June 26, 2012

Triassic Final Preview

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:30 am

Tonight is our final preview of Triassic Parq, and to celebrate, I would like to share an image that has been a long time in the making.

On the first day of rehearsal, back on May 14th, I took a photo of our set model from the perspective of a person standing inside the theatre. It was my intention to duplicate the photo in the theatre as exactly as possible when the show was done.

And here is the result:

(if you’re on a slow connection, the animation may take a minute to load)

December 13, 2011

The TAC Truck, Year 4

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:10 pm

The other day, I was out at Ikea with my parents, buying a $10 lamp for my desk, which is seriously the most blogworthy thing that’s happened to me in weeks (thus my silence), when I saw I had a voicemail.

Heeding the old adage of theatrefolk, I checked the message because it was a 212 number (the theory being that nobody has a landline, and if you’re receiving a 212 call from an unknown number, it could only possibly be the office of a producer or general manager who’s calling to offer you a job!) As it is a surprising number of times, it was indeed the office of a theatre company, although I was unexpectedly greeted by a voice I knew: it was The Acting Company.

I think I’ve mentioned — maybe — that I’m not doing this year’s tour, but they know I’m in town and available for other stuff. This particular situation has to do with the truck.

The set for Julius Caesar has just been finished at the shop, up in Glens Falls, NY (for the upstate-challenged, that’s “way past Albany”), and as always, it’s big, and may not fit in the truck, and it has to get to New 42nd Street Studios for rehearsal tomorrow afternoon.

So, having a reputation as She Who Makes Things Fit in the Truck, I have been asked to go to Glens Falls to supervise the load out and make it fit in the truck.

The trickiest part of this assignment is not having to devise an optimized truck pack on the fly for a set I’ve never seen. The trick is going to be doing that successfully at 7AM. The company is sending me to the shop at great expense, not because I’m needed to load the truck, but because supposedly there’s something in my brain that will allow the truck to be loaded better. So really the best preparation I can do for this assignment is to sleep and drink coffee.

I requested an early enough train to get to the hotel at a reasonable hour to have dinner and get a good amount of sleep.

I’m on the train now, which is somewhere between a 4- or 5-and-a-half-hour ride, I guess depending on how express the train is. I have six proposed versions of the truck pack drawn up by the production manager, from which to draw ideas. Once the sun set and there was nothing to watch out the window, I sat with them on my tray table and looked them all over again. I’m optimistic that I can do better than what’s on paper, which of course is drawn conservatively.

Thankfully I don’t have to participate in the unloading of the truck (a load-in or -out at New42 is high on my list of things for which there is not enough money in the world), but I want to make it as easy as possible on the other end, and I know that I have an opportunity to test out some ideas, or create new ones, that will give the show crew a head start in finding clever ways of loading the truck for the tour.

What the truck might look like, and what the people unloading it might look like if they weren’t illegally parked in Times Square.

I’m excited to see the truck again, and to get a peek at the new set, even if I probably won’t have any idea of what it looks like when it’s broken down for travel.

July 25, 2007

Allentown, We Have a Problem

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:15 pm

M.J. demonstrates why the railway station is just a little too tall.

That’s the platform the cast is supposed to enter on. We knew what was going to happen as soon as the set was unloaded, but today the crew assembled the station stair unit, giving a visual element to the assessment that it’s HUUUUUGE!!!!

But I learned something today that made the whole set at least make a little more sense. This is a national tour set. See, I was under the impression that it was a large but second-rate touring set. So when I would hear things like some of the drops are over 50 feet tall, I remarked at the production meeting, “Where did they expect to take this, the Fox?” Well, uh, I guess they probably did. Maybe more than once, to more than one of the gargantuan Fox Theatres. Under its worn paint and chipped plywood detail work, I hadn’t noticed that it’s all made of steel. It also explains why certain corners weren’t cut in the design where you’d expect a touring set to be made more manageable. The railway station is a perfect example. It’s huge and there are so many pieces, why would anyone ever want to drag all that around and try to cram it into a variety of theatres? Well when you picture it on a national tour it seems perfectly reasonable. Of course the Robinson Theatre is not the Fox. Ideal height of a drop custom made for our theatre: 17 feet (height is a major inconvenience on every show). I believe the grid height is 36 feet, meaning a 53ft tall drop stood up on our stage would be several stories taller than the roof of the building.

