April 29, 2009

Baruch Revisited

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:27 pm

Late last night we departed Frostburg, MD, and this morning we woke up home-sweet-home on 24th St. and Lex. We said our final goodbyes to Bart, and unloaded all our luggage and other belongings from the bus into a hallway by the loading doors at Baruch College (see photo).

Last night in Frostburg was a Save the Ta-Tas Load Out.  This is something we do every now and then, where the whole crew will wear our Save the Ta-Tas shirts that Daphne got us for opening night in New York.  Like so, in Tucson:

We decided pretty much at the start of this leg that Frostburg would be a Save the Ta-Tas Load Out since it was the last venue before returning to New York.  The interesting advantage of this was that the next morning when we got up in New York, it was easy to tell who had decided to sleep in their clothes, as they were the ones still wearing their Ta-Tas for load in.  I didn’t exactly count, but I’d say it was four or five of us, including me. Speaking of which, we have submitted our photo to savethetatas.com, but it hasn’t been published yet.  I did have a nice email conversation with their customer service lady about our company — she wants to see us when we come to California — and she assured me it would go up “soon.”  That was like a month ago.

Baruch is kind of the most hellacious load-in situation ever. Unloading the truck on the street, followed by a lot of ramps and hallways, to a rather small freight elevator, and then down some more winding and public hallways to the theatre. Apparently it took 5 hours to unload the truck. Sadly for my friends, Nick and I did the stage manager thing and helped unload the road boxes, then broke off with our box and did our jobs and went home. We both felt bad for our friends, but my personal philosophy is that when you’re playing Poplar Bluff, MO and the show must go on, and you need a few more hands, that’s one thing. When opening a show in New York, there’s no reason stage managers should be needed to work as stage hands, without compensation and when their home is just a subway ride away. At any rate, I feel slightly less bad since I also had to come back at night for a late-night cueing session for The Spy. Due to the tightly packed schedule (if performances and film shoots manifested themselves as fish, this week’s would be sardines), there was no other time to do it but late tonight on load-in day, and as this is the New York premiere, we want to try to show it a little more love than it’s been given on our very Henry-heavy touring schedule. At least I had a chance to shower, change, and show up nicely dressed and clean like a normal person. I even have some simple jewelry on.

My first task upon coming back to Baruch at night was to set up our wireless network. As I have reported before in this post from December, Baruch’s theatre is in the third basement of their main building, surrounded by more concrete than any radio wave can get through, so cell service is a complete impossibility, and setting up a router in one room and expecting it to work three rooms down the hall is sketchy. When we teched The Spy here, it took me the better part of three days to get a reliable wireless signal to reach the theatre from the single ethernet cable in the production office. The solution I came up with was to bring in two of my own personal routers — an old UFO-shaped Airport Extreme, and an original Airport Express — and to place the Extreme on top of a filing cabinet in the production office, where the ethernet was, and to plug the Express in in the shop, which is just behind the stage. The signal from the Extreme went just far enough to reach the Express, which then passed it on just far enough to reach the tech tables in the house, but not quite enough for a steady signal in the booth. I may see what I can do about that this time, as I will be spending pretty much all my time in the booth.

This whole day has been deja vu. So many things have changed since we began our journey here, and yet there are other things that are exactly the same. When I came back at night, I found a couple of the tiny Spy columns, which we call “nubblies,” nestled against a diagonal wall, where six months ago another pile of short unused Spy columns sat when it was decided they weren’t needed (or something). This time they will be needed, but because we’re repping Henry and Spy, they are simply waiting there while Henry takes the stage. As soon as I glimpsed the greenroom through an open door I was instantly taken back to our final post-invited-dress notes session, on the eve of beginning the tour, and thought of all the people who were there who are no longer with the company. It’s been kind of a bittersweet return. But with all the drama along the way, the very fact that we are back here and performing both shows is an accomplishment in itself, so we can be proud of that.

December 4, 2008

An Observation on iPhone Battery Life from the Bowels of the Earth

I call this: phones — Posted by KP @ 11:31 pm

We’re teching The Spy at Baruch college, at the Nagelberg Theatre which is on level B3, so somewhere in the earth’s mantle, which I can only assume is why the A/C is always cranked so high. ¬†Of course cell service is nonexistant, and since the internal walls are made of generous helpings of concrete, even getting wifi from our production office to the house (probably about 60ft, if crows flew underground through concrete) took two days and two routers to pass the signal so we can get it at the tech tables. ¬†I never quite managed to get it to the booth.

Once I had established our lifeline to the outside world, I kept my iPhone with wifi on and the cell radio off all day (if you don’t know how to do this, put it in airplane mode first, then turn wifi back on.) I was expecting that keeping an active wifi connection all day would kill the battery, so much so that I negotiated an electronics deal with Ian, that I would lend him my Macbook 2-prong power adapter if I could charge my phone from his tech table’s power, since the power strip on mine was being taken up by frivolous things like the light board, sound computer, and LittleLites. ¬†As it turns out I have never needed to charge it in the middle of the day.

