"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.