I’m not sure exactly which tour the set is from, nor do I know anything about the tours of the original production of 42nd Street to make that determination, but the set has obviously been around the block a few times, so I wouldn’t doubt that it could be from the ’80s. I’ll have to see if I can find out. At any rate, this is one of the things we will have to figure out in the coming days.

July 24, 2007

Meeting the Dancing Feet

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:32 pm

We had our first rehearsal for 42nd Street today. Some of the principals worked on vocals in the daytime and in the evening the full company came together for the meet & greet, then the ensemble learned their vocals, and then went to work on the opening number. They learned the whole thing and it would be no exaggeration to say they tapped up a storm. This is going to be a great company, and there are a number of dancers with whom I’ve done prior Reagle shows, but haven’t seen in a while and am very glad to be working with again.

Meanwhile on stage the crew is going full steam to put this huge set together. The set was just purchased by Reagle at the end of last summer, and this is the first time it will be used. It came in a bit of disrepair from its former owner, and this production will be an opportunity for the Reagle crew to work their magic and refurbish it so that it will be ready for rental to other theatres around the country. The sets, props and costumes that Reagle owns are a great source of additional income. Singin’ in the Rain went to Oklahoma as soon as we were done with it, and I believe they open very soon, and the gorgeous Crazy for You package, which is the original Toronto production sets, props and costumes (Robin Wagner, William Ivey Long — it’s amazing), has just returned from Ogunquit Playhouse and will soon be going off somewhere else. I believe the new King and I set is also being saved for future rentals. So getting this set in shape will have benefits far beyond just the next four weeks.

Large objects are springing up hourly. Here we have various pieces of the train cars:

At one point I came out of the shop and onto the stage expecting to look out into the house and found a giant wall had appeared since the last time I passed through. This is the “Maison des Dames,” a flown contraption of velour, muslin and hard flats with a set of doors that is used at the beginning of the “Dames” number. The front is quite nice, although it needs a lot of love at the moment to fix some tears and broken moulding.

I believe tomorrow’s agenda is for the big railway station set to be assembled.

Also, here are a few shots from the strike of The King and I.

Following the path of exiting scenery, from stage left past the prop table, off the loading dock and into the warehouse across the parking lot.

July 7, 2007

King and I Tech

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:14 pm

Done. We had a very successful tech today. Despite my bold predictions earlier in the week that we would be able to run the show or at least one act by tonight, we did not. We did, however, finish the show in less than our ten working hours. In fact — I can’t say I have ever had this experience — we finished the show, let the cast go, had our production meeting, and stood up to go home at 9:55. Rehearsal was scheduled from 10AM – 10PM. We were all shocked that we were leaving before the day should even have been over.

We didn’t really end that early, maybe 20 minutes at most. The tricky part was that we teched the show out of order. It’s always an issue in shows with a large cast of young children, especially those that aren’t getting paid, to figure out how to use the kids’ time without unnecessarily keeping them up past their bedtime, or simply wearing them out to the point where a four-year-old just doesn’t feel like going onstage or doing her blocking. So we called the kids first thing in the morning and teched all of their scenes first, which happen to also be the most complicated by virtue of having 50-something people on stage. After several hours the kids were dismissed, but we did not go back to the top of the show because the first scene change is an absolute nightmare, with only a silent and rather uncomplicated crossover to cover it. Anna, her son Louis and the Kralahome (King’s prime minister) arrive at the palace. Two sailors are following with a large trunk. They cross from stage left to stage right. That’s it. Meanwhile there’s five pipes flying, and about 20 people on the deck required to move all the scenery (for which we’ve used some of the non-union cast to supplement the crew).

