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May 2, 2015

Stage Management Blocking Sheets

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:07 pm

Hello, Google visitors!

While finishing up my blocking sheets for Sister Act, I decided to take a stroll through Google’s results for “Stage management blocking sheets” just to see if anybody had an idea I wanted to steal. While some of the results were from this site (which is generally what happens when I search for things, and always leads me to be like, “Hey that one looks like mine!”), none of them were blocking sheets, because I don’t think I’ve ever made a post about it.

So I suppose I should share what mine looks like, at least on this show.
SA_Blocking_Sheet
I make different choices for nearly every show, based on how complex the set is, how big the cast is, and how much fine detail needs to be shown based on both those things.

In this case I have a cast of (damn it, I had to look it up) 22, and a stage that is essentially bare, with numerous things coming on and off on tracks. So I went with only four groundplans per sheet (which I know is a lot for some people, but low for me), and kept the stage as clean as possible. All scenic pieces are shown in their offstage positions, so I know where they are and can draw them in where they play, and a couple very significant flying pieces (basically the ones that come down to the deck) are lightly sketched in so I can see the depth and then draw them in darker for scenes where they’re there.

I also included very faint gray lines for writing blocking. I usually leave it as free-form white space so I can squeeze or expand as the situation demands, but in this case I think it might be nice, and I don’t know if I’ve ever done it. I made sure the lines are faint enough to serve as a guide, without getting in the way should I need to ignore them.

I generally try to get away with printing my blocking sheets on the back of the script pages, to reduce the thickness and weight of the script, and then with spare pages and scotch tape, cobble things together when the blocking totally changes, or we get new script pages.

On this show, I’m stealing a page from my very unconventional Mary Poppins process: I want to take blocking on the calling script so I can be looking at my cues every time we run something. Thanks to our very ahead-of-things lighting designer, and the fact that I’ve been trying to teach myself the call since January, I have a digital calling script to start with, and some idea what I’m doing with it.

One thing I noticed on Poppins, which I thought would be a little better on the summer schedule, but isn’t, is that there’s only room for one dress rehearsal. Because I’m not familiar with the backstage calling position, I highly doubt I’ll want to call that one run from the tech table, so I need to use the one chance I get as we go through each moment in tech to get my light cues exactly where I want them. Which means I need to be right on the first try as often as possible. And that means watching every time we do something in the rehearsal room with an eye to where I’m going to call things, and whether I think I would have been right, and keep making adjustments accordingly.

Or I could tech the show in a day-and-a-half, and get another run. Which is definitely something I’d like to try for, but not something I’m going to bet on.

So instead of printing a blank script for blocking, I’m going to print my calling script as it exists the day before first rehearsal. I know it’ll change a lot, and I want the freedom to easily re-print pages as they become significantly different. That means having to have actual separate blocking pages for every page. So fine! I’ll do it the way you’re “supposed to” do it, just this once.

And to answer the other potential question you have about my blocking book, I do blocking on the right-hand side, script on the left. And I forget to reverse-hole-punch my copy before doing all the other scripts about 50% of the time.

Update: here’s a page with some blocking on it.
IMG_1517


February 24, 2012

Day -44: Production Meeting

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:47 pm

Today I attended my first production meeting for a developmental presentation of a show that starts rehearsal in April. 44 days from now. No, that’s not normal. Also, I’m the ASM. Generally, unless you’re working on Broadway, the ASM’s contract starts 2 or 3 days before the first rehearsal, but I’m a big believer in getting involved ASAP if I’ve got no other work. I figure it’s more helpful in the long run not to have missed anything. Also, one of the biggest things I think I bring to the table as an ASM is my ability to function in place of the PSM when needed, and it’s hard to do that if you don’t have the same information the PSM has. So in pretty much any case where I’m told, “well, you don’t technically have to be there, but if you want…” I’ll go.

Anyway, it’s good I was there, because my friend Brian is the PSM, and he’s doing a show in New Brunswick which had one of those awful 10AM / 8PM two-show days today, and he didn’t make it in time. I took notes in Evernote, and cleaned them up and emailed them to him when I got home.

At the meeting we received a calendar, and an updated contact sheet (which we got in an email the other day). I hadn’t received the script yet, but it was waiting for me in my email by the time I got home from the meeting.

