January 4, 2016

Detailed Prop Presets with Evernote and Skitch

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:02 am

You know those prop presets. The ones where a list is simply not going to cut it. You need diagrams. And with the rise of cell phone cameras, you’re probably used to skipping the diagram entirely and just filling your phone with a bunch of pictures of props strewn about. But the pictures probably don’t tell the entire story. You still sort of need the details that you’d get if you hand-drew a diagram.

Enter Evernote, and its now-subsidiary app, Skitch.

I’ve written about Evernote before. It’s a note-taking app that lets you add multimedia stuff and organize your notes into notebooks with tags and categories and stuff. It syncs with your mobile devices. It’s just generally very handy when you need to dump information somewhere.

Skitch used to be a standalone app that annotates pictures. If you’ve seen any of my calling desk blog posts, that’s what I use to label stuff (a new one will be coming soon). You take a picture, and then you can easily add very attractive arrows, text, and other markings to it. A few years back they were purchased by Evernote, and now the Skitch features are available directly in Evernote when you take a picture.

White Christmas use case

You know what I hate about stock? Sure you do: I hate split rehearsals. I hate knowing that there’s one rehearsal the ASM absolutely must be in, and it’s the same rehearsal I absolutely must be in. Or vice-versa, the dance rehearsal I really want to see, but I’m stuck in a blocking rehearsal. But this post is about the first example.

White Christmas, yo. There’s a scene towards the beginning of the show (which, if you know the movie, it’s the same idea) where Bob and Phil are in their dressing room having just finished a performance on the Ed Sullivan show, and while bickering about each others’ love lives, they completely strip down to their underwear and put on a new set of clothes, in a tightly choreographed sequence that suggests they’ve been doing this forever. It’s pretty cool. But in order for it to look that effortless it also has to at some point be taught and rehearsed. And preset.

So there I am, having to be in this rehearsal. Knowing it’s going to be 90% about prop and costume presets. I’m not a huge fan of this happening without the ASM (or, for that matter, the PA) being present. But there I am, and by gum, I’m going to take awesome notes.

From the beginning of our process we knew one thing about this scene: we were never, ever, going to rehearse it without full costume. Which was actually kind of cool, if something of a pain in the ass to transport the costumes every time (always in the rain). The rehearsal schedule evolved in constant coordination with the costume department to ensure fittings for it were given priority, and this scene wasn’t scheduled to be blocked before the four suits needed had arrived, been fitted, and alterations completed.

There aren’t that many times when you start blocking a scene with your actors in full costume, so it was weird and fun to get a preview of the “real thing” so early in the rehearsal room. Normally people get a little thrill to see someone come into a scene wearing actual costume pieces like a coat or skirt. These dudes were in full show costume including underwear and socks, every time.

Let me give you a visual, using some of our lovely production photos courtesy of David J. Murray.

These are the costumes they start out in, for Ed Sullivan. So very, very green. The shoes were green, too, which really ties the whole “green” theme together, but they didn’t arrive (or get painted) till opening night, so they didn’t make the first photo shoot during the dress rehearsal. Sorry. Imagine the shoes are green. Greener than the costumes. I swear.
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 3.41.39 AM

But wait, I do have a picture of the shoes!
This is Piggy, our stage management mascot. His exploits (which I promise to blog about soon-ish) culminated in a brazen bid to seize the role of Phil Davis (dramatized in perhaps my favorite film, The Real Pig Davis). This was a teaser photo of him “sniffing out his next role.” You can see part of one of the shoes behind him. Enough to know they were greener than the suits. I told you it was possible.

So anyway, at the top of the dressing room scene, the boys start taking off the green. The street clothes they’re changing into are hung on the coat trees on their respective sides of the dressing table, with the accessories and shoes on the table unit.
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 3.43.01 AM

Most of the way there, the green stuff has all been crammed into that suitcase (getting the suitcase to behave while two suits with shoes were packed into it ended up being the most disruptive technical challenge of the entire production).
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 3.40.57 AM

There’s not really a picture of the whole finished look, but Joey can model the basic suit-with-coat-and-hat concept:
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 3.40.36 AM


So, that’s where we’re going. In the rehearsal room, we had a table (no mirrors, sadly, for the boys) and some chairs, and a coat tree, and an awesome stand-in coat tree that props masters everywhere should take note of. I never got around to getting a picture of it “naked” but that’s a mic stand gaffed upside-down to some kind of wooden… I don’t know. Something that’s not supposed to be a coat tree. It worked great.IMG_5780

Once we had started to settle on where the props needed to be placed, I took pictures in Evernote on my phone, and then immediately synced it to my computer where I could more carefully label things.

