Friday, December 22, 2006

Kodak Moment

Thank God for camera phones.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Day in the Life

We live in a hotel with bagels or cereal or fruit for breakfast - depending on how hungry or virtuous you're feeling that day. Our suites sit in a seperate building, so breakfast requires a brief trek to the lobby through whatever the weather is today.

It's snowing today. But I have my own coffee pot, and coffee. I just recieved as a Christmas gift two 1/2 pounds of Montana Coffee Trader's beans - Dutch Bavarian Chocolate and French Roast. Why would I walk through the snow for Griz blend in a thermos?

The alarm on my cellphone is fairly gentle but thank goodness for snooze buttons. I get in later than the assistant master electrician - who I'm rooming with for the rehearsal period, so I generally sleep later. I roll in quietly and she rolls out quietly and sometimes our ships might pass.

Breakfast is brief and simple; I eat lunch before rehearsal so no need to chow down in the morning. But I linger over my coffee. Sets my mood for the day, that time over coffee - more than how much sleep I got or whether the sun is shining. It's less about the caffiene and more about the ritual. I like having the morning because today I have to ship off Christmas packages (don't worry, the destination is only two hours away so they should arrive in time).

Then it's off to the theatre. I make a round around the offices and halls to see if anyone needs anything they haven't called me about before now.

Into the theatre and onstage to see if things are in order for rehearsal. My assistant has water heating for tea and coffee brewing - I don't need more but some people like it in the afternoon and the smell is always invigorating.

And I sit and do my part to keep things moving and in order, although sometimes it's hard not to get caught up in the creative whirl and laugh along with everyone or sit in silence after someone has discovered a profound moment. I keep track of the time (with my trusty stopwatch), and make sure we take the required union breaks. I love rehearsals. It's like popping in a brand new movie that's being made while you watch.

Dinner. Maybe a nap.

Rehearsal in the evening. More of the same as rehearsal in the afternoon, but now everyone else has left the building except the janitors and it's just us, the stage, the set and the script. The energy is all in there. People get heavy-eyed around nine but progress is good. We keep the tea and the snacks flowing and make it through.
People head out, back home or out for fun. My assistant locks up the theatre, cleans up the coffee and tea table. I write up the report of our rehearsal for everyone - specifying if there are any new needs in the way of costumes, props, sound, lighting or scenery. Or anything else.

Sometimes there's drinks after. A beer. A dessert somewhere. I didn't go out last night even though we got out early. It was a long day even though I had my good coffee time in the morning.

Some consideration of going to bed early. But there has to be non-theatre time too. So we stay up. I help my roomie shop online, watch some tv and play on the internet.
And sleep.

And there's that alarm on my phone again.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tools of the Trade

Will the excitement never cease?

My grand task yesterday, in amongst other papery Stage-Managery toilings, was to replace my stopwatch. A most critical tool on tour to keep a show in check. Nothing says 'yawn' like a scene that's a minute longer than it should be.

My first time stage managing at the university I bought a lovely stopwatch that's meant for lifeguards timing laps. Not only does it sport a jaunty yellow nylon necklace, it has a number of charming features to include silent button-pushing, easy-to-use set features and best of all, it lights up ala Timex's indiglo. And if I ever happen to be working underwater, it's good up to 50 meters. The watch served me well for years until it finally quit last year on the tour of The Trip to Bountiful. I knew it was coming, because the little beeps on each stop and start got longer and more mournful - the pitiful sound of a dying electronic.
I suffered through a brief period of mourning before buying a new stopwatch which - while it was slick, black, and came with a whistle - couldn't match my old one. It also began acting up this fall, beeping every hour on the hour (I still haven't figured out how to stop it) as well as sounding an alarm every day at 4:27pm. I still don't know how the alarm got set, nor how to turn it off. You can understand my eagerness to replace it. There is no place in a stage manager's life for a rebellious stopwatch.

So I went back to Radio Shack on the quest for a battery for my old watch (yes, I carried its inert corpse around for months without finding time to replace the battery...) And, like a car that won't misbehave while the mechanic is listening, the watch suddenly began to function after six months of a blank, dead screen! It was a miracle and I have no doubt that it was inspired by the humming of its electronic brethren all around, the bright glow of flourescent lighting and the nimble hands of the Radio Shack employee. Perhaps a bit of the Christmas spirit, too. I didn't trust much to the miracle though and I bought an extra battery and an extra clone of said watch.

