October 2, 2011

Let Me Tell Ye: Backstage Bathrooms

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:44 pm

Let Me Tell Ye: if you’re building toilets into your theatre — and let me tell ye, ye should, because it’s more comfortable for everyone and is required to meet Equity’s safe and sanitary policy — then please for the love of all that is holy, put locks on all the bathrooms.

Don’t try to psychoanalyze how I intend to use the dressing rooms and figure out which ones you can cleverly fit with plain doorknobs compared to locking doorknobs. Just let people sit on the can in peace and security. Just go to that by default. How much extra does it cost in a multi-million-dollar building for all the bathroom doors to lock instead of just some of them?

I don’t care if you think it’s a star dressing room and there won’t be anyone in it but the person trying to go, who can lock the whole dressing room when nature calls. Ye are wrong. Ye know how I know? Because I’ve seen it time after time, all over the country. Dressing rooms are used for many things, by many different people. In fact, I know of one venue in Connecticut where we had to use the bathroom in pairs to make sure somebody was guarding the door cause none of the crew-usable bathrooms (which were also dressing rooms) locked.

Which brings me to a slight tangent that even more venues are guilty of: if your only backstage bathrooms are in the dressing rooms, your theatre fails. Where is the crew supposed to go? I can tell ye, they do not want to invade the actors’ space during the time that they’re in the building, nor do the actors want crew members passing through their dressing room.

And if it wasn’t clear, this other bathroom should also lock.

July 7, 2011

My Recent Fling with the Calling Desk at the American Airlines

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:55 pm

A couple weeks back I did two gigs at the American Airlines Theatre on consecutive Mondays. Just want to take a minute to show off the very sexy calling desk they had there for The Importance of Being Earnest. It was on a jump deck above downstage left. Nice view of the stage in real life, as well as a really large and clear color video monitor, and infrared (which was pretty useless to me since we didn’t have blackouts, but a nice touch anyway). The audio monitor was conveniently placed under the color monitor, and the comm panel (as well as a fancy programmable cue light panel I didn’t get to play with) are within easy reach. The desktop wraps around to the left side, affording lots of surface space for stuff.

It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but just a great example of a calling position done right.

And with labels highlighting the awesomeness:

Why it’s Awesome

Let’s talk about what actually makes this calling desk work.

Location, Location, Location

The live view of the stage is actually pretty good, as backstage calling desks go. Most of what you can see is the downstage six or seven feet, but depending on the show, that might be a lot of what you want to be looking at. Obviously you can see farther upstage on the far side (stage right) than you can on the near side. The higher elevation provides a less-obstructed view when viewing the show sideways than it would if the desk was on the deck.

One negative is that being located stage left is less convenient in this house. This is on a per-theatre basis, but most theatres have a convenient side and an inconvenient side. At the AA, most useful things (such as the pass door, the lobby, the elevator, and apparently most of the dressing rooms) are stage right. Now, I know some stage managers who might actually prefer being on the inconvenient side, on the theory that it will keep people from bugging them during the show. But for me, I’d rather be accessible, and have the rest of the theatre accessible to me. And on the Earnest set, that also meant a downstairs crossunder to get back and forth from the desk to anywhere else, which, while fairly direct, is still more of a pain than, you know, just walking a couple feet.


The color monitor was bigger and clearer than I expected. It was a CRT, so it took up a lot of room, but there’s something reassuring about keeping things analog. On the road this year I encountered a digital monitor with all sorts of awesome pan and zoom functions. Awesome except for the fact that the output was so far behind real life that all my cues were wrong.

There was also an infrared monitor, which as I said, was useless on the kind of events I was doing with no blackouts, but for a normal show is either necessary, or a very helpful security blanket. I never saw a blackout, so I don’t know what quality it actually was. I’ve also had some infrared monitors that go pretty much black in a blackout. What the point of that is, I’m not sure, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that a Broadway show has infrared that works.

Audio Monitor

The audio monitor is right under the main video monitor which means it doesn’t take up any space, and is also very close to the script, and at hand-height. This one had a post-it on it saying something like “do not adjust volume.” I didn’t get the story on that. That’s a problem if that’s the way it really was. I like to fiddle with my volume. Frankly, I like it off, unless I can’t hear, then I want to be able to make it “just loud enough” for the given moment. But my assessment of the awesomeness of this desk is based on the way it’s set up, not the way it’s used on this specific show, so assuming the volume knob is operable, it was a great place to put it.