These are some of the pictures I provided (there were several revisions, as my ASM and PA didn’t get to see the scene and take their own notes until our stumble-through). The documentation was especially important in this case because it wasn’t just a reminder — it had to explain everything so that people who have never seen the scene, or know that Bob’s suit is the blue one and Phil’s is the gray-and-pink one, could do the preset themselves without assistance. Everyone who received it (the ASM, PA and props master) found it extremely helpful.




The last one has a giant trick question: while everything else is “Bob on this side, Phil on that side,” their ties are intentionally on the wrong side (so they can do a cute little bit where they realize they have the wrong tie and throw them across the table at each other). That particular situation is why the color-coded text for each guy’s clothes was necessary.

The labeling of the photo (as opposed to taking pics and also drawing a diagram) is also super-useful in situations such as this where not all the props are physically there, because you can clearly point out where the “invisible” things are, like the towel and pocket square (which we didn’t realize were needed until we started blocking), and Phil’s shoes (which I believe were being de-tap-i-fied at this time). Yes, that’s a word.

I highly recommend doing this for any preset tricky enough to require good photos as well as descriptive labels. Once you get comfortable with the software it doesn’t take long. And when you’ve got all your photos in your Evernote note, you can quickly save it as a PDF and share it with whoever you need to (or, if you’ve got a shared Evernote notebook with your team, they will automatically have it).

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.
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.

May 17, 2014

iOS App Review: SMBox

I call this: iOS,phones,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:55 pm

AppIcon76x76One of the most time-consuming and error-prone things a stage manager has to do is deal with time. Break times, scene timings, performance timings… Anything that can be done to automate this process makes me happy.

05-SMBox-iPhone-TimersWhich is why I was excited to get to try out a new app for iOS called SMBox (iTunes link). It’s the first app from a developer called Backstage Apps, who promises further apps to make life easier for entertainment professionals. The app sells for $8.99 and works on all iPads, and iPhone 4 and higher.

I’ve since used SMBox on two productions, the first a one-act play, and the other a two-act musical. Thankfully the app can store multiple shows. You could also use the multiple-show feature to have different configurations of timers for different situations (like one for rehearsal and one for performance).

The interface is designed to be dark and very running-light friendly, which is pretty much a necessity for an app of this sort. However, a lot of the time I was using it in the rehearsal room during scene work and run-throughs, and would have liked to be able to switch to a brighter UI for normal lighting conditions. I hope this will be one of the features added in version 2.0, which is in development.

smboxIn addition to the usual run time calculations, I found it especially helpful for getting scene timings. I love having too much information about run times. I like having up-to-date data on the length of every scene, because you can do so much with it: How much time is left in the act? How many scenes can we get through before lunch? When the director says “Let’s just run this scene before the break,” is there a chance in hell that’s going to happen?

So the way I configured SMBox was to get individual times of all 14 scenes in my play, and then total them. The app can only store one set of timings at a time, but there’s a button to quickly email yourself a copy of the data it has so you can clear it and start over. My one feature request on this front is that while the app saves your email address to send these summaries, there doesn’t seem to be a way to send it to multiple people (without manually adding them to the email each time). I’d love to be able to include my ASM’s email along with mine as the default addresses.

If you need to stop your timer for any reason (like the director stops to give a note, or someone stumbles over their lines, or the scene change goes totally awry), you can tap on your timer to pause it, and tap to resume. A long drag from left to right resets a given timer. The timers can be configured in a number of ways: to count up or down, or both (which is cool in the case of intermission — how long it is vs. how long it should be). You can decide to include or exclude each timer from the total. I wish there was a way to have more than one total (i.e. all the scenes in Act I totaled, all the scenes in Act II totaled, then everything totaled, then everything plus intermission totaled).

It’s not possible right now for a single SMBox “show” to capture and calculate all the data I put in my reports. In particular the Start Time and End Time feature, which record the time of day vs. the run time, don’t appear to support multiple acts or display the time in seconds. The app is very flexible with timers, much less so with “what time was it.” This makes it unsuitable for me in a performance setting, but I did find it helpful in rehearsal, where I’m not interested enough to create a database to track scene timings, but can be bothered to tap the screen a few times during a run.

