Enter Mom, Stage Left

September 4th, 2012

Well, it happened. Cam arrived on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 9:33pm. After about 2 hours of painful contractions and 33 minutes of pushing, he was out in the world. The entire process, from entering the hospital to having him on my chest, was about 10 1/2 hours. Almost a 10/12, but I didn’t get that dinner break!

I returned to work for my two weeks of prep on August 20. Cam came with me, though J kept him at home for a few days so that I could get projects done outside of my office. Today he was with me for the dancer’s first day back. I actually felt like I got a fair amount of work done, even with him tagging along. And, having him dozing in his swing was comforting while I retaped the upstairs studio.

The fear of the unknown is behind me. I can go all day without seeing him, though I do hold him a bit too much once I get home. Pumping (since I did choose to breastfeed) and trying to work at the same time can be a bit frustrating, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. Having him with me is wonderful, and I love changing his diapers, feeding him and seeing his smile in the middle of the day – what isn’t so great is when I need to have a meeting, take care of something in rehearsal or do something outside of my office and he gets cranky. I’m there to do my job, but my son’s well being is my top priority – which makes bringing him to work a bit of a conflict. However, I’m going to try this for as long as I can and see if we can make it work.

We do have a nanny who comes twice a week and my husband covers Fridays, so we’re only carpool pals on Tuesdays and Thursdays (Yeah for California considering an infant a “person” for the HOV lane!). I plan to work it out with our Artistic Staff that I spend more time in rehearsals on certain days and more time in the office on my Cam tag-a-long days. We’ve already arranged for my parents and in-laws to visit during December for tech and performances of Nut. So until 2013, we’re prepared.

However, what do we do for the rest of the season? My parents can’t fly out every time I have a show (though that would be nice), and I can’t make our nanny work my crazy 12 hour days, nor can I ask her to drive from her house the 20 miles to my house, then another 23 miles to my theater, just so I can be with him on my dinner break. (But I can ask my parents to do that, since they’re my parents.)

So that becomes another hurdle to figure out. I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to do this, though before I know it Preschool will be right around the corner. And I haven’t decided if I’ll be returning to the “regular” SM World anytime soon. Do I want to continue to have summers off and spend them with my child, continuing to pay my union dues to keep myself in good standing – or do I jump back in there, pay the nanny more than I make on the gig, just to keep my skills honed?

It’s a lot to think about, and once again I’m stuck facing a new unknown.

Time Passes, and with that, Change Happens

March 21st, 2012

The original intention of this blog was to get word back to the US while I toured with the ballet in China. All forms of social media were blocked, so I made a point to write as close to daily as I could get, so that our families and friends knew what was going on half a world away.

Our first website that my husband created no longer exists, but it held the blogs of our first trip to Germany, where I diligently wrote every night the amazing story of our adventures in a new country. Being our first passport-requiring trip, it was an incredible experience.

Now that I’m grounded in the US, I find myself more in the social media realm and less and less in my blog. My last post is from October 25 of last year. There was a major change going on in my life then, and I completely skipped mentioning it. At that point, I knew I’d been pregnant for a week and a half.

We’d planned the birth to occur during my ballet off-season, since we are the planning type. I made a point not to jinx it by telling a lot of people early. We wanted to wait until Christmas, or at least close to that date, to make sure we were past the danger zone. I’ve been thinking a lot about my future in Stage Management and what having a baby is going to do to that. I was almost certain that my career would be over, and that was the biggest mental obstacle to overcome in making our decision to have a baby. As someone who always wants to be in control of any given situation, as is the want of most stage managers, I’m terrified mostly by not knowing what state I’ll be in after the baby is born.

I’ve always found myself to be a strong person, able to power through anything and get the job done right and done well. I just don’t know how tossing a 2-month old baby into the mix will effect the situation. Granted, I’m sure the more books I read on parenting, babies, sleep habits, etc may give me a better idea – but I’m not really going to know until I get there. Those of us in the performing arts are all too aware of what we have to go through to get the job done. It’s not the normal job where you can call in sick or have a replacement cover for you for months on end and still expect to get your job back. We all know that, but try explaining that to your doctor or family members and friends who still don’t grasp what exactly it is that you DO for a living. For me, I feel if I don’t return to work, the amount of training and unloading of my years of knowledge from the niche that is my job onto another person would be almost as draining as simply returning to work. “If you want something done right….”

