"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Opening Night

Well, it happened.

That wasn't completely guaranteed at all, a fact that kept me up nights for the last couple months. Oh, I put on a brave face, I played my role as fearless leader telling everyone not to worry, that the show WOULD go on. I sold tickets with only the vaguest notion of how I'd refund them if disaster befell us. Most of all, I simply did something very hard for me and completely, willfully buried my self-doubt. Call it the power of positive thinking if you will, but I convinced myself that somehow I'd stop anything or anyone that tried to prevent us from opening this past Friday night.

We did it. After a lot of work by really a very few people, we did it. Lisa and I went to the first show in front of a (pretty much sell-out) paying audience. I saw it happen, saw the patrons arriving and picking up tickets and entering the theatre. We saw them enjoy the really comfy seats, saw them enjoying the company of friends and then enjoying the show and leaving happy. It should have felt......triumphant maybe? I mean, it was a long road, a bit of a fight actually, and I'd been building this night up as a sort of final battle, a chance to walk away with a win or a lose. But it wasn't. It was totally anti-climatic. I didn't walk out happy about all we've done, I left worried sick, still, about all we have left to do.

I've written before about all that needed to be done. It's not over in the way I expected it to be. Not by a long shot. I'm still going to be losing sleep over contractors and their bizarre sense of time and space, inspectors that may or may not come visit, permissions we may or may not need or have and another show coming up in just 14 days (and we still have another weekend of this one to get through).

 Now to be honest there are a lot of positives to list right now. The work paid off. They came and left happy. I've heard noting but praise for the venue from patrons. They love the seats, the lobby, even the parking. They were able to hear and see from all their seats. They were able, except a couple of ladies whose GPS led them to the ILA Hall up the road, to find us with no problems. Those with, ahem, mobility issues, were able to use the handicapped ramp easily. Our lobby easily held the crowd until the house opened. It's a GREAT place to see a show, much better than anywhere we've been outside of the main theater at Odell Williamson Auditorium. It's safe and comfortable, which a lot of our past venues were not. So hooray us.

The problems come from the performance side and the matter of permitting and inspections. I'm just confused by the whole permitting process, so I'll leave that aside. But the performance issues have me a bit worried.

In two weeks the Hermit of Fort Fisher opens and we need to have our lovely Southern beauty parlor turned into a cement bunker on a sandy spit of land at the southern tip of Pleasure Island. I've seen both the real bunker in question and the set used by the company putting this show on in their own space, so I know it can be done. However, I don't know how. I have a meeting with the Hermit director hours before we are scheduled to strike the Steel Magnolias set to determine what needs to go, what needs to stay and what pieces of the set can be left hanging around to await transformation into the beach and bunker. I'm hoping to have our Techincal Director at this meeting to start discussing tech needs for the Hermit show, because there are some and I'm not sure how they will be met. Are you sensing the pattern here? I know enough to know what needs to be done, but not enough to figure out how to do it. It's frustrating the Hell out of me. One condition of our lease of this theater to the Hermit people was a stage exit out of sight of the audience. This meshed nicely with the ADA requirement for a handicapped egress from the stage and will take the form of a ramp outside the building. I'm stressing out having this thing done in time, as it was promised to both the government and the leasees. So I've been stopping by the property every afternoon to ride herd on the contractors, who, in a very troubling way, remind me very much of Larry, Daryl and Daryl from The Newhart Show. I lose sleep over this.
Here's what the REAL bunker looks like. I imagine there was less graffiti in the Hermit's time