Sure enough, as soon as I got back to the office and tried to set the time on my old watch, the number display blinked and spun in confusion and the screen went dead again.

I observed a brief moment of silence, then threw the watch away and opened up the new one. Its beeps were perky and quick and the screen bright and eager to show me the exact time.
Back to work.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Let the season begin

Deck the halls!

And gear up for tour. My first work day back in Missoula and I hit the a nice, steady jog really. It's wonderful to see my university building again, be back in one of my many homes (the Campus Inn!) Since rehearsals are beginning earlier this year and we won't be home for Christmas, I purchased an adorable little Christmas tree about 3 1/2 feet tall, planted it in a red Ace bucket and decked it in tinsel, little lights and candy canes. Voila. Christmas has arrived. I just need to get some presents to put under it. I also plan to host a Christmas party for the company members who don't have family in town or other plans. Imagine that - a theatre Christmas party...that's actually on Christmas day!

The Rep has purchased a beautiful, shiny silver Ford Windstar van to add to its tour fleet. I myself will continue to drive the blue Stealth Van of which I have grown so fond over the last three years. The little van has some pickup! Vroom. People always try to pass her because the Van is cleverly disguised as a nondescript Soccer Mom car that seems to be puttering along slowly, but let me tell don't know the meaning of Stealth until you put on the Cruise control in that blue mini and coast up a hill or two past those hot-rodding Dodge Ram pickup trucks or a nice big 18-wheeler. Ha hA!

But I digress.

Back to haunting my old halls and falling into a wonderful routine. There's such an energy rush once I get back on a job, and I already know what's what and where to dive in; feeling organized, wanted and competent, and excited about a new project and new people. And new cities! We're going so many places this tour. Old cities, new cities, borrowed cities, blue cities... wait, that's not right. Something like that, though.

This week is mostly phone calls, organizing and planning. We have our first full company meeting on Monday. It's like a mini Christmas... the gift of new folks and sharing excitement over our upcoming adventure. Conflicts and challenges will emerge but for now.. welcome to the honeymoon.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Heartbreak..and hiatus

All right.
So after a good long break from writing, I can sum up the end of the season.
It always creeps up. We know the week will fly by.. we can take out our stress built up over the season or at a particular event or person by smashing a hammer into a large piece of scenery. Stage backstage clears up, we can breathe - we warned people not to get lost in the huge, clear space backstage. Tears slip down cheeks during the curtain calls of each closing..and we wake up bright and early to clear out one more set, one more set of costumes and one more box of props. We erase notes in our scripts and return them - although the chunk of heart we gave to it for the summer, the soul of it, stays with us.
My crew and I had the dubious honor of putting away props and managing some madness up in props storage. This involved a lot of taking things off shelves, discovering questionable items, and putting them all back neatly onto the shelves. Okay, maybe some stuff went into the trash instead of up on a shelf...
But honestly, why would you need a bag full of pink, plastic Baskin Robbins spoons..?

Anyway. That was an interesting journey. The theatre was scoured clean, as were the dorms. People flew away to home, to school, to their next job and adventure.
I went home with the heart wrenching knowledge that this was my last season as stage manager in Bigfork. It's still a difficult choice, when I think of everything I gained every year I went back, of how I forged part of myself there, and made ties to people like tight silver cords. It hurts to go on from something like that. It's like working four seasons in one, and it's an environment that just can't be beat. The Thomsons make us their family, and the Flathead Valley is my home, so it's even closer to my heart. To think of coming back as an 'alum', the way I see others come back, and to know when I visit I'll be the girl who "was our stage manager for a couple years"... it's a little bitter. But I made the choice - it would've have just as hard to give up touring at this point in my life. I'm just now part of a circle that's been going for almost fifty years, and a very proud part for that matter.

So now all that's left to do is cherish it, and keep my experience and memories close. All the choices I've made have led me to the happiness I had there... so I know that the choice I've made now must lead me to happiness again.

Does that sound dramatic?
Well... that's our business, after all.

As for the 'hiatus' business, I'm out of theatre work until December, when the adventure will being again. I'll drop occasional reviews of plays I plan to see this fall, but otherwise, my drama soul is on a nice, long coffee break.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

1..2..3.. smile!

Actually you're more likely to hear someone shout "Hold it!" during a photo call. I remember once when my sister told me she was disappointed to hear that the photos of shows and dances for archives were posed rather than shot during a show. You do lose a little of the honest intent, but you get a better shot and more faces and sometimes you can even make the designers somewhat satisfied with images for their portfolios.