I am admittedly a very tough audience when it comes to stage management timer apps because I develop my own solutions for these situations, and tend to take them to ridiculous extremes (at some point I must tell you about my famous “Are They Dead Yet?” feature, which was known to predict the time remaining in a performance, or the time an act will end, to within a couple seconds, and which I intend to revive for my next show). Once I have this data on running times, I want to do a lot with it, so my mind immediately jumps to things like exporting it in formats that can be imported into spreadsheets and databases.

That isn’t really the point of this app. There are plenty of stage managers who are using the “lap” feature on their phone’s stopwatch, if they’re doing anything fancier than jotting numbers on a piece of paper at all, and SMBox is a big improvement on that. I can see myself using it on a reading or quick show where I wouldn’t bother using any specialized software. It’s a simple solution that anybody can configure, and the devs seem to have put a lot of thought into making it as flexible as possible. I’m eager to see where they take version 2.0.

January 16, 2013


I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:57 pm

Silence! has been on a hiatus for two weeks. This week we started rehearsing our new Lecter (the wonderful Sean McDermott), who will be re-opening the show with us this weekend.

You know how when you’re doing a show, you know all the words and you don’t even need to think about it, but if you think back to a show you closed a month ago, or a year ago, you can barely remember how anything goes? Or you can kind of mumble your way to certain key words or ideas, but you can’t remember how a song starts? This is how my week has gone.

I have a script, but hardly ever look at it or keep it anywhere near the right page. Our rehearsals are very fast moving and involve a lot of shoving chairs, desks, props and rolling panels around for our new actor, while playing all the necessary characters that they interact with. Usually it’s just me and our dance captain, Howie Kaye, playing the role of “Everybody Else.” We often end up frequently playing the same part in a given scene if one of us knows it better, but a lot of times it’s just whoever gets there first for any given moment. The first time we ran the show today, I may have played Clarice in a given scene, the second time it might have been Howie, and I played somebody else. The show is so funny that often we mix it up because everyone wants to play every part. The necessary component for that to work is that we both have to know everyone’s lines.

It’s amazing how quickly that ability goes away when you’re away from the show. I must confess to being the most affected by this among myself, Howie and Brian, our musical director. To be fair they’ve been with the show for over seven years and I’ve been with it for less than six months, but I was still surprised how many times I would get two words into a scene and go totally blank.

Not totally blank, maybe. Something like, “Dr. Lecter… uh… didn’t he… you said he killed someone? He’s killed someone before? He’s uh, what do you call it, a first killer’s… fledgeling transformation. Shit. Anyone?”

I’m very happy to be back at work, though, and excited to be resuming rehearsal in a position where I generally know what the hell is going on in the show, which was not at all the case when I started this job and did my first couple of put-ins. This is our first Lecter since I’ve been with the company, so I’m kind of excited about that. It’s the easiest track to teach, and there haven’t really been any surprises. There are still a few roles left that I’ve never put in (which we’ll be covering in the coming weeks with our new male swing), so there are a few things that are still fuzzy and will soon be clear.

Including Lecter, we have to teach seven roles to get us fully prepared with new actors and understudies. I’m going to be in rehearsal for the rest of my life!

June 5, 2012

Triassic Parq – Photo Recap

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:31 pm

We start tech tomorrow! If you’ve been following my Twitter, you’ve seen some of my photos from the past week. Here are some of the highlights:

A week ago we had a press event. This is when you invite the Broadway press to visit your rehearsal room for about an hour, and perform a few songs or scenes, and the actors and creative team are available for interviews. This was my flailing attempt to throw my phone in the air and get a picture over the professional photographers.

As I mentioned in my last post, we’ve been very lucky to load into our theatre early, and get some regular rehearsals on the set before tech. On our first day, the lighting package had arrived in the morning, the boxes of which blocked the whole front of the theatre.

Inside, cast, creatives, designers, and crew intermingled in our new and unfinished home for the first time. There were really no surprises, and the show transitioned easily from the rehearsal room to the stage.

A few days later, our posters went up outside the theatre, and that night everyone’s Facebook pictures looked something like this:

We took advantage of a day-off cast party to grab our first complete Team Stage Management photo:

Today was our last regular rehearsal before tech, but we had lighting and sound in the house, to watch our first run-through, and as a result we got to hear a little bit of our sound cues, and see some of the lighting in action. For a good span of time I had green gobos all over my desk.

