November 28, 2009


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:24 pm

I find myself trying to make a weird mental shift today. My big task for the day is basically to tie up my loose ends: to mail my completed contract and paperwork to The Acting Company office, to mail that contract and a couple others to Equity, to drop off a friend’s borrowed belongings at his theatre, and to pick up my last Phantom paycheck and say goodbye to the folks there.

When these things are complete, I will have done all the tasks that need to be done before I can leave (short of actually packing my suitcase and locking it for the trip).

My Sunday will involve a final half-load of laundry, and then packing my suitcase with everything except the things I need to use overnight. The remainder of the day will be spent on more work on the stage management database (priorities are the wallet cards, and a layout where you tell it which actors you have and it provides a list of all the scenes you can rehearse.). I want to arrive with as much work done as possible, but that’s not something that depends on which city I’m in, and there are still four days in Minneapolis to complete that kind of work.

So the mental shift that’s happening started out as a kind of detachment. What I think it is is my mind’s attempt to begin seeing New York as another stop on the road, one that has an end date, and just like any other, gives way to a new city waiting to be explored. So trying to see New York not as home base, but as a place that must be left because there’s a show to be done elsewhere is part of that mental leap into touring. I’ve had a pay-per-ride MetroCard for a week now, which always makes me feel like an outsider, so that’s been a subconscious part of the transition. I scheduled my car service pickup today. That was a little weird, too. But I felt good when the lady asked if I needed to schedule a return pickup, and I said, “No.” Off the top of my head, I couldn’t even tell you the date I’ll be back, and it won’t be on a plane.

No matter how much I enjoy any city on tour, I am always looking forward to the next one because it’s a whole new set of experiences. I’m starting to feel that urge of, “OK, let’s just get going!” and I guess that’s a good thing.

March 13, 2009

Sort of Week Off in New York

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:16 pm

Well I ended up being sick for almost all of our time off between the New York run and the continuation of the tour. ¬†It was really sad, but on the other hand I survived two months in Minneapolis, many load-outs in freezing temperatures without a jacket, and never got sick when it mattered, so I couldn’t complain too much about losing my free time.

I had planned to do two performances of Phantom during the four days off — one to deck and one to call. ¬†Since I was sick, I was only able to do the Thursday one, which I called. ¬†It was very nice to be back. ¬†The funny thing was that I kept getting similar reactions from many people when they would be told, “Karen’s calling the show tonight.”

2nd ASM: (maniacal laughter)

1st ASM: “Are you serious?”

Conductor: “You’re kidding!”

Automation Carpenter: “They’re letting you call the show?” (this doesn’t really count because he says this in response to my check-in every single time I call)

I was fully confident that I was ready to call, but yes I did have some butterflies.  Most of all, I wanted to stretch different stage management muscles than are required on Henry.

I once asked a sound man friend if his show was difficult to mix, and his response was, “it’s three hours long, it doesn’t matter if it’s an easy show, three hours of concentrating on anything makes it a hard show.” I find the same to be true of Henry. It’s not hard to call at all, and it’s not so boring that you can lose your place entirely, it’s just hard to have the stamina to care about every cue, and stay interested and engaged. ¬†So I found it funny at Phantom when I reached intermission after a first act that clocked in at 1:13:45, and felt more exhausted than I ever have after all three hours of Henry, with almost half the show left to go. ¬†By the end I was wiped out, but it felt good, like after a hard workout. ¬† It was a good show, and thoroughly uneventful, ¬†except for a report from the cast of conspicuous picture-takers in the fourth row, which I relayed to the house manager. ¬† Then the next morning I got on a plane to continue our tour.

March 7, 2009

New York, End of Week 2

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:51 am

Well it’s getting to be that time. Since yesterday, people are starting to think of our stay at the New Vic in the past tense. Conversations revolve around airline reservations, packing of luggage, and what people are bringing from home to put in their road boxes so they don’t have to carry them to Baton Rouge. When I look at my belongings at the theatre, I’m always making a mental list of what can be packed when.

The run here has been absolutely perfect. Every day Joel pops into my office at least twice and says, “Is everything OK? Need anything?” and every day I have absolutely nothing to say. I don’t think there has been anything unexpected or undesirable that has happened during the run except that our center footlight went down early in the first week. The folks here, and the well-designed facility, have definitely spoiled us, but it will also be fun to get on the road again and see what new experiences await us at each venue to come. It helps that this leg of the tour coming up is the most comfortable and the most scenic, so that’s some motivation to get up from our cozy place here at home. We’re only out for four weeks before we have our vacation week, so it’s not even too much time away from home.

