March 4, 2010

Tour Update: Poplar Bluff, MO and Springfield, IL

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:46 pm

We’re back on the road again, for a couple weeks in the Midwest. We have a new bus driver, Jim, and a new bus which is AWESOME. This bus is everything like the buses of legend we’ve heard about for the last two years. First of all, it has a slide, which means that when it’s parked, one wall of the front lounge moves about two feet out from the bus, doubling the amount of legroom between the couches.

Most of the time we spend on the bus when it’s moving, we’re asleep, and most of the time we’re trying to get work done or relax, we’re parked, so this has a huge impact on our comfort. We also like to all hang out together, and the large couches, combined with the slide, make it much more comfortable for all seven of us to be in the front lounge at once, without somebody getting stuck standing in the doorway. Nick and I will be doing a revised bus tour video soon.

Poplar Bluff, MO

Poplar Bluff (Three Rivers Community College) was our second stop on the tour last year. It was also our first one-nighter. This year felt a little bit different because we’re arriving later in the tour. The first couple venues are always a little bit awkward because we haven’t figured out the best way to install the set, load the truck, and set up the backstage area and dressing rooms. So it was a somewhat different experience to return, knowing exactly how things had to go.

We also got to see a little more of the town because our runner took us out to lunch at a local buffet for some Southern cooking. It was really interesting to actually be a part of the small-town atmosphere. The cool thing about Poplar Bluff is that it’s really the epitome of why we tour. There isn’t really any other professional theatre that comes through there, and the students, staff and audiences were very excited to see us. The show was not only sold out, but they were adding extra seats to accommodate all the people who came to buy tickets. At the end of the show we got our first full standing ovation ever (aside from our invited dress, which really doesn’t count).

Springfield, IL

Springfield is pretty much the opposite of Poplar Bluff — a 2,000-seat IATSE house with all the bells and whistles, in a state capital of over 100,000 people. The theatre where we’re playing, the Sangamon Auditorium, is the house where all the national tours play. In fact, about ten years ago I saw the tour of Chicago there (and ended up randomly selling merchandise at the end of the show when one of the workers got sick). I was very excited to see it on our itinerary, and being here has given me a warm fuzzy feeling that I didn’t quite expect. I mean it’s not like I haven’t stage managed in theatres where I grew up seeing shows, but I guess this one is a little more unexpected, so it feels more special.

We completed our load-in today. The crew was great. I did focus for the first time in a couple weeks, and even with only one or two electricians focusing, and having to share the Genie with carpentry, we got through all the lights very quickly.

We have two shows tomorrow (of course, a 9:45AM student show, and an 8PM evening show). We might be getting more sleep on the bus between shows than we’ll get overnight!

February 1, 2010

Tour of Our Bus

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:59 pm

Nick and I have another video blog for you — this time a tour of our bus. This is where we live, with our TD, lighting, props, sound and wardrobe supervisors, and of course our one-and-only bus driver, Bart.

We shot this video the day the bus arrived, after having only spent a few minutes checking it out, so you can see us figuring it out for the first time too. Most of Pioneer Coach’s buses have a similar layout, but each bus is a little bit different, so finding how light switches, coolers, appliances, thermostat controls, etc. work takes a little exploration.

April 13, 2009

We Have a New Bus!

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 8:01 pm

Somewhat candid photo of us watching TV just now (taken with Photobooth on my computer):

Bart parked the bus at a hotel in Nashville and then went to sleep, so when we arrived we had to explore the bus on our own and figure out how everything works. It was pretty funny. I felt a little bit like lab rats placed in a new environment with hidden cameras to study how we adapt and discover how things work. I think we’ve done a pretty good job. We figured out how to tune in to the second satellite feed so the rear lounge TV can watch a separate channel from the front. Then our internet went down, and it seemed like the router needed to be restarted. On the old bus, the router sat on a countertop in the open. Well we looked all over the bus and couldn’t find it. In hindsight I suspect it might be in one of the luggage bays, but I stopped looking because we connected into it through a browser and looked up the default password for that model of router, which thankfully was unchanged. From there we could reboot it, and all was well.

