January 7, 2010

Tech Day 2

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:23 am

I have to keep this somewhat brief as I’m a fool and left my computer charger plugged in at the tech table.

Today was our second day of tech. The first day was a 10-hour day, this was the first of our two 12-hour days. We also had the amazing tech dinner tonight. I think I mentioned this last year, but if you ever get an offer to work at the Guthrie, I recommend taking it for the tech dinner alone. An army of volunteers cooks an endless variety of foods and desserts — the hardest part is figuring out how to get all of it on your plate. Here’s my plate:

Our progress is a little bit ahead of schedule, although I’d feel more comfortable if we were further along.

We’re now in the middle of Act III Sc. 3, which is more than halfway through the show and way more than halfway in terms of scenes that are expected to be time-consuming. We had very few notes at the production meeting — the meeting was adjourned 17 minutes after we stopped rehearsal, which is pretty amazing. There are quite a few people at each meeting. When we all gathered yesterday I was really amazed. These are all the people we might have on a given day:

1. Production Stage Manager (that’s me)
2. Assistant Stage Manager
3. Stage Management Intern
4. Director
5. Staff Repertory Director
6. Choreographer
7. Fight Choreographer
8. Production Manager (Acting Company)
9. Production Manager (Guthrie)
10. Scenic Designer
11. Associate Scenic Designer
12. Lighting Designer
13. Assistant Lighting Designer (Guthrie)
14. Lighting Supervisor (Tour)
15. Prop Master
16. Costume Designer
17. Associate Costume Designer / Wardrobe Supervisor (Tour)
18. Wardrobe Supervisor (Guthrie)
19. Voice and Text Consultant
20. Assistant Voice and Text Consultant
21. Sound Designer
22. Composer
23. Acting Company Artistic Director
24. Acting Company Associate Artistic Director
25. Crew Supervisor (Guthrie)

It takes a lot of people to put a show together, and that’s just the people who are there physically putting the show together. Outside the room there are press and marketing people, education directors, general managers, house managers, security, photographers and videographers, and countless others who are involved at various stages of the process, before an audience ever sees the show.

The cast seems to be in good spirits, even though the show is structured in such a way that some people end up waiting hours and hours between scenes. We have been able to give five of the actors a later call for tomorrow because we next see them in Act 5. We have an amazing greenroom known as “the hub” with gorgeous views of the Mississippi, a fridge, two microwaves, a toaster over, four vending machines, coffee, water, tea, and a number of very comfortable couches, tables, and a computer. I think that may have something to do with people’s patience! I have visited on breaks to spend some time with our neglected actors, only to find them deeply engrossed in card games and internet surfing, so I think they’re doing OK!

Here Elizabeth and Jesse enjoy a break in the kitchen area of the hub, in their party costumes (Act I Sc. 4). Elizabeth plays the Nurse and Jesse is Abraham (shown here) and Friar John.

People have also been in the house watching a lot, which is really nice. The house is comfortable and very intimate, and despite being a traditional proscenium with two balconies, you really feel like you’re all in the same small room. It doesn’t have much of an “us-and-them” feel between the people onstage and those in the house, so I think that also adds to the camaraderie among everyone involved in the process. There has been a lot of laughter and enjoyment of everyone’s work, and no yelling, which is always the best way to have a productive tech process.

We have another 12-hour day tomorrow. The good sign is that we have started with actors at 11AM every day this week. The first day Nick, Ashely and I got in at 9:30. Today we got in at 10. Tomorrow we get in at 10:30. The three of us decide this at the end of the night in a form of decision-making I would call a democratic dictatorship (which means that we all put in our ideas and reasons, I make the final decision, but can be influenced if Nick and Ashley tell me I’m an idiot or a masochist), based on what we think we need to accomplish before we officially begin work. Getting to sleep later on longer days is a really good sign, and good for our mental and physical health, too.

A Special Announcement

I have to give special credit here to Nick. As I was finishing this post, my battery up-and-died on me, while still showing half a charge. At 1AM I sent him an email asking if he was still up and if I might borrow his charger, and he kindly obliged and even delivered it. So I am much indebted to him for making this post possible, as well as allowing me to do my job in the morning!