Script Area

Enough room for a script, facing the stage. That’s pretty much all I ask. Not slanted, so I don’t have to worry about my pencil rolling. And there was a little bit of excess space here and there to put other stuff.

Two Little-Lites

Sturdy, well-positioned Little-Lites. One over the middle of the script, one off to the left-hand side. Because I had nothing else to do with it, I used the side one as secondary illumination for the script (which is nice because sometimes with one light source you can inadvertently cast shadows over parts of the script with your hand), but it could be used to light things on the side desk as well.

Comm Panel

I got a very quick overview from the sound guy and didn’t bother studying it too much. It had four channels, but we were only using one, so I didn’t get much of a chance to see how convenient it was. There was a master talk switch, in a comfortable place for me to rest my hand over it.

#1 most important thing about the calling stage manager’s talk button: it should be able to be activated with certainty without looking at it! Mushy buttons that may or may not have been pressed successfully, or may not have latched, SUCK, especially when the panel is located somewhere off to the side where you actually have to turn away from the stage to check the indicator light every time you want to speak. This had a tiny toggle switch that was either UP or DOWN. Absolutely no doubt what position it was in, without ever needing to look at it (which is good, because it was so small it would be hard to tell by looking). This allows the SM to quickly turn the mic on and off without thinking about it. Sucky buttons, and/or sucky buttons badly placed, result in either the SM having to look away from the stage and script every time they talk, or leaving the mic on for longer than necessary, which annoys everyone, including the SM.

Cue Light Panel

I didn’t have reason to play with this at all, and having never actually used one of this type, I can’t say whether or not I like it. Frankly, I think it scares me. When throwing cue lights, I’m a big fan of “this switch makes that light go on” and that’s it. I guess by the same token I should think that all lighting instruments should be controlled by piano boards, but I’m willing to take more liberties with computers with a light, or a mic turning on, than I am with, say, whether I’m cueing the rail or a trap.

Anyway, cue lights are a beautiful thing, so that’s worth points.


Obviously, this is a Broadway theatre, it goes without saying that they have the resources to have a nice calling desk, but what I enjoyed about it was that what made it nice had nothing to do with multi-million-dollar budgets. It’s the exact same stuff you’d see in any halfway-decent theatre: an old TV, the standard black & white monitor, the same audio monitor that every show ever uses, some Little-Lites, a decent comm panel, and some cue lights, on a custom-made plywood tabletop. It’s nothing that’s beyond the means of any professional or decent school venue, it’s just set up in a way that’s really logical and comfortable to use. I’ve worked in plenty of places far from 42nd Street, that had fancier equipment, but were a pain in the ass to call from. So I submit this as an example of what makes the difference between a good calling desk and a bad one.

I took the pictures mostly to remind myself what made this desk so nice, so that I can identify better and worse ways to set things up. I really should make a habit of documenting this more often.

July 1, 2011


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:33 pm

This is a photo that’s been kicking around waiting to be blogged for, oh… two or three months.

On tour one of our almost-daily tasks is marking the set for safety in every new venue. Responsibility for this varies, sometimes the electricians do it themselves when they run cable. Unless you’ve got an electrician who’s a closet stage manager, or has severe OCD, usually it requires a little bit of a touch-up to ensure that even the most blind, uncoordinated unattentive actor won’t do a faceplant over some backstage obstacle in the dark. When you tech a show you have a little time for the cast to learn what not to run into, but on tour we get only a few minutes to give them a tour and then they’re on their own during the show. Usually the walk-around is done with worklights on, so they will never know what backstage looks like under show conditions until the show starts. Thus, everything that they could possibly bump into or trip over needs to be clearly marked to show up under run light. Sometimes this creates a comical situation.

This is our upstage-right corner of the Comedy of Errors deck, looking from upstage towards stage right. As you can sort of see, it’s tucked fairly close to a corner of the theatre wall, meaning the only path from upstage to stage right is directly over the corner of the deck, which is also where all the cables for lighting behind the set are running. I don’t remember who did the tape job on this, it was probably a group effort over time. This was our New York run, so we had a little more time to make it nice. I know I was not involved, except when it was done to be told, “I think you need to check the UR safety taping, and if it’s OK, then you need to take a picture and blog about it.”