That led to an interesting situation towards the end of the meeting when I was asked, “does stage management have any questions?” I admitted honestly that all I knew about the show was the title, which got a good chuckle from the room. But it’s an interesting illustration that there are lots of things to think about at a meeting like this, that remain the same no matter what the show is. A lot of my initial questions usually revolve around the rehearsal situation: where is it (this was already answered, we have a nice studio at Pearl, which I’m thrilled about), whether we can tape the floor in the rehearsal room (and more importantly, leave the tape down overnight), whether we have storage at the studio. Usually I also want to get some kind of sense of what crew we will have when it comes to the actual run. In this case we’re presenting the show in a large rehearsal studio, and there isn’t planned to be any “backstage” space, so it looks like I won’t even be able to help with the running of the show, much less need a crew. Basically there will be sets, props, staging and choreography, and some level of sound to be determined by the acoustic needs of the space, but no lighting. So it sounds like Brian will be sitting around a lot, too.

With the hour-long meeting completed, I headed home with lots of new things to do.

The first thing I did was send Brian my notes.

Calendar

Then I finished putting the information on the calendar into iCal (which I had been doing a little of during the meeting). I always like this part of the process, when I first get something of a schedule. It makes me feel much more organized, and there’s always a moment of “what have I gotten myself into, anyway?” when I first see it laid out. This one is pretty nice. Straight 5-hour rehearsal days until we get to tech. I say that with the biggest “we shall see” possible!

Pro tip: if your rehearsal schedule looks too easy, that’s usually because it is, and while you may be the only person to think that in pre-production, and the producer may say, “nope, this is really it — we’ve booked the studio time,” the director will realize it eventually in the middle of rehearsal and that booking will be changed. Let me tell ye: we shall see.

I promise to let you know. I’ve got a reminder in OmniFocus for April 23rd, so you know I won’t forget it. I would love to have to admit I was proven wrong.

Contacts

After dealing with the calendar, I put all the contacts into Address Book. About 5 of the people on the production are people I’ve worked with before. When that happens, I generally don’t update their title and company from the first show I met them on, but I add a note listing any subsequent shows I do with them. I currently have 1,498 contacts, because I basically don’t ever remove people I work with. I will usually, but not always, remove someone who drops out of a show before it starts production (if I’ve had literally no contact with them). I also tend to remove non-professional child actors because the odds of working with them again are a bit lower. Of course I’ve still got contact sheets elsewhere, so nothing is ever really lost, but I like to have most of my old contacts at hand (and not have to type them again!)

This allowed for a rather funny exchange before the meeting as those of us getting settled around the table began introducing ourselves. I worked with the set designer about 4 years ago, we hugged and said hello. Then I turned around to meet the choreographer, and we both looked at each other and knew that we had worked together, but had no idea where. I threw out a couple show titles with no luck. I asked what her last name was (I was pretty sure I had matched the name with the face, but wasn’t certain), and began typing it into my phone. She was like, “Wait! Don’t tell me, I want to figure it out!” I pulled up her contact and said, “Wow! I never would have guessed that one!” and we began the meeting. Impressively, a few minutes later she figured it out. Anyway, that’s the most useful reason I never get rid of my contacts: I use the quick search feature on the iPhone constantly when I think, “I know that name — have I worked with that person?” or when I know I’ve worked with the person, but am not sure what show it was or what their role was on it.

If I was the PSM, I would then import all the contacts into my database and begin making my own contact sheet. But since that’s not my job, my involvement with the contacts is limited to making sure I have everybody in Address Book so they’re in my phone if I need to call anyone suddenly.

Props

Ah, props. One of the only jobs of the ASM. One thing was made clear at this meeting, there will be a lot of props. But — halleluja! — we have a prop designer, and he seems really on the ball. I actually kind of like managing props, as my title implies. When someone else makes them appear, and I don’t have to go shopping for them, it’s a source of great pride, as it is, after all, the only thing the ASM really does independently.

I don’t know anything about what the props are yet, except a vague notion that they will be largely kitchen- and restaurant-related, but in preparation for this onslaught, I have prepared my blank prop spreadsheet. You can find the template for it on the templates page.

