Δευτέρα, Οκτωβρίου 31, 2005

Brainstorming

My task of the day: Come up with a passably Puritain euphemism for "hottie." Any brilliant ideas? Funny is fine.

Also, what is the most random object you can think of that could be made by a blacksmith?

Παρασκευή, Οκτωβρίου 28, 2005

I'm NOT Crazy After All!

Well, I mean, I probably am... but not in an olfactory sense.
New York City has many odors, but when the city began to smell a little too good, New Yorkers became alarmed.

Residents from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Upper West Side nearly 10 miles north called a city hot line to report a strong odor Thursday night that most compared to maple syrup, The New York Times reported Friday.

There were so many calls that the city's Office of Emergency Management coordinated efforts with the Police and Fire Departments, the Coast Guard and the City Department of Environmental Protection to find the source of the mysterious smell.

Air tests haven't turned up anything harmful, but the source was still a mystery.

"We are continuing to sample the air throughout the affected area to make sure there's nothing hazardous," said Jarrod Bernstein, an emergency management spokesman. "What the actual cause of the smell is, we really don't know."

Although many compared the smell to maple syrup, others said it reminded them of vanilla coffee or freshly-baked cake. All seemed to agree that it was a welcome change from the usual city smells.

"It's like maple syrup. With Eggos (waffles). Or pancakes," Arturo Padilla told The Times as he walked in Lower Manhattan. "It's pleasant."


I would have said butterscotch, personally. And I mean, I was smelling it in the control booth at the time, and I think I smell it now. Bizarre.

Πέμπτη, Οκτωβρίου 27, 2005

The Stage Manager's Guide Vol. 5

One of the stage manager's primary responsibilities, besides everything else in the world, is to serve as an interface (and in some cases, final line of defense) between the director (and/or choreographer or designer) and Reality. There isn't too much in the realm of specific advice I have to offer, except that, as the stage manager, your loyalties must always be to Reality. Do not be swayed. You may be thought unhelpful if, for example, you cannot produce just the right rehearsal prop at that very moment because it does not, in fact exist. You may have to eventually take the director to the prop shop and show him that it in fact, does not exist. Just remember, Reality is on your side. Similarly, if you're an ASM and your PSM has a Reality issue, it is your task to defend the cast, crew, and yourself, if necessary. For example, if it is suggested that you go deal with a beehive armed only with gaff tape, and one of you has a severe bee allergy, your first line of defense is to argue that it's impossible. The next is to have the production manager argue it. If that doesn't work, you hide the gaff tape, tell your boss you're out, and thank God that those who cannot handle Reality also struggle with Inventory.

Τετάρτη, Οκτωβρίου 26, 2005

The Wisdom of John Kerry

From CNN.com:
"It will be hard for this administration, but it is essential to acknowledge that the insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down ... starting immediately after successful elections in December," Kerry said in a speech Wednesday at Georgetown University.

The presence of 159,000 U.S. troops in Iraq is deterring peace efforts, said Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks," he said. "At the first benchmark, the completion of December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays."
In other words, if we let them win, there will be less conflict. Good plan. Net effect: making me glad I voted for Bush despite, well, everything else.

The Stage Manager's Guide Vol. 4

Today we will be dealing with "What do I need to stage manage a show?"

The answer is, in its simplest form, "Divine powers." Stage managers are expected to be omnipotent and omnicient. In short, you are expected to be God. I actually have one actor who occasionally addresses me as such, and sometimes, for the sake of convenience, I answer. Stage managers are expected to be able to produce anything -- salami, eye drops, a puppy -- anything, at a moment's notice, and are also expected to be able to remedy any problem that might arise. For example, the other day, an actor came in, said, "There's a waterfall in the men's room, maybe a pipe has burst." And then went on with his life, knowing that it would be taken care of, despite the fact that I clearly know nothing about plumbing. And I fixed it too, mind you.

So bearing in mind that you may be called upon to produce literally any object or skill at any given time, what should you carry with you, and what should you rely on your stage managerial magic to produce at the time of need?