As you probably guessed, we're in the midst of taking production photos of the shows for the company archives. Maybe it would've been a better idea to spread it out throughout the months, but we opted to squish all the photo nights together in a week to get it over with - I say 'get it over with' even though we're doing it the second to the last week of the season. But, sometimes that's the way the tea leaves float.

We got Pirates done last night and got out of the theatre around 11:30. That'll be the easiest one, with the fewest costume and set changes. At least most of the scenery for the other shows rolls. Mostly it will be costumes that eat up the time, I think, and people snapping extra shots for everyone's benefit. That's lucky for everyone although when there's seven or eight people taking pictures, it can be slow going. That's one thing I'll say for an Equity photo call - you have to get in and out of there. But I enjoy our looser structure here too so that everyone can get a decent picture of themselves in the show and so on - and a goofy one here and there. Major General Stanley in enormous, dark sunglass? Sure...

These last couple of weeks will fly. It feels as if we have so much work coming up ahead of us - and we do, but it's already Wednesday and before we know it, photos will be done. We'll have a couple more company parties and special events thrown by locals who love the playhouse. Play adn win or lose a softball game against the Townies. Next week we'll have a couple performances and strike the first show...then the second. Space will clear up backstage and on the costume racks. Props will migrate back to storage and backstage will seem miraculously tidy. Actors will return scripts. People will be double checking their flight itineraries, sealing boxes scrounged from UPS and the IGA and shipping them home...

I'm probably thinking too far ahead, but before we know it... so long Bigfork 2006.

But hey, there's still another week and a half.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A taste of History

Last night was an excellent example of what keeps us going in this exhausting business. At the end of 'Seven Brides' a woman came up to me and said that her little girl was just 'in love with Benjamin - sorry I don't know his real name!' but could he come out and sign her program. So I told Jon G. and he went out to meet his fan - a cherubic little girl, clutching her program and waiting by the stage, bursting with childish anticipation. When she saw Jon she erupted into a smile and squeal and started jumping up and down - not shy at all. I could've punched myself for not having a camera. But how wonderful for a child - to adore someone they've seen onstage and get to meet them! You don't get that with movies. Hello, parents.

Lorsey, Alan, Rory and Jon and I went down/over to Virginia City, MT to see Nora's show on Sunday. We also saw the Brewery Follies while we were there - how exquisite to be able to sit and Watch a show - with a beer in my hand! I felt positively decadent. The show was fun, funny and filthy with all the innuendo (and sometimes outright blatant in it's humor). We sat in the front row and Lorsey got picked on during one of the actor's numbers in which he played 'Carlos, the Love God.' So you can imagine how entertaining That was. Another young fellow in the front row made the mistake of wearing a 'Hooters' t-shirt. He got picked on for the Whole show.

Nora's show was excellent. V.C. has preserved much of its history - the buildings retain their old fronts and small, western frontier feel. The tiny stage and the old oil-style lamps hanging down from the low cieling conjured up images of shows in the past. I loved imagining actors of the old west up on that stage, entertaining the dusty, hard-working folks of the town with vauedeville, song and plays. I find myself hungry for history, to know about the lives of people in my business in a different time and place. The brightness and strength of the human spirit shines through when you see theatre alive and cherished in the most unlikely places. V.C. has done a beautiful job of keep alive that old feeling - a short play, then an hour of vaudeville, comedy and songs. What a treat.

Our shows are just carrying right along. Cliche as it is, it's hard to believe we have only a couple of weeks left. It's going to fly by with company events, workshops, photos and all. Now is the time we're all clinging for extra time with those we've made friends with - and also scraping for a little time for ourselves to absorb this experience. Phase 3, if you will. We're tired of eachother, but we realize that we love each other (and sometimes want to pummel each other), and for a few months we've been a family - dysfunctions and all. We're all working for the same thing, for whatever reason, and now is just the time to drive it home and put it together in our hearts as this, "Wow. Remember 2006? What a great summer..."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lazy days and day jobs