Script

My last post made it clear that I don’t particularly like reading scripts during pre-production. As a result, this is the only part of all the information I received today that I haven’t fully processed. I still have 44 days. Maybe 42, since I might be able to get a good start on the prop list if the script is descriptive enough.

As is apparently my new M.O., I made the script into a PDF and then emailed it to my Kindle, so the next time I go somewhere I can start reading it on the train. I’m visiting my parents on Monday, that should cover it. Something I just thought of: I can even take notes on the Kindle as I read, to mark mentions of props and other things of import. That would remove the main advantage of reading on paper. I’ll give it a try.

The Cloud

So to recap where all my information on the show is:

  • The calendar is in iCal, which through the magic of Google Apps is synced instantly to my phone, and available on the web with Google Calendar.
  • The contacts are in Address Book, which through the magic of iCloud is synced instantly to my phone, and is available on the web through the iCloud web app, which I have used approximately never, but if my computer and phone fell down a well, it would be an option.
  • The notes from the meeting (along with another note from when I got hired where I jotted down some simple info like my salary, and the dates of employment) are in Evernote, which syncs less-than-magically between all my computers and my phone, and is available on the web in case every piece of electronics I own has fallen in the well.
  • My task list pertaining to the show, which thanks to my work today is now empty except for reading and processing the script, is in OmniFocus, which also syncs less-than-magically between my laptop and my phone, and is not available on the web.
  • The script is on my Kindle, ready for reading. I think it actually saves a copy on Amazon’s servers, but really, who cares?
  • All the files pertaining to the show, which right now are the contact sheet, script, and prop list, are on my Dropbox in a folder I’ve created for the show, which syncs instantly between my computers, and less-than-magically to my phone.

So that’s where everything is now. I should be caught up for some time, and ready to process any smaller bits of information as they trickle in. There was some casual talk about having another meeting in about two weeks. For now, I’m going to do my taxes tonight!


February 22, 2012

eReaders Make Reading Scripts Less of a Pain

I call this: tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:57 pm

Last week I did a reading of a new musical. As with pretty much any process, at some point before the first rehearsal (ideally well before the first rehearsal), you have to read the script. This helps you not look like an idiot when other people on the production start rattling off names of songs and characters and expecting you to have some clue how they relate to each other, and is especially necessary once you start working on the schedule.

No matter how excited I am to do a show, I always have difficulty getting myself to read the script for the first time. Finding a time I want to sit down (or lie in bed) for probably a couple hours is hard for me. Once I get through that initial reading, I don’t mind sitting at my desk and taking notes, and beginning paperwork related to the script. I just need a reason to crack it open and sit through reading it.

Since I purchased a Kindle 4 this fall, I’ve been taking my books everywhere. When I got the script for my recent show, the first thing I did was forward the PDF to my @kindle.com email address, so that it would automatically sync to my Kindle. The next time I left the house, I had the script with me in an easy-to-hold format, and by the time I had completed my round-trip commute, I had read the script. It was also pretty interesting because this particular PDF was formatted with the score and script pages intermixed (which is normally weird, but works great for a reading where the actors have to perform with script in hand). The lyrics on the sheet music were very tiny and hard to read, but it was workable.

I really enjoyed this solution, and plan to keep using it. If you get a script as a PDF or other digital format you can convert to PDF, and have any kind of eReader or tablet, I highly recommend it.


August 11, 2011

First Production Meeting

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:34 pm

So yesterday, as I said, we had our first production meeting for Ain’t Misbehavin’. Brian, my good friend and PSM, is out of town so I attended the meeting on his behalf and took enough notes to pretty much summarize anything a PSM could possibly want to know about what was said in a room for two hours.

The time I spent last night watching the YouTube videos of the ’80s television special paid off. Despite being at a table with five people who clearly have spent a lot more time thinking about the show than I have, I never felt like I didn’t know what everybody was talking about.