Here's what I carry:

ON MY PERSON
Mini-mag, gelled blue so it's less conspicuous backstage
Gerber multitool -- it's got pliers, scissors, a great knife, can opener (key for coffee cans), and screwdrivers. And it's tiny.
Blackmarket Ricola
Condoms (if the actors are body-miced)
A roll or two of spike or gaff tape (during tech)
My cell phone
Sharpie (black and silver)
Pens

IN MY PURSE
Batteries for the maglight
Keys to the theatre

IN MY KIT
Lots of PostIts, assorted colors
All the over the counter meds imaginable
Sewing kit
Gaff tape (white and black)
Spike tape (assorted colors)
Hair products
Lighter or matches
Sanitary products
Wire
Nails, pins, safety pins, hair pins, tacks

Etc.

From these raw materials, you should be able to fix or fashion most anyting.

Τρίτη, Οκτωβρίου 25, 2005

Six Months

...till Hester Prynne sings Nirvana. Will the world be ready?

Δευτέρα, Οκτωβρίου 24, 2005

Rebel Without A Class

I just discovered that the class I thought I was skipping at the moment, was cancelled. So much for being a delinquent.

Σάββατο, Οκτωβρίου 22, 2005

Toothbrushes

I'm not smart enough to by a toothbrush any more. I mean, I buy them. But I have absolutely no knowledge-based way of choosing one. Do I want one with cross-action or with a rubber squiggle in the middle or with flexi-power or what? I have no idea. So I pick one that's a pretty color.

If'n I Were God...

...DVDs would have a feature enabling you to turn on and off the soundtrack. That way, were you, say, a composer, and wanted to have a movie going in the background, but not to have music conflicting, you could. When I rule the world...

In the Papers

You know, it's not that unusual to see the names of New Yorkers you know in the Times. But people from your hometown? Less frequent. Nonetheless. Here we have an article about Christianity in marketing, and it quotes one Charles Ess. I went to school with he daughter, and my mother knows his wife. Fascinating.

The Stage Manager's Guide Vol. 3

Today, we will be answering the age-old question "What do stage managers really do, really?"

To illuninate the topic, I will be liveblogging my day, as circumstances allow.

12: 17 I just arrived at the theatre, turned on the work lights, headed backstage, and discovered that I don't know where the lights are for backstage. I know where the booth lights are, I know where the dressing room lights are, I just don't know where backstage lights are. Hm.

12:21 Made coffee. This is crucial. There is a school of thought that says that stage managers don't make coffee. That is wrong. Coffee is made by either the lowest ranking or earliest arriving stage manager. As I am the only stage manager on this show, I make the coffee. And as today is a matinee, we're going to need it. My next tasks:

1) Put up a sign in sheet, which allows me to a) tell which actors are present without literally counting heads and b) communicate important information to the cast, such as when the next show is.

2) Sweep the stage. The lowest ranking stage manager or least busy stage hand does this. It's a safety thing. Especially as we had broken glass onstage last night.

3) Run a dimmer check. This runs through all of the lights, allowing me to tell if any lamps are blown out.

12:35 I haven't actually done any of those three tasks yet because the producer of my next gig called -- we're having airline drama. Now onto doing my current job.

1:08 I'm done with those three tasks, and I also mopped, because the floor was sticky. Usually, we use sugar-free lemonade because it's less sticky. But then we'd switched to yellow gatorade, highly diluted. So it was sticky.

Then I got distracted because a couple of cast members arrived (some of the older ones -- the ones that left the aftershow party at 2AM) and pointed out that we got a decent, large-scale review. And then we got involved fixing a broken ironing board. It didn't work. So we put it in the booth and pretended like it didn't exist.

1:12 An actor calls to let me know that he's going to be late, hopefully he'll make the top of the show. Or I'll be playing an older latin man.

1:14 Doorbell. Something has died front of house.

1:23 More actors. Also my backstage person. I need to run out and buy mint.

1:30 Waterfall from the ceiling of the mens room. Fuck.

1:50 The actor still isn't here. The waterfall is under control. This involved me on a ladder, with steel girders under my armpits, in the ceiling, unplugging the light the water was falling on, and rigging a solution that involved a bucket, a cigar box, paper towels, and gaff tape. I'm dusty now. And I didn't get to personally call "Half-hour." But I was in the ceiling. I have an excuse.

1:55 Great, an actor that I didnt KNOW was missing (because i was in the ceiling) isn't here. I just called 15 minutes.

1:57 Both of my missing actors are here now. But my stagehand, who I sent out to buy mint, is not back yet. She's got 12 minutes. Curtain, as it were, is at 2:10.