I’ve never been a person with goals. I am constantly enjoying the present, the here and now, and not wanting change. Having a baby is a very big change for me, and leaves me with uncertainty for my future. At this point I’m going forward with the plan that I’ll return to the ballet in the fall, baby in tow. And hopefully, somehow, it will all work itself out. Of course, this decision reinforces my need to stay at the ballet and not venture out to other companies. The ballet has been very good to me these past 8 1/2 years, and I don’t know how I’d return to the real AEA Stage Manager life: 6 days a week, ~50 hours a week (not including commuting). And granted, I rarely take a break when I break the acting company – how in world would I pump while updating my rehearsal report?

There’s so much to consider, and so much to prepare for. For right now, my eyes are on the prize: call the show in April, call the next show in May. Call another show in late May. Then hunker down and focus on having a baby in June. After month and a half of “rest” (I know, pipe dream) back to grind.

Here’s to hoping.

TheatreWorks New Works Festival 2011

October 25th, 2011

Once again, here we are, after the fact. Oh so very, very after the fact.

After my lovely stint in Napa, I had a short break then onto my workshop piece, The Giver, based on the Lois Lowry novel. This was one of my more laid-back experiences at the TW New Works Festival. The show had already been performed a few times, and was actually being performed in Seattle (I think) while we were in rehearsals/performances. It was odd to know that our creatives would leave us for a few days to see the performances up north, while our director, the fabulous Pam Berlin, kept us going.

I must say, this team was so laid back that it kind of blew me away. And our musical director was A RIOT. Vadim is an extremely talented man, and had an amazing way of getting the range and layers out of the actors that the score demanded (and it was quite a score!). Sitting in rehearsal for the first two days with nothing but music work going on, I felt completely enveloped in a warm blanket of polyphonic joy. It really is an amazing feeling.

The cast was really lovely, and I enjoyed spending time with them post-show at a local bar. The entire crew was incredibly young – as is the case when you’re doing a musical based on a book about 12 year olds. (Yes, all were of drinking age.) The composer, Scott Murphy, was 30 years old, and the author, Nathan Christensen, was just a few years older than Scott. Pam, of course, is ageless. It really blew me away at the level of talent in the creatives for being so young. They already had awards under their collective belts and had collaborated on previous projects. It was nice to be included in their world, even for a short 2 weeks.

In Stage Managing news, I found an excellent use for my new iPad2. Some talk had been going around with using it to tape fight calls, choreography for dance captain notes, etc. We found quick use of it for our creatives. During an intense overnight work session, Nathan would email me fresh pages, and Scott would send the score around 5am the next day. Once we were in rehearsal and they were sleeping, we’d run the scene and I’d video it. Then I’d upload the video to a private page, link the creatives, they’d wake up and watch it, then continue to work on the scene at their apartment (and then, of course, I’d delete it). This was an incredibly effective way to keep the creatives working, while we ran a scene when we had time to. The only thing that made it difficult was trying to hold up the iPad to video, while I was following music and hitting my sound cue bell. (Best impulse buy ever!)

The show received mixed reviews – those who read the book seemed to enjoy it, but several people still had trouble wrapping their head around the fact that it was a staged reading. In staged readings, there are no costumes, no props, no sets. It’s actors, music stands, mics and a piano. Anything that involves an important prop, or specific movement that is just not possible (while standing at a music stand) is read aloud as Stage Directions, usually by one dedicated person in the cast. That way it’s easy for the audience to follow along (and not think it’s another character coming to life). In the finale (which I assume is the same for the novel, I’ll admit – I didn’t read it), Jonas (the lead) rides out of The Community on Father’s stolen bicycle. The Stage Directions are read, explaining when he’s on the bike, pedaling hard, getting off the bike, walking it, and finally discarding it so that he can collapse in the snow. Several people commented “The finale would be better if he actually rode a bike.” Of course. A bike, on a stage filled with 10 other people, 8 music stands, and an upright piano – while the actor holds his script/score and manages not to fall into the pit. Guess what? No. Not in a staged reading.