We met in a private room at a restaurant (my favorite restaurant from my Frankenstein days, actually), which gave the meeting a nice casual environment. It was just me, our producer, set/lighting designer, costume designer, sound designer, and director (original cast member Andr√© De Shields). Andr√© brought a vintage windowcard from the original production, which we propped up at the end of the table for inspiration. Actually it became very effective for discussions throughout the meeting because it has a large color photo of the cast and set, so we referenced it throughout the meeting when talking about costumes, hair, design motifs and scenic construction. Of course having spent 13 years as a Broadway merchandiser, what I noticed most about it was the incredibly thick cardstock they used for windowcards back then. Today’s windowcards would not stand upright on a table. I tried to find a picture of the windowcard online to use for this post, and I can’t find one. That’s a rare poster, there.

The designers also brought in their research photos — books of ’20s/’30s-era paintings and architecture, and costume photos from several rental houses that are being considered. I don’t always get to attend these early design meetings, but I always enjoy it when I do. I spent way too many years being taught how to do this in directing school to go through my career without seeing it done in the real world. It always comforts me somehow to know that what I recall as a rather tedious part of my education is really exactly how it’s done at every level. It seems much more important when you know it’s actually going to be used to put on a real show for real people, and not just for a theoretical classroom project.

As far as the structure of the meeting, we basically went around by department, in great detail, and then called it a day. Well, no, then we spent about another hour afterwards having sushi and talking more casually about the show and getting to know one another on a personal level. It was a lot of fun. I had been a little worried about stepping into this meeting with a bunch of people I didn’t know (I worked with Andr√© as an actor a couple months ago, but just for a day), and having to fill the role of PSM when I wasn’t entirely sure the whole production team even knew I existed. But everybody made me feel totally welcome and like a legitimate member of the team.

When I got home, I typed up my notes. People who know me may be surprised to learn that I took them using a technology known as “pen” and “paper”, but I often will go to a meeting like this prepared for both laptop- and notepad-based note-taking, and determine the method based on what everybody else is doing, and how much room is on the table. It was pretty much an even mix of iPads, MacBooks, and paper, but I decided that there is still something about taking notes on paper that gives more of an impression of attentiveness (which kinda sucks, considering how much better notes you can take electronically), so I went with paper.

At home, I went through my notes and typed them into Evernote, arranged them into a logical order, and expanded them into coherent thoughts for Brian. It’s a little different taking notes for somebody who wasn’t there, versus taking notes for yourself, or to be distributed to the production team by email. Basically I tried to attend the meeting as a PSM and document every thought I had, so that Brian has the full context for what was decided and why, as well as where the various people involved stand on these decisions. After I got everything into Evernote for myself, I made a Word document and tidied it up a bit so it’s easier to read in outline form, and sent it off to Brian.

We start rehearsal a month from tomorrow. I don’t know when my next obligation to the show is, so for now I’m going back to finishing Season 4 of CSI.


August 9, 2011

Slowly Starting the Stage Management Engine

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:35 pm

I’ve been pretty quiet lately. I went through this phase of “write a blog post about something every day,” and then I went through this phase of “Netflix fixation and getting addicted to episodes of long-running television programs,” and now I’m at a point where I need to start paying attention to things outside my apartment because I’m about to start a for-reals job.

The job actually doesn’t start until the second week of September, but I have my first meeting tomorrow, so it’s kind of important. I’m going to be the ASM on Crossroads Theatre Company’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’. One of my closest friends is the PSM, so it should be a fairly low-stress return to having a regular job. I was really hoping my first job after the tour would be as an assistant, so I’m glad it worked out that way. I may also end up subbing as PSM at some point, so I still have to sort of approach it with that mindset throughout the process.

…Starting with tomorrow, where I will be attending the first production meeting, representing the stage management team. So I’m trying to go in as prepared as possible, by watching old clips from the TV special of the original Broadway production on YouTube.

You know how watching a recording of a show never captures the magic of seeing it live? 30-year-old grainy video compressed for YouTube doesn’t help either! But it’s definitely more helpful than being totally unfamiliar with a show. Seems pretty easy from an ASM’s perspective, although I don’t know exactly how faithful we’ll be to the original staging. While in many cases that may be a “famous last words” thing to say, I find that when it comes to assessing a deck track, first impressions are usually correct. I have much experience at seeing a show and later finding the kindest way possible to ask my friends, “is your track as boring as it looks?” and pretty much always being right. I’m not complaining! It doesn’t look deadly boring, probably more like simple tasks to accomplish every 3-5 minutes throughout the show, which is a nice way to enjoy a simple deck track.