Then, less than two weeks after the last Hermit show, we have an event that may utilize the entire property at once. Our annual Fezziwig Ball has turned into a Fezziwig's Ball and Murder Mystery The ball and mystery part will take place in the same theater as the two shows have, but without the chairs present. I'm not sure where to put 100 chairs, especially as I'm not 100% sure how we'll be using the rest of the property. Our original plan, and the one we've been promoting, calls for a Children's Victorian Christmas Party in one of our two classroom buildings and a Victorian Food Court in the outside area between the main theater and the classrooms. It all sounded great when we planned it, and I really would still LOVE to see it come off as planned, but it's going to be an adventure. The chairs can go, for temporary, any of several places, that's not too big a problem. It will just depend on what space we use for children's stuff. But one thing I wasn't counting on was the transformation of the kitchen I suspect was supposed to play some role in the food prep situation into a lighting/technical workshop. Cooking anything more complicated than boiled water in there right now would be impossible. I saw all this work and thought how great it was our Frank the Tech Guru had found room to play until it dawned on my how close the Fezz Situation was. Now, again, this isn't a solution-less problem, it's actually a pretty easy solution, simply pick up all the equipment and tools and parts and control panels and send them back from whence they came. But it is just one more thing it never dawned on me would need to be done. I am finding I am not as good at thinking things through as I like to think I am.

Add to the mix the fact that while all this is going on we have two plays rehearsing and a children's workshop in full swing and you have one very busy theater manager with a very full brain. And a very complicated Google Calendar.

I'm wondering if I bit off more than we could chew to finish off the year. I mean, it WAS me who pushed for all this, so if it ends up turning into a train wreck, I'll take the blame, but I still think I would do it the same way if I got a chance to try again. I would rather fail from trying too much than fail from not trying enough. If this theatre wasn't being used this much, I think it would hurt us in the long run. I think also that while we are pushing the limits of our volunteer base, we are learning a valuable lesson. We need to know if we have the enthusiasm among our "BLT family" to make this place work long term. If this year ends as a train wreck, if we can't pull off all these projects, we will know that the support for a place of our own simply may not be there in anything but lip service. We've all TALKED about how we need to have our own place, but BLT needs to see how many people are willing to work to make it happen. If nothing else, I've unintentionally devised a great first test of that question.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Stage Mangement Appreciation Day

No, I'm not going to appreciate myself for being a stage manager, but I AM going to appreciate the chance to work in this role, and the patience and understanding and teaching and pure joy I've gotten from those I've had the opportunity to work with. And I'd like to REALLY thank Jen, a great stage manger (professional stage manager, thank you very much) in her own right, for offering me the chance to enter this world and for helping me find my place in it.

And it's a place I really, really like. I get to be part of the show without being "in" the show. I have the best seat in the house for free. I get to use duct tape. I've gotten to perform shadow puppet shows and create sound effects. I've gotten to work with flying monkeys and a steampunk chicken and cross-dressing men and leather-pant-and-corset-clad women. I've fixed costumes, kept props from catching fire on stage, bandaged cuts, wrapped ankles, wiped tears and mediated disputes before they turned to fisticuffs. I've also shorted out a good third of a theatre's electical system and thrown an entire production into disarray. It's not easy and I'm not at all what I'd like to be in the job yet, but it's tremendous, exhilarating, challenging and sometimes just plain silly FUN.

See? Best seat in the house.

I had a shadow for a lot of the night during Into The Woods shows.

They are making the "scary trees" pose. By the end of the run, I had ALL the backstage crew doing it too.

I never knew they had ladders that did this. I had to hang these lights so I could blow their bulbs up later ;)

I got to wear a headset and make shadow puppets during The 39 Steps, what's not to LOVE about that?

Good thing I look so FABULOUS in black. And so do those freaks :)

At Odell, I have a huge backstage in which to work. At the Amuzu for 39 Steps, we had this. It was cozy

Getting to the theater before anyone else and just being there is kind of magic.

Making sure no one eats the props is also my job. Sometimes I've had more success than others....