I’m so excited to start tech. Everyone else has gotten a head start on their job by being in the theatre early, and I would like to finally have some cues to call!

May 27, 2012

Triassic Parq – End of Week 2

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:42 pm

Another week of rehearsal comes to an end. Most notably during this week, I discovered the technique of measuring scenic drawings on a computer screen.

Yes it worked, and I didn’t even have to set my zoom level to something like 87.3% to get it to the right scale. There are old-fashioned ways of making theatre, like using a scale ruler to measure large rolled-up drawings that you keep in a corner behind your desk, and there are newfangled technological ways, like Vectorworks. And then there’s holding a ruler up to a PDF. Which also, apparently, works, at least for simple questions like “is the actual bench taller or shorter than the block we’re using in rehearsal?”

Our goal before we started was to have the show staged by the end of Week 2. I’m pleased to say that we made our goal half a day early. And it wasn’t one of those race-to-the-finish-line kind of processes where we just staged the show as fast as possible before going back and making it good. We took a lot of time along the way, and reviewed periodically, so not only does it exist on paper, but people actually know what they’re doing and have retained it.

Now we’re going back and doing what I would normally describe as “table work,” although in this case it’s more “sit in a circle work,” which is one of my favorite parts in the process. It’s sadly one that often gets skipped on a musical, because there’s just so much else to do in a limited amount of time. But it’s great that now that we have a solid sense of the big picture, we can go back and really explore what’s going on in individual moments, and apply that to the existing staging. We only had time to do that with two scenes yesterday, but it made an immediate difference.

I’m really excited to see what else comes out of these discussions. Between this and some improv exercises, a really detailed history has been created for the dinosaur community, to fill in the questions not explained directly in the script. Since most audience members probably aren’t familiar with the tribal structure that arises in the average genetically-engineered dinosaur park, I think this will help give a more complete picture of the world they’re stepping into (and speaking of stepping into, if you really want to step into this world, I recommend the onstage seating).

I’m still having a great time. My stage management team, which still doesn’t have a catchy dinosaur name, is still being amazing. They track the props, they look out for costume issues, they print and distribute the script updates, they ask the studio staff to crank the AC, they fill the water bottles, they get the coffee, and they keep the entire room fed with chocolate-covered small food items (espresso beans being the recent favorite). And a million other things expected and unexpected throughout the process.

From what we’re being told about ticket sales, we’re building an impressive advance, but for an Off-Broadway show to have any kind of advance is impressive. It’s really hard to get the word out before the show is open and people are seeing it. For that reason, I can’t wait till we start previews, because I think it will exceed expectations and I hope that people start to get excited about it.

If you’re in New York this summer, and you want to be like, “I read this cool website about stage management, and I knew this show was going to be amazing before anyone else,” you can buy your tickets now. And because you read this cool website, you now also know that to get 30% off tickets, you should use the discount code TPDINOS.

We ended our week with nearly everyone from the rehearsal room going out for dinner and drinks afterwards. It was a great way to celebrate the end of our second week, and the accomplishment of our staging milestone. On Wednesday we have a small press event during rehearsal. Due to what can only be described as awesome luck, we move into the theatre on Thursday. Tech starts next Tuesday. So excited!

May 20, 2012

Rehearsal Software

I call this: tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:36 pm

At the end of our first week of rehearsal, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the technology in use on this production.


By far the star of the show is Dropbox, which is used both internally by the stage management team, and by the production manager to coordinate paperwork across the entire production (except for the cast, who get things from me by email, which is so late-20th-century, but it’s good practice to keep tentative information and schedules that concern other departments from confusing them).

This is the first production I’ve done where I had my Dropbox, and subscribed to another one for the wider team. It’s a little confusing, but I think the dual Dropbox is necessary to keep stage management documents accessible for us to collaborate on, without becoming public before we’re ready to share them. The system I’ve come up with (so far) is that when a document is shared, the PDF ends up on the production Dropbox, and the files used to make it stay on ours (unless it’s a document meant for others to edit).

We also keep our master script on our Dropbox, but place a copy of it on the production Dropbox at the end of every rehearsal, so if the writers need to edit it, they always have a current copy they can build from, and anyone else can see the current script, while at the same time we have control of our copy and how the changes go into it. As it turns out, so far all the script changes have happened in the rehearsal room, and they’ve been tiny. I had a real industrial-strength policy to handle script changes, which to this point has been total overkill.

