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 you...you must have a busier life than I. If it does sound crazy and interesting, well... enjoy. Here the adventure begins.