Really, seeing a show from here is pure, unadulterated FUN. You should be jealous.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Running Past The Roses

Sometime last year I re-posted something I found on Facebook, some meme with a photo and the words "I give great advice, but I seldom follow it" or some such thing. My friend immediately responded that she had the very same quote on a coffee mug on her desk at work, seems to ring true with quite a few people. When I began this blog, part of the reason I chose the name Pooh Sticks was because it represented to me taking the time to slow down and enjoy the simple things. Rather than using the bridge simply to cross the river that lies between you and your destination, we should stop, find a stick, go back and drop it in and watch what happens. Life is about the journey towards our goals and we miss much if we get too focused on the ends. I prided myself on being the sort to appreciate the little things, to take full advantage of the journey, to keep perspective.

I've totally ignored that advice, that part of myself, this summer. And I feel the worse for it, but I don't know how to fix it. The problem is, the things that have me running and not slowing to enjoy the path are GOOD things, largely even fun things. I am blessed with great opportunities and I feel like a heel whining about them. But I haven't slept through the night since mid-July, I regularly have a huge nervous pit in my stomach, it's an effort to not let my stress bleed over into lack of patience with others and I often fail in that. My pastor told me he loves reading about all I'm up to on Facebook and that he alternates between jealousy and sympathy and sometimes both at once. That's it in a nutshell.

Serving as president of Brunswick Little Theatre this year has been fun. It's also been much more than I bargained for. I had no idea how much stuff would end up in front of me, how many decisions others would refuse to make and leave to me, or at least wait for my input then do whatever I said. But that was ok, I could handle it just fine. Then this summer our treasurer, Jack Mical, passed away suddenly. Jack was my friend, he and I used to joke about being two fish out of water on the board, two guys with zero talent, zero experience and zero training in theater. All we had was a desire to see our friends (the same ones it turned out) with the talent, experience and training make magic and give the community great opportunities to enjoy live theater.  He was always there, always cheerful and always finding a way to turn what he knew he could do into concrete help. I admired that, learned from it, and then he was gone. And his job devolved to me. No question I was going to do it, and do it right, I mean this was the one way I could honor Jack's memory. I just had to figure out how. So with a bit of work and a lot advice I've managed to keep the theater's finances straight. Doing that in the middle of stage managing Into The Woods was a little TMI. It wasn't killing me, but it began the waking up at 3 am each night with my heart in my throat over some aspect of the books.

Then we decided to lease and run our own theater. And not only a theater, no, we moved into a 4 acre complex with several buildings, classrooms, a kitchen and more bathrooms than any normal group of people need. I signed the lease on opening night of Into The Woods, at the time our theater finances were at a low ebb and ticket sales for the Big Summer Musical were not big at all. No stress there, huh? I insisted on signing physically on the set of the show. I wanted to ask Lisa, John, the director and a few others to lay hands on me while I did it, but didn't want to look too much like the basket case I felt. I just wanted some good mojo, some clear sign of moving in the correct direction. I knew it would be a big undertaking. I'd thoroughly annoyed many long-time BLTers and some board members by throwing up every road block I could, by raising every objection, by voicing every caution while this was being discussed. They were convinced this was a no-brainer, this would be a great thing, nothing but positives. I couldn't even wrap my head around all the new work, all the new problems, it would bring. But in the end, at a special meeting, I voted along with everyone else to sign the lease. And I've been a wreck ever since.

It's been so very much more than I imagined. I liken it to moving into a new house, but more so. We have to prepare the space for we don't even know what yet. We have lots of ideas, ranging from the normal shows and workshops, all the way to sing-a-long movie nights and a medieval fair. That's part of the challenge for me, we are full of ideas, but less so on execution. Take for example the Fundraising Committee we created back in March. They were the ones who took it upon themselves to find a property for us to move into. They spoke with several realtors, a land developer and a landscape architect; they toured four properties; they generated over 4,990,876,412 emails (approximately) but have to date raised not one penny of funds. The members of the committee have donated generously themselves, but that's kind of not the point.

