Tuesday, January 30, 2007

And..the show

So there was the history of the theatre.
As for the work day, it was marvelous. They had wonderful locally roasted coffee to replace my unsatisfying hotel coffee, bagels, doughnuts, and a welcoming spirit that just floored us. Not only did the beauty and intriguing history of the theatre warm me right up to the task at hand, the crew were knowledgeable, friendly and fun to work with.
The set went in without any problems. Alan had broken his glasses and did most of his light focus blind! Or at least, in sunglasses.

Otherwise, the day went smoothly, they served us a beautiful lunch of delicious subway sandwiches from a local deli, and we were out of the theatre in time to hot tub, take a nap and do various other quality time activities.

The Show:

People probably won't believe me because I'm writing this after the fact, but once everyone arrived and we got mic checks done and I was hanging out in the house during half hour before the show, I was just basking in the glow of how good the day had been. The still small voice in the back of my mind said, "...a little too good?" ..as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.


Then the lights began to flicker. They dimmed off and on of their own accord in subtle areas, but noticeable enough. I asked the local crew if the theatre had ghosts and they said yes, but some later comments led me to believe they were just joking. Except I'm sure there were. A theatre that has burned down and been rebuilt? There have to be some rogue spirits about.

Anyway, the lights really freaked out during Louie's entrance. The problem was fixed at intermission but it just goes to show that you can never be too careful and...well, there's never a dull moment.

Gold in the Hills

We love Logan!
Weather: Frosty but sunny!
Breakfast: Not bad, oatmeal and a muffin with watery coffee :(
The Theatre: Gorgeous.
The Eccles theatre was built in 1923 to replace the Capitol theatre which had burned down. It's a beautiful little opera house with plush, warm red seats, white angel and ram reliefs and musical instruments detail in real gold. A tile mosaic of a phoenix spans one wall, depicting the theatre's own rise from the ashes.
Rebuilt by Mr. George Thatcher, who owned a recently renovated mansion attached to the theatre... it became a movie theatre for a time, fell into disrepair and then was rescued in 1993 by a few brave souls who brought it back to its old glory. They now host a multitude of touring shows every season and in the summer it is home to the Utah Opera festival, giving work to over a hundred actors and technicians. Who knew?

Yes, that is real gold.

And all nestled in the middle of the mountains of Utah.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Where are all the Canadians going?

Sunday, 1-28
It's my sister's birthday. 26 today, can you believe that?
It's also the day we set out for Logan, Utah! I drove Alan and Nora to the University this morning to drop them off at the Budget trucks, then swung back around to pick up Marie and Lauren and off we went!
Not a cloud touched the sky for our entire drive, except to give us a dramatic sunset when we hit the Utah/Idaho border.

Down one stretch of I-15 we passed a suspicious number of vehicles from Canada - a whole convoy of RVs and cars all motoring on down south. Perhaps there's a flood headed our way? We also saw some folks from Virginia, but that just didn't add up so I figured it was coincidence. Either way, we split ways with the Canadians once we took a Historic Byway down US 91 south. I don't know much about the history, but the mountains were gorgeous, glowing with snow and sunset.

We also passed a "Sheep Experimentation Center" as noted on our atlas. Hm. We decided not to stop and look around, though.

Lunch in Idaho Falls at O'Brady's family restaurant. Mediocre food and disappointing hot fudge sundae, but they had amusing little books on the tables to read while we waited for our food.

As stated, we took our little byway down into Utah, rolled through a couple of historic towns and more beautiful mountains and ended in Logan! Where we are staying at a beautiful Best Western with fridges and microwaves in the rooms, an Albertson's, Hastings and other shopping goodies within walking distance and ...well, we'll just see what the theatre has to offer tomorrow!

In Review...
Weather: Gorgeous, sunny and cold!
Scenery: There is a God.
Mood: Bright and adventurous!
Traffic: Swarms of Canadians, aggressive Dodge Rams and one lone Virginian.
Wildlife spotted: 2 big ravens, a magpie, a hawk, and a wolf. Yes, a wolf!
Hotel rating: *****! (that's Five Stars)
All in All: Woo hoo!