Sometimes I get the music rolling through my head, and a particular note that our amazing Giver sang really just about brings me to tears. I hope the show continues to grow and does well, wherever it may end up. I care about all of the shows I’ve done with the Festival. I enjoy following with the creatives from Makeover, my very first foray into workshop musicals – and Great Wall. Having Kevin So stay at my home during his US tour to promote his latest album brought Sexy Asian Man and Crush on You flooding into my shower singing time. Going to his show (of course!) and hearing snippets from songs that had been added to the musical was really exciting. I’m so glad to know that the boys are still working on it. I know THAT show is gonna be so fun for a SM to call. Hell, it was fun for me, and it was only a staged reading.

A lil’ bit o’ Shakespeare

August 1st, 2011

TIme keeps flying by. For my summer layoff, I’ve had a bit of work here and there. Thanks to a wonderful actor, I was asked to do an interesting gig in Napa a few weeks ago. It was for the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival – sort of.

The actual event was a Concert and a site specific performance for Festival Del Sole (yes, “Sole” – it’s Italian). The Festival lasted 10 days and each day involved some sort of performance and either a wine tasting or a dinner at a winery. We came in on the 2nd to last day of the Festival. Our Concert performance was inspired by Romeo & Juliet, with music, opera, ballet and theater. We, of course, were the theater aspect. The roster included the Russian National Orchestra, 2 dancers from SFBallet, an opera singer, and our troupe from SFShakes. This was the most disorganized part of our day in Napa.

As I am with unfamiliar locations and events, I try to get as much info as humanly possible prior to the event. Unfortunately, all info I was given from the theater was incorrect or incomplete, and it left me feeling rather inadequate. Thankfully the director was very understanding, because when I relayed everything I could to her, she felt just as lost as I did.

Our second “performance” of the day was held at a Winery, and they were very open with information, but unfortunately for me, still not enough. I wanted designs of the grounds so that I could understand distances between locations, but all I could do was get a google map of the area and see what I could see that wasn’t blocked by trees. While the winery half of our day was the most delightful, both venues didn’t have enough info to satiate me in advance.

We teched at the theater, then the winery, then performed at the theater and returned to the winery for our final performance. The tech at the theater was…well…I posted something on a stage manager’s website that explains it all. I’ll include that here:
Names have been changed to protect the idgits.

Oh my lord – this was the most AWFUL running of a show I have ever been a part of. And yet another reason I hate it when the House IA Steward is called the House SM.

We arrived at the theater, Bob was sweating out a lot of alcohol, which seemed odd at 10am. The schedule had said that the symphony set up would start at 9am, and I assumed the chairs farthest downstage would be in place, or marked, so that we would know how much room we really had. Oh no, not at all. They didn’t start setting up the chairs until after 11am when we were rehearsing the R&J balcony scene (perfect timing…). And our “maybe 5′ of room downstage of the symphony” turned into 3 panels of marley, because that’s what the ballet dancers needed. That was nice, to have more space…

I had been promised 6 specials along the front of the stage, as it was requested by our contact at [Fancy NYC Mgmt] to use the aisles, front of the stage, etc – due to limited onstage space (which works for the balcony scene when you have no set – at least you have a built-in level change). Nothing was focused (this show was part of a festival that had been going since July 15), so my one electrician (who had never worked in the space before) had to find the lights and refocus to get things where we had been told to perform. Of course, there was no way to light the aisles, so there was a bit of restaging in the space, which was expected.

By the time our lights were refocused and the electrician and I set my requested looks, we ran our 17 minutes of scenes and then it was 11:55am, and we were due to move onto the next venue at 12pm. There was no tech of how trade offs will go or anything. And Bob, the House SM, who said he’d be with me during the process was setting up the symphony; I found him as we were leaving and I said, “I guess we’ll go over the transitions at 3:30pm?” He had no idea the show was at 4pm that day. There was also a dress rehearsal scheduled for 1pm that day, but no one had told us until 9pm the night before, and we were slated to “tech” at our winery from 1pm-3pm, so we just let it go.

When we returned to the theater, Bob and the other IA were still frantically setting up the symphony, and the ballet dancers were onstage, rehearsing. We hit half hour and nothing was called over the PA – so I went to my group of actors and gave them all of their calls personally (since we were only given 1 dressing room for my 4 men, 1 woman) – and there was no page mic to be found. After I’d make each call, I’d go up to still find Bob out on stage replacing bulbs in music stand lights, and seeing that the house still wasn’t open. At 3 minutes to curtain, the house was opened. I warned my actors that we were probably going to be 10 minutes late – because how long can it take to seat 600 people in a 1200 seat theater? Turns out it can take 25 minutes.