These are the people who said how easy it would be to operate a theater. They have ideas. But the place needs material and lights and paint and a schedule and some idea of what to use which space for. The size of that 4 acre property has shrunk massively in practical terms with requests for dance studio space, children's workshop space, a painting area, a technical work bench, a sewing room, prop storage, costume storage, and oh yeah, there' s a huge hollow tree prop with spiral staircase on  site now. We have requests to do dinner theater and a coffee house and babysitting and build a proscenium arch and knock out a wall to put a tech booth in the attic. And so far all these ideas are coming to me. Oh, and we don't have permission from the county to use the building as anything other than a church yet.

The board isn't so much absent as disengaged. We only meet once a month and most never look at their emails. They simply think we can carry on as we always have and it will all get done. I'm trying to spread out the work and it has helped a lot. I have a great guy in charge of grounds and maintenance, but he is loath to tackle any permitting issues. Jen is helping with fundraising, so we will now actually raise funds and build a real, active, renewing membership base. Lisa found me a treasurer, but the transition will take a while and a bit of work on both our parts. Still, I end up at the least overseeing all the aspects of running a theater, or really more like running a performing arts complex. How the Hell did THAT happen?

Add to this work troubles and challenges that I'm too pissed off about to even write about now, and it's been a lot of sleepless nights and days where I feel like Indiana Jones with that huge rock rolling after him. I had a Saturday morning with no plans yesterday and spent about 6 hours updating and adding to the theater's website. I could have let it wait, but when I do (like right now choosing to write this instead of adding a show and auditions to all the local media's calendars) I feel guilty and stressed over NOT doing things. It has sucked the joy out of stopping to smell the roses and I don't like it. I live less than a quarter mile walk to the beach. I moved here because of the ocean and the beach. And I haven't had sand in my toes in over a month.

I hate to even say this stuff, on the one hand. I mean, I wouldn't give up any of this willingly, it's rewarding and exciting and fun. Who can say they had the chance to start up a theater complex? I really feel like I'm making a real difference and doing something very worthwhile. But at the same time it's taking a toll. I need to find way to handle this and still enjoy the Pooh Sticks bridge. I'm just not sure how.

Do you know?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Making Into The Woods Our Own

Community theaters get access to shows only after they have run their course on the professional circuit. We are constantly told people would LOVE to see us do Wicked or The Lion King, but we can't, they haven't been released to amateurs yet. This means the shows we produce have already been seen by, or at least become a bit familiar in a second hand way to, theater fans. They enter with expectations, not in the open-to-anything way they might go to see a show that's brand new to the world. This can present a challenge, as we simply can't do some of the things Broadway can, from a technical standpoint for sure, but even from an artistic standpoint. The last two shows Brunswick Little Theatre performed on the big stage at Odell Williamson Auditorium were perfect examples. Everyone has seen Wizard of Oz and they come to the show expecting to see familiar things. Beauty and the Beast is so popular on Broadway and as a touring show, that even those who haven't seen it know what it is "supposed" to look like. We strived to meet these expectations and I think succeeded pretty well, but it was fun this year to get a chance to break out a little bit.

Into The Woods is familiar to theater fanatics, a favorite of many, but less so to the general public. This gave us, and director Jen Iapalucci in particular, an opportunity to put our own stamp on the show. Jen possesses the most unique and wonderful form of creative intelligence I've ever run across in a person. She can imagine the most amazing things then figure out how to make them reality. This is why I call her Walt. She has a blog all about it, you should check it out. Jen took a hold of Into The Woods, an already amazing piece of art, and made it her own with two big additions. First off, she gave the whole show a Steampunk look with the sets and costumes. This turned out really well given the duality and sort-of-real/sort-of-fantasy feel of the whole show. The costumes are spectacular and the set is wowing audiences, so it's clearly worked. The Wilmington newspaper reviewer even liked it despite being "over" the whole Steampunk thing himself. The cast loves the way they look and that helps a show tremendously. Kudos to Jen and the whole set and costume crews.