Missoooou! Week 2

Back to our home field! As it were. We rolled into town last Saturday to throw up the set for our Benefit performance and afterward danced and drank and ate little snacks until we just couldn't dance or drink or eat anymore. For some fun pictures of this festive event see Lauren's Blog.

Then it was Sunday. And on Sunday... we rest. Slept. Ate Sushi. Slept more.

Monday... slept.

Tuesday... slept, and then did a show in the evening.

Wednesday we had a noon matinee for a gaggle of highschoolers from the nearby region. They were moderately well behaved and enjoyed the show. I'm sure they would enjoy anything more than being in class, but at least we can say they didn't throw anything at the stage. I've heard some horror stories about that kind of thing.

Thursday.. another show! Imagine that. My parents came to this one, making it just that much more special. It means so much that they care to come and see the work I'm involved in, especially when they have friends who ask, "So, is Jessica in this play now?" They just don't know the business.

Friday... revving up, getting excited to be back on the road (even though we're boomeranging back in a week again for the Thespian Convention). Another double show day; a highschool matinee and evening performance. Highschoolers packed the theatre for the noon matinee. They started out rowdy but ended appreciative and generally well mannered. Pretty gratifying to give them something fun and of value on a school day.

Saturday... sooo close! A later afternoon matinee and then an evening performance and..load out! We had a couple of stalwart, kind souls help us pack everything up and we kept it down to 2 1/2 hours; not bad for having just a few extra hands. Not bad at all. Then we all scuttled home to pack.

Yes, I know... the week in review is pretty unexciting, but that brings us to... Logan!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Snapshots Part II

Another handful of Kodak moments for your enjoyment... actual post coming soon!
Montana State Student Union cafeteria has very tall tables!

Lovely moment from photocall. Boys'n'Bed!

You gotta take your naps where you can find them...

The motley crew. In black and white...because it's just better that way.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snap shots:

I'll have more pictures from the road once I get my USB cable and take photos from my camera. Here are a few, though.

Our set up in the lovely high school gymnasium in Plains

Marie as Arty can take anything!

More of the setup from Plains. Sometimes, you just have to work under the table.

Larry, we have a problem...

Day 3, Show #3: Lewistown, Montana
Weather: Gray and cold.
Scenery: I slept most of the way.
Mood: Going steady.
Lewistown is always an interesting stop. We peform in the Fergus Highschool auditorium, a pretty nice stage with a good load in and a very wide house. The lights are tricky here and the electrics move slowly, run on electronic power rather than any kind of manual hauling of ropes.
The local Kiwanis is our local crew and they rock. They're good hands, fun to work with but you sometimes have to say things a couple of times before they realize you're talking to them. But they love to be involved and help and they do good work.
We enjoyed the largest house count I've ever seen in Lewistown since I've been touring with the Rep, being as we tend to perform there on Super Bowl Sunday but we managed to hit the middle of the week this time! Fortunate for us and them; Lost in Yonkers is really worth seeing - everyone loves a comedy.
The Kiwanians love to try and beat our old load-out record times, but we've usually done about fifteen shows by the time we hit them, so we didn't have much to go off of although we had a decent time.
Jim kept the bar at the hotel open for us - the Yogo Inn, which has a plaque on the floor near the pool that declares by standing there, you are standing in the center of the state of Montana.
So we had some drinks and some sleep and planned for...