All right, so the days aren't exactly lazy for most people. I don't do much for the Benefit, myself. They don't really need my stage manager skills for the rehearsals - I would end up sitting there Most of the time. I usually come in around the end to help pull dress rehearsals together, otherwise everyone's happy for me to keep away, and I like to stay away so that I can enjoy the show almost like a real performance, and have some surprises.
I'm sure everyone will be glad to know that Josh (my actor in a neck brace last week) has made a full recovery, and while we had to alter some blocking and calm down Huck for the last 'River' performance, no one was any the wiser. Speaking of River...
In one of the numbers in act Two, "Waitin' for the Light to Shine" the original plan was to have most of the company onstage behind Huck while he sang, up stage of the scrim. But the choreography wasn't coming off as sharp and clean as the choreographer wanted and finally we cut the people from upstage and had them sing offstage. THe costume designer was angry and devasted because three of the women's dresses had been built especially for that number. After three performances, we've all finally agreed that, rather than being interesting, offstage choir sounds, it just looks more like Huck can't remember all the lyrics. So last night we called an early rehearsal, brushed the choreography and threw everyone back onstage. I think the director will be pleased to find that out, as well as the costume designer and the others who helped build the lvoely dresses. It just goes to show was a fluid artform this is...something isn't working, and is easily fixed.
We have had the issue of changing things constantly this season, mostly to do with scenery. Things were designed and built too large and ungainly (quite frankly) , and while it is unethical and unprofessional, cuts were made for the good of the company and the shows. Maybe it's not right, but the shows are better off for it, and that's really the bottom line.

All in all the season is going well. Audiences are enjoying the shows - we do get the token person now and then who might walk out at intermission because they "don't like it," for whatever reason, but based on the other 300 to 400 people in the audience who stay and clap, we don't worry too much about those.
Ciao for now...we'll see how the Revue goes in a few days!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Free at Last!

Stole the lyrics from Jim's song in 'Big River' for this post. Yes, we have all four shows open at long, long last, and what a trial. One can sum up politely by saying 'we all learned a lot'. Lots of patience, lots of grit-toothed smiles. So maybe things weren't as stressful as they felt, but when it's the fourth show in a Long run of rehearsals and trials, everyone was getting worn down. Kudos to everyone for pulling on through.

Once again, the set became an issue - on its own, it wouldn't have been such a monster, but with all that came before it - the gargantuan set for Seven Brides, and then Dolly, everyone began to wear a bit thin. The challenge was space Offstage, when it came down to it, and weight. The set for Big River was decorated with a material called smart lap (I believe the spelling is correct), which most of the technical crew and the actors began referring to as 'smart crap' or 'smart @#^%!" in their better moments. It was just so Heavy. Yes, it looks great, but it's one more thing to pile on top of a very weary company. Of course, as we all learn, one just has to go with it, and we did. I thank my stars for having Dwayne Ague backstage and on the build crew, his brain and experience and skill and patience helped us all when it came to scene changes and making everything work backstage.

In any case, the show opened to thunderous applause and, despite being about twenty minutes longer than it probably should have, people are enjoying it. Cuts that probably should've been made before we even started rehearsal never happened, so the audience gets a little restless toward the end, but they still cheer in all the right places.

So that's Big River. Rehearsals have begun for the Benefit Revue and otherwise we're falling into the swing of our summer - sleep in, work a day job, show, changeover, sleep! (Or not, depending if you're 'thirsty' or looking for a card game, with this company).

Yesterday I got back from a visit to Whitefish and ran into one of my actors in the grocery, and he was a sporting a neck brace. I found out he had 'slept wrong' on it, pressed two vertabrae together and wouldn't be able to be in the show that evening. Fortunately he was chorus in Seven Brides, but we still had to alter blocking, lines and choreography and tonight he's Huck Finn in Big River! So you can imagine our anxiousness that night, waiting to find out how he was doing today, talking over scenarious, who would fill in - who would replace the role of whomever filled in for him... As I llove to say, "never a dull moment!" I think if we hadn't been Prepared, things would've gone haywire. Such as it was, everyone was calm, prepared, and ready. He went to the physical therapist this morning and trotted into Revue rehearsal chipper and feeling better, so we all got a wave of relief, and the show should go off tonight just fine. (knock on wood)
I hope this just reminds everyone to take care of scare like that in a summer is enough adrenaline to keep Me going for the last month and a half...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The set that ate Bigfork

