happen to the cast the next day, but we got in almost on time, and the cast arrived early this evening with no problems.

I wasn’t too worried about the drive because Bart can make a bus do pretty much whatever he wants, and several of us commented that if we died in the night, at least we wouldn’t have to unload the truck. I don’t know about them, but I really meant it. Most of us didn’t sleep particularly well because our bodies never really warmed up, no matter how high we had the heat cranked on the bus, or how many layers and blankets we had. We’re all sore in crazy places and our bodies are generally out-of-whack. I didn’t get to do much on the day off because I felt like crap and had to sleep it off for most of the day. I still don’t feel recovered enough to do it all over again in the morning.

The Show

The misery of getting the show in and out pretty much overshadowed the part where the actors and the audience show up, but it was a good show and our cast handled their first new venue with Comedy very well. It was very different from the setup at the Guthrie and the moment they arrived they were proactive in working amongst themselves to plan out how they would do things. They definitely have the right attitude for this kind of touring, where being able to adapt an existing performance to a variety of conditions, without rehearsal, without getting freaked out is a must.

I called the show from backstage, which was a lot of fun. I was in front of the masking, so I had a good view even without a camera, and it was cool to be backstage and see what else goes on that you can’t see from the front. R&J from backstage doesn’t reveal that much more, but Comedy is all about layers and concealing things, so seeing it from the wings was fun. I was also in the corner where a lot of our live offstage sound (which consists largely of banging loudly on pots and pans) is performed, so I was ducking and covering a lot, but it was cool to see the actors as they watch the onstage action. We also did our first show without a front curtain, and the alternate cues worked perfectly and as expected. I appreciated that towards the end of our tech at the Guthrie, we took about 15 minutes to tech the alternate version (without actors), but until you try it for real, you never know!

Other than the weather conditions, and our set being constructed from plywood, steel and pure evil, it would have been a good day. The folks in Brainerd were very nice again, and provided us with a great breakfast (best bacon ever, we all agreed), and ordered some pizza for lunch, since there’s no food we could walk to. For our first load-in of Comedy, even with the extended time it took to unload the truck, we weren’t rushing to prepare for the cast’s arrival, which is a great sign. And it was the first time our crew could run the show (they’re not allowed to at the Guthrie, so they have to jump in at the first tour stop, having only trailed their Guthrie counterparts), and they all did a great job.

December 29, 2010

Look What the Cat Dragged In

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:03 pm

There’s always a part of my brain that knows when load-in is, but it’s not really connected to the walking-to-the-theatre-in-the-morning part, so it always comes as something of a surprise to me when I approach the Guthrie and see our truck at the loading dock. My first reaction is always, “what is that doing there?” Mostly because at this point my mind is still very much on finishing up our week in the rehearsal studio and also because I just associate the truck with performances and touring, and we’re still a long way from that. Mentally, at least!

October 27, 2010

Crew Transport

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

Being in sunny California, on a nice sunny college campus (Cal State Northridge), we have collectively decided we need a better way to get around.

Tim, our sound supervisor, wanted to buy a skateboard. He called a bunch of local people on Craigslist, to no avail (since we don’t have transportation to meet anyone). So he sat on campus with a sign saying “Need skateboard, will pay $$” and two $20 bills clipped to it. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, he had a skateboard.

Meanwhile, Meaghan and I have decided that we want Razor scooters. One of the guys on the crew at the Guthrie had one last year, and it was cool. We were trying to get to a sporting goods store or a toy store to find one, but suddenly realized the wonders of Amazon Prime. So within about 10 minutes we had ordered two scooters (a red one for me and a purple one for Meaghan) and had them overnighted to our next hotel in Santa Barbara. We’re both very excited to play with our new toys on Friday!

Load in is going well. The crew here is very nice. The beautiful weather and relaxing campus atmosphere has definitely made a potentially stressful day more relaxing. I still think it will most likely be a 20-hour day, but am hoping for the best!

August 1, 2010

Hairspray Load in Day

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:49 pm

I know I haven’t blogged much about Hairspray yet. Usually that means there are problems, but in this case it’s been going very well. Today we did a stumble-through of Act I, which was very exciting, and made our first serious attack on Act II by staging “Big Doll House.”

Today our set (from Wichita Music Theatre) arrived in two trucks, straight from its closing last night at Gateway Playhouse on Long Island. The tight turnaround between the two rentals has been a great concern for us, but so far so good. We have a lot of backup plans for things.

Just wanted to share some very early photos of the pastel megaliths now crowding our stage and shop.

Miss Teenage Hairspray Scoreboard
Hairpray Set Arriving

The magical giant hairspray can in its travel rack.
Hairspray Can

And the back shop has zero floor space at this moment.
Yeah, That's Enough Storage

March 14, 2010

The Midnight Morning

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:43 am

Tonight at midnight, my alarm went off. In a more rational world, this might be because I accidentally set it for 12AM instead of 12PM. But no, I set it for 12AM. And I set my other two phone alarms for 12:45AM and 1:00AM. And my bedside hotel alarm clock for 12:45 as well. It is standard procedure for me to set four alarms for a load-in day. You’d be surprised how often I still nearly miss bus call.