Day 4, Show #4: Bozeman, Montana
Weather: Partly sunny and not nearly as cold as Plains.
Scenery: Gorgeous, can we say more mountains?
Bozeman is an adventure and a challenge all rolled up into a scrappy, dusty little theatre whose time has just about come. They keep on keeping on, though. Joel Jahnke is the man behind Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, but otherwise the Montana State University is more focused on film. I hear they're going to be build a blackbox theatre soon, so bravo.
Bozeman is Bobcat territory, the bitter rivals of U of M Grizzlies. A sign on their Student Union building (which also houses the Strand Theatre) declares: No Smoking, Skateboarding, Grizzlies.
We tried to remain incognito and left our Griz gear packed away. Not much to do about the U of M decales, though.
As for the theatre, we load up through a trap door, hauling up crates on a chain hoist, or hand up other pieces over the little roof/overhang and into the scene shop. A narrow, metal winding staircase leads the way from the lower level up to the shop and stage level and this is always traverse with care.
The house was pretty well sold out and we got a standing ovation... so the oodles more of funkiness that we experienced was, as always, forgiven. At least by me.
I do hope they get their new theatre built soon though.

Day #5, Show #5: Great Falls, Montana
Weather: Cold and windy. Felt practicall balmy by load-out, though!
Scenery: Sweeping plains and rocky foothills and buttes that make you want to dive into an old western novel.
Mood: Sleepy but determined.
Great Falls is a good stop if only because so many of our own are from there. Lots of family and old friends in the house, as well as an uncanny devotion to theatre from the more elderly population.
We park the Budgets just outside the back door of the Civic Center and haul our stuff out, up two ramps going over their entryway staircases, down a short hallway and onstage. The local crew wear their IATSI jackets proudly and for the most part they are good, reliable strong hands. A couple of the younger fellows were obnoxious to our women, though. Nora and Marie grinned and bore their way through some harassment and Martha gave it right back in the truck, but the men didn't take instruction from her too well. The older guys were great though, friendly and more professional.
My very favorite part of Great Falls is sitting in the back of the audience to quietly call the show, and overhearing comments. The ushers in particular crack me up, an army of devoted and quite serious, mostly elderly folks who aren't shy about commenting and laughing loudly during the show. I worked with Larry, the house manager, to make sure things went on time and everyone was sorted out...
He gave me the thumbs up to send out their house speak to thank some sponsors, then just as I was about to tell Katie to send the woman out We all heard a sharp, gnarled voice call out, "Larry! We have a problem!"
Never fear of course. Larry was on task, ushered people, sorted tickets and off we went.

Next up: Back to Missoula!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Week One

At last! Some time to sit and write.

Load Out: Keyword - cold. Very cold, all day. We began at 9:00 with some scenery work, finishing painting crates, I had some different kinds of work to do; measuring relationships of set pieces to the center line for places where we don't have our own floor (which has convenient spike marks). Things like that. Load out took a painfully long time being as it was our first time cramming everything into our two Budget trucks. And I do mean cramming. Every last inch is packed with set walls and crates.

Road Day 1, show #1: Plains, Montana
Weather: Freezing cold.
Scenery: Beautiful Montana mountains!
Mood: Optimistic and energetic.
Plains is one of the Rep's favorite stops because the town loves us and treats us like kings and queens. They serve us a home-made lunch and snacks during load-in, and a dinner after the show. We perform in their highschool gym. That is what traveling theatre is all about, if you ask me! The show went well and we got a wonderful, warm audience response.
Load out was long, cold and tedious. Only the second time to pack it into the truck and some adjustments had to be made near the end (using a pry-bar and a hammer) to cram everything into the truck. But it went it.
We were all frozen to the core by the time we got back to the Dew Duck Inn, a marvelous little establishment with hot showers and warm quilts and good heaters. So we slept well, and woke up entirely too early to head off to...

