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...