Well I haven't been able to do a step-by-step update of the whole rehearsal and production process for "Helloy, Dolly!" but suffice it to say that it's been ridiculous where scenery is concerned. The show was designed far too large for our space, keeping in mind the room we have backstage, scene changes and the fact that there is a limited shop staff, and we have three other shows to think about. Everyone was on edge for the whole process, actors included, especially once we got to work with the scenery, only to find that quite a bit of it wasn't sturdy.
Most of the problems got fixed by the handful of guys in the shop who Do know what they're doing, but despite all that, last night at our opening a piece of scenery still fell down.
Yes, fell down.
Right before Dolly is supposed to enter the Harmonia Gardens restaurant and perform the title number of the show with the waitstaff, the waiter who announces her coming ran up the stairs, the center archway teetered and fell backwards, just striking the backdrop. It was like a movie - there was a huge, collective audience gasp, the actors stood for a beat - the actor playing the head waiter glared (in character!) at the waiter as if he'd knocked over the archway, then the waiter said, 'She's Here!" and Dolly entered and the audience applauded. They performed the number to much audience applause and enjoyment.
I hate to see shows go wrong - but it makes a good story. Plus, no one was hurt - so while it's unfortunate, I can bet no one will ever forget that opening night.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Let there be light!

Thanks to the mighty efforts of Fed-Ex and our own Alan and Dwayne, we had normal lights for the performance last night. Yee haw. We enjoyed other excitement, though. During the dance number "Goin Courtin'", one of the actor's shoes flew off, shattered the four wall and fell in the middle of the second row of audience members. He stopped dancing and assumed a searching pose...the audience rummaged about, produced the shoe and threw it back up onstage. Once again, hurray for live theatre.

Rehearsals for "Hello Dolly!" are going just swimmingly. We have almost all of Act 1 blocked and choreographed, with all of the music learned - provided the actors remember it all. Notes and cut-offs tend to go out the window once they're on their feet dancing. It all comes together again in the end though.

All of our shows this season are set within the same two time periods, but within that scope there is such a huge difference in the stories and style of presentation. I've loved seeing the plays come together each in their different way, with different directors, watching actors morph into different roles. Cheesy - but true. The feedback from the audience every night for the shows that are already open keeps everyone's sparkle alive, too, and motivation high. People are tired, but at least we remember why we're doing it.
Ciao for now...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Show Must Go On

Opening of Pirates of Penzance was an Adventure!
We suffered a huge thunderstorm that rolled in around dinner time and let loose right before curtain. I just prayed that we would make it to intermission without suffering a power failure. And we did - make it to intermission. About five minutes into intermission there was an earthshaking thunderclap overhead, apparently lightning struck a tree next door and every single lighting instrument flashed to full bright.
We lost dimmers, lost control of the lights and the board and we scrambled to gain control before act two. No such luck. I went out onstage, informed the audience that we would be performing the rest of the show under emergency work lighting and told them to enjoy.
It was a moment of truth. Curt (director) used to comment that the scenery and such for the show is so sparse we could do it in a shopping mall. Moment of truth! Not a shopping mall, but hardly any lights. The actors did a fine job of carrying on, despite that anyone who crossed downstage of the proscenium line was in an impressively dark shadow. But the audience came along for the ride, and we got many nice comments at the party afterwards. It was catered by a playhouse alum and so we had a pirate ship cake, chocolate gold coins everywhere and some yummy exotic treats like stuffed grape leaves.
For "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" last night we borrowed a board and system from the community college and rigged twenty four instruments and some work lights - all in front of house to put light on the stage. We're waiting for repaired parts to come back to us before we can have the shows back to normal. It didn't look terrible... Fortunately Alan is used to working with whatever power and lights he has, from tour, so things are all right.
Ah, live theatre. Never a dull moment.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Another Openin', Another Show

Hurrah! We got "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" up on its feet with a full house and much eating and drinking and carrying on at the party afterwards. No major (or even minor!) catastrophes during our opening night. The show as well recieved and it looks great - bright and lively, with brilliant dancing and singing and everything that musical comedy should be.

A couple of bumps in the road -there always are. The costume shop manager's mother passed away last week and so we lost a hand for a few days. Everyone felt terrible for her and of course, as heartless as it is, we lost a stitcher and that has put the costume shop behind so they're scrambling to keep up with openings. Last night our kitchen table was covered with baskets of lace and paint, decorative flowers and a couple of sewing machines. The ladies sewed ornaments on bonnets and parasols while watching movies - a flurry of thread, cloth and dye late into the night to have as much ready as possible for our second dress of "Pirates" today.

The other kink that put the shops behind was the lack of a scenic painter until almost the last minute. A skilled and industrious woman came to the rescue from Missoula and the shop was putting up scenery as fast as she could slap paint on it.

The acting company is holding up pretty well. We had another evening off last night, but sometimes I think it's better off not to have time off, because everyone stays out late and comes in groggy the next day. Well, not Everyone, but enough that it can frustrate the director who gave up rehearsal time.