I agreed it was definitely blog-worthy. And I, for one, never heard a complaint about anyone having trouble navigating that corner. So good job to everyone involved.

March 5, 2011

The Calling Couch

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:52 pm

I have several dreams in life. I’d like to be a Broadway PSM. I’d like to have an apartment with laundry machines in the unit. I’d like Hal Prince to see me call Phantom. Other than that, my dream was to call a show while sitting (or ideally, lying) on a couch. Preferably multiple times, but just once would be good.

Picture it: Phoenix, 2009

Our story begins in Phoenix, Arizona, in the spring of 2009. We were playing the Herberger, and I was assigned the orchestra-level booth to call from. At the time, it looked like this:

The couch was inspiring, but as you can see it’s way too low to see out the window. More than anything, I was frustrated and perplexed. All it needed was to be put on a 4×8 platform about 3ft high and it would be the most amazing thing ever. Why had it not been done? This haunted me for years.

This fall, we went back to the Herberger, where sadly, no further work had been done on the couch. In fact the sound console was on that table, blocking the view even more, and making the booth feel a little cramped.

Enter Fairfield, CT

A few weeks ago, we played a day in Fairfield, CT (just outside Bridgeport). Often when I scout my calling position I judge the booth based on how it looks from the stage at first. Does it look like there’s a crapload of stairs? Will I have to fight my way through the audience? Does it look nice and spacious inside? Is there a calling position backstage? Most importantly, is there a camera? If not, I generally won’t call from backstage unless there is literally no front-of-house position.

On this particular day it was a nice venue, and they probably had a backstage calling position, but I was predisposed to want to call from the house because our big bosses, Margot and Ian, were coming up from New York to see the show, so I wanted to be seeing the show as they were seeing it.

I spied a spot booth at center, which I always love for two reasons:
1. it’s generally unused, because our show doesn’t have followspots
2. the low window affords a nice view, and sometimes even a sill which can serve as a footrest.

So I declared that I preferred to call from the spot booth. It was many hours before I ever went up there. When I finally did, I was astounded to find…

It was not so much a calling couch as a couch for the spot ops to recline on when not doing cues. The couch was against the back wall of the booth, where it didn’t afford a full view of the stage, but dragging it a few feet toward the window provided a perfect view. I took a nearby wooden step as a footrest, and set myself up with a music stand off to the side. With my computer sitting on the couch next to me, I had a perfect setup.

During the first act, my board op, Alex, who was sitting in the adjacent lighting booth, was very much amused by my love of the calling couch. At one point I commented that the only improvement I would make if I was sitting down for a long run would be an end table with a bowl of snacks on it. Of course when I came back from intermission there was an end table (he couldn’t find any snacks), and a pillow so that I could sit up more comfortably (the couch had a very far-leaning back which made it hard to relax and see the stage). It might have been the greatest three hours of my career.

Here’s a very rough picture of my view:

March 3, 2011

Cool Lighting Museum

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:16 pm

I sometimes refer to the Majestic Theatre as the Lighting Museum, because Phantom uses such old gear, but we found another one at our venue in Potsdam, NY.

Check out this awesome light board with analog faders — by analog I mean there’s a little window on each fader and when you move it a picture slides up and down showing what percentage the fader is at. I don’t think they actually use it for anything, but it’s in one of the booths, and it’s awesome. I wish it had been plugged in. It probably lights up in really fun ways, too.

Another cool thing they do have in use is their patch panel. Our lighting director, Annie, took this picture:

Computers and modern electronics may be great, but early versions of inventions always look more badass. Gear that looks like it could either be used to initiate a performance of Shakespeare or launch nuclear missles is my absolute favorite.

February 2, 2011

We Will Never Be Warm Again

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:48 pm

Jackie (wardrobe supervisor) regards the truck pack at the start of load-in

The mantra of our day in Brainerd, MN: “We will never be warm again.” Meaghan coined this phrase sometime fairly early in the day, I think.