Updated list of good things about this bus vs. bad things, as presented in a Harvard outline:

I. Good Things:
A. front lounge feels larger, has more windows
B. larger kitchen
C. nicer bathroom
D. ice chest in back lounge is easy to open
E. mirrored ceilings with accent lighting all throughout the bus
F. two fridges!
G. DVD players in bunks have softer edges so we won’t whack our heads as hard
H. pouches for our phones, wallets, etc. on walls of bunks

II. Bad Things:
A. bathroom door lock is broken
B. trash chute door is too small and has a weird ledge so things don’t easily fall down the chute
C. bunk mattresses seem thinner
D. no foot rest on the seat next to the driver

E. the power outlets in the bunks are at our feet, not near our heads
F. we hate the bunk curtains
1. they are too short, designed for when the bunks are stacked 3 high
a. light spills into bunk
b. lack of privacy due to 5″ gap at bottom of curtain
2. they have single snaps, not full-length velcro to keep them closed. The snaps don’t line up in 2-bunk tall position, so they are useless
3. curtains, which are unable to be snapped shut (see above) slide open with movement of the bus (update: we have taken to gaff-taping them shut from the inside)
G. we can’t find the router, which seems to always be giving us trouble (update: we found it, sealed behind a panel behind Bart’s head, which had to be screwed off to get to it. we have since run the power cord out so the router is now on the windowsill in the front lounge.)
H. door handle is acting like it’s going to break any minute

I. only one outlet at the front lounge table (!!!) which we have rectified with a power strip

April 5, 2009

The Acting Company Crew, Circa 1940

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 7:14 pm

While wandering in Tucson, I found a railroad museum.  Inside I found this photo of a sleeper car from the 1940s:

I immediately recognized this scene as a typical day on our bus, at approximately 7:30AM on a load-in day, as everyone rolls out of their bunks and puts their shoes on.  It would be pretty cool if we had a crew train instead!

March 17, 2009

Back on the Road, Baton Rouge

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:38 am

I apologize for not writing my usual load-in day post, but I completely messed up my computer that day, so I spent the entire day reinstalling the Mac and Windows partitions of my hard drive.  So here’s a recap.

We (the crew) left New York last Friday, and flew to New Orleans, where we were met at the airport by Bart and the same bus we had for the first leg of the tour.  We were hoping for the mythical “orange bus” which is reportedly the best one that Pioneer has, but our bus is pretty cool too, so we were happy.  The broken microwave has been replaced, and although all the pocket doors between rooms still don’t lock open, and slam shut when we go around corners, it’s home sweet home.  Soon after getting on the bus, we were en route to our destination, Baton Rouge.

We weren’t actually getting per diem for Friday, it was sort of a voluntary vacation day that we requested, so we slept on the bus.  We wanted to arrive a day early so that we could go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Baton Rouge.  Bart drove the bus over to the parade route sometime early in the morning while we were still sleeping.  We were able to see the parade pass by without even having to leave the bus.  Which was good because I’m not much for St. Patrick’s Day, or mingling with the drunken masses.  Unfortunately the party outside migrated onto the bus a bit too much for my taste, so I finally packed my bag and walked the mile and a half to our hotel and checked in early.  Nick, Daniel and I had a nice dinner and margaritas at Chili’s down the street, while the rest of the crew partied at one of Bart’s friends’ houses until who knows when.

The next morning everyone was surprisingly awake for our 10AM load-in at Baton Rouge Community College.  The theatre was really nice — a loading dock and plenty of parking for the buses, which is always the first step.  The dock was on an incline, with the stuff coming off downhill, which is something we’ve never really had to deal with before.  The stage management workbox was actually first off the truck this time, so I don’t really know how hard it was to unload everything else with all the weight rolling downhill, but it presented some challenges for packing the truck at load out.  We had to put ratchet straps between every two rows of road boxes so there wasn’t so much weight wanting to roll back off the truck that a person couldn’t hold it back.  Joel has a funny picture of about four of us holding a wall of boxes back while waiting for a strap.

