"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

Monday, September 7, 2015

Stiteses In The Swamp Pt. 2: Full Moon Friday

Lisa was my life-saver during the entire production of this show. I tend to over-promise myself and set a new record for that this time. Lisa was like a little Guardian Angel floating around and taking care of everything I wasn't. I told Director Cal that sure, I'd find someone to do props. That "someone" turned out to be Lisa, who stepped into completely new territory and rocked it. And then there's the publicity. Lisa took it upon herself to get Shrek in the local newspapers, and I don't think any BLT show has been represented better in the press, a big factor in the over 1500 people we had turn out to see the show. One article she wrote, a huge piece in Southport Magazine, is truly not only the best article about a show we've ever had but also a spectacular representation of what ALL community theatres do in putting together a major production. Whatever needed to be done, Lisa was right there either helping do it or totally taking it upon herself. I couldn't have survived without her.

But the el numero uno, very biggest, thank the Lord above for Lisa factor in this show was her debut as a stage manager. I signed on as stage manager for this show early on, then got talked into actually taking a small on stage role as well. I had no idea how much work a small role would be, the dancing and singing was way out of my comfort zone and the work involved in learning to do even that small amount of choreography blew me away. I agreed to the on stage stuff knowing I couldn't stage manage by myself if I was going to be otherwise occupied. Lisa had already agreed to help me stage manage Shrek, but my acting debut would place a whole lot more on her shoulders. On top of the props, she knew she'd be busy, but leapt right into the role with both feet. And she rocked it.

Stage management is a huge job. I'm still learning myself and this show taught me its share of lessons. Lisa soaked it up like a sponge, organizing a crew to execute set changes as well as anyone could have. That's a pretty big deal for someone learning on the job. I could go on and on about all she learned and all she did over a week of tech rehearsals and two weekends of performances, but this particular show offers up one night that pretty much encapsulates everything. It was the Friday of our second weekend, the night of a full moon. I'm not usually superstitious about such things, but may be changing my mind after this one.

Much of stage management involves dealing with "Backstage Drama." Everyone says "leave the drama on stage," but it never happens. It couldn't, really, given you are looking at dozens of naturally dramatic people attempting the near impossible over and over again. Drama happens, and takes one of two forms. The first is caused by, to put it simply, things breaking. Equipment breaks. Electronics fail. Sets break. Costumes fall apart. People are injured. You can count on ALL of those things happening on every show. Some of these things rise to the level of actual emergency. The second, which you can also count on every show, is drama created by people being, well, dramatic about things. Everyone is under a lot of pressure and sometimes what would be nothing in real life makes otherwise sane people lose their minds during a show. Though it can't be ignored, this kind of drama is almost never an emergency and can't be allowed to distract when one crops up. Our Full Moon Friday offers a great comparison of the two, and why Lisa was a great asset to Shrek the Musical.

Some backstage emergencies are actually pretty hilarious. Full Moon Friday offered one of these in the form of the Greatest Costume Malfunction Ever, otherwise known as The Donkey Dong Incident. During one of Donkey's big song and dance scenes, a piece of his costume became unattched at one end causing a strip of costume to dangle between his legs. Yes, it looked just as you are imagining. Dan, our awesome Donkey, could do nothing else but carry on, dancing around with a swinging......thing. Audience members were texting Lisa saying basically, "uhhhh, we have children here...." So much for no one noticing. Some things just can't be fixed until the scene is over, ya know? It was, by the way, fixed by the Donkey's wife. Insert your own Donkey dong joke here.

I wrote in my tribute to John the Sound Tech about our trouble with microphones. Full Moon Friday saw our lead's mic fail, in the middle of a song. Does Lisa freak out? Nope. And thus no one else does. Charles Patton, our Shrek, can project like no one's business, so he did. By the time he had a brief moment off stage, a spare mic had been procured and was hurriedly attached to the ogre. Lisa told John on headset about the new mic, John fired it up and when he went back out, all was well. Emergency dealt with.

Those two are the sorts of happens-every-show things a stage manager has to deal with. Staying calm is essential, something Lisa is very good at. But every now and then a REAL emergency crops up. Staying calm THEN is even more important. On this night there was an equipment malfunction in the tech booth area that escalated to involving the auditorium's two paid managers, then the Brunswick Community College's public safety personnel. It was touch and go for a while and we came very close to evacuating the building. This is NOT the sort of thing that happens every show, I never had anything like this happen on my watch. I never even knew this was happening until after the fact. Thing is no one not on headset had any idea. Lisa handled it like a pro, responding to a scary situation without freaking out, without blowing up and without letting it affect the show or the performances of any actors. She preserved not only the magic of the performance for the audience, but shielded all the actors (who would have not been as calm, I can assure you) from potentially distracting "drama."

So what of the other type of drama? In point of comparison, pretty much simultaneous to the tech booth situation, there were folks behaving much less calmly than Lisa over which of several available dressers were going to help with a costume change later in the show. It wasn't a question of if there was going to be help (which would have been a real problem), that was never in doubt, just who was going to be involved or not. It got needlessly dramatic. Lisa was as ignorant of this......situation.....as those involved were of what was going on in the tech booth. Thankfully.

I can't say enough how thankful I am it was Lisa and her calm professionalism in the wings keeping things under control. She spent the last two musicals in the dressing room dealing with that sort of drama, but she is much more suited for a stage management role. And BLT is lucky she is the one who was filling that role on that Full Moon Friday.

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