Long story short, we worked an 18-hour day, about 7 of those hours were spent outdoors loading or unloading the truck, and the rest were spent in a theatre that wasn’t very far removed from the loading door and aside from the dressing rooms, never reached what one would normally think of as an indoor temperature. I’m not sure what the temperature was throughout the day, but when load-out ended it was -30 with the wind chill. After nearly 5 hours of loading the truck, we should have been dead if that was the case, so I think the walls of the building, and the truck, shielded us from some of that, but still. It was well below zero all day.

And what I learned today, because we were short-handed and the show crew had to fully participate in all the loading and unloading, is that the Comedy set is ridiculously heavy. The deck, which is in theoretically 32 pieces (although we only used 24 here), is several layers of plywood and each piece weighs so much that every piece is individually demoralizing. The truck is packed too full with the R&J set to allow all the flooring to be on carts. We have one very high-quality plywood cart, but all the loads except the last one have to be unloaded once they’re in the truck.

There’s no dock, of course, so we had to use the ramp. Oh, and when we arrived the ramp was covered in snow from riding under the truck, which we had to continually try to clear with a broom to keep our stuff from skating down in freefall and killing everyone. Also, if you grabbed onto a several-hundred pound thing and held onto it tight, it would simply pull your entire body along with it as your feet slid on the snow on the ground. But with enough people doing this, I guess we at least created enough resistance to have control of most things. Purposely grinding the castors into the side of the ramp to create friction also helps a lot.

The first load of flooring we took down had probably 10 people holding onto it, and one brave gentleman tried to get in front of it on the ramp. We got about halfway down when gravity really started to take over and the cart started accelerating beyond our ability to slow it down. I started yelling at the guy to get out of the way, because other than him nobody was going to get hurt if we lost control of it, and the scenery would probably survive too because the base of the ramp was covered in several inches of snow which would stop the cart before it slammed into the wall of the building. We managed not to run him over, in fact nobody got hurt at all except our TD, which was minor and not snow-related, and mainly resulted in him doing the entire day in a pair of pants that became more and more comically ripped as the day went on. Later on, I was stupid and was working in the truck alone, and became trapped for about 5 minutes when the load I was strapping shifted and an 8-foot strip light wanted to tumble down. I had to keep hands on it, but was otherwise fairly secure that the rest of the load would fall the other way if it went, so I waited to be rescued while nobody felt the need to come out to the truck or take a smoke break, or come anywhere near the open loading door for an unusually long time.

Anyway, it was a painful, miserable time on and around the truck, and we all had to take frequent breaks to come inside, where it wasn’t much warmer, since the loading doors were open. To get warm at all you had to spend some time in the dressing room. Towards the end of the night one of the locals gave us a tip: not only go to the dressing room, but turn on the mirror lights and warm your hands by them. Here Meaghan demonstrates the technique:

Note Meaghan’s nice new truck-loading jacket. She says it’s very warm. I’m a little jealous. I don’t have a truck-loading jacket for this kind of weather. When I saw we didn’t have enough crew I just dug out my windbreaker to put it over my sweatshirt, and I was wearing a T-shirt under my turtleneck because I knew it would be cold for load-out. But I’m not, you know, supposed to actually be loading the truck, just pushing and strapping things into place. Actually I’m supposed to be sitting in the bus watching TV while everyone else works, but I’ve never done that.

We finally finished just before 2AM (the show being so short, came down around 9PM), and limped to the bus on our frozen feet. I brought my remaining half-bottle of Ketel One from our stay in Minneapolis onto the bus, planning to pour one out in memory of the unopened $40 bottle that was destroyed in a tragic slide-retracting accident on the bus just before our departure from Brainerd last year. That was easily the saddest day of the tour last year (for me at least), and I hoped to make it right by successfully sharing my vodka with the crew at the end of the day. Little did I know we would need it so badly! So this time I smartly kept it in the cabinet until we were on the bus, and we toasted to our survival.

Our departure was also filled with uncertainty, as we were driving right into a bad snowstorm on our way to Madison, WI. During the show ideas were being tossed around about us staying another night in Brainerd, since we had a day off and the hotel had the rooms. But we left it up to Bart (our driver) and he felt better about pushing on ahead of the storm and stopping mid-way if we needed to. We made it to Madison a few hours later than we should have (it took 8 hours instead of the projected 6), but sometimes after a day like that I prefer arriving late because it means we can sleep longer! I was very grateful when my alarm went off and I cracked an eye open to check my GPS and saw we were nowhere near Madison, and rolled back over. I had slipped a doom-and-gloom note into the report last night about how we were uncertain whether the crew would make it on time, or what would happen to the cast the next day, but we got in almost on time, and the cast arrived early this evening with no problems.