But Steampunk versions of Broadway shows aren't unique. What really impressed me, and what makes this show really ours, is her addition of an all-ages (but mostly children) ensemble. The Broadway show features nothing of the sort. I never told her so, but I admire Jen's courage in doing this. It's really putting a part of herself on stage for approval. This grew out of Jen's very personal love for children and insistence on making them (including her own) a part of BLT's summer musicals. She was all-in on this, too. The ensemble wasn't
just layered on top of the show, she wove them into it. If it worked, the show worked, but if not, if audiences saw it as a distraction, it could have hurt the whole production. Jen created mini-scenes, little stories within the story, for the kids to act out. She used them to create special effects like the giant and the beanstalk. She used them to create mood and help enhance the characters around them (in one instance, for example, they are flowers that wilt as the Witch approaches). They aren't icing an audience can scape off and still enjoy the cake beneath, the are baked right in there. That was a risk, to be sure, but one Jen is uniquely qualified to take.
Most of the Ensemble in a publicity photo
The Beanstalk
Milky White, the hen that lays golden eggs and stolen giant's harp are all ensemble members

Watching this come together, I knew it worked just as Jen envisioned it. The kids took to their roles with gusto and skill and the adults allowed them right into the show with enthusiasm and understanding. I knew *I* loved it and "got" what was happening, but I wondered how a critic would see it. Would he be one of those who believed local amateur theater should be judged solely on how close to the original they could get? Or would he get it as I did? We got our answer in the Star News' review yesterday:

Iapalucci's decision to cast a chorus of kids bolsters the whole fairy tale angle. Children play the birds who aid Cinderella and they open green umbrellas on a staircase to create Jack's beanstalk. It's a winning idea, even if a couple of the young performers' roles aren't entirely clear. 

He got it. And that was nice. But I find what I like most about Jen's  additions to Into The Woods is that, even as personal and very "her" they are, they make the show BELONG to all of us in the cast and crew. This isn't Broadway's Into The Woods, it's Brunswick Little Theatre's Into The Woods.

And it's EPIC.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Things I ALREADY Love About BLT's Into The Woods

We can start with that poster. Cool, huh?

I've been happily watching this show come together and largely keeping my mouth shut about it. We open two weeks from last night. Two weeks from this moment, I will be backstage at Odell Williamson Auditorium. I like that idea. So, I'm going to list a few of the other things that make me happy about this show, and particularly Brunswick Little Theatre's production of it.

1. The Writing

James Lupine is credited with "the book" on this show. That's, to my simple understanding of musicals, the words between the songs. I imagine he and Stephen Sondheim worked together hand and glove with the lyrics and spoken word bits. The story is told largely in song, so they had to. It really worked, in ways I truly admire as an aspiring writer.

During the opening number, there's a knock on the door to The Baker's cottage. His Wife asks who it is and The Baker responds in a way that sums up so clearly where this journey is taking us. Into The Woods is largely about normal people's responses to unusual situations. It is a great mix of the fantastic and the mundane, both feeding our imagination and relating to us in ways we can completely identify with ourselves. The Baker and his Wife take it for granted there's a witch next door, but it doesn't mean they completely buy into that part about "magic beans." That just strikes me as funny, they accept she's a witch but are suspicious that the beans she claims are magical really are more than just beans. The whole show and all the characters in it are like that. They are upset by a giant walking around their little world, but accept that giants sometimes do that. Cinderella talks to birds and her dead mother, but is shocked to see a giant beanstalk. It just goes to show that "impossible" is often in the eyes of the beholder.

I'm also in love with the idea that so few characters have names. The story is centered on The Baker and The Baker's Wife. Don't assume the show is sexist for identifying the female lead only as the wife of the male lead, the two Princes and called Cinderella's Prince and Rapunzel's Prince.  We also have The Witch, Granny, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf, the Evil Stepmother, and Cinderella's Father. Cinderella and Rapunzel have names, of course, but they are so well-ingrained in our cultural identity that both are essentially meaningless as personal monikers. The only two "real names" in the show are the Evil Stepsisters Florinda and Lucinda, which I'm pretty sure speaks to some greater point, but I haven't figured it out yet. The lack of personal names lends the whole story a general appeal, as if it's about US and not just THEM. I'm sure that was the idea, and this isn't a new or particularly subtle way to go about generalizing one's lessons, but I love it nonetheless.  There really is a bit of all these characters in all of us. We are greedy and cutthroat and kind and generous, we are clever and simple, we are loyal and fickle, we are brave and cowardly. And our children WILL listen, just as we did to our parents and their children will to them someday.