April 19, 2011

Turnaround

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:43 pm

So the Acting Company tour is finally over after 7 months. It’s a very strange feeling after so much time, several layoffs, and a vacation week, to think that this time it’s really, seriously over. When I compose an email and it auto-fills my signature as “Production Stage Manager — The Acting Company 2010-2011 Tour,” I erase it out of habit when dealing with other projects or non-work emails. Yesterday I came to the surprising realization that I am not the Production Stage Manager for the Acting Company tour anymore. Next year is unknown, but at any rate, the 2010-2011 tour is over and done with and no longer has a PSM. I am not under contract to anyone. It’s a bit scary, and also very liberating.

I have, however had a couple jobs.

Me and Miss Monroe

Last Monday, you may recall, I got two jobs on the same day. One was a single day of subbing for the ASM on a workshop of a new musical, called Me and Miss Monroe, which is, in very brief, about Marilyn Monroe (played by one of my favorite performers and past collaborators, Rachel York). The day I was there they were reviewing one of Rachel’s songs, then a big production number at the top of Act 2, and staging from the middle of Act 2 through the end of the play. So things were very much still in development.

John Rando is directing, and although I think his finished products are pretty brilliant, it was great to get just a glimpse of how ideas are born in rehearsal. As you may know, I grew up wanting to be a director of Broadway musicals, so it’s really interesting to me just to sit in a room with a Tony-winning director and watch him have a really smart idea, right in front of me. Just in the course of a pretty ordinary rehearsal, I could see why he’s as successful as he is. I wish I could have been there for weeks to watch the whole process.

My favorite part of the day was when they got to the new stuff in Act 2. It was a scene with three characters, that leads into a song for Marilyn. There’s some dialogue, and then a song. Something was just not quite right about it. I don’t know if it was the actors or John who suggested it first, but everybody felt it was a little bit odd how they’re talking and then Rachel sings this big song and the other two people just kind of sit there. “I feel like we should be talking here” was said, and that sparked an idea of maybe moving some of the dialogue from earlier in the scene into the middle of the song. The writers (Charles Leipart and William Goldstein) weren’t there, off in a small room with a piano re-working some other song (which always just excites me for some reason), so the actors, John and music director Eric Stern played around on their own moving the dialogue around like puzzle pieces and adding underscoring where necessary. It was immediately more engaging. When the writers came back, they were filled in on the idea, and everyone gathered around the piano to work out how it should go, with the script PA, Rob, standing among the group with his computer, documenting the changes. I’d say the whole process took about an hour-and-a-half, and at the end they had a scene and song that was so much better than what it was at the start, that someone watching the show would never imagine it could have been any other way.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a new musical, and my 7-hour-without-a-meal-break day, followed by racing downtown to call Comedy of Errors was the best day I’ve had in years. It reinforced my belief that trying to stay in New York working with good people, even if it means lower-paying jobs, is the right thing to do right now. In the near future I may need to do other things to pay the rent, but right now that day I got to spend in the room working with a bunch of people at the top of their profession, in the part of the business I really want to work in, was worth more than financial security.

I was offered a spot on the run crew for the workshop, but sadly had to turn it down because I was already committed to another new musical, a reading of a show called Trails.

Trails

This week I begin rehearsal for a reading, which is probably the first reading I’ve done in about 3 years. My feelings about readings are kind of ambivalent. They’re quite easy, and usually take no more than a week from start to finish. They pay almost nothing (though this one pays a little more than most), but they get you involved with producers, directors, writers, musical directors and actors who might be big Broadway people or future big Broadway people, and you get in on the ground level of a new musical, which positions you nicely if the show moves on to a bigger production. That’s paid off for me once, on a show called Twilight in Manchego, which was one of the featured shows at NYMF a few years back. Not that NYMF is the pinnacle of the American musical theatre, but I got to work with some well-known people, and I had a great time doing the show. Having done the reading definitely put me ahead of the curve during the very short rehearsal and tech process. Actually, as much as I swore I’d never do NYMF again, the two shows I’ve done stand out as major highlights of my career in terms of enjoyment of the creative process, because the festival usually attracts a surprisingly high calibre of people.