The show went well.  We restored some of the original staging that had been changed for the New Victory.  It was nice to see it again.  I was a little worried about the dreaded “traitors sequence” which is probably the hardest thing in the show to call.  The cues were totally different at the New Vic, so I basically had not called it in almost four weeks.  It went fine.  It’s just one of those things that you have to have the whole thing in your head before you begin and know exactly what comes next without needing to think about it or look at the script.

The Baton Rouge crew had obviously been told that the record load-out time for Henry stood at three hours, and decided early on that they were going to try to beat it.  The city that set it, Glenn Ellyn, IL, had about the same setup as far as onstage space and proximity to the truck.  They had a great crew, but we may have had some more bodies here.  I thought it was possible, but it could be tight.  With the truck being packed uphill, that could add an additional challenge.  One thing we had going for us was that our plywood cart, which broke during our 3rd load-out back in early February, was finally fixed, and for the first time since then, we had a venue with a loading dock.  It’s just too heavy to go down a ramp, so it often means the plywood deck has to be loaded one piece at a time (there’s about 30 pieces).  So that saved us time.  After sending the show report and packing up the stage management stuff, I took up my usual place at the front of the truck and began packing the walls in.  We had a really nice truck pack this time.  We altered the middle area of the pack recently, and I think Daphne discovered a few great breakthroughs this time.  When all was said and done, we had soooo much space in the back of the truck.  The final load bar was put in two hours and 44 minutes after the show came down, breaking the record by 16 minutes!  The crew was rightly very pleased with themselves, and that load bar now bears a commemoration in Sharpie, reading “Baton Rouge 2:44 Baby!”  I got to do the honors of handing out our swag, Acting Company bottle opener keychains.

Now it’s the next morning and we’re on the bus for our big cross-country drive to Telluride, CO, a distance of about 1,400 miles.  We have to load in on Thursday morning, so the timing will be pretty tight.  It looks like we have just arrived at our prospective stopping point in Wichita Falls, TX.  The cast has just left Baton Rouge, and will arrive here later today and spend the night.  We will hang out in town and get a crew room to shower in while Bart gets some sleep, then when he’s ready we will hit the road again.

February 9, 2009

Slice of Life in Transit

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 7:32 pm

The crew bus rolls along a narrow deserted highway somewhere between Kentucky and Missouri. ¬†The drive has become so boring that many of us have gone to our bunks because there’s nothing else to do.

I have the lights out and am lying down with my eyes closed but not really trying to sleep.  After about 15 minutes I feel the bus start to slow, then make a sharp turn, then another, and finally we seem to have stopped (though the ride is so smooth, at low speeds it can actually be hard to tell).  I suspect that our quest to find Mexican food for dinner has come to an end.   At the very least, I have learned that these sensations generally indicate we are stopping.

I slide my bunk curtain partially open and stick my head out, just as Bart steps into the open doorway of the driver’s compartment and exclaims, “El Bracero!” ¬†I flip my legs out of the bunk, and immediately Nick slides his curtain open across from me and asks, “Are we somewhere?” ¬†I say, “Yes.” ¬†And so we all gather in the front lounge, getting shoes on and tidying ourselves, and together head out to dinner.

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.

February 6, 2009

Life on the Road

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:42 am

I’m still new at this, but now that we’ve been really in touring mode for about 5 days, here’s what’s going on.

Our day often consists of waking up at 6:30AM to be ready for a 7:30 bus call.  If I think my personal involvement in the insanity occurring at the theatre at 8AM will be minimal, I will bring my personal pillow from the hotel to the bus, in the hope of getting to sleep more hours on the bus than I do overnight.

Our schedule here in West Lafayette is kind of insane. ¬†We started out re-teching The Spy, then tearing it all down to do a single performance of Henry V, then tearing that down to put the Spy set back up for our last two days. ¬†This has been a kind of boot camp for our crew, getting to practice almost every method of changeover before we leave our first stop. ¬†They’re getting very good at it. ¬†Nick, being an ASM, deals a lot with props, and actor-proofing the set, so that’s basically what he helps with during load-in and changeover. ¬†I really have nothing to do once the signage is up and I’ve put the proper calling script in the booth, so I kind of float around helping with simple tasks. ¬†Today I packed a drum in a cardboard box and carried a few things to and from our prop road box, then I went on a cleaning spree of the stage management work box, which it desperately needed. ¬†Then when I ran out of things to do, I went back to the bus and took a nap for about 45 minutes, before returning to help Nick set up for our 1-hour Henry performance for a student audience.