10 minutes after opening the house, I discovered that Bob wouldn’t be calling anything, but Steve, our [Fancy NYC Mgmt] Rep would be calling the show. There had been no time to check the wireless beltpack for me (since I would need to send my actors from the back of the house/Through the lobby), so thankfully I had purchased headsets for my walkie talkies and we used those instead. I gave one to Bob, and had Bob relay through the Comm to Steve, who then called to the Light Op. I had stressed to Bob that it was important for Steve to call LX 199, then LX 200 for my scene, then I would run backstage, take Steve’s headset and call the rest of my scene. I asked how it would transition from after my scene, and I had been told that the ballet scene was next – and that the music starts in a blackout, so it should be fine (as my final cue was a blackout).

I ran out front with my actors, radio’d to Bob that we were in place – and we waited and waited and waited for our B/O prep cue. Finally it went, I did the daisy chain relay for my cue 200 and sent my actors. By the time I got backstage, after being stopped by House Mgmt who I never got to meet, my next cue was late. I rushed up to Steve and said “Electrics 210 GO!” he seemed startled, and repeated what I said, then handed over the headset. Turns out, Steve is not a SM, and has never been one. Delightful! He just happens to me the manager for the Russian National Orchestra, the ballet dancers, and the opera singer in the bill. He admitted that he “knows nothing about theater.”

I called the rest of my scene, handed off my headset and went downstairs to our dressing room. Turns out, no one called any cues for the ballet scene, and for at least 20 seconds, the Romeo was dancing in the dark.

Our second scene was the top of Act 2 – I assumed Steve would do the top of the act calls, but he was no where to be found. I put on the headset and Bob said he would tell me when we had the house. Oh – there were no calls during intermission either. I found Steve at the end Act 1 and he told me it would be a 20. At 13 minutes in, I went up and asked if anyone was keeping track of intermission – and he says “It’s been about 10 minutes, right?” I corrected him and continued to make calls to my actors. When we hit 18, I called places and got on headset. 20 minutes, still nothing. 23 minutes, still nothing. 25 minutes and we now have the house. I hear from the Light Op that there are tons of people still standing. I call House to Half to see if that will get them settled, and he says “there’s a huge clog in the House Left aisle” – um, ok? That’s an usher’s problem in my mind, and we were given the house, so I wait a little bit longer in House 1/2, then call it out. Then I call my cues for my scene, and we finish with Bows, in which I was leaving our bow light up so that Steve would take over and call the next cue – which I had told people beforehand. But Steve doesn’t call any cues. And he doesn’t come to headset, and we’re all sitting there, in silence – so I say “Um, bring up the Symphony light?” And the lights change, and still no Steve, and the symphony is in the wings (and they only speak Russian and they’re not moving). I don’t speak Russian, and they are not paying attention to me. Finally some random older man in a hawaiian shirt starts shooing them onstage and hissing in Russian. At this point, I signed off and went downstairs to pack – as our “dinner break/travel to next venue” was due to start in 10 minutes.

The tech for the winery was a breeze compared to this – we took timings on distances from our “green room” to our waiting locations, I worked with the Event Coordinator as to when they would be ready for each scene (it was during a dinner) and I ran the basic lighting on a tiny board myself. Who knew that the most expansive area with so many variables would be easier than putting on a show in an equipped theater?

Would I do it again? Honestly – yes. Now that I know and have experienced the previous unknowns, I can be better prepared for next time. I will say I am so incredibly glad that I found headsets for my dinky little walkie talkies, or this could’ve really been a big mess. And triple thanks for Becky, an SFShakes staff member that came along at the last minute to help out. I definitely would not have been able to pull off the winery performance without her!