2:00 She's back with the mint. Okay.

2:14 We're on page 2. I hear a random beeping. Huh.

2:15 It's gone now. There's something funky about the sound for this scene. I don't think the effect is working. Hm.

2:25 We got through the scene change in which the bar dumped last night. It wobbled, I held my breath, but it didn't dump. Good. Page 11. 81 to go.

2:26 Jumped lines.

2:44 Cell phone in the audience. I hurt my wrist/thumb sometime yesterday. Page 27. Halfway through Act I.

2:51 This is the biggest laugh in the show. Barring a last night-style catastrophe.

2:52 Cell phone rings again. Turn the damn thing off. It's times like this that I wish I had a BB gun. Also at the top of Act II, when people stand ON THE STAGE and chat. Get off my stage! I wanna start Act II so I can go home!

2:54 Well that was a new entrance for that actor. He tripped over his feet as he was trying to sneak up on his scene partner. Hilarious.

3:10 So the cellphone sound effect cue didn't quite work, or it was delayed or something. That's the worst feeling in the world - hitting your cue and having it not work. But we got it in the end. It's also a bit ironic that we were getting cellphone sounds when we didn't want them, but not when we did. 10 more pages in Act 1.

3:17 Phone call. Also light cue. Both were dealt with. 4 more pages.

3:24 Intermission. I'm heading down to call 10 minutes, hobnob, plug in the laptop, drink water, check on the leak in the men's room, call 5 minutes, hobnob, call places, sit in the booth and stew about the patrons who aren't in their seats. I'll be back.

3:43 We're in Act II. Fun intermission event -- random man backstage. His story: He's a doctor, he's on call, he needed a quiet place. Fine. Not backstage. During the top-of-act blackout, a number of things are supposed to make it onstage. Notably, a chair didn't. Huh. I wonder if the next actors to enter will bring it with them. If I had the ability to talk to the folks down onstage, I would tell them to, but at the moment, I must rely in the ingenuity of actors.

3:45 They didn't bring the chair. Ooh, nice, he's going offstage for the chair. Alright. We have the proper furnishings now. Good.

3:49 Mmmmm, date-nuts bar.

4:20 Light cue 666. The devil's light cue. 13 pages to go.

4:35 Closing monologue. 3 more pages. We're actually going to get done early today, bizarrely, even with the overlong intermission. Lots of sirens outside. Kinda adds something.

4:38 Final scene. Lots of cues. See you on the flipside.

Παρασκευή, Οκτωβρίου 21, 2005

The Stage Manager's Guide Vol. 2

Tonight's topic is "What to do if, during a low-light scene change, an actor happens to upset an entire wetbar on stage, causing over a dozen full liquor bottles to shatter onstage, and also to dump an entire full pitcher of lemonade?."

The quick answer is to speak the obscinity of your choice into your com. This probably isn't the BEST thing to do, but you will, so we might as well include it.

Your next step is to turn up the lights. You don't want your actors and crew to be dealing with broken glass in the dark. Granted it's not the best, in terms of what the audience sees, but at the same time, this is the thrill of live theatre. Audiences love a good technical disaster.

Now, once the glass is cleared up, if you have a waiter/servant character who could legitimately mop onstage, you can go on. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can either go back a light cue and start the scene over, or you can just let the next crew of actors go on.

Of course, what will probably happen is that you'll take the lights down just when the next group of actors go on, causing them to begin their scene in the dark, after the audience has just watched several minutes of clean-up in the light, causing you to die a little and the audience to laugh a lot. Not, of course, that this happened to me in the past hour.

You also, I suppose, have the option of getting on the God mic and announcing that there are technical difficulties, but if you don't have a curtain, in this situation, the audience KNOWS you have technical difficulties, and well, it's a show, not a tell.

Naturally, this will happen when you have a show in which people sit on the stage floor, walk around barefoot, and drag towels through the glass/lemonade and then sit on them.

The real tragedy here is that now you no longer have liquor, even imaginary stage liquor, which is really what you need at this point.

Παρασκευή, Οκτωβρίου 14, 2005

The Stage Manager's Guide Vol. 1

Today, we will be tackling the important question of "What is that burning smell?"