I wasn’t too worried about the drive because Bart can make a bus do pretty much whatever he wants, and several of us commented that if we died in the night, at least we wouldn’t have to unload the truck. I don’t know about them, but I really meant it. Most of us didn’t sleep particularly well because our bodies never really warmed up, no matter how high we had the heat cranked on the bus, or how many layers and blankets we had. We’re all sore in crazy places and our bodies are generally out-of-whack. I didn’t get to do much on the day off because I felt like crap and had to sleep it off for most of the day. I still don’t feel recovered enough to do it all over again in the morning.

The Show

The misery of getting the show in and out pretty much overshadowed the part where the actors and the audience show up, but it was a good show and our cast handled their first new venue with Comedy very well. It was very different from the setup at the Guthrie and the moment they arrived they were proactive in working amongst themselves to plan out how they would do things. They definitely have the right attitude for this kind of touring, where being able to adapt an existing performance to a variety of conditions, without rehearsal, without getting freaked out is a must.

I called the show from backstage, which was a lot of fun. I was in front of the masking, so I had a good view even without a camera, and it was cool to be backstage and see what else goes on that you can’t see from the front. R&J from backstage doesn’t reveal that much more, but Comedy is all about layers and concealing things, so seeing it from the wings was fun. I was also in the corner where a lot of our live offstage sound (which consists largely of banging loudly on pots and pans) is performed, so I was ducking and covering a lot, but it was cool to see the actors as they watch the onstage action. We also did our first show without a front curtain, and the alternate cues worked perfectly and as expected. I appreciated that towards the end of our tech at the Guthrie, we took about 15 minutes to tech the alternate version (without actors), but until you try it for real, you never know!

Other than the weather conditions, and our set being constructed from plywood, steel and pure evil, it would have been a good day. The folks in Brainerd were very nice again, and provided us with a great breakfast (best bacon ever, we all agreed), and ordered some pizza for lunch, since there’s no food we could walk to. For our first load-in of Comedy, even with the extended time it took to unload the truck, we weren’t rushing to prepare for the cast’s arrival, which is a great sign. And it was the first time our crew could run the show (they’re not allowed to at the Guthrie, so they have to jump in at the first tour stop, having only trailed their Guthrie counterparts), and they all did a great job.

November 6, 2010

Phoenix – Round 2

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:23 am

We’ve spent this week in Phoenix, AZ, where we spent a week two years ago with Henry V, playing at the Herberger Theatre, presented by Arizona Theatre Company (who will also welcome us to their other venue in Tucson next week).

One of the highlights of the Henry tour, it’s once again great to be here with Romeo and Juliet. Here’s our set, as seen from the spot booth.

Last night was our official opening here. We had done three morning shows for school groups, performing for thousands of students, but last night was the first show open to the general public. The artistic director of ATC, David Ira Goldstein, welcomed us and introduced himself to everyone before the show, and then provided champagne and conversation in the greenroom afterwards. Here’s a picture of him with the cast and crew (I’m in the middle in the green shirt).

It’s always nice to get such a warm welcome and personal interaction with the presenters who have brought us in.

Here’s a shot of our upstage crossover, looking from stage right to stage left. There’s so much room that we have a full-length black traveler between the back of the set and the crossover, with just a little hole in the middle for entrances within the set. This allows the crossover to be fairly brightly lit for quickchanges and general hanging out. You can see the line of chairs set up and draped with costumes. Behind them are the workboxes for props and carpentry, easily accessible.

And finally as a bonus, I have a new iPhone wallpaper. The booth that I call from is also the audio booth, and the console sits right next to me (unmanned, since all the show sound is run from our console backstage). The venue’s console is a PM1D, which is very pretty when it’s lit up in the dark. I found it made a very nice wallpaper. Click on the thumbnail to see it full size (it’s big enough for the iPhone 4’s retina display). Enjoy, use, steal, but please give me credit if you share it!