During tech I’ve been underground for 12-15 hours a day, off the charger for 18 hours or more, and only once did I come home with the 20% battery warning. ¬†Some days the battery was hardly drained at all. ¬†On an average day above ground, using only 3G and maybe a little bit of wifi, I almost always am pushing the limits of the battery by the time I get home. Plus, my commute to Baruch is longer, so the phone spends more time per day playing music.

All of this just to say that I was surprised to find that the wifi radio uses so much less power than the cell radio.

March 30, 2007

Creating a wireless network for the rehearsal room

I call this: computers,mac,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:37 pm

I’m about to start rehearsals for a new show, which has got me thinking about getting all my goodies set up to take with me to rehearsal. One of my favorite ways of making things more efficient in the rehearsal room is to set up my own wireless network for the use of the stage management team, creative team, or even the actors who want to use a laptop or other wireless device on their breaks.

Unfortunately, below a certain level, most theatres and rehearsal spaces don’t offer much in the way of internet access. If there’s wi-fi, it’s probably by accident, that the hotel across the street might has an open network or something. And it seems to be one of Murphy’s Laws that the signal never reaches to the area of the room where you have to set up your table. It’s even hard to find a phone line (or one you have access to) to use dial-up. Most of the time I use my cell phone as a modem, and connect by Bluetooth from my laptop. This gives speeds about the same as dial-up, but also wears down my phone’s battery, and can sometimes interfere with incoming calls.

Should I be lucky enough to find an ethernet connection somewhere in the building, that’s where I will set up my network. The key piece of equipment here is Apple’s Airport Express router. It’s not the most fully-featured router, but it’s tiny! At just a little bigger than the power brick of a Mac laptop, I can shove it in my bag — or as I usually prefer, in my printer carrying case — and forget it’s there until I need it. I also carry a retractable ethernet cable which likewise stays out of the way until it’s needed.

In a perfect world, the place I like to set up the router and printer is:

  • not in the rehearsal room, where the printer will make annoying printer noises
  • close enough to get a strong wireless signal through the wall (~50 ft.)
  • in a location occupied only by people who won’t steal stuff

Once I’ve found my location, I plug in the router and printer. Finding two outlets, one of which is big enough to fit the brick of the router, is sometimes the hardest part — stealing a power strip from somewhere is often the result. If the ethernet connection is a jack, I use my own cable to connect to the router. Then with the USB cable I carry, connect the printer to the router. The printer I use is the Canon i70, which is no longer made, but the i90 is the current equivalent. The only thing I really dislike about it is that it doesn’t have one of those little slots for a computer lock to be inserted. I leave the printer lying around unsupervised much more often than my computer, and yet there’s no way to secure it.

So now that everything is plugged in, it’s time to set up the software. Using the Airport Admin Utility, I create a network, which I usually call something very simple and easy for other people to remember. I always create a closed network, meaning that it won’t show up to random people as an available network. Each person has to know the name of the network and type it in manually. I generally don’t bother with encryption, as I have had more headaches trying to get it to work for everyone, especially when some people are on PCs or other devices. If I really want security I will set it to allow only the hardware that I specify, which means every time I add a new person having to get the MAC address of their computer or mobile device. If all has gone well, the router will be displaying its happy green light, meaning it has an internet connection, and everyone should be able to access it for internet and printing.

Being able to give reliable internet access to everyone in the theatre or rehearsal room makes everything much easier. The last two shows that I was PSM for were workshops of musicals in development. Every day, every hour, sometimes every half hour, there were new pages of text, new songs, new arrangements e-mailed from the copyist, and all of it had to be distributed to be worked on NOW. The musical director would decide to change the key of a song, the composer would transpose it on his Powerbook in Finale, e-mail me a new PDF, and I’d send it to the printer. The whole process could take less than five minutes, and nobody had to get up from their chair, except to go out to the lobby, grab the pages from in front of the printer, and hand them out. Theoretically the composer could have even sent the file to the printer himself, although I never bothered with the few seconds it would have taken to add the printer for anyone besides my assistant, and I would have needed the PDF for my records anyway.

Even in situations where internet access is not available, just having the printer on the network can be a big help. Being able to send print jobs out of the room and have them waiting whenever I feel like picking them up is great for spaces where the noise of the printer is too distracting, not to mention the ability to let others also use it. And the best part for someone like me who often works in many different locations and is not always given storage space, is that everything is very easy to carry. I bought an unfinished carrying case from the Container Store, and shaped the foam padding to hold my printer securely, with a little extra room for its cables and the Airport Express. Then I throw some blank paper on top of it all.