We're looking into scenic painters for "Hello Dolly" and "Big River' - I suggested they call up to Whitefish and see who's available up there to paint. It might even end up being John Rawlings, who teaches art at the community college in Kalispell (among other things).

Anyway, we're forging on ahead through tech and dress rehearsals. I'm excited for the opening of Pirates; the costumes are fantastic, the lighting is artful and actors are doing a terrific job and it's just a fun pleasure to watch. Tomorrow we'll see if the audience agrees...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Day is Worth a Week

We really do get about three days worth of rehearsal done in a day here, since we only have a couple of weeks to put together shows. The second weekend of Tour de Farce went well, even smoother than the first two nights even though a week had passed. Granted, we had a brush up rehearsal, but I was still impressed.

Pirates and Seven Brides are moving along. I'm Very curious to see what will happen when we throw the set for "Seven" onstage. The thing is an absolute monster. Huge. There is a lot of beautiful choreography in the main production number of the show, most of which will hopefully fit without too much alteration. The same thing happened with "Chicago" last year, when the platforms were larger than originally thought, and farther downstage. Those little challenges.
People are already getting tired. I say 'already', but really, when you're working from 9:00 to 10:00 every day without a day off, that can wear on a person - especially when it's physical activity. So actors are slipping in later and later, just under the wire, and attention tends to roam. But it is a good company this year - I'm highly impressed with the range of talent and the amount of work everyone is doing.
We're coming up on tech week, so I really hope that people take opportunities where they can to rest (ha!), but I know it's hard. They're still getting to know eachother and sometimes going out for a beer or staying up late playing a game is more appealing. And I sure know people need to wind down after rehearsals.
I still wish I could videotape..some of the discovery moments and mistake moments are just priceless, and impossible to convey later when I'm trying to tell everyone stories. Ah well.
The next hill to get over will be getting the sets onstage, then some costumes and lights and hey, an audience.
Whew, hm... one hill at a time.. I'll just hope for some good run-thrus coming up.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Opening Night and Rehearsals, etc..etc..etc..

No sold houses for the first two nights of our comedy, but we got laughs and thunderous applause – people appreciated the cleverness of two people playing ten. Some of the humor is pretty obvious, edging toward toilet humor, but it is farce. For the most part the cleverness wins out and it all works.
I’m a ninja again! I became a ninja on the Steel Magnolias tour, when we had to subtract a couple masking walls in order to fit into the theatre. I had to duck under a window to reach the phone ringer box, and from then on I became Ninja Jess. (Later it was Ninja Crocheting Jess, but that’s a different story). Then I went Equity and I sat in the booth…no more Ninja moves for me. But for this farce, once again I am a black-clad shadow scuttling stealthily backstage with props and costumes, ringing phones and knocking on doors.
The weekend was exciting as more and more of the new company members trickled in. It’s like Christmas for me at the first rehearsals to see and hear what people can do, how they act – watching all the energies come together onstage. They aren’t a Company yet, but the more they dance and sing, they more they’re starting to gel.
I wish I could video tape some of the rehearsals. Just as the set goes from tape marks on the floor, so goes the blocking and dancing from mechanical moves by actors in sweatpants and jazz sneakers to Characters in costumes telling a wonderful story. The transformation is so gradual that we forget everything that went into it sometimes.
Of course, that and rehearsals are just plain entertaining. My very own unending reel of live, hysterical bloopers.
There’s just no going back to a normal job…

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

That's why they call it "running" crew...

Whew! I haven't worked backstage on a show this nuts in quite awhile. I've worked on "Greater Tuna" before, but I must have forgotten how crazy it was, or it wasn't nearly as busy as this play.
We finally managed to get Three dressers, but the tricky part is that one is working in the box office during the day and so we can't begin rehearsals until five. The costume changes are nuts, as well as sprinting to hand the actor the correct prop to carry onstage and remind them where they are in the play. Fortunately all the dressers are crack running crew, doing very well under pressure. Once again my respect is renewed for those crew with outstanding memories, who are always There for the scene changes, costume changes, props, etc... Hats off to you.
Not so sure about Myself, I'm so out of practice. But I'll get there.
So amidst dodging flying shoes and glasses and darting out of the way of actors rushing by to make it to the correct door for their entrance, things are wild and fun. They're hanging lights and finishing scenery while we twiddle our thumbs and wait until five...
Okay, so we're no exactly twiddling our thumbs. I have lots of prop finishing touches to work on and checklists to refresh and all those exciting kinds of things while the actors are getting fitted for adjusted costumes and working on lines.
As apprehensive as I occasionally am about opening night - as I usually am - I know the show will go on, the audience will laugh and everything will be magic. How?
It's a mystery. ;)

Sunday, May 14, 2006


For those of you who moved on from Bigfork this year, here are some pictures to make you homesick!
I mean, uhh...fondly remember the summer days of yore.