Anyway, about the reading. It’s been a while (since September, in fact) since I’ve started a new show, and although a reading is very simple, that initial process of pre-production where you make up a schedule and send it out to everybody, and get their conflicts and make sure everybody received your emails, is pretty much the same. Thankfully it’s a small cast (six), and a small creative team, so the volume of information is a bit less. It’s kind of exciting to be back in that part of the process again. It often means waking up to 20 emails, and having lots of conversations shooting back and forth from the actors and the creatives and producers all day long, but in some way that’s kind of fun. At least I’m home for it, so I’m not juggling it with something else.

I also got sick this week. I think this is pretty common for stage managers, maybe for others in the business, too. Your body knows you can’t be sick while on tour, so the moment you have a vacation or layoff, you immediately get sick. I literally got sick the morning of my first day post-contract. Woke up sick on my first day of freedom. Poor Meaghan got sick on all the vacations, which used to happen to me. I think my immune system must have evolved to a higher level that it waited until the tour was actually over. I did get the bronchitis that was going around the cast in October, just in time for tech. That sucked. But other than that I survived the entire tour with nothing more than a sore throat. Whatever I have right now isn’t bad, just an annoying sore throat and a slight headache, and probably a slight fever, but my thermometer is mysteriously broken. I am mostly concerned with making sure that it doesn’t affect my efficiency on this reading. It’s easy to let things slip through the cracks or get put off and then forgotten about when you’re not feeling well. OmniFocus is especially my friend here, as I can write down all my tasks and when they need to be completed, so even if I forget the urgency of something, I will be reminded.

So that’s my week, making the transition from a long-term job to getting up-and-running on a new short one.


November 30, 2010

Back to Work

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:49 pm

Yeah, I totally dropped off the face of the earth during our hiatus. I haven’t even done anything I normally look forward to doing for fun. I haven’t continued learning Java, worked on my database, played online games, or much of anything else. I’ve watched some movies and TV and listened to music while poking around on the internet, and went to Jersey to offer my opinion about a house a friend of mine is planning to buy, but the time went by much faster than I expected, and now it’s time to get back to work. I am actually on the clock now, after all — on LORT B scale (because I’m technically working at the Guthrie), as our general manager reminded me today — which resulted in me doing a happy dance, because I was thinking of this as part of my standard “in town” salary, which is much lower.

Today I came into the office for an hour-long meeting with our director, Ian, mostly to sketch out the schedule for the rehearsal process and touch base about a couple other things, such as how we’ll set up the rehearsal room. It was a good meeting, looks like things are under control. This is the third year we’re working on essentially the exact same schedule at the Guthrie, so all the weirdness that comes from rehearsing over Christmas and teching the week after New Year’s is old hat now. We have a very clear pattern to follow and so far we don’t seem to be straying too far from that.

Last week (or maybe the week before?) I got the draft of the script that we’ll start rehearsal with, set it all up with act-scene-page numbers and hard page breaks, and submitted it to the dramaturg at the Guthrie, who will see that it gets printed and bound for us before we arrive. That’s pretty much the extent of work I’ve been doing on the show.

This week I’ll be making an actor-scene breakdown, getting the database in shape for the new show, updating the contact sheet as appropriate, and creating a calendar to send to the cast and crew, incorporating what Ian and I discussed today.

My contract (as this is actually considered a separate production from the first leg of the tour) appears to have disappeared into the ether of the US Postal Service, so I’m still at the office, hanging out while a new one is printed. At least I can sign it here and not have to mail it back!

While I’m not thrilled about subjecting myself to the Minneapolis winter, it’s been very warm in New York — I haven’t put on a winter coat yet — and at this point I think I deserve to be cold. It should be a fun process and going back to the Guthrie now feels like going home. Actually I’m once again in the same apartment I’ve had all along, which does literally feel like home. Living there for two consecutive months a year is more than I can say about my actual apartment in New York, and naturally, not being in New York, it’s nicer than any apartment I could ever hope to possess myself. I wonder who will be below me this year to hear my chair scraping on their ceiling. And I wonder if they’ll nag me about it as much as Nick. Probably not, as it won’t be Meaghan, since she lives in St. Paul, and there’s no one else whose job description is “give Karen shit,” unless it was Daniel, but I think he’ll be in a hotel. So it will probably go unremarked, which will make me a little sad.