The cancelation of the performances in North Carolina next week also affords us some extra (paid) free time in New York, which is pretty amazing. I will be doing two shows at Phantom, as well as spending a day visiting my parents. It’s amazing how much there is to do when you haven’t been around in a while. I was expecting to have a lot of down time to just sit at home and sleep, but everybody wants you to come see their show, come have a drink, come over and watch a movie. I haven’t been able to fulfill all those requests because I’m really trying to take it easy and take advantage of this time to rest before our life of 20-hour work days begins again.

March 4, 2009

Rambling Post of New York, Week 2

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:26 pm

I have some time to kill hanging out in my office at the New Vic. Can I mention enough times, I have an office? Not like a little corner and desk in the production office, I mean an honest-to-goodness private office for the visiting company, in the hallway between the dressing rooms and the greenroom, with full paging and comms, coat hooks on the back of the door, everything.

Anyway, I am sitting here after a student matinee, waiting for a package to be delivered by UPS to the Acting Company office. In this package is the new bag I have purchased spent way too much money on, the Booq Python Pack. Ever since my main backpack got into a little scrape with the underside of our truck in St. Louis, I have been thinking seriously about replacing it (that and the fact that the plate that holds the shoulder strap pivots was already cracking and will no doubt one day come completely apart). Despite many things I don’t like about my current bag, I have never found one better (and trust me, I look for new bags like it’s my job). I bought a Jansport sling bag in St. Louis while I attempted to clean and repair my bag, but that one, while it will be very cool for some things in the future, is not designed for
a) laptop travel
b) large items
c) organizing many accessories
d) comfortable wear of 30+ lbs of stuff

all of which are my requirements for my main bag. And also, I will never again buy a bag that has a black interior. It’s just stupid. I think we as a species should recognize that a bag with a black interior serves no purpose, and stop making them.

So I did some research, and I have decided this Booq bag fits my requirements, although I have some fears — I think it may be too nice. My current bag is big and decently organized, but carries like a basic backpack. It compacts pretty well and is lightweight, and it doesn’t give the impression that there’s anything interesting in it, so I have no fear of leaving it lying around in relatively secure places with my laptop in it. This new bag is made of rather fancy fabric, and is heavy, and I worry it may not flatten well when empty. Most of all, I worry that it looks like a $300 bag, and anyone with a mind to notice a $300 bag might wonder what’s worth putting in a $300 bag. If this disrupts my life too much, I may have to settle for a less-nice bag that allows me to actually get things done. I ordered it from ebags, who have a free refund policy, so I feel OK about taking the risk on buying it without being able to see it in person. I will check it out while I’m home and if I’m not happy with it, I’m going to return it before we leave. Of course I will do a review of some kind.

The show has been going well. I’m afraid we may be getting spoiled from sitting here so long. It’s easy to get used to 1-nighters when that’s just the way life is, but now that we’ve been comfortable back home it’s going to be hard to go back to doing real work. This leg of the tour is the most glamorous, though, so it will be a good way to get back into it.

We’ve had a lot of 10:30AM student matinees, which is always hard to adjust to, but the nice part is that a lot of them are the only show of the day, so it gets me out of bed and then I feel like I have a whole day and night left to do stuff.

I still haven’t done Phantom. I had too much work to do at home last night, and enjoyed the productive time so much I just can’t do it. I plan to do two shows in the half-week before we leave, when I have the time to prepare and enjoy them. It wasn’t just the idea of adding performances to an 8-show week, it was also the approximately 2 hours I would want to spend at home reviewing. I did a little bit of review of the Journey on Monday night, which went pretty well (I can usually tell by doing that and a couple other scenes how much time if any I need to spend looking over my script). I still intend to do a pretty much real-time calling of the show in my living room, even if I don’t need to be that thorough, as it has been probably four and a half months, though it feels a lot shorter than that. If I have a specialty as a Phantom sub, I’d say it’s the ability to come in after weeks or months away and call the show as well as if I’d never left. Unfortunately, I get lots of opportunities to practice that, so I have a large bank of experience to draw on, and can tell with a quick 2-5 minute section of the show what my level of comfort is if I had to call the show at any given moment, and how much review, if any, I need.