I will close this post with a portrait of Nick at his ASM station backstage. Which, by the way, is more full-featured than most PSM stations I’ve worked with. It has the same two-camera monitor I have, the paging mic, a script holder and an area where he keeps his laptop, as well as drawers of first aid, spike tape, and who-knows-what-else. That’s one of our prop road boxes in the rear.

January 4, 2010

On Stage!

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:36 am

A magical thing happened this week. The show has really come to life. It’s hard to describe, but it’s the difference between a show that just kind of happens, and a show that sucks you in and makes you feel like the action is really happening for the first time right now in front of you. In a few short rehearsals our cast has found many new ways to bring their characters to life. On one particular day, I left the room for maybe 15 minutes to make some phone calls to take care of set issues, and when I came back the scene was totally fresh and new. I don’t know what exactly occurred, but all week we have made leaps and bounds in the show. Our run-throughs in the rehearsal room have been highly complimented, even by veteran designers and crew, who usually don’t come to runs to be entertained or moved.

Today was our first day onstage, and the excitement of the show in the rehearsal room has been topped by the excitement of the show on the set. The depth and texture of the structure really makes the action pop off the stage. Everything just looks so good and feels so comfortable. A large part of what we had to do today was to adjust spacing for the actual set, but we haven’t hit any problems, just things we can now refine better in three dimensions.

In the most unexpected good news ever, our platform Fred does not appear to need brakes. Through some combination of the quality of castors and the fact that it’s moving on marley, it rolls almost silently, yet has enough weight and stability that it doesn’t move at all even under significant leaning and sitting. It moves easily when you want it to, and not at all when you don’t. It’s like the scenic holy grail! So we have had to take back all the nasty things we said about Fred.

The theatre has a very warm feel. It’s very intimate, yet also has a grandeur that feels like working in a real honest-to-goodness professional theatre. And of course the Guthrie facility provides all the little goodies a stage manager wants. At my personal tech table, I have plenty of power and ethernet, my headset console, with four channels (of which I assume we’ll use three — deck, lighting and sound), a paging mic, infrared and color monitor, and a cue light panel that I hope to God we don’t need. We have cue lights set up here, but I’d really rather not have to worry about that on the road if all our actor entrances can be handled by Nick giving hand signals off my cue. Anyway, the best part of the cue light panels here is that they have a built-in electric pencil sharpener. Uh huh. Yes, they do. I believe the reason I never blogged about this last year is that they removed the panel from my tech table before I got a chance to take a picture. So this year I made sure I did:

As you can see, it’s a regular electric pencil sharpener that just fits right into the casing. It almost makes me wish I used regular pencils.

My other favorite thing in the room today was our rehearsal mock-up of the victrola we have in the show (what does a victrola have to do with R&J? Well part of what happens at the Capulet party is that Capulet shows off his new technological purchases, such as this fancy device that plays music by itself, and electric lights). In the rehearsal room, we used a cardboard box that vaguely resembled a pizza box, so while waiting for the real victrola to be delivered (supposedly Tuesday), our prop master, Scotty, wanted to make us a more accurate mock-up to use on stage.

Here’s what it looks like before it’s unveiled at the party:

Looks pretty nice, huh? And here’s what it actually is:

I think it’s the greatest rehearsal prop ever. Most of the cast hadn’t seen under the sheet before we rehearsed the party scene, so the reaction when the new victrola was unveiled was very special!

Our day went very well today. Between getting spacing done for all the major scenes, and apparently solving the Fred problems, we’re in good shape. At my urging, everybody on the production team who’s in town was present for the entire rehearsal, as well as our two local carpenters, Craig and Sarah, who are awesome. It’s so nice to finally all be in one room and able to discuss things in real time. That’s why I find tech less stressful than the rehearsal process — aside from learning to call the show, what I really have to do is guide all these people who are specialists in their respective fields to work together and solve problems, and I find that fairly easy and relaxing, once all the people are in place.