I kind of needed this day to get my head back in the game. The hiatus is so long (3 weeks including my pre-pro week, which thankfully they didn’t ask me to spend full-time in the office), that it feels like the show has closed. It’s going to be very weird to jump back into production with the same group, even though we’ll be working on a new show for the first 7 weeks or so. So seeing the people in the office has made it more real that this is actually happening.

Stay tuned, I leave for Minneapolis on Sunday!


September 24, 2010

PrePro Week Over!

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:37 pm

It’s Friday night, when all those normal people who work in offices don’t have to do anything for the rest of the week. Thankfully, I have been enslaved by such people all week, and am now free, and starting next week can resume being a touchy-feely artisty-type person for the next seven months.

As much as I hate the idea of working in an office, I actually find preproduction to be a great and very important part of the process. And while I lose two hours of my day commuting and sometimes think, “couldn’t I just do this from home?” there is a lot to be said for the ease of collaboration that happens from being in the office.

Having everybody no more than 50ft away from each other certainly speeds up the process, and allows quick consultations that probably wouldn’t always happen if you had to pick up the phone or write an email every time you had a question.

My process also involves some stuff that is decidedly office-y, such as copying the scripts for first rehearsal, putting them in binders, assembling some basic office supplies like pens, pencils and paper, and making copies of the various paperwork that’s going to be distributed on the first day. It’s times like that that make actually being in a fully-functional office a great advantage.

Here are the actors’ scripts, ready to go. Nick and I always had a thing we did where we gaffed a postcard of the show onto the front of the binder and wrote the actor’s name on it. I’m pretty sure it was his idea, so I have to give him credit for that. It’s been very popular with actors, and it’s also useful for us because when somebody leaves a script behind somewhere, it’s easy to know who to return it to.

In the middle of the day today, I took a walk over to Barbizon to buy some gaff, glow and spike tape. That’s $72 of tape right there. I also picked up lunch on the way back.

Spike tape and sushi. I really can’t think of many more things I would rather have.

The very last thing I did before leaving the office was to send out my first real email to the whole production team. I’ve been in touch with the cast more consistently to get them prepared for the start of the process, but this was my first contact with a lot of our creative and production team. Most are Acting Company and Guthrie regulars who I’ve worked with before, but there are a few I don’t know, and at least a couple I don’t expect to meet for several months. I sent out the contact sheet, a calendar showing the R&J rehearsal process up until we head out on the road, and a detailed schedule for the first day of rehearsal. In the body of the email I also added a few notes about the rehearsal studio and other business.

I still have a few things to do from home, such as print the wallet cards (which I designed while at the office, but I keep my business card paper at home), and a pseudo-wallet card with the addresses of the two costume shops we’re using, so that actors who have to go to fittings will always know where they’re going. I also have a few things to add to the database before first rehearsal, and I need to gather up all my stuff to bring with me on Monday.

When I got home I got a call from our Production Manager / Tech Director, who’s arriving in New York on the day of the first rehearsal. We’ve worked together before, but he’s just coming on board for this show, and it was our first real chance to talk about work stuff, and for me to mention a few issues that I think require careful attention to make sure everything goes smoothly.

I’m looking forward to finally getting started. Everything I’ve heard is that this company of actors is wonderful, and I’ve had an opportunity to meet many of the new actors when they came into the office to sign their contracts during the past week, and everyone seems very eager and excited for rehearsal to start. The whole season seems to be a very nice mix of a comfortable return to a familiar production, and frequent collaborators, with the injection of new people, a new production, and a new season of tour cities, which will make the process fresh at the same time. Honestly I think that’s really why I’m here. I’m at a point where I feel continued touring is harmful to my New York career, but from the earliest conversations I had with our producers, at the bar celebrating the start of previews for R&J at the Guthrie last year, the things I’d heard about this season were too good to pass up. It continued that way all through last year’s tour. It was just too much fun, and there are many people at The Acting Company and the Guthrie that I just love working with, and I had to stick around for this year.

