March 15, 2013

In Which I Have a Long Run with a Show

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:23 pm

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you probably know that my luck with open runs is, shall we say, abysmal. In this post from 2007, I proposed a theory that Phantom sucks the long-run karma from everyone who works on it, taking whatever luck they had in their career to feed its insatiable appetite for a longer run. Six years later, I don’t see any real reason to change this theory.

Except, I’ve managed to get through six months as PSM of Silence! The Musical, and despite the fact that we’re not currently doing 8 shows a week, my job doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

I have some observations about my first experience of just getting to sit and relax into a run, in no particular order:

  • I just agreed to ASM a benefit. Not for the money, not for who’s performing. It’s ultimately a favor to a friend, but I don’t take every favor to a friend I’m offered! I said yes because I feel like I need to do something different to keep myself on my toes. I need to load in and tech a show in a day. I need to be backstage worrying about whether the right black stool is set for the next number.

    One thing I’ve been seriously concerned about for a while is how long it’s been since I’ve called a big musical. The kind of musical where you can kill people. Calling a small show has many perks (the biggest of which is not having to worry about killing people), but I wish I could get a little exercise at all the other types of theatre I haven’t been doing lately. The benefit won’t give me that exact experience, but it’s one variant of stage management to mix things up a little.

  • I’ve spent my whole life thinking my career is a journey to the promised land of sitting down on a show that will run for years and eliminate so much of the uncertainty and chaos that comes from starting a new show. I still think that’s a worthy goal, and constantly being in production isn’t my style either, but I find myself strangely enjoying my job when it gets “interesting.”

    I value my free time very much. I love having multiple days off a week. But when I have to put a new actor in, or go to a meeting, or coordinate something out of the ordinary, I always sigh at the prospect of having to do extra work, but also get surprisingly invigorated when I actually have to do the work.

    This is a totally masochistic career, but I’m conditioned to it, and when I have to buckle down and actually do the harder parts of my job, it feels right. It’s like how exercise is exhausting, but afterwards you actually have more energy.

  • Our happy home at Times Scare is growing, as we begin sharing our stage with the new show Fucking Up Everything. Which is an ominous title for a show that’s coming into a space you used to have exclusive access to, but has so far proven to be untrue!

    FUE is in tech right now (first preview tonight), and while I’m glad not to be in tech, I also kind of miss it. Silence! was in a bit of a transitional period when I took over, having recently moved to Times Scare, but I basically came into a long-running situation. The last show I teched was Triassic Parq nine months ago, which was a blast, and not really that long ago. But long ago enough that the prospect of going back into tech sounds fun rather than miserable.

    I spent about an hour at the theatre today before FUE’s final dress, working with their PSM and Production Manager to look at what they’ve done during tech and address any final concerns, and it was cool to hang out at somebody else’s tech. I don’t often get to spend time at techs that aren’t mine. In this case, I do feel a bit of personal investment in it, as I’ve been having meetings, walk-throughs and exchanging emails with their team (several of whom I’ve worked with before) for over three months, and can sympathize with anybody going through tech.

In short, I remain stunned that I’m working steadily in New York, as PSM of an Off-Broadway show, a show that would have been my top choice out of all the Off-Broadway shows that are running, and have been doing so long enough that I can safely say if anything happens, it wasn’t the fault of my infamous Show Karma.

I’m really enjoying finding out what it’s like to just do a show for a while. I hope this won’t be the only time in my career that I’m so lucky, but I’m just grateful that I’ve gotten a chance to learn all the things I’ve never gotten to do before. Out of the ten tracks in my show, I’ve already taught two of them three times each, which is definitely not something I’ve ever had time for before. It’s equal parts “didn’t we just do this?” and “oh that’s no big deal, it’ll be fun.” Which pretty much sums up everything I’ve learned!

January 11, 2013

Vermin in My Boots

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:43 pm

Have you ever been grossed out by a pest problem at your theatre? Ronica Reddick feels your pain. Our “Ardelia” hates mice, and the mice seemed to be making the Silence! dressing rooms their summer vacation destination this past year.

Naturally Ronica did what anyone would do, and wrote a song about it. And then recruited one of our musicians, Nick Williams, to record it with her. And then recruited me to co-direct and edit a music video of it. And finally, she got every single person who works on the show to be in the video, all without letting them in on the secret of what the video was about.

It was something of a closing present for us, before going on hiatus. Our theatre shows movies sometimes when we’re dark, so we were able to do a fancy screening of it for everyone, including popcorn. The video even made it to BroadwayWorld.

Check it out:

November 2, 2012

Hurricanes and Stage Management

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:49 pm

I want to talk about keeping communication going on a show, with a constantly changing performance and rehearsal situation, in the midst of a weather disaster where the people involved in the show may lose power, internet, cell service, or all three.

As Hurricane Sandy approached, we waited to hear what would happen to our performances on Sunday, before the storm hit. My experience in the past has been that when there have been potential cancellations of shows, Broadway collectively decides what to do (through the Broadway League), and most other shows just follow along. This is what our producers were doing as well. The biggest component of the decision is usually transportation issues. When the audience can’t get in, there are always some tourists trapped in Times Square with nothing to do, but if the people who work on the show can’t get to the theatre from wherever they live in the outer boroughs or surrounding communities, the show can’t go on. On Saturday the MTA announced that it might shut down at 7PM on Sunday, and we knew that if that happened, we couldn’t have a Sunday night show because there would be no way to get home.

Sunday morning I got a text from an actor, which was my first indication that the MTA had indeed decided to shut down. At that point it was just a matter of time to wait for official word from my GM, and a decision on whether we would go ahead with the matinee.