Thankfully, that performance was in the same building as our main shows are, in a small proscenium theatre, so we didn’t have to go too far with our trunk of props. ¬†I hung out for that one and helped to set up and get the cast settled in before the show. ¬†The 1-hour show is Nick’s baby, as there will be times when he has to stay behind to put it up in a city after the crew has left. ¬†As far as that show goes, he functions as the PSM, and whenever I’m available I will make myself useful as his ASM. ¬†This was the first time it’s been performed, and although it’s been rather underrehearsed due to all the work needed to remount The Spy, the cast did well and the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Now that the show is over, we are back on the bus. ¬†Bart, our very awesome driver, needs to take the bus for an hour or so, so the call went out for anyone who intends to hang out and/or sleep on the bus to get on for the ride. ¬†I’m not sure where we’re going. ¬†I’m not sure where we are. ¬†It doesn’t really matter. ¬†I think we’re going back to the hotel for a while (where I suspect we are now), and then to a place where he can service the bus.

Tomorrow we have five final hours of rehearsal, and then we play our first performance of The Spy to a paying audience (finally!  We started rehearsals Nov. 3!), then the cast stays here for a true day off before traveling to Poplar Bluff, MO.  For the crew, we will load out the show Saturday night and immediately begin driving to Poplar Bluff, where it will be loaded in.  

I still don’t know where we are right now, but I’m pretty damn sure that’s our cast bus parked inches away ahead of us. ¬†Either that, or there’s more than one black rockstar bus with gray swirly designs in Lafayette, IN. ¬† I haven’t explored their bus that much. ¬†I’ve only taken one brief ride on it. ¬†They have 12 bunks instead of our 8, which means they stack 3-high, giving everyone less headroom. ¬†On the plus side, the bunks are there for convenience, they don’t ever actually have to sleep overnight in them. ¬†I heard a rumor they have a shower on their bus. ¬†That sounds nice in theory, I guess, but I’m sure the reality is more cramped and awkward than it sounds. ¬† Their front lounge is also smaller, which I don’t like. ¬†On short jaunts around town, including our favorite pastime here in Lafayette, having a late-night dinner at XXX, Indiana’s oldest drive-in diner (founded in 1929), we generally all sit in the front lounge, which can comfortably hold all seven of us. ¬†It’s a nice chance to unwind, check in about how the show went, and discuss anything we need to. ¬†I have taken to claiming the seat at the table on the post-show trips, so I can write the report and send it before we get to XXX.

As far as the show goes, things seem to be going well. ¬†Last night was our first performance of Henry outside of the Guthrie, where we teched it. ¬† The adjustment to a very different space, and to a new local crew who were unfamiliar with the show, went pretty smoothly. ¬†It felt good to try that once, to prove that we can do it. ¬†I’m really looking forward to this week being over, and finally being done with tech and major rehearsals. ¬†We have a couple 1- and 2-nighters next week, which will be a different experience as well. ¬†I enjoy the travel, so I welcome the change of scenery. ¬†If there’s one thing we’ve gotten experience with on this tour, it’s changing scenery!

February 2, 2009

On the Road, Finally!

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:13 pm

Well we finally did it!  We finished our run at the Guthrie last night, and after about 5 hours, closed the door on our tightly packed truck and hopped on our bus, where a bunch of take-out bar food in styrofoam containers awaited us.  Within a few minutes we started to roll, and finally hit the road!

We ate for a while, watched the highlights of the Super Bowl we missed during the show, and then got into our bunks exhausted. ¬† I for one slept really well. ¬†I’m a small person, so I don’t feel as much like I’m in a coffin as some of my colleagues. ¬† That’s my bunk in the foreground, the lower frontmost bunk. ¬†I found the motion of the bus was actually very soothing while trying to sleep. ¬†We all pretty much slept until about 12:30PM when I slowly got up and wandered into the front lounge where Nick already had his computer out. ¬†I also sat with my computer out, and had barely begun checking out Facebook when Nick pointed out the window over my shoulder and said, “Look! ¬†There’s our truck!” ¬†Sure enough, the Acting Company truck was waiting at an intersection as we passed it. ¬†Moments later the front divider slid open and our driver, Bart, announced we had arrived. ¬†We were all taken a bit by surprise, and stumbled into our shoes and out the door to meet the local crew here on the campus of Purdue University, in snowy West Lafayette, IN.