Day 2, Show #2: Helena, Montana
Weather: Freezing cold, dark, entirely too early in the morning.
Scenery: Gorgeous! Driving out during the sunrise gave us an inspiring view of golden mist and snow white covered mountains, frozen rivers and valleys.
Mood: Refreshed and ready to take on another day.
I woke up far too early, but got to use my new French-press travel coffee mug. The inn owner was at the front desk and he very cheerfully brought me some hot water, and some hot chocolate to add to my coffee. His wife trotted out in her bathrobe and pinke Croc shoes and said "I don't usually greet people in my robe but I just had to tell you how wonderful the show was and how much we enjoyed it." And they gave me hot chocolate to take on the road. Very very sweet people.
Helena was a pretty good day over all. The Myrna Loy theatre is a beautiful little space, also a movie theatre so we had to be quiet going up and down the stairs. We had a small local crew but there's a lot of waiting around anyway during a load-in so that wasn't too much of a setback.
Greg Johnson came to this performance to schmooz with the big-wigs who attend the show in Helena. We also had quite a bit of family in the audience, including Katie's grandmother, who suffered a fainting spell near intermission. Of course it threw Katie for a loop but the latest word is that the attack was something to do with Grandma's medication, and she's doing much better now. Whew.
Greg's main point and concern of the evening: Make sure the show stays tight. We cannot run over 2:15 because it just makes things tedious for the audience and indulgent on our part. Especially for a Neil Simon comedy, crisp, clean, quick acting is key.
Load out was less painful and we were out in time to get a decent night's sleep...

Day 3 & Show #3 coming soon....

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Random fun stuff.

Hey. Just something entertaining from this summer until I do a real update on tour!

This is an animation created by Alan from this summer in Bigfork. Lorsey took a multiple number of still photos during photo call while actors were adjusting for the correct position for the "real" photo. Alan linked them together into this charming animation. (click picture to see actual movement)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Cast

After weeks of rehearsal that I've been negligent in updating, the Core and real story of our tour begins now and I am excited to bring everyone along for the ride. We leave tomorrow at 8:30am. So first, let's get everyone grounded and ready for the adventure.

The Plot: Montana Repertory Theatre's National Tour of Lost in Yonkers, Pulitzer prize-winning, heartfelt comedy by Neil Simon.

The Cast....
Me: Stage Manager.

Libby: Company Manager. Montana native, bright, sprightly, spunky Momma of tour!

Derek: Technical Director. Montana native, friend, classmate and smartass extraordinaire.

Alan: Lighting Designer/Master Electrician. Montana native, friend, classmate, Munchkin player & fellow computer-geek extraordinaire.

Nora: Wardrobe Mistress. Montana native, friend, classmate, superhypercheerfulaxepealidocious girl of never ending adventure and amusement.

Katie: Assistant Master Electrician. Friend, classmate, party-girl then buckle down and work hard!

Dan: Sound designer/Engineer. Friend, almost classmate, even-keel, cultured crewman of endless patience.

Lauren: My assistant! Friend and birthday twin, fellow Bigfork Playhouse alum, generous enough to laugh at my jokes ;)

Danny: Actor, U of M almost-graduate. Playing Jay..hard working, quiet, funny, attentive with impressive work ethic.

Marie: Actress, U of M Sophmore. Playing Arty. Also hard working, impressive ethic and discipline, good humor and sweetness.

Martha: Actress, U of M, playing Aunt Gert. Witty, dry, hard worker, grounded, gritty and lively, partier streak.

Suzy: Equity actress, playing Grandma. Toured last year and years before me, intense, powerful, funny, secretly a partygirl...

J.R.: Equity actor, playing Eddie. Toured last year, even-keeled, funny, knows and finds all the good places to eat and drink and can tell you anything about a glass of wine.

Lordan: Equity actress, first tour with the Rep. Playing Bella..quiet, funny, sweet and quirky. Wonderful to watch onstage, excellent comedian.

Jason: Equity actor, first tour with the Rep. Playing Uncle Louie. Charming, fun, hysterical to watch onstage, seems ready for tour!

Secondary Cast...

Kara: Director of Lost in Yonkers, accompanying us for the first week of tour..

Greg Johnson: Artistic Director for the Montana Rep, the eyes from above..

Steve Wing: Production Manager of the Rep and U of M Drama/Dance department. Highly respected mentor.

LisaMarie: Assistant to Greg and all-around problem solver.

Our story begins tomorrow in Plains, a favorite stop by Rep tour veterans, where we perform in the highschool gymnasium and get fed by the locals.

Buckle your seatbelt.

Let the journey begin.