Soon it was decided that we would do the matinee, but the evening show was obviously cancelled. I used my favorite notification method of the modern world, sending an email to 56 people involved in the show (many of whom probably really didn’t care if we had a show, but you never know who might need that information), along with a request for the cast, crew and orchestra to reply to let me know they got the message. When that was sent, I drew up a small list on a post-it, numbering 1 through 12 on one side, and then separate spots for crew and orchestra. In the 12 spaces I wrote the names of my actors, and then filled in the names of the crew and orchestra, making sure to take subs into account. Then I waited for the emails to roll in, and crossed off the names as they checked in. After an hour I texted the three people who I hadn’t heard from, and got replies from them fairly quickly, satisfied that everyone needed for the operation of the show knew what was going on.

We did the matinee and then went our separate ways to wait out the storm, and see what the fate of our Tuesday night show would be (as an aside, we upgraded to an 8-show-a-week schedule this past week — or attempted to — leading to a lot of jokes that this is a sign from God that we shouldn’t do 8 shows).

Most people were keeping in touch on Facebook, and as the night, and the next day went on, some people lost power and managed to post about it, or text me, and every time I heard something that indicated a person might not have full access to the internet, I added their name to a list and made note of the circumstances. By the end of the day on Monday I had a complete picture of who had power, internet and cell service. I referenced this list every time I had new news to share, to make sure I texted the people who needed to be texted, and noticed the ones who didn’t respond, to keep tabs on the fact that they might not have gotten the message.

When we got news of the cancellation of the Tuesday performance, I even posted it on Facebook, just in case there were some people who had no access to their email or cell phones, but somehow were able to get on Facebook. I was able to cross off some names on my notification list based on their “likes” rather than responses to my emails or texts.

In addition to the questions about whether the show was going on, we had a lot of other issues hanging in the air. Even without the storm, this was a rough week for us, with numerous actors out, a put-in that not everyone was available for, and even a day where we were going to have to do the show with one track cut. As much as Sandy screwed up our plans, she also inadvertently fixed some of our problems: we had the luxury of being able to postpone the put-in rather than do it with many elements missing, and one of our actors who was supposed to be leaving town had his flight canceled, so he ended up in the show, giving us enough actors to cover the show properly. A lot of emails were flying around trying to work out all these things, and waiting for pieces of the puzzle to fall into place, but in the end it worked out quite well.

Thankfully no one on the production was completely without a way to get in touch with the outside world, and the worst case I had to deal with was an actor who had to leave his house and go down the block to get cell service, and thus would get my texts and emails, but only when he went out to seek them. We were especially lucky that no one’s home was significantly damaged.

Aside from the lights flickering ominously for several hours, and the wifi seeming to freeze once in a while, I never lost power or internet. Having to move out of Chelsea is the great heartbreak of my life, but there are some advantages to living on a mountain, miles from midtown. The disadvantage came on Wednesday, however, when the subways weren’t running, it’s been about 130 years since the streets of New York could handle road traffic without them. Buses were “running,” but it seemed to be a universal truth all over the city that the only way to actually get anywhere was to walk.

There are a bunch of us who live in Washington Heights, and my ASM Cassie and I decided to walk, as we didn’t want to risk being late, and at least we’d be sure to arrive at the time we intended. I walked about 30 blocks to her place, and then we walked another 120 blocks to the theatre (a total of 7.7 miles for me). It was actually a nice walk, and I got to see some parts of the city that I don’t usually pass on foot. We took some photos along the way, which are on display on Silence!’s Facebook page (I hope that link works). It took us a little over two hours, and we were pretty exhausted by the time we had to work, so the show is kind of a blur, but we did it. On the way home, the six of us going to Washington Heights piled into one person’s car, and with the traffic largely gone, we got home in a civilized manner.

I’m glad the shows are up and running, but the commute is still very rough for everyone coming from Brooklyn and Queens, so I’m hoping they get service back soon. I hope all you readers in the area got through the storm without too much trouble!

August 9, 2012

Of Goats and Lambs

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

I’m just gonna blog real quick. Maybe you’ve been wondering what the hell happened to me, after the triumphant opening of Triassic Parq. Well, I’ve been busy. And now I’m insanely busy, but I should write a little bit about it, because it’s kind of interesting.

A funny thing happened in the Off-Broadway world this summer. Triassic did not extend after its scheduled run through August 5, and the original PSM of Silence! The Musical was also leaving on August 5. A bunch of dear friends of mine, from many different departments of theatre, all got it in their heads independently that it would be a great idea if I became the PSM of Silence! despite the fact that taking over a show on the day your show closes is crazy. But I said, “No problem, I’ll catch up!” And so here I am.

The good thing about my first week at Silence! is that I’m getting to experience pretty much everything. We’ve had a new actor go in. We have an understudy going on for Lecter for the first time this weekend. On Sunday we’ll have four understudies on in our cast of 10. I’ve done a put-in. We got a new dance captain yesterday. We’re also still working out the kinks in a new theatre. So while it’s insanely busy, I’m getting a lot of things out of the way right off the bat, so there will be relatively little I haven’t experienced by the end of this week.

I wish I could talk more about the experience, but I have very little time, so I will share one observation:

In any case where I’ve come into a show that was already running, I have always had doubts in my ability to get up to speed. When I do a show from the beginning I know it so well that I always feel inadequate replacing someone in an already well-oiled machine.

However, every single time, as soon as I go from following people around training, to actually doing it myself, it feels totally natural, and I’m reminded that in a lot of ways every show is basically the same. People have told me over and over in my career, “Trust your instincts, you’ll know how to handle things.” And it never sounds that simple when I’m learning, but the moment I’m actually given responsibility it suddenly becomes easier.

I’ll probably go through this for the rest of my career, but at least now I’m starting to actually remember that I will calm down when the time comes.