2. Steampunk

Jen decided to give this show a steampunk flair in its costumes and set, and it's looking great. If you aren't familiar with the term, steampunk refers to a sort of style based upon Victorian-age science fiction. It's Jules Verne-esque stuff, full of brass and airships and goggles and proto-industrial tech. Not to brag, but I was steampunk WAY before steampunk was cool. I was drawn as a young'un, totally mesmerized, to the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea attraction in Disney's Tomorrowland. I mean, it was a submarine that looked like a big, metal fish. And you could see all the bolts! I loved blimps and airships. I had a Goodyear Blimp model in my room. I wore goggles and funky hats whenever I could get my hands on them. Back then I was weird. Today, it's a whole subculture and people are going to a lot of expense and trouble to look like I wanted to when I was 8. Jen has designed a whole show to fit my elementary school imagination, and I couldn't be happier to be a part of it.

3. The Costumes

I'll let them speak for themselves.

4. Milky White

Into The Woods features as a sort of character Jack's cow, Milky White. Milky White has been portrayed in different productions using everything from a big prop cow on wheels to an actor in a cow costume. Jen has chosen the middle road, an actor carrying a cow prop.  It's a great idea as it gives the audience a cow but also allows an actor to portray the cow's, well, emotions. The cow goes through a lot. And the actor Jen chose, a teenager named Chase Costen, has totally embraced his bovine side. In rehearsals, I've seen him react with his face and body in logical ways to what the cow is doing and seeing. When they line up to do vocal warm-ups, Chase brings his cow. He gets that they are one piece, not a boy carrying a prop. It's a little thing, but it really tickles me.

That's about all I feel I can say right now. We build the set next Saturday and I am sure I will be adding that to my list. But I don't want to give too much away. You'll have to come see for yourself. Find out all about it here. You'll not be disappointed

Friday, May 30, 2014

What A Long, Strange Trip It Was

Ok, so the show didn't include any Grateful Dead (for which I am eminently grateful myself) but I couldn't resist. For nine glorious days over the last couple weeks, I got to play roadie to a rock band. How many people get that chance? I had done this last year on a similar show and loved it, so I was really looking forward to this run. I had to cut it back a bit. Last year I spent well over 40 hours the first week at Franklin Square Park, but this year work just wouldn't allow me the same flexibility. It all worked out well, though. I put in a respectable bit of work and the director stepped up and helped set up and break down the show to a much greater extent. Director Mark worked his butt off on this show, I gotta say he IS pretty rock and roll. As it was, I ended up getting to the park between 4 and 5 pm and leaving about 11:30 each night. Let me tell you, the 4:30 am alarm comes early on that schedule. I think I'm still recovering. But oh my Lord, was it ever worth every killer second!!!!

My main role, the one I volunteered for, was light guy. I had my first experience with this last year at the British Invasion park show and have picked up a little extra here and there since then from Frank Blackmon, our resident tech guru and a retired electrical engineer. The light set-up for our park shows is necessarily simple, we have two metal lighting bars we erect and are able to screw some more lights into the frame of the gazebo that serves as our stage. We started with eleven lights, three facing the stage on each light bar, one over the piano, three over the drums and one aimed out towards the audience in the general direction of the port-a-potty.