Summer Lay Off

June 25th, 2011

Well, now it’s June. I’m just plain awful with keeping this blog up to date. The Pale King was a success. Though working with the IA crew of the Herbst Theatre proved to be interesting. I was confused how someone who was IA would be the Stage Manager, but whatever, and when he threw a major tantrum when I brought up QLab to run the sound, I felt he really wasn’t that professional. Once he stormed off, the other 2 IA (lights & sound) said they’d run the sound my way, and I could even take the cues myself (which was a FIRST for me). Just before tech was over, I met the A/V IA member, and he shifted the slide show to Keynote from Powerpoint. Things went well for tech, but when we hit the performance, we noticed a delay from when I called the cue and when the slide would change. The A/V guy decided he would do some adjusting during the performance and sent the slides sailing backwards. I asked him to stop and jump to a blank slide immediately. Thankfully none of the actors could see it, but it must’ve looked incredibly strange to the audience. After the issue was fixed, it ran smoother, but I was still frustrated. This should’ve been the easiest show ever, but because someone wanted to tweak live – and didn’t tell me about it – we looked unprofessional. But the actors sounded great, and it was replayed on NPR this past week 3 times.

Back to the ballet, finished the kid’s show and here I am on summer lay off. Once again not knowing when we return, but at least I’ve got a contract in-hand for TheatreWorks this August. I’m not ready to mentally dive into that show yet, but I’ve started to receive emails and I should begin communicating with the director….and I will….soon. I mean, our first rehearsal is August 8th – maybe I could hold off until July 8th? It’s still June, and while we work to get the house exactly where we want it, I still want to enjoy a bit of this lay off period. Soon I’ll be reading the script, making my notes, prepping my paperwork, etc.

For now, I just want to enjoy the simple life – cleaning the house, taking care of the pets, doing laundry, and not worrying about work. At least, not until I have to.

The Pale King

April 15th, 2011

Ah….the first day of rehearsal. My car is packed the night before, I’ve got my favorite mechanical pencil (even though the eraser is long gone), my can’t-live-without countdown to breaks cards, the most amazing white erasers and my special World Market box. When Jimmy Carp coveted my find, I knew I’d picked a winner.

I worked Monday-Thursday at the ballet, and took a “day off” today to go to The Pale King rehearsal. I’ll go back to the ballet Saturday, then Pale King on Sunday and Monday, then back at the ballet Tuesday-Saturday. Then I’ll get my first day off. But you know what, I don’t mind. I am getting such a rush from working with actors again. I have seriously missed it. And doing these short contracts helps refresh me on the real theater world. Being in the office at the ballet for so long, I tend to forget how life is to just be the Stage Manager.

The actors I’m working with have such amazing voices – and chosen for that reason since this performance (just one) will be recorded for broadcast 3 times on NPR. I don’t know when,  but if I do find out, I’ll post – because you all should just hear how these guys sound after one 4-hour rehearsal. We will also be under an AFTRA contract for the performance, and at one point I had considered joining AFTRA – but after looking at the online application and the HUGE fork over of cash at that point seemed a bit silly for me. And my voice really isn’t that good to be booking professional gigs yet.

At the ballet it’s mostly about cleaning up from this past season – and I do have 3 ballets sitting on my desk waiting for me to finish archiving them. There’s a lot to do to prep for next season, but since it is once again unknown, I am constantly shifting to less important projects to fill my time until we have an answer. Aside from knowing the season, which a lot of my work hinges on, I don’t know if my ASM is coming back (the offer needs to be 1000 times better than what it was this season) or if I need to find someone new. At this rate, anyone that is skilled enough for the job is more than likely already booked for next season. With those two items up in the air, there’s a lot I have to put off…and who knows for how long.

Back to the matter at hand – I’m really excited about The Pale King. It’s a Word for Word production, who is working with City Arts & Lectures to promote the release of the book of the same name. We get one more day of rehearsal, then tech, then our one show and we’re done. Today was a lot of table work/cutting/reading and playing with Powerpoint. Yup. Should be fun. With the rehearsal days running only 4 hours, perhaps I’ll have more time to say something after our second rehearsal, which will be all about staging.

Ahhhh…loving real theater. How I miss it.

…and there went Carmen

April 6th, 2011

Wow. The season is over. Well, officially it will be over this Friday at 1:30pm. I’m staying on for the school show, and then I’ll be on break until who knows when. We haven’t announced our season yet (no, I don’t know anything, honestly) so that means we don’t know when dancers are starting back for rehearsals, so I don’t know when I’m starting back. I am 99% sure I’ll be back at TheatreWorks for their New Works festival again (can’t wait!) but I only know that will be in August, I don’t have exact dates for that either. Ah, the world of the unknown.