Because of all the people involved and the need to assign and teach the change to the cast, we began with scene two and teched from there until the lunch break. The crew set up the first scene during the break. It’s on board a ship — there’s several flats including the ship’s cabin and smokestack, the sides of the ship, a big paddle wheel thing, a bunch of crates and trunks — a lot of it was supposed to be flown, but this goes back to the issue at the production meeting about ugly aircraft cables ruining the look. So before even attempting the scene we ran the scene change twice.

Because we weren’t attempting to run the scene, I had the unique experience of being on the deck during a crazy scene change. Normally I sit comfortably at the tech table, call the drop in, and then listen on headset to frantic banging and squeaking and calls of “Fly this out! Over there! OK, clipped! Downstage! Bring it in!” then some more banging and squeaking, the sound of counterweights whizzing up and down on the rail, then a few calls of “We’re ready. Are you ready over there? We look ready. OK, clear!” then I say, “Go,” the drop flies, and there’s a nice shiny new set on the stage. So when I realized this I went and got my camera. Unfortunately the video is not nearly as interesting as I hoped it would be. First of all I wasn’t able to get it on at the beginning because I was given the honor of calling the start of the scene change and also fumbling to start a stopwatch. And then for some reason I turned the camera off before it was completely over, probably to stop my stopwatch, or maybe because I realized how lame the video already was. But here it is, shot from stage left.

It’s not quite a well-oiled machine at this point (this was attempt #2, 1 minute 15 seconds), but after this we went back and ran from the beginning of the show through the scene change, and the crew and crewlike castmembers were done quite a bit before the onstage cast, who were expertly dragging out what could have been a 10-second cross into an entire play about people walking down a hallway. I’m sure it will only get faster. Actually, the show was written with a whole silent scene there in which we see the palace dancers preparing for the next scene in which they dance for the King — purposely put there to fill time while this unavoidable Huge Scene Change takes place. The alternative if you have a quick scene change is for Anna and company to simply walk across the stage with their boxes in tow. We went the optimistic route, mostly because all the large pieces were supposed to fly, but I think it’s going to be fine.

So after running that change successfully, we then skipped ahead to where we were when we broke for lunch, and continued from there in order, but skipping the second half of the last scene in Act I, which we covered earlier with the children. People love speculating about how long tech is going to take. I’m an optimistic person, but I’m also a realist, and I also know it’s better to make pessimistic guesses so people won’t be disappointed when it takes longer. By lunch we knew we were moving along well, and people would say so, but then in a low voice they would usually say, “We’re going to be spending all night on the ballet, aren’t we?” “Do you think we’ll end the night with the ballet?” “The ballet is going to take a long time, isn’t it?” I think we got to intermission somewhere around 7PM. This was when a lot of the real speculation started. My answer was, “Yes. Hours. I expect 1-2 hours, but I think we’ll still finish the show.” I wasn’t keeping score, but I think it probably took a half hour to 45 minutes.

First of all, you may remember I got to see the entire ballet on the third day of rehearsal. The dancers know it inside out, so there was no problem there. They did it in costume for the first time, and aside from Simon of Legree’s giant mask/headpiece being too loose on her head and having to be removed, they didn’t seem to miss a beat with the addition of costumes. This isn’t a dress rehearsal, but in many cases we added costume pieces when possible and where they would cause potential issues, like for dancers. We had a few small things to take care of, like spiking the location for the gong, and assigning who places it. Once we had done those kind of housekeeping things, we ran it once and were due for a ten minute break. Gemze seemed pretty happy with it, and declined to work anything or give formal notes before running it again when we were back from the break. The second run was especially helpful as we had some followspot assignments that needed to be worked out in a more efficient way, which we applied the second time through.