Note the new addition! That's right, they finished the new women's restroom.
OOoo shiny and new. Sorry, but all BSP alums should appreciate this:

Old haunts! Taste the Fat Tire...

Anyone up for a swim? Not in May!

I think only people who lived in the Ritz or the Plaza will truly appreciate this one...the road home.

The Law of Attraction and the Perfect Prop

I love life:
One of my housemates arrived yesterday - Monica, who is not only an excellent person but an excellent costume designer. She and I ran errands all over yesterday and I experienced a wonderful episode involving the Law of Attraction. If you haven't heard of it, wise up - it will change your life.
"Farce" takes place in a hotel room and the director (and myself, psuedo props designer that I am) had a Vision for a prop. One of the characters exits the bathroom at one point, aiming a hairdryer like a gun. We both pictured one of those small, white, wall-mounted hairdryers that you would find in any hotel room. Well, where on earth do you find That in the Flathead Valley? One of those oddball things...
Monica and I were skeptical about Wal-Mart, and she had the idea to check the big Salvation Army store in Kalispell. I Thought those hairdryers are the most random objects in the world (or more common than I thought)... for when we walked back to the Appliances section... there, sitting alone on the shelf and neatly wrapped with a note that said 'Works!' was my small, white, wall-mounted hairdryer.
Not only That, but small appliances were half off that day, and so my perfect prop cost all of $1.75.
Who's the winner?
That's right.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

And another thing..

WHAT is this all about?

Drug of Choice

I have an optimistic outlook on life. Some people consider me to be Too optimistic or that my rose-colored glasses are a little too thick, thus obscuring my view of the harsh Real World with visions of sunshine and flowers and full houses.
Still, there are those moments that we all have in life (generally as Tech Week comes creeping up) that even I begin to feel a cloud of doom descend. Nothing can be worth this stress. Who in their right mind spends their free time tripping over things in a dusty attic-like room that resembles a really frightening antique shop filled with shelves of odd junk, searching for the Prop that So-and-So said they Thought they had Seen up there Awhile Ago...? Who gives up the security and comfort of a nine-to-five, year-round job for the uncertainty of a seasonal profession with odd (sometimes Very odd) hours and a new batch of colleagues (sometimes very Odd colleagues) to meet every year? Who lays awake fearing if there will be enough people backstage to help us create a the illusion of a reality that, when one thinks about it, is a situation so ridiculous that it's either impossible or entirely Too possible (ie. "Tour de Farce")?
How do I cope?
Generally a good two days of sleep will take care of such worries. Unfortunately, one must usually rise early to keep things going and so... what is there to help keep optimism up through the long, long day?

Not just any coffee, mind you. This is coffee created from the mind of a person who once, like many of you, spent up to $4 a cup for tasty steamed-milk, chocolately, uber caffienated mocha latte goodness. But now, I've discovered the considerably cheaper and more highly caffienated Cup of Coffee With Hot Chocolate. Same effect - different price.
If you're like me and you prefer your caffiene in the form of a sweet, hot dose early in the morning, I urge all of you caffiene hounds out there to try it. I'm not talking about a spoonful of chocolate to help the bitterness go down, either. I mean - dump in the whole packet.
Thanks to my daily dose I am happy to says that rehearsals are going Great, I love my profession and I have no worries at all.
Besides... who would give up This kind of entertainment for a nine-to-five?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bits and Pieces

I got spoiled quickly from my one stint as Equity. Now I'm working without an assistant and doing props for this show...swiftly falling back into the groove of Super Time Management.

The director for 'Farce' is down in Missoula this morning for an awards ceremony and so we're relaxed until this afternoon. The actress is out shopping with the costume designer and I'm online looking for a script for "The Pirates of Penzance" - they Gave me one of course, but it's more like a score. I can work with the music, but for me it's easier to write out blocking on a page with the lyrics typed out line by line rather than all the music. So there you have it.