While Frank and I were sitting on a park bench congratulating ourselves on getting all these lights hooked up in such a way that they came on and off at our command from the light controller (not as easy as one would hope), along comes the show's director with his vision for the lighting of the show printed neatly on two pages of paper. I was kind of tickled that he thought to put thought into the lighting, so I wanted to make things look as much like he wanted as possible. The problem was our lighting isn't so much traditional stage lighting, used to set mood and affect color and such, as it is essentially a series of spotlights that can illuminate certain areas of the stage. They are too close to the performers to blend together or light any more than one or maybe two people at a time. But Frank isn't the kind to be deterred and always likes making anything more complicated (he IS an engineer after all) so he immediately decided we could add more lights, ones with definite color to them. "We need back lighting, anyhow" he announced and we set about finding some smaller lights and hanging six of them, two each red, yellow and blue, in the back left and right corners of the stage. I'm not sure how well they conveyed the moods the director was looking for, but I diligently attempted to light the songs as he directed. Upon hearing they'd be backlit, the costume queen/vocalist Jen turned to her sister, another vocalist, and announced they'd need slips under their hippy dresses. That's why we have costume people, the light guys wouldn't have thought of that. :-)

Here you can see all our lights but the drum and piano lights, they are facing towards the back attached to the gazebo itself. See the little one aimed towards the audience? Supposed to light the way to the port-o-potties. I labeled it "PP" on my light board.

This is my light board and the notes I made myself so I'd know what to turn on and off when. The notes got soaked in a rainstorm and needed repair. The beer just seemed to fit this show perfectly.

So, I tried very hard to light the show as Director Mark hoped while also putting light on the singers and instruments that were involved in a song. I tried to time bringing lights up on background vocalists just before they began to sing, to bring lights down on the vocalist during instrumental breaks and to focus attention where it should be at any given time. I'm pretty happy with the job I did there. But the most fun part of the job was what Frank called the "DJ Light". It was affixed center stage aimed up above the band so it hit half on the gazebo and half into the tree canopy behind and above with funky, multi-colored lights in a variety of patterns. It looked pretty cool, but I figured it should be used sparingly, especially since most of this show's songs weren't of the hard rockin', funky light needing variety. I saved it up in the first set for Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit. It turned out perfect.

You see, no one notices the lights, they shouldn't notice if you are doing a good job, I think. But in this instance, the debut of the DJ Light timed with the opening words of the song got audible gasps and "ooooo's" from the crowd. My father asked me if I paid the folks sitting next to them to "oooooo" on cue, actually, the first night he came to the show. This really made me happy. White Rabbit was Jen's first solo number of the show and she killed it every night. The timing of the song in the set had something to do with the crowd reaction as well, I think. Concerts ebb and flow as they go along and this song marked the end of an ebbing of the energy level and a reminder that this was a rock and roll show. It was one of those Walt and Roy moments, Jen in the spotlight on stage as artist and me under the tech tent helping things along in the background, both combining to create a great moment that actually got real response from a few hundred souls each night. I'd never experienced anything quite like it and it was really, really fun. Here's a link to the YouTube video, it's cool :-)

Aside from the actual running of the lights, my roadie work was much more mundane. I set up and broke down much of the non-music related equipment, ran cords (lots and lots of cords) hither and yon, plugged said cords back in when over-exuberant fans pulled them out causing black-outs and loss of half our sound, and provided tape and staples and velcro as needed. I was sort of stage manager of the operation, though less so than last year. One quasi-stage manager task I sort of adopted for myself was attempting to get the audience sat down after intermission and ready to hear the first song of the second set. It began with Crosby, Stills and Nash's Find The Cost of Freedom, which is beautiful and this band did acapella to wonderful effect. Harmonies were their strong suit. Problem was, without "house lights" to blink, people had a hard time knowing when intermission was over. Mark wanted the song to start quietly on a darkened stage, which was an awesome idea and a great effect, but because it was so dim and mellow to begin with, and it's a really short number, the song was over before anyone really knew they were singing. I tried a variety of methods to find out when the band planned to begin the second set and get the audience's attention, but none worked. The sound person was often just as confused and still out visiting in the crowd while the band was trying to begin. No one knew what was happening and it was sort of a frustration each night until the last. That last Sunday, during church actually, I had an idea that actually worked. Before the band took the stage, but while they were about ready to come out, I used our microphone in the tech tent to announce that BLT was dedicating the next song to those who gave their lives in defense of freedom. It was heartfelt on my part, it fit right in with it being Memorial Day weekend, and it got people's attention. For the last show at least, that beautful song got the attention it deserved :-)