Nick and I helped direct the unloading of the truck for a while, and brought some of the small items that travel under the bus into the theatre, until our work box was off the truck. ¬†Then we set it up in a corner and began hanging signs, assigning dressing room space, setting up the callboard, etc. ¬†There wasn’t all that much for us to do, so a lot of our time has been spent on the bus updating paperwork, or just hanging out and watching TV. ¬†One of the main tasks we’ve taken on is to make coffee for the crew. ¬†We all carry walkie-talkies, and they can just radio ahead a few minutes in advance when they’re going to be wanting a coffee break, and we get a pot going on the bus and begin making their orders. ¬†It’s not our job, but I think considering they’re in there doing heavy labor for 10 hours, and we hung some signs and printed some documents and sent some emails for a few hours, it’s a fair trade. ¬†We also took on a project for our wardrobe supervisor, who didn’t have enough of the little plastic things that divide each actor’s clothes on the costume racks. ¬†We got some cardboard and made a bunch more for her.

Tomorrow we begin (or re-begin) teching The Spy. ¬†Tonight when the crew is done at 11PM Bart has offered to take us someplace to eat, and then we will go to our hotel, where everyone is going to appreciate a good shower (we were running late last night so we didn’t get to stop at the hotel in the morning, we just got up and went straight to work). ¬†I’m having a lot of fun with this aspect of the job so far. ¬†I think the longer multi-day trips will be really cool. ¬†The unfortunate thing so far is that from the moment we got on the bus in the parking lot of the Guthrie, I didn’t see the outside world until we got on campus at Purdue, so “seeing the country” isn’t really happening yet. ¬†Also, the windows on the bus are so heavily tinted that you can’t see anything at night. ¬†A couple times through the night I used the GPS on my iPhone to find out what state we were in!

January 31, 2009

Prepping for the Road

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:00 pm

It’s Saturday night, and tomorrow we have two more shows at the Guthrie and then we’re gone. Much of my attention in these last couple days has been focused more on packing and preparing to leave than on the shows we have remaining here.

I did most of my laundry last night, and will do the last bit tonight. I cleaned my apartment last night, and tonight is my last opportunity to pack. In the morning before the matinee call we have to bring our luggage to the parking lot of the Guthrie, where the crew bus is already parked. As soon as the show is loaded out tomorrow night we hop on board and are off to West Lafayette, IN. The cast will get picked up by their bus at the company housing on Monday morning, and will arrive at West Lafayette in the evening.

Our production manager and tech director, Joel, took all of the crew, as well as our staff rep director and company manager, out to dinner tonight between shows. This was our last opportunity to talk as a group about anything that might need to be said about how things will work on the road. It was a great opportunity for all of us to get on the same page and approach our next challenges as a team. By the time we walked back to the theatre, our bus had arrived, so a bunch of us ventured to the parking lot to take a tour of the bus, and meet our driver, Bart. He has been driving the crew bus for The Acting Company for many years, and by all accounts is incredibly awesome.

Here’s Nick and one of our actors, Andy, who happened to tag along to see the bus, testing out the couches in the back lounge (pardon my flash — there are a lot of mirrored surfaces).

In the morning I plan to come in early (which Nick thinks is hysterical because lately I’m never early, and barely on time for my own duties) to clean up all of the random stage management stuff strewn around the theatre. We have a cardboard box that lives under the seats in the theatre with a bunch of stuff that needs to get thrown out, and a bunch of stuff that needs to be packed in our road box before the whole place turns into a disaster area during load-out. So I hope to have a lot of time to make order out of all our belongings so there’s as little as possible to keep track of after the shows.

We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but everyone is very excited to start the most adventurous part of this gig.