Anyway. We've put down rough blocking for all of act one - which runs a whopping forty minutes, at the moment. The saga now is hoping we find enough people to work backstage. It will be ideal to have four dressers and another person to run around knocking on doors and performing other sound effects while the actors are swapping wigs and ties and shoes. Wish us luck - and no broken legs... as wild as this play becomes, I'm afraid the possibility is far too real.

As far as rehearsal goes, I love doing the comedy in Bigfork because it's the most laid back we'll ever be. Especially with a two person show. On breaks we fall into conversations on just about any topic you can imagine, to include the super-sizing of America, the meth lab crises in Montana and of course, swapping theatre tales. The trick for me is, once a reasonable amount of time has passed, to segue back into work. So, after debating and commiscerating on the state of the union, the arts and the youth of America I find the best method is to form a bright grin and offer, "And on That note..."

Monday, May 08, 2006

You know what we need...

Those infamous words that signal the true beginning of the rehearsal process: After the first read-thru (trendily spelled with only a 'u'), everyone gets on their feet and suddenly we "see" walls that aren't there, props that aren't there, fake sound Q's (more trendy spelling), and we begin to see the Vision blossoming on the director's face. A wonderful moment.
"You know what we need.."
"You know what it is, it's..." said while leaning in to get my attention.
"You know what it should be? One of those things with..." ...and a description of the ideal prop, or costume, accompanied by various hand gestures to help describe the object. From random furniture and tape marks on the floor, the show has already begun to transform.
Usually the heaviest scenery and prop note-taking session is during the first rehearsal as the kinks are ironed out and everything becomes 3-D in everyone's mind.
Second only to that vision of the creative process is being able to watch the actors still playing, exploring, morphing into the madness and brilliance to come. I love early rehearsals especially because I can still watch the hilarity unfold without having to be on book. The best is to see them throw in some unexpected dialect, twitch of eyebrow, double-take... any action or reaction that stops a scene in its tracks until our surprised laughter dies down. Whether the action is kept or not is hardly of consequence. It keeps the spirit fresh.
And all that under the drone and flicker of half burnt-out flourescent lights in a windowless room under the roar of an enormous, dusty heater.
You just can't beat that.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Went out with some fellow BSPers last night to see and support the Bigfork Playhouse Children's Theatre's production of "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" and it was filled with kids singing and dancing their little (and some not so little) hearts out. I'd worked with a few of them before and it's always a moment of joy and amusement to see kids you know and love up on stage, doing what they love and knowing that, even though most of them won't go on to pursue theatre as a career, that they've been helped along by it in some way, inspired, broken out of their shells and done something wild, created, and been part of a family like no other, at least for a little while.
How did you like That run-on sentence? Faulkner would be proud.
I even got dragged up on stage by one of the miniature thespians. Yes, Jess - singing and dancing. It was frightening and I'm pleased that none of you got to see it.
Meanwhile I'm updating early since we're meeting at noon to start "Farce." Currently sitting outside Artisans gallery using the proprietor's wireless connection (with permission!) whom I know because I daylighted at his hot dog stand last year after all the shows were opened. Yes, 'daylighted,' I term I like to think I coined - to mean those jobs that theatre people take during a summer season once all the shows are opened and we aren't working in the day. Have to fund all those mocha lattes somehow.
All right all...keep it real. Or at least, suspend the disbelief for yet another day.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Another season, another reason...

...for making theatre!I hope this blog can start to be a discussion launch point for folks like me involved in theatre in some way - professionally or non, who (like me!) are not necessarily always in touch with the Great Big World O' Broadway out there... but still love the theatre life.So dive right in.If nothing else, I can babble about My theatre life which is usually crazy and at least relatively interesting to people who know me. If you don't know me, I'm sorry. I hope this provides some kind of fodder for your brain while you drink your coffee. Or try to fall asleep.Moving on.This summer I'm employed as stage manager at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse in beautiful Bigfork, Montana, a little artsy tourist town on shimmering Flathead Lake in - you guessed it, the Flathead Valley. It's right near my hometown which is handy, and this will be my third year with the company. It will also be my final year, since I recently earned my Equity card. But more about that later.Tomorrow begins rehearsal for a comedy called 'Tour de Farce' which will open our season and run through June until the musicals begin. Every year the Playhouse puts together a singing, dancing extravaganza - four musicals in rep All Summer, all stage managed by Yours Truly, with actors and technicians from all over the country. Most are still students, still learning (but then aren't we all?) and some have been in the professional world for a few years, many years, or no years at all.If that doesn't sound crazy to must have a busier life than I. If it does sound crazy and interesting, well... enjoy. Here the adventure begins.