OK, this bag is really taking a long time to get delivered. I know the office tends to get packages late in the day, around 3PM, which it is now almost 3:30. I’m feeling pretty sleepy, especially since I haven’t really had a full meal today. I hope it comes soon!

February 26, 2009

New York, NY

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:26 am

Here we are, running at the New Victory in New York. I’m having a really great time here. Much has been made of the fact that it’s “on Broadway,” but I have learned in my career that the address of your theatre has no correlation to the level of professionalism, quality of production, or size of your paycheck, so I really wasn’t buying into that hype. But I’ve been pleased to discover it actually feels something like a Broadway show. The theatre is beautiful, which I knew, but it is pretty well-appointed like a Broadway house, has a Local 1 crew, and in general feels kind of like a shrunk-down Broadway show. And by shrunk-down, I mean like 80%, not like 50%, assuming we are talking about a play here.

A few cities before we arrived I talked with the staff by phone and they gave me the option of calling from stage left or from the booth, which I was warned was “miles away.” I’ve called from miles away before, but I figured this may be the only venue where I have the option to call from backstage, due to the fact that our set is a full 180-degree wraparound wall, and calling from backstage would offer zero visibility without color and infrared monitors, which we don’t travel with, and which most of our venues don’t have. The Guthrie had a rather nice camera setup, although I also had a very oddly-placed window to see most things in real life if I needed to. This is my first time calling without any real view of the stage, but it’s working fine since I spent the first month of the run calling off monitors at the Guthrie. It’s a lot of fun to be backstage among everyone else, and it’s so much easier to get around without having to trek back and forth from a booth. We even have paging at the calling desk and in our office (we have an office!). It really does feel like Broadway! So I’m having a good time, and I’m missing home a little less.

Speaking of home, I stopped by Phantom for about an hour before their show last night, after our student matinee and tech rehearsal. All is well, there’s new carpet in the stage management office and SR quickchange room, and other than that things seem the same. The in/out sheet had at least 10 understudies on it, so it was a fairly normal day. At some point before we leave town I’m going to do a couple shows there, even if I have to do them for free. The stage managers offered to trade shows with me for the next two weeks, which I gladly accepted, but they rescinded their offer when I described calling Henry as “calling the rooftop scene for two hours and 40 minutes, and then the last 20 minutes is like calling ‘Wishing’.” It makes sense if you know the show. I think “recoiled in horror” is a better way to describe their reaction.

OK, people keep coming in and asking me questions. See ya!

February 23, 2009

Reflections on Being Home

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:55 pm

1. I’ve been living on a bus which has independent thermostats for three different rooms. I’ve been in hotels, where I had to first figure out if the heat was controlled by a little knob under the window unit, or a panel on the wall. So I get home to my apartment and think, “I’m cold.” And then I realize that I pay $1200/mo. so that my landlord gets to decide when the heat should be on.

PHOTO: The corner of 45th/9th from the Acting Company offices, 8AM on the morning of our return.

2. 2/28 Today I was running late so I grabbed some breakfast at Pax: a Vitamin Water and a small rice krispy treat. It cost me $7. And I think something’s wrong with that. Am I becoming a suburbanite?

3. 3/1 Of the two shows, I find Henry especially not-interesting to call. Being able to hear some of the sound cues for the first time since tech, I am discovering a few new cues that I like. But overall the idea of a play, a 3-hour play, and one in which many of the light cues take anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 minutes to complete, is just not that exciting. Being on the road has been nice because the challenge comes not from the show, but from the venue. Making sure the show looks right in every cue, and executed correctly by every crew, is a process that takes up enough of my attention to distract from the fact that there’s otherwise not that much for me to do. Sitting now at the New Vic, there’s not much to worry about. After the first few shows, things were settled in. The ventilation is a little odd so the haze is the only thing that I expect to have to keep an eye on — sometimes I ask for a haze cue to be skipped, but even then, I think we’ve programmed them now in such a way that it usually doesn’t need to be messed with, weather permitting. So as a result of all this, combined with being in New York, where you can’t deceive yourself that Henry V is the only show in the universe, I am going a little bit crazy. Nick constantly has to take toys away from me. Lately I’ve decided I’m going to procure scraps of gel to experiment with different colored filters for my LittleLite.