What is known is that we just closed a rep of Balanchine’s Who Cares? paired with Petit’s Carmen. Tech-wise, Who Cares? was a relaxing 40 minutes (aside from some quick spot work in the middle of the piece) before the hectic world of Carmen. It was so great to feel anxious, nervous, tense, tip of your toes excited almost every moment of the show. Once again, without the score, I’m memorizing music as fast as I can, to make sure I call things properly. And what a show to cue off the Maestro! Several bump cues (both up and out) to get off of him – and with only one real rehearsal with him under my belt, it was nerve racking. I learned (this was a new Maestro for our final rep) that he conducts VERY differently from our usual Maestro, so the length of his downbeat is different, and if I want to call a cue with it, I need to wait until mid baton, not at the top like I would with our old Maestro.

We also had some issues during Dress, as I needed to cue him twice to start certain sections, as he can’t see if the dancers are set or if the crew is clear. There was one scene where I cued him, and I noticed in my monitor that he didn’t look at the light, he was staring at the stage. All the dancers are frozen in position waiting for the music to start and the lights to come up – and some are very awkward positions – so I start flashing his cue light. After 30 seconds, one of the violins says to the Maestro, “Maestro, you’re flashing.” He finally looked down at the light and started the music. We had a chat about that after Dress, got it sorted out, and things went smoother afterward.

The scene shifts were done in what I’m told is the French style. Supposedly the French are all about you seeing their scene shifts. I’ve only seen one “real” show in France, and that was at the Paris Opera in l’air. The entire opera was done without intermissions, so there must’ve been set changes, but maybe I didn’t notice (I don’t recall ever seeing stage crew once the show started, so perhaps it was the costumed corps doing it). The only other show I saw was at the Moulin Rouge and they did an amazing job of distracting you that you NEVER saw a single scene change. I mean, if you go back to June 2009, I remark that a gigantic water tank (with snakes?) appeared on the thrust of the stage and I never even noticed it. So here we are, with a blackout on stage, stage crew hurriedly setting this and striking that and glo tape while the symphony is playing some transitional music – then I have to bring up the lights because the show must go on and you see people finishing the set up. Ah, so French. I guess.

But now it’s over, the show is almost completely archived and I’m gearing up for one of my most dreaded tasks of the season – audition rejection letters. Many dancers come from all over (seriously, people flew to our studios from Japan…) to audition, mail in resumes, beg and plead for a Company Class audition, and now I get to create a giant mail-merge file and tell them all “Sorry, not this time.” Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, I’ve started to recognize the names, the faces, and I’ve met some in person. I feel strange that someone I’ve never honestly said, “Hi, my name is Les…” to walks into the building to fill out an audition form and I say, “Hi, Michael, nice to see you again.” He’s come to both auditions, he mails an audition packet every year, I feel like I know him, but I don’t. I don’t like that I recognize them. It makes it personal, in some weird way. I’d rather send rejection notices to people I’ll never see. Thankfully my headshot has been removed from our website, so if they ever see me, they won’t know who I am.

But that’s my tomorrow. Mail merging to create PDFs to email to the masses. And what’s the silver lining? I got a sweet little (3 days kind of little) gig with Word for Word! How fantastic that my little January escape got me a little job that fits perfectly with my ballet schedule. It’s a new kind of contract for me as well, called The Periodic Performance Contract – for shows that have one, or very few sporadic performances. And that’s it – we have just one show, and then it’s over. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s to promote a book that is coming out on April 15. I don’t know much about it, and perhaps now that I have a bit of time to breathe, I should be able to post about it. I do know it’s about the IRS.

….Swan Lake?

March 2nd, 2011

So yeah…um…things got really hectic. My last post was flying into DC. Since then the festival ended, I came home, rehearsed Swan Lake, teched it (just barely) opened and closed it and now we’re into the final rep of the season. Wow. I am horrible at keeping up with this.

The experience in DC was an interesting one. I am so used to working with IATSE crews that it kinda blew my mind that so few theaters in the DC area actually use IA. At the Arena, it was like being back at CalShakes – all teenager/young 20-somethings running around making it all work. And they did a fine job – I just missed seeing the veterans. Ah, youth.