April 17, 2010

On the Subject of Star Dressing Rooms

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:35 pm

On this leg of the tour I have taken the majority of my showers in star dressing rooms around the country, and it’s gotten me thinking: I’m no star, but if I was, I would be distressed by the fact that most venues have not provided any hooks or towel racks in my bathroom. Maybe I’m going to dress in the dressing room proper, but maybe I would like a place to hang my towel, or a toiletries bag, if not my clothing.

One recent venue not only had no hooks or racks in the bathroom, but no mirrors as well!

Of course as a stage manager, the dressing room itself is usually my office, so I can’t use it as a getting-naked-place, which makes the lack of anywhere to hang or place anything off the floor in the bathroom (including the toilet, which almost never has a seat that can be closed) even more frustrating. Sometimes this is only made workable by the presence of a railing for the handicapped, over which clothes can be draped, or toiletries bags hung, but this is far from a civilized solution, and is often too low to the ground, so that it risks things dragging on the wet floor.

Nobody cares what I think about this, but I think the stars should be like “WTF, I’m bringing thousands of people to your theatre, and you couldn’t spend $3 at a hardware store and screw one lousy hook into the wall?”

April 13, 2010

Week from Hell, Part 2

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:56 pm

We are in the middle of our infamous overnight load-in. We had a show in Wallingford, CT this morning at 10AM. Immediately after load-out we began driving to Keene, NH. After a stop for some fast food, we got to Keene with about 15 minutes to spare.

The Colonial Theatre is very small, but really cool. Everything is really old but beautifully maintained, which is fun. There are even wooden catwalks up in the flies. I’d really like to get to go up there. The theatre is so small that Nick and I have evacuated to the bus just to get out of everybody’s way.

We had a bit of negotiating to do when we arrived, as the measurement we decided on for the placement of the set would have prevented the entrances from being used the usual way. Since Florida, we have an option for getting actors from our “hobbit hole” entrance to the up-right door without any room upstage of the set, but it involves building the hobbit hole backwards, which does weird things to lighting, as well as just plain not being the way the set was designed. It is nice, though, to have gathered an established set of options along the way that we can quickly consider when we encounter challenges. In the end, we placed the set another six inches downstage, which makes lighting a little more difficult downstage, but it was already way farther down than it should be, and with much less frontlight than usual, so gaining a few more inches upstage that allows us to move around the set properly was the better deal.

Nick and I are blogging while watching an old episode of Star Trek: TNG, as I wait by my radio for Devon to call me in to start focus. Nick is done, having put up the signage with his new Tactical Signage Deployment Unit. You may recall that he has a Signage Purse. Well we didn’t pick the Signage Purse, it belonged to the previous stage managers, so the fact that it was pink wasn’t really a choice. But Nick has wanted to have a more manly signage folder for a long time, and in light of certain jokes I’ve played on him, I felt it was my duty to provide him with the manliest signage folder imaginable before the tour was over, and that he could take with him to future jobs. I’ve been working on it for about a week, and here is the result:

It has some advanced practical features like a clip on the side for a dry-erase marker, but the best part about it is that it’s got little army men glued to the front cover. Nick seems very happy.

April 11, 2010

Week from Hell, Part 1

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:53 pm

We are just now finishing our hardest week of the tour. We think it is, at least. Next week is awful, too, but in different ways, so we’ll see.

Nick has been trapped on the actor bus for much of this week, and thus has had time to make very accurate venue summary posts for each of our stops. I will link to his as well.

Ruston, LA

Nick’s venue post
We performed on the campus of Louisiana Tech, which has quite a large theatre. The booth is definitely farther away than any we have had before (actually I can’t say for sure, since there were a couple huge venues where I was able to call from backstage). The actors looked very tiny. Matt, our sound supervisor, remarked that it was fun to imagine that they were actually that small. That amused me for the rest of the performance. In my mind, they were about the size of the G.I. Joe action figures of the 80s. Some other people were picturing them to be the size of the larger G.I. Joes, or Barbie dolls.

The people in Ruston were very friendly, perhaps especially so since we were one of the best-selling shows they had ever had. We never know what to expect as far as attendance (and it almost never corresponds to assumptions one would make about the population or cultural sophistication of the area), so to be told that first thing in the morning was nice. The audience seemed to really enjoy the show. As I was leaving the booth I was stopped by a theatre major who wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed the show. Others on the team had similar encounters.