Everything’s pretty much set for first rehearsal. Bring it, I say!


September 20, 2010

On the Clock

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:25 pm

Today marks the official start of my contract for The Acting Company 2010-2011 tour. We start rehearsal a week from today. I celebrated by getting up at 6:30 for a day in the office. The good news is, I’m actually getting paid now. The other good news is that it’s pumpkin spice latte time at Starbucks, and that made the second half of my day awesome.

In the Office

Almost the entirety of my day today was spent on the script. What is believed to be the final draft of the first rehearsal script came back from the director early this morning. So with something we think we might actually be distributing, I went through it with a fine-toothed comb, removing all the multicolored notes and strikethroughs from all the people who had been collaborating on it, renumbering the pages, and making the formatting absolutely perfect, checking every single character, space and margin, as well as reading every word for content to make sure there weren’t any obvious errors.

I’m very happy to know that is under control, and it’s exactly how I want it set up. I initially lobbied to keep the old page numbers in case our returning actors and staff wanted to use their old scripts, but I was convinced that we should encourage people to start from scratch. Both scripts have the act & scene number as part of the page number, so even if people are using their old scripts, they can still turn to the correct page or very close to it, as most scenes are only a few pages long. Some cuts have been put in, but they’re relatively small. It should make the show feel a little faster without removing too much content.

I was given control of the contact sheet today, although with the priority put on getting a final script ready today, I wasn’t able to finish double-checking the contact sheet I’ve been working on in my database against the final one from the office. Other than a little bit of work on that, I participated in a few discussions about travel, the early rehearsal schedule, and the technical education workshops I’ve been trying to get going this year. It’s nice to be in the middle of the action as things are coming together.

Remounting

This is the first time in a long while that I’ve remounted a production I’ve done before. Definitely the first time on a production of this scale, keeping the same design elements, and on which I knew at the time of the previous production that I would need to recreate the show again. It’s kind of fun.

When I found out that I would be spending the day on the script, it was pretty daunting to get started. Since April I hadn’t done more than glance at the script when I’d been asked to submit my copy of the final script about a month ago. This is a three-hour show that I did 82 performances and 30 days of rehearsal of within the past nine months. I thought I would be sick of staring at those words. But it was actually very comforting. There’s definitely something nice about doing a show you know. As I read through the script, I heard the whole show in my head as performed by my friends from last year, and enjoyed the memories of my favorite moments, or funny things that happened during the process surrounding certain parts. I was sad to think that some of those people would be gone, but curious to see what new people will bring to those roles. And I’m looking forward to seeing our returning actors’ performances again, and to see what they may discover that’s different this time.

After reading literally every word, I definitely feel like I have the show back in my body. The more I can remember and see the show in my mind, the easier my job will be, and the less I’ll have to worry about being able to make sense of my paperwork!

After Hours

Tonight, theoretically I’m watching football, but I’m not really, I’m working and blogging. I’m scanning a few paper documents that I was given today: the rules packet for New 42nd Street Studios, and the Letter of Agreement (LOA) between the company and Equity, which modifies our rehearsal rules (which are based on the LORT agreement). I have never in my years of stage management been able to get a digital copy of an LOA. No general manager I’ve worked with has ever been given one in their lives. So I always have to scan it, because having the printed copy with me when I need it never works out. Needing it at the bar at 1AM is just as likely as needing it in rehearsal or at my apartment when I wake up in the morning. When I’m done scanning I will upload the PDFs into Evernote and put them in my DropBox, where Meaghan and I can reference them.

By the by, I really wish I had a scanner that was less than 8 years old, and that I didn’t have to use Windows to use. But it’s just one of those things that I’d hardly ever be home to take advantage of. We do tour with a printer/scanner combo thing so I’m pretty well covered as far as work goes right now. Maybe someday when I stop all this touring. Or if I get a production contract.


September 7, 2010

Pre-Production Progress

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:03 pm

Days till first rehearsal: 20

Currently working on: just tidying up my files & notes while watching TV before bed

Upcoming projects:
Clean up last year’s R&J script
Put contacts in address book
More database work

Recently Finished:
putting performances / cities / travel into Google Calendar
Contact sheet (still have questions)
Entry of performances & venues into database


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