I said yesterday I was worried about the rapid pace of cues and losing my place among all the “Run, Eliza, run”‘s, but when the time came I didn’t have any trouble. My first attempt was not at all embarrassing, which was a nice change from the Singin’ in the Rain ballet, where up until the final performance I was never quite sure if I was about to make an ass of myself. The key with this one is that it requires 100% concentration, and with that it’s actually quite easy to call. I just can’t lose my place or fall behind, because there’s not much time between cues, and once you’re lost it’s not immediately evident where you are in the script.

After the ballet it was clear sailing. One by one ensemble members with little to do in Act II were dismissed. We were not running the finale or bows because we did them earlier with the kids. By the end of the day we were down to a book scene with just a couple actors, right before the finale. And thus, with a gentle sigh, ended our tech, about 15 minutes early.

Tomorrow we tech from 10:00AM – 6:30PM. We had hoped to do two runs, but we have already scheduled a 2:30 run. Because of the need to give the kids a definite call time regardless of where we ended up today, we scheduled an afternoon run in advance so they could just arrive at half hour. I picked 2:30 because I didn’t feel comfortable with less than four hours to run the show (I’m guessing it will ultimately clock in at about 2:45 with intermission), give notes, and allowing extra padding for any unforeseen disasters. So that means a 1:00 lunch, and we’re not going to be able to call the cast, get them in mics, and run the show in three hours. I mean it’s conceivable, but highly unlikely. So we’re going to do the same thing we did tonight and skip the kids’ scenes since they won’t be there. Then we run in the afternoon, and after dinner the orchestra has their first rehearsal, which also serves as a partial sitzprobe for the cast to sing with the orchestra for the first time, before they have to do it on Tuesday in dress rehearsal. For this sitzprobe we are calling the singers and dancers who are in the ballet, so they can hear tempos and such and avoid any problems, and once that’s done they’ll be released. Then the principals will stay to sing their songs and make any necessary changes or requests. Then we go home to enjoy our daylight day of rest.

July 6, 2007

King and I Approaches Tech

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

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

Took this picture just a few minutes ago:

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

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

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

June 26, 2007

King and I Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye-bye old deck!

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

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

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

June 6, 2007

Meanwhile, something about a show

I call this: mac,summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:56 am

I wasn’t the only one who thought my new Macbook Pro was the most important thing to happen at the Reagle Players yesterday. We have quite a few Mac users among the creative team, cast and crew, and many people were very excited to come back from dinner and see my new purchase. I had just enough time to drive up to Burlington, buy it, swing through Burger King and get back, so I didn’t have any time to start playing with it. In fact I didn’t even open the box until the first break. But then much oooing and ahhhing commenced.

I did basically one thing with it during the entire evening at the theatre, which was to set it up to use my Treo as a modem, and then download a small app to check the LCD for stuck pixels. It’s one of my bigger fears in life to spend lots of money on some wonderful computing device and find it’s got a bad pixel that I’ll have to stare at for years to come. I watched the white screen carefully as it booted up for the first time, looking for any signs of uneven backlighting, bad pixels, or other display problems. I am happy to report that this machine passed the LCD test with flying colors.

But anyway, in the midst of this important event, in the background we continued trying to put on a show. Last night we did a work-through of Act I, which was very exciting. It wasn’t quite a run, but moved fairly quickly. We were also able to have rehearsal on stage, which was very helpful for everyone. It’s definitely starting to look like a show, and it was the first time that the ensemble got to see a lot of the principals’ scenes and musical numbers, so it was kind of like having a real audience. “Good Mornin'” brought the house down.

As Singin’ in the Rain comes closer to completion, I was also greeted by this sight as I pulled into the parking lot before rehearsal:

The set of King and I under construction and being painted by the talented Matt and Jamie. A lot of Reagle’s sets are rented, or purchased from other renters, but this one is being built and stored in the back warehouse. A lot of it was already constructed when I arrived for the summer, and this week they have started painting.