Which brings me to a piece of paper-and-plastic technology I call the “Triassic Parq Post Office.” It’s a box of file folders which function as mailboxes for everyone in the room. When we have new paperwork, it’s put in the mailbox and each person can check their folder to receive new pages, calendars, whatever. This is something I always want on every show ever, and never get to do, for various reasons. But part of my industrial-strength script update policy was, “screw it, we’re doing mailboxes.” So far they’re very popular, and so far we haven’t had a single script update that modified more than four words per day, so the advantages of the mailbox haven’t had a chance to shine.

Near the mailboxes, on a table that is designed to attract actors and creatives like flies to honey, is the food table. On it we have various snacks, and seven labeled water bottles that we provided for the cast, to cut down on the amount of wasted water and containers that results when using cups or unlabeled bottles. There’s a gallon jug that we continually refill and leave on the table, so water is always available without leaving the room (the water fountain is on another floor). My two interns keep the bottles filled at the start of the day, and as the day progresses. It’s kind of like magic. It also encourages me to drink more water, because I really don’t have to do anything to make it appear on my desk.

Here’s the food table.


We’re using Evernote more on this show than I have in the past, which is partly a testament to the improvements they’ve made in sharing support in the past year.

A sample of what’s in our notebook:

  • A note where we indicate the page numbers that have changed that day. This makes it easier at the end of the day to quickly make a PDF of the day’s changed pages for printing.
  • A note for each of our production meetings (we’re up to #4, which is our next and last one) where I jot down questions that I want to bring up. During the meeting this is also the note where I take down the meeting minutes, which later get cleaned up and emailed to everyone. This note is pretty much only edited by me, but everyone can reference what I plan to ask about, and what the results of previous meetings were.
  • The rehearsal day checklist, which is kind of obvious, but I like having it just to remind us of the really basic things we need to get done, which I feel is perhaps even more important when you have a lot of people on your team and it’s easier to lose track of what hasn’t been done. The list includes things like lowering the shades on the windows (to keep the temperature down), checking the spike tape on the floor hasn’t been damaged, schedules are printed and distributed, water is refilled, the room is set correctly for the day’s work, etc.
  • A couple of cut-and-pastes from emails that have useful information we might want to reference in the future: our company manager’s summary of ticket policies, the description of a set piece that the designer sent me in response to an inquiry about how it works.
  • Cast checklist. Easy way to take attendance, or track the completion of something in which the names of cast members need to be checked off.
  • Music teaching checklist. Lists all the songs, and we check them off as they’re taught. You can also do the same thing with staging or choreography.
  • List of cast birthdays. One of Ashley’s first tasks during pre-production was to find out everyone’s birthday so we could have spectacular celebrations of the birth of our collaborators… only to find out that only one person has a birthday through the end of our currently-scheduled run in August (which is only one more reason we need to extend).


We considered more extensive use of this app, but the fact that multiple iPads can’t access the same file makes it a $200 waste of money for more than one person to own it. Marshall (our director) bought it, and uses it to plan blocking before we started staging. In rehearsal, he also sometimes uses it to help the cast understand the big picture, by showing them the overhead view of the stage picture, so they can better understand where he’s asking them to be. StageWrite exports to PDF, which the rest of us have access to. Ashley found this very useful when creating breakdowns during pre-production. Of course we expect things to change as we’re staging, but having all of the director’s initial ideas clearly mapped out in a single PDF is a great head start. I have great hopes for this app, but they really need to make it possible to share the file so multiple people can edit it (I wrote to the developers about this when Marshall and I first discussed using it, and this is something they plan to add in the future). Sharing and syncing is becoming such an important part of how software works, that paying $200 for something that keeps your data stuck on a single device seems kind of old-fashioned. I look forward to it becoming more flexible.

May 16, 2012

First Week of Rehearsal

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:20 pm

We’re midway through our first week of rehearsal of Triassic Parq now. And mercifully, I am finally only working on one production, and able to devote all my time to it. Which means occasionally having time for blogging what I hope will be a very interesting process.