Anyway, this midnight alarm was done totally on purpose. You see, yesterday was originally supposed to be our load in day. We have a 3:00PM show today, and when we start with a morning or afternoon show, generally we get in the day before and load in from 8AM to 6PM and then have the night off. Only in this case, there was some kind of beauty pageant at our theatre last night, so we couldn’t load in. Thus, we have to start load in with the same number of hours we would normally need to be ready for an evening show, which in this case means 4AM.

Adding further cruelty to this, it’s daylight savings day. So we are springing forward, meaning that sleep-wise, it’s actually more like a 3AM load in. I generally like an hour-and-a-half to get ready in the morning, because I like to have a little breakfast, drink my energy drink, read my regular websites, and then get in the shower and begin packing up to check out of the hotel. So since our bus call is 3:30 I would have to get up at 2AM, but since the time changes and the hour from 2AM to 3AM won’t exist, I really would need to get up at 1AM. If this is making your head spin, then you may understand why I decided just to set my alarm for midnight and see if I felt like getting up, so that I would be well clear of the whole time-change drama.

Sometimes, depending on my mood, I would rather lose an hour of sleep to have an hour of calm in which to spend more time reading the web, or as I am now, blogging. And since I woke up after three hours of sleep wide awake, I decided not to hit the snooze button. So now it’s 1:30, which will soon skip to 3AM, and I actually have a lot of time. But I did download the trial of Filemaker 11 overnight, so I thought maybe that would be fun to mess around with if I had more free time than I intended.

We had a 5AM load-in once before, in Fairfax, VA. I don’t remember much about it, except that it was very weird getting off the bus in what appeared to be the middle of the night. I was practically comatose, because it was one of the first nights of the Olympics, and I stayed up a bit too late watching speed skating, and then decided that I wanted to go up to the crew room to take a shower before bed. I still must have gotten more sleep than I did tonight, though. But sometimes being woken up by Bobby’s traditional “Good morning, sunshines!” 15 minutes before you have to start working makes you more groggy than waking up in an actual bed, in an actual room, with a shower, and not having to squeeze past six other people just to put your shoes on. There’s something to be said for being able to go to sleep anywhere and knowing you can sleep until 5 minutes before you have to start working, but I also like being able to organize myself and have some free time. I hope that I will have an easier time of it today.

March 12, 2010

Hartford, WI

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:33 am

After our Adventure in Brainerd, we moved on to Hartford, WI, where we enjoyed hotel rooms and a day off.

Today we are enjoying a one-nighter, in a cute little theatre known as the Schaeur Arts and Activities Center. We are as close to the edge of the stage as the marley has ever been, which prompted an 8:05AM email to Corey and our fight captain Chris, but Chris determined all would be well.

Again we had a drivable genie. This one has a large platform that can hold more than one person. Again Devon focused himself, and greatly enjoyed scooting around the stage. At the end of focus, we were doing our very last onstage light, and Devon brought the lift down, drove it to centerstage, and then realized he forgot to put the gel back in the light. Making a happy occasion out of it, he offered me a ride in the lift, and let me drive it back to position for him to drop the color, and then back to centerstage. It was really fun.

The show looked fantastic, and the theatre with its bare-wood columns (it used to be some kind of factory — a cannery, I heard) and its wrap-around balcony actually suggested something like Shakespeare’s Globe. I didn’t get a great picture of it, but I did snap this one during load-out.

February 21, 2010

Scotty’s Parking Job

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:09 pm

Last week we played at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV, which is on the top of a big hill. There are two levels of loading docks, which I never quite got the big picture on (it was one of those venues where I never saw anything outside besides the space between the bus door and the entrance to the building, which was maybe 40 feet.)

But I heard tales of how Scotty barely was able to fit the trailer at the dock, and how he had nailed it on the first try. Maybe 10 hours later, I was setting up for the cast’s arrival and had to get something from the dock, where I had never been. By this time it was dark, but as I turned to leave with my stuff, I did a double-take as I saw the wall on the far side of the trailer. The trailer is 53 feet long — the wall looked to be about 54 feet away! And there, at a 90-degree angle, was Scotty’s truck. Wow.

I went back inside and said, “Oh my God, I just saw where the truck is!” and the crew confirmed that Scotty did it in one try, from the bottom of the hill. They also told me he took some pictures of it in the daytime, so I got those from him, so I can show off his handiwork.

The best thing about the above picture is Bam-Bam at the steering wheel, looking very proud of himself.

February 11, 2010

How Many Technicians Does it Take…?

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:52 pm

Apparently the answer is four: one to hold the sconce to the wall, one to hold the head of each bolt in place, and Bobby is unseen behind the wall tightening the nuts.

Installing practicals during load-in in New London, CT.

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