The truth is, disturbingly, that it could be one of a great number of things. Let's look at the basic types and origins of burning things in the average theatre.

1) Smell: Low-level burning funkiness.
Location: On the stage, no obvious source
Timing: When the lights are on, generally a week or so into the run
Cause: Your gels are burning. This is normal. The intensity of the lights tends to burn holes in the middle of them. It's not a problem, it just means you're going to have to re-gel your lights.

2) Smell: Moderate burning funkiness, vaguely organic
Location: On the stage, in a striplight from which smoke is rising
Timing: When the light is on
Cause: Don't panic, first off. It is almost certain that some poor bug has flown into your striplight and is being incinerated. As soon as he has been reduced to naught but carbon, the smell should go away.

3) Smell: Acrid, flaming death
Location: Stage or wings
Timing: During scenes or rehearsals
Cause: If your actors are using Ecstacy Herbal Cigarettes, that's what you're smelling. These are the worst things ever. Keep a small dish of KY Jelly on hand to put them out in -- it will help contain the stench.
Bonus Cause: If the blocking calls for an actor to throw an Ecstacy Herbal Cigarette down a flight of stairs, into the wing, at you the stage hand, and you lose track of the cigarette and start to smell flaming death AND flaming duv, try the pocket in the leg that you've pinned up for length. And get a fire extinguisher.

4) Smell: Acrid, festering electrical death
Location: Control booth or backstage
Timing: When the dimmer racks are on
Cause: You may have an old dimmer or dust on the dimmers. It is very unlikely this will catch fire -- you're more likely to just lose whatever lights are on that dimmer. However, it's important to know exactly where the electrical-fire extinguisher is as well.

5) Smell: Smoky
Location: Stage door
Timing: Whenever, really
Cause: Actors smoke more than any other species. I don't get it, but they do. If they're smoking in costume, you have every right to kill them. Or sic wardrobe on them, whichever seems more painful.

These are the basic catagories of non-harmful burning. Unless your the bug. But remember, always check on any source of stench, and be prepared to deal with a fire if one occurs.

Τρίτη, Οκτωβρίου 11, 2005

The Times Gets One RIght

This is, by far, I think, the most sensible editorial position I've ever seen in the NY Times. It starts:
New York City officials inconvenienced a large number of people over the past week for what appears to have been a false alarm about a terrorist plot against the subways. Fortunately, New Yorkers have a high tolerance for inconvenience. We are put out of our way virtually every day by parades, accidents, movie shoots, demonstrations, traffic jams, track fires and visiting heads of state. If something comes up that makes city officials particularly worried about a potential bombing, they should feel free to go right ahead and disrupt our routines.
And it goes on from there. Pretty good, really. They also provide a very reasonable critique of the whole event that's worth reading as well.

The Times Gets One RIght

This is, by far, I think, the most sensible editorial position I've ever seen in the NY Times. It starts:
New York City officials inconvenienced a large number of people over the past week for what appears to have been a false alarm about a terrorist plot against the subways. Fortunately, New Yorkers have a high tolerance for inconvenience. We are put out of our way virtually every day by parades, accidents, movie shoots, demonstrations, traffic jams, track fires and visiting heads of state. If something comes up that makes city officials particularly worried about a potential bombing, they should feel free to go right ahead and disrupt our routines.
And it goes on from there. Pretty good, really. They also provide a very reasonable critique of the whole event that's worth reading as well.

Δευτέρα, Οκτωβρίου 03, 2005

Ricola

This is hilarious. Broadway.com has an anonymous actor starring in a Broadway show writing a column for them. In one of the installments, he (or she) takes a stab at defining the key terms of the theatre. They're all great, but my favorite, the one that almost made me fall out of my chair was, naturally, this one:
Stage Manager : For all intents and purposes, the unsung hero of the Great American Stage. A vast majority of them have been driven insane by juggling duties that range from baby-wrangling to highlighter-sorting, from star-placating to producer-pacifying, from schedule-crunching to tight-black-vest-wearing, from scofflaw-chastising to making sure no one gets killed by a two-ton piece of scenery-ing. On top of all that, they have a choke-hold on underground, international Ricola distribution.
It's the last sentance that killed me.... that's completely true. One of the first things I learned in my first professional foray as a stage manager was where to get the Ricola. I, of course, can't tell YOU where. But I have a whole tub of them at home.