We have a very welcome day off (our second in four days, due to our weird Christmas schedule shaking out back to a normal schedule), and then we begin tech on Tuesday.

August 9, 2009

La Cage Tech

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:49 am

We are in our second day of tech for La Cage. Since Twitter has been suffering from a DoS attack, there is no techtweet this time.

We teched the first act during the first 10-out-of-12 hour day. This is a new show for Reagle, so we’re feeling our way a little more than usual but overall it’s not going that much more slowly than a more familiar show.

The cast is completely comfortable with the show, which eases a lot of our stress about the final outcome. The show is quite busy technically — there are some numbers where finding a place to give warnings was tricky. It’s become something of a joke in certain parts of the show, for the TD to say, “Karen can you find a place to give us a warning…” and I immediately say, “No.”

We’re using color scrollers for this show, so our little Microvision from 1987 B.C. needs to be replaced whenever that happens. We’ve got a rented Ion, which I’ve never used before. It’s basically the very modern version of the size of the Microvision. During a break yesterday I was invited to play with the scrollers. I was handed a mouse and pointed at a color wheel on one of the screens, like you would find in Photoshop or whatever. I was told to click anywhere on the color wheel. Instantly the entire stage changed to that color. I played with it for a good five minutes just watching how many different shades I could make. It may be the coolest thing ever.

July 12, 2009

Mame Tech

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:45 pm

We’ve finished tech. Didn’t get to run the show yet, but this is a big, complicated one, and it’s taken a lot of drilling to get everyone comfortable with scenes and choreography.

As I announced, I have tweeted the entire tech process in my TechTweet Extravaganza on Twitter. If you look at the tag #TechTweet, you will see my tweets, as well as some of those of the crew who also began using the tag towards the end of the process.

We are now finishing out the day with more choreography review (without tech) so I’m basically just minding rehearsal. About half the cast has been dismissed. I can’t wait to go home. We don’t have a day off this week, but tomorrow is our daylight day of rest, where we don’t have to be in until 7PM.

Normally we would do a run of the show, but we’re going to need to stop a few times to add elements that we didn’t have at tech. I’m just glad this weekend is over and we’re almost there!

July 11, 2009

TechTweet Extravaganza

I call this: summer stock — Posted by KP @ 1:34 am

In the morning we begin tech for Mame. I am planning a TechTweet Extravaganza for the whole day (and maybe Sunday too). Expect many tweets throughout the day.

Follow me at @thegobutton on Twitter.

February 7, 2009

TOUR STOP 2: West Lafayette, IN

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:56 pm

Tonight we are leaving West Lafayette, home of Purdue University (where we performed both our shows, as well as conducted student performances and workshops ranging from 6th grade to college level.) ¬†West Lafayette is also the home, as we learned, of Triple XXX Family Restaurant, which despite sounding like a porn shop, is actually an historic drive-in diner, the first in Indiana (opened in 1929). ¬† The crew was HUGE fans of this place, mostly due to the fact that it’s open 24 hours, and serves great diner food and their specialty root beer floats. ¬†In the six days we spent in West Lafayette, I think we ate there five times. ¬†I do believe on one day we ate there twice.

The crew at Purdue was great, and the support staff very friendly and helpful.  We spent most of our time there teching The Spy, so we only did one invited dress and two performances (one each of Spy and Henry), but our audiences were large and responsive.

We have two days before we have to load in in Poplar Bluff, MO, so we are taking a slight detour to Nashville. ¬†Part of the reason for this is that it sounds like a more interesting place to spend a day than Poplar Bluff, but also because it’s the home base of the bus company, and it will provide an opportunity for the bus to be serviced, as our water pump is broken. ¬† ¬†We will sleep on the bus for two straight nights, chipping in on a single hotel room so we can all shower in the morning and have a place to stash our stuff during the day. ¬† I think it will be a fun couple days to unwind after a very busy week.