Nick and I had a big surprise when we arrived: a stage management intern! One of the stage management students, Kate, was assigned to us to assist with whatever we needed. Of course we were happy to have her trailing us all day. She was with us for literally all 17 hours of our work day, helping us set up backstage, watching us hang out on the bus during our downtime (which we spent discussing our careers and trying to give her an idea of employment opportunities). She watched me call focus, and a couple hours into that, I ran to the bathroom because the Genie stopped working. When I came back, the Genie was fixed sooner than I had expected, and Kate had resumed calling focus in my absence. That was pretty funny. During the show she had one of our spare wireless headsets, and was with me in the booth during the first act (which is more interesting to call), and with Nick for the second act (which is more interesting to deck). As I had hoped, Nick let her cue a couple actors towards the end of the show. At the end of the night, she loaded the truck with us. It was great to have some extra help, and to make a new stage management friend. It’s great that her teacher (who was also the presenter) thought to give her that opportunity. It would be nice if more schools that we play would do that.

One aspect of the tour that I think gets completely overlooked is that in addition to providing workshops and talkbacks for students to get to ask professional actors about interpreting Shakespeare, vocal work, stage combat, working on new plays, etc., when we play college theatres that have student crews, we are providing a lot of the same kind of education to the technicians as the acting students receive from our actors. We don’t sit in a circle and talk about where we went to college or anything — it’s all in the process of doing the job — but our show often gives students a chance to work with a bigger set than they usually see (and made of steel and aluminum rather than wood), and to encounter different lighting and sound equipment than what their school has, which makes them more valuable technicians if they’re proficient in multiple brands and models of gear. Sometimes we even teach them features that their own equipment has that they didn’t know about, and they can continue to use on future productions. We love any good crew, but it’s especially fun when they’re students who are excited to be part of the show.

Baton Rouge, LA

Nick’s venue post
We returned to Baton Rouge Community College, where we had an evening performance. Corey and I had been requested to do a seminar with some theatre students to talk about careers in theatre. Naturally we spent most of it talking about directing and stage management. It was nice to have a session that was about us, rather than about acting. It was only a half hour long, which always seems too short when you first have to get through the basics of where you came from, where you went to school, and how you got into theatre. But a couple of the attendees stayed behind and we talked for a while longer. Nick had to get out of his nice warm bed to run focus while I was gone, and the whole thing went to hell. It was like Murphy’s Law of focus, and pretty much as soon as I got back everything was fixed. I felt pretty bad about that.

Orange, TX

Nick’s venue post
As soon as we finished in Baton Rouge, we began the drive to Orange — without Nick. The cast had a morning show of the 1-hour R&J in Baton Rouge.

Orange was fantastic in every way. The Lutcher Center is a beautiful theatre that is maintained like it’s brand new, though it’s actually 30 years old. The TD, David, has done many little projects that are pretty ingenious, including one (using strips of different colored rope light along the rail as cue lights) that I am totally stealing someday. The crew were lots of fun. The set was finished amazingly early. I think lighting would have been finished even earlier than it was but we were having so much fun chatting. It was a great day, and I decided to buy a shirt to commemorate our day with the men and women of Local 183. They also have a really cool logo.

In this case Nick also had a 1-hour the next morning, and again travelled with the cast to our next venue.

Tyler, TX

Nick’s venue post
Coming off Orange, we were afraid our expectations would be too high, but Tyler was also a good experience. They had the set finished by lunch, which is insane, and they broke the load-out record set in Orange the night before. We were very excited to have an easy time there, as it was the end of our hellacious four days of constant work, and we were looking forward to some time to relax on our cross-country drive to Connecticut.


We’re currently on the last few hours of our drive from Tyler, TX to Wallingford, CT. There we will see a hotel for the first time in a week. We’re driving through Pennsylvania right now. We’re not accustomed to extended daylight driving, but the trip is so long that some of it is inevitable. We’re spending it flipping back and forth from Deadliest Catch and the Masters, and of course using our computers.

We don’t get a day off when we reach our destination, but we do have a load-in day, which at least means we only work about 8 hours, and we have the night off.

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