 After three nights of tech rehearsal and six shows, we were all exhausted. My experience ended in an entirely appropriate manner. The band had all left for a cast party and it was just roadies, tech folk and groupies left in the park (Lisa and I, the Awesome Flow Family and Frank). Everything was finally packed away and locked up. We looked at our tech tent. It was old and took a beating during a storm the first weekend of the show. We had decided earlier to retire it, but Frank wanted to take it home to try to combine with another broken tent to make one good one. Did I mention he was an engineer? Anyhow we set upon the poor thing trying to fold it's broken and bent frame into something that would fit in a pick-up truck. For some reason, we all found this hilarious. So there we were, five nerds wrestling with aluminum sticks in a city park at near midnight, laughing our butts off. It may not be the first thing you think of when you think rock and roll, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Into The Woods

Into the woods,
It's time to go,
I hate to leave,
I have to, though.
Into the woods-
It's time, and so
I must begin my journey.

I don't hate to leave, leave this work week behind. I'm kinda really happy to switch gears from rednecks and thugs and malt liquor and trying to spin straw into gold so my company won't sell half my area of responsibility and make my position in the company tenuous. I'm ready to walk into a room full of excitement and talent and hopefulness. I'm ready to work with amazing and talented people, to help a friend, to learn more about this world of theater.

 Into the woods
And through the trees
To where I am
Expected ma'am,
Into the woods
To Grandmother's house

Yeah, I'm expected. "I would expect nothing less" is how it was put when I asked if I could be of assistance at auditions today. It's not granny's house, it's Building F-is-for-Fabulous on the campus of our local community college, but being plum out of grannies, it'll pass. It's an odd space. It's hell to take photos that don't turn an odd sort of yellow there. It's a special needs classrooms in its real life, but today it'll be Audition Central. 

The way is clear,
The light is good,
I have no fear,
Nor no one should.
The woods are just trees,
The trees are just wood.
I sort of hate to ask it,
But do you have a basket?

This is my third stage managing job, and yes, I finally feel like the way is clear and I really have no fear. I'm not saying I can tell where this journey will take me or exactly what I'll wind up doing, but I know what the job is in the general sense and I know I can do it well. The unknowns are the fun part. I've got a new basket (bag o' tricks) courtesy of my parents at Christmas and it's full of the tools of the trade - duct tape, medicine, staple gun, duct tape, flashlights, safety pins, scissors, duct tape, Velcro, pens, paper, duct tape, screw drivers, hammer, pliers and duct tape. 

Into the woods
And down the dell,
The path is straight,
I know it well.
Into the woods,
And who can tell
What's waiting on the journey?

The path will be anything but straight. Jen declared this show "EPIC" months ago and I think she'll wind up being exactly right. I would imagine any production of a musical is an adventure, but community theater is especially so. Volunteers are different critters from paid actors. More fun, more interesting and more impressive in my opinion, but different and twistier. Rehearsing in a classroom for a show to be staged in a real big theatre is a challenge. We get one week to rehearse and work out technical issues in our performance venue. Twisty. But I've seen Jen and Michael Stringer (our musical director) do it before and they will do it again. 

The truth is, no one can tell what's waiting on the journey. But today we take a big step toward finding out WHO will be going on this journey with us. Break a leg, friends. I look forward to being your go-to guy when the path gets twisty.


So, Jen chose to use the song from which I took these lyrics as the movement part of the auditions. Proving once again that great minds think alike :-) I'm so excited, there are so many positives surrounding this venture. 

And I already had to use my Bag o' Tricks :-)