January 7, 2009

Tech Day 2

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 4:58 pm

Our first 10-out-of-12 hour day. We are making very good progress, and everyone is pleased with how smoothly it’s going. The picture above is one I have entitled “Henry Cast and Crew in Repose.” There are several more like it on my Flickr page, linked in the sidebar. This was taken while a light cue was being written.

The set is rather complicated as it’s got lots of little doors that open and things that can be climbed on, which were bound to require time to get used to that just can’t be prepared for in the rehearsal room. We’ve had to restage some things, but we have also discovered new ways to play with the set that we didn’t imagine before, and none of it is taking too long. We’re at our dinner break, only 9 working hours since we began tech from the top, and are through the majority of Act I. We’re shooting for a run (perhaps an invited dress with some students who will be at the Guthrie) in two days, then our first preview the following night.

Most of our touring crew are here this week (some are going back to New York for a while before rejoining us for the tour), so that has been a nice reunion. Our two local backstage crew are great, and the large and valiant wardrobe crew have done a great job tracking a ridiculous number of costume changes, with the assistance of Nick’s paperwork. When we’re on the road, we’ll have Nick, our TD, wardrobe and props supervisors, as well as a local crew of two stagehands and two wardrobe people backstage. This tech will be the final test to make sure the shows can be run by the number of people we are budgeted for.

Today we were treated to the Guthrie’s traditional tech dinner, which is a homecooked buffet provided by volunteers. By some fluke of scheduling, the Guthrie is teching two shows at exactly the same time — A Delicate Balance also started tech yesterday, so the two companies shared the enormous meal in one of the rehearsal studios. I don’t think any of us have ever seen so much food. With the rest of my two hour break, I am letting my food coma wear off by sitting with my laptop in a nook of the 9th floor lobby of our theatre. It’s this crazy room surrounded in yellow glass, that is cantilevered out from the side of the building — it even has a glass floor in one spot. I have a thing for colored glass in architecture, so this has been my favorite place in the building even before I got here, when I saw it on the photo tour on the Guthrie website. You can see it from the outside in this picture, which is also my current desktop wallpaper.

At night the yellow glass casts a tint on all the lights of the cars and buildings below. It’s quite cool. This picture doesn’t do it justice at all. At some later time I must try to do better.

December 1, 2008

Tech Day 1

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:18 pm

We’re on the dinner break of our first day of tech. ¬†We have a two hour break, which is very luxurious for us, as most of our rehearsals have been six hour blocks. ¬†I’m currently sitting in the green room, where a number of crazy and humorous things are going on.

Our staff rep director, Ian, who is also our only understudy, is running lines with our company manager, Emma.  The other cast members sitting around playing cards, drinking coffee and generally hanging out are having fun shouting out lines to him.

Our production manager, Joel walks in with the business end of a noose, and asks Ron, who is one of the two actors who gets hung, if he has a moment to be sized.

Over the monitor in the greenroom we can hear our sound designer testing cues on stage.

Tech is going a little slowly, but no crises have come up. ¬†There’s some preliminary talk of eliminating some parts of the set because it currently appears to be too complex to set up in the time we will generally have for load-ins, and with the traveling crew we will have. ¬†That’s a discussion that’s still in progress though.

I have a lot of room at the tech table. ¬†I have almost a whole table to myself, easily 4ft of space that is completely mine. ¬† I think we have about 18 straight feet of tech table for stage management, lighting and sound, which is the longest unbroken expanse of tech table I’ve ever had. ¬†Our director and staff rep director have another table a short distance away.

We have 3 wireless headsets, and a two-channel system. ¬†It’s a nice little setup. ¬†The only problem that has come up is that there’s something weird with the volume on the headsets, at least at my base station — instead of going from off to loud, the knob allows me to adjust from loud to really loud. ¬†When I try to use my personal headset, which has an omnidirectional mic, it feeds back. ¬†The gain setting on the back of the main box is already on “low.” ¬† Tim, our sound supervisor, could not immediately figure out a solution, but I hope that we will discover one eventually. ¬† Until then I have to wear this gigantic ear-enclosing football-helmet type thing, which can only be worn on the left ear. ¬†It sucks royally.

That’s about all that’s happening so far!