I had long planned to find time for a performance or two of Phantom during these weeks, but I was concerned about either giving myself a 10-show week, or waiting until the little half-week before we fly to Baton Rouge. This afternoon’s matinee has convinced me that my brain may explode before the end of our NY run if I don’t call a big flashy musical with automation and pyro and 13 cue lights RIGHT NOW. So I’m aiming for Tuesday. I was even thinking about Monday, but it’s our day off and I hoped to keep it that way. Plus, I decided later in today’s show, I will be able to work through my tiredness at Tuesday morning’s matinee if I have something to look forward to.

March 4, 2008

My Manifesto as Emperor of New York

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 1:28 pm

Whereas I have been called out (again!) for not updating this blog, I am going to make a slight departure from the usual topics to share with you my plans for the City of New York after I am declared Emperor.

And whereas these plans have been years in the making, and I have finally felt the need to write them down, and also to make a blog post, Behold!

I. Terraforming of Annoying Geography
For my first act as Emperor, I shall assemble a vast quantity of dynamite and bulldozers and other necessary equipment, and flatten the terrain of Washington Heights. This will no doubt require the destruction of many structures, probably including the one in which I currently reside, but in the end the benefits will outweigh the temporary displacement, and I will have long since moved into my palace above the Bed Bath and Beyond in Chelsea. It is unclear why this couldn’t have been done a hundred years ago before there was all this stuff here, but it might as well be done sooner rather than later. In the interests of historical preservation, the Cloisters can be left where they are up on a cliff of some sort, and people can continue to use the A train elevator to get there.

When this important work is completed, some slight modification of the valley in the vicinity of 125th St. can also be looked at.

II. Provision of Necessary Amenities for the Populace
1. It shall be required by law that there be a 24-hour Duane Reade located within 10 blocks of every point in the City.

2. Likewise there shall be a Staples with copy center within 10 blocks of every space licensed for public performance within the City. At least one of these shall be open 24 hours.

3. There shall be a Starbucks within 3 blocks of every point in the City. It may surprise some citizens to know that this has not yet been achieved.

4. Every mobile phone operator who wishes to do business in New York shall ensure that the entire City is covered with adequate voice and high-speed data service down to the first basement level, as well as all subway stations and tunnels. For any area of the city found to be not so covered, the company shall incur a fine of 100 million dollars per week that the lack of coverage exists, or $600,000 per hour in the case of temporary outages, the time being rounded up to the next hour.

5. Time Warner or another provider shall offer internet at a bandwidth of no less than 7 Mbps to every business and residence in the City. Fines for outages shall be $1,000 per minute per customer.

III. Transportation
1. Subways. It was the intention of the designers of the original subway system in 1904 that trains would run every 90 seconds. My first goal for the transit system is to return all lines to this operating procedure. This will not apply only to weekdays or so-called “business hours,” but to all hours, as the nighttime and weekend worker and the drunk returning home from the bar at 4AM are entitled to the same service as the businessman traveling to his office at 9AM.

The 2nd Avenue Subway shall be completed with all possible haste. As this will still leave the Upper East Side largely useless, a crosstown subway shall be constructed at 125th St.

2. Buses. The provision of bus lines and bus stops is deemed to be adequate, however the number of buses running on each line shall be greatly increased.

3. Vehicles neglecting to activate their turn signals may be physically damaged in any way deemed appropriate by passing pedestrians without fear of prosecution.

IV. The Bubble
Once the land has been sufficiently terraformed and the needs of the people provided for, we may begin construction on the true purpose of my Empire — to construct a bubble over the City of New York so that the extreme inconvenience of precipitation may be avoided. Depending on its design it may also allow for some degree of temperature control.

This bubble does not need to completely enclose the city — it may be open on the sides to allow fresh air and clear views. In effect it shall act as more of a “rain hat” over the City. Job placement assistance and educational opportunities shall be provided for the guys who stand on the street corner saying “Umbrellaumbrellaumbrella.” Once the City is free from precipitation, my primary aims as Emperor will be complete.

Other Public Works
A bridge system shall be constructed above the Times Square district, consisting of glass walkways which may be accessed at street corners by means of a card system similar to a Metrocard. Such cards shall be provided without cost to all residents of New York and commuting workers so that they may travel through the Times Square area in a rapid manner while allowing visitors to stare at the tall buildings and have their portraits drawn by sidewalk artists.

In Conclusion
I hope I have made it clear why it is in the best interets of all New Yorkers that I be declared Emperor and that all citizens should cooperate fully with my regime.