To recap, I spent last week in the office. I have an army of assistants on this show: my ASM Ashley, (who you may recall from the time I spent at the Guthrie in 2010, and my recent reading with The Old Globe this spring), and interns Carly and Sarah. At least one of them was always in the office, so I had lots of help printing and organizing paperwork, making Staples runs, attending meetings, trying kneepads on visiting actors, and a bunch of other random things that came up. We also found a few occasions to have lunch or dinner together as a stage management team, to get to know each other and figure out how we’re going to divide up the work.

This past Monday we began rehearsal. Our meet & greet, Equity meeting, and read-through went very smoothly, and with the pressures of putting on a punctual and organized first rehearsal for our assembled guests out of the way, we got down to the business of learning music for the rest of that day, and the following day.

Today was our first day of staging, and it was a lot of fun. I’ve probably said it a million times, but I hate taking blocking. However, I actually had a pretty good time with it today. By the end of the day I was feeling a little fried, as I’m sure the actors also were by having to retain so much new choreography, as well as lyrics and notes, but I really enjoyed seeing the show take shape, and tried to put all of my concentration into learning the show (even the choreography, which I usually leave to the dance captain, and don’t try to memorize or document down to every count). You may know that I don’t have a great track record of successful open runs or transfers. I have a strong feeling that this is the show that has a serious shot at being a hit, and I’m putting my all into treating it as such from a stage management perspective.

As always, I was dreading taking blocking, up until the point where I had to put pencil to paper to scrawl down the starting positions of the cast for their first entrance. It’s amazing how much more important and engaging it can feel when there’s at least a possibility that the blocking you take might need to be passed on to a successor, or used in staging a future production. There’s a lot that would need to happen before that becomes a reality, but then it would be a little late to decide to take good blocking, so I’m just going to assume that I’ll want all my notes to be as detailed as possible.

After rehearsal we had our third production meeting. We have been meeting regularly on Wednesdays since two weeks before rehearsal began, which I think is rather dedicated of us. We also have a meeting next Wednesday, and that will probably be our last one, as we move into the theatre a little more than a week after that, at which point we’ll be meeting daily. Our previous meetings have been well over an hour. This one was much shorter, more of a check-in, and as usual filled with people in good spirits, displaying a lot of enthusiasm for putting this show together.

I’m very excited to share more about the process as it progresses!

I leave you with a photo of our rehearsal room, which is actually within a couple inches of the width of the stage at Soho Playhouse (lazy stage managers, rejoice!). Also, that may be the most obnoxiously-placed rehearsal room column I’ve ever seen. It has, however, justified the presence of four stage managers in the room, as we all have a slightly different angle to report to each other what’s going on on the other side of the column.

April 23, 2012

Eating Crow on Straight Fives

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:54 pm

It is April 23rd, and as promised, I have returned to tell you what ended up happening with the rehearsal schedule for Marry Harry. In this post, I described a little of our first production meeting, and the fact that we were planning to do straight 5-hour rehearsals, which made me really happy. To which I said:

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 promised to return once we were in tech, to answer whether as predicted, we ended up extending the rehearsal day. Let me tell ye, we did not. Nor did we deviate from our 11:30-4:30 schedule, once it was decided on during the pre-pro week. As I said, I was very happy to be proven wrong, and to stick to a nice predictable schedule.

I should also mention, lest you think straight fives are a cakewalk, that Brian and I have gone home totally exhausted every day, much to our amazement. As is typical in our profession, five or ten-minute breaks usually contain somewhere between zero and two minutes of actual not-having-to-work, and it’s hard doing that for five hours straight without a meal break to rest, eat, and catch up on paperwork or prop maintenance so that you’re not rushing to keep up in rehearsal. That being said, it was awesome and well worth it to get up long after sunrise, and get home long before sunset every day.

Honestly, once we got down to the last couple days, I almost wished we had done one or two long days, only because five hours is not long when you have a show in development and the writers come in with new material which needs to be rehearsed, scenes and musical numbers need polish, and then you want to get through a run. Once you’re running the show, the benefit of working for a longer period of time at a stretch becomes more important. However, this being a fairly easy contract, we were limited to six-out-of-seven hour days, in which you gain an extra hour of rehearsal, but sacrifice the loss of focus that comes with breaking for lunch. So it’s really not much overall gain over the straight five.

In addition to our awesome schedule, things have been going really well. I haven’t been saying much, but I have a backlog of some things I’ve been saving to talk about, especially how my iPad has been faring in its first production.

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!

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