October 6, 2007

Glimpses of a Tech

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:38 pm

A few thoughts as we continue tech (scroll down for the latest updates):

“Watch your eyes, folks!”Most common phrase of tech. There is a lot of light. Insane amounts of light. There’s one place in the show where my track takes me down a set of escape stairs just as a bunch of giant strobes on the boom at the foot of the stairs go off in my face. That one always catches me by surprise. I also like our signage in the lobby which warns of “Theatrical Haze and Intense Strobe Effects.” Not just your garden variety strobe effects. Epileptics in Jersey should be covering their eyes. I’m told it looks even brighter in the house.

10/08/2007 2:38PM
The word of the day.
We’ve developed a little thing among those of us on the deck channel on headset. Every day there’s a word of the day, which we discover as events progress. Yesterday’s word cannot be printed in a family-friendly blog. Today’s word is “cut.” Over the last couple days we’ve been weeding out props and scenic elements, and today it continues. Letters from school officials? Cut. Noose? Cut. While some of us have gotten very attached to certain props, notably the “implements of death,” I much prefer a show that cuts props at the last minute rather than adding them.

10/09/2007 11:00AM
Just arrived at the theatre and plugged in my computer. I just realized how stupid it is that I’ve been bringing my power cord home with me every night. This week I have spent about 15 of my waking hours at the theatre, 2 hours on the train, and about 2-3 at home. My computer has a battery life of over 4 hours. Well I will be smarter tonight, and that will be the only chance I get to use it, as we start previews tomorrow. I don’t like the sound of “tomorrow.” We have 15 actor-hours to work before we have a paying audience. In some ways it’s a lot of time, and in some ways it’s really scary!

July 31, 2007

42nd Street Week 2 Recap

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:12 pm

I haven’t been posting very regularly since we started rehearsal. It’s been a crazy process and I haven’t had much free time, or the mental energy to relive my day after I get home. I have been taking some pictures with the intention of sharing them, so I will try to catch you up.

Now that we’ve got something very closely resembling a show going on on the stage of the Robinson Theatre, here’s what’s been going on:

First of all, let me introduce Jameson, our company’s “Spiritual Frog.” He sort of showed up one day and I really wasn’t sure where he came from or why he was there. His origins are still somewhat of a mystery to me, but he apparently originated with the ensemble men, following them around to various rehearsals and watching over them. When we started working on stage, he was placed in a position of honor between the center footlights on the pit rail, so he could keep a good eye on us. These days he’s no longer perched on the cardboard box, he fits quite nicely below the masking for the footlights, where I’m sure he will remain for the run. Update: he’s now on top of the piano in the pit, where his view of the stage is somewhat reduced. I’m going to try to get him back on the pit rail, as I think he’s helped us out on a few occasions.

You may remember our “Lullaby of Broadway” set that was juuust a little too tall. Here it is in tech, with the top platform and escape stairs cut down by a couple feet.

And here’s a typical view from my corner of the tech table:

I don’t know where my headset is. I’m probably wearing it. But I you can see the little leather baggie that I use to keep my own personal headset safe and separate so it doesn’t get mixed in with the theatre’s. One of these days I’m going to get a nice hard case for it, as the baggie would do nothing to prevent it from getting crushed.

So tech has been going well. This show is all about quickchanges, and we took some time before our first dress last night to talk through all the major changes so the cast could figure out where to preset their costumes in the wings and work out the traffic. For the most part it worked. We had to stop only once, at the end of “Dames” which features a ginormous quickchange right in the middle of the number. Our goal for tonight is to make that change. There were a few other hiccups, with one or two people scrambling on late, but nothing to stop the show.

We had our sitzprobe with the orchestra on Sunday night, which I managed to get through efficiently while stealing selected people out of the dance rehearsal across the hall. The orchestra sounds great, and it always perks up the cast to hear them for the first time. I had arranged for the whole ensemble to come in and listen to the ballet, but alas time was short and better spent on stage dancing the ballet, so after singing “Sunny Side” they had to leave.

Tonight is our first run with the orchestra.

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