The show was beautiful, simple, but beautiful. We had very little rehearsal time, due to space scheduling and the fact that we got there a day late, but it worked. I spent most of my evenings with my parents – yes – it seems as though whenever I go “on tour” they come out and see my shows. It’s sweet, and if I end up doing more of these things, I’ll see my parents more often than once a year. [They drove to Cleveland in 2007 for our Nutcracker "tour" and they flew out to China  in 2008 for the last 3 cities of our China Goodwill tour - so we were a bit overdue.]

I also got to meet a new mentor, another stage manager who I met through a SM networking site. We have several friends in common, and he happened to be rescuing a show at his old theater the same time I was in town, so we met. Then I got to see my first PSM at the ballet, Craig. He took me out for breakfast, gave me the grand tour of his theater, and we had a lovely chat. Most of the time I feel a little lost, and that I’m not good enough for this work, so it’s so comforting to have these mentors to look up to, to talk with, and learn.

Once the show was over, the next day we traveled home and the next morning, I was back at the ballet. Since then it was a crash course in getting ready for the show. I never felt so rushed. I’m sure I brought it upon myself by taking 2 weeks off, but I needed Pastures. Those 2 weeks really refreshed me and got me mentally back on track.

Tech for Swan Lake was…..um….let’s say “a new experience.” We had a new Martin moving light system, and it took some getting used to. The show is also an unbelievable mother of all ballets, and I’ve got some really good notes now for how to handle this in the future – especially if we have almost no time to tech all of the casts. But the show was gorgeous, we had really full houses for every performance (2150 was the average per performance, and we only hold 2600), and I felt good about it when it was over. Though I’m sure the buzz from Black Swan helped us, along with having an amazing guest artist, Carlos Acosta, from London’s Royal Ballet.

With just barely one day off, we’re back in the studios and rehearsing for our final rep. It will be Balanchine’s Who Cares? and Roland Petit’s Carmen. Quite different pieces, especially in mood. Right now I’m spending my time researching and watching videos from various years, looking at crudely drawn designs and using Google Translate to figure out the French paperwork. I’m noticing several things left off (set deco-wise) in 2002 that were present in 2000, so I’m working on making sure this year matches the original plan of Petit’s ballet. And, of course, I am without an assistant this week and next. It really is almost impossible to do the research and work that I need to do my job, while trying to get the daily tasks done myself. On top of that, the elevator isn’t working, so it took me over 15 minutes to carry 11 chairs down the stairs for rehearsal today. At least with an assistant, I could get it done in half the time. Oh well. March 14th will come and she’ll be back.

Now I’ve updated you on the entirety of my February. Perhaps I’ll find time before the rep opens to write again. But, I’m guessing not.

Pastures of Heaven – In Flight

January 27th, 2011

I haven’t written since our first day of rehearsal. It’s been a crazy week. Working my usual workshop style hours – long. I’ve really enjoyed the process and the people. I can’t wait to get to DC to do the show – but that seems to be the problem: getting to DC.

Our final in-Berkeley rehearsal was Tuesday. We had to clean up on Sunday after rehearsal because auditions were taking place in our rehearsal space Sunday afternoon. We got everything put away, worked on our light cues and took a day off. When Tuesday came, I was rushing to get the room put back together, and I left something behind – our tea.

Before rehearsals started, the director had asked if any herbal tea was available at the space. Management said no, so I opted to bring some of my special Teavana blend. I made some for myself, and offered to make some for her. She got hooked and it quickly became a daily ritual. As the days progressed (which we both swore felt like weeks, then months) I brought her her own brewer and we each had our own thermoses of tea next to us during rehearsal. But on Tuesday, that got left behind.

When it was time for the run, I had spaced giving out two props that are stored in actor’s folders – a pencil and a piece of paper. Thankfully the actress who needed the pencil took care of herself, but the actor in need of paper did not. I was embarrassed, since I had the items right in front of me the entire time. The day just felt off.

After rehearsal, I packed up my belongings, cleaned up the rehearsal space and headed home to pack for the flight on Wednesday. Then we started to worry – the weather in DC was forecast for snow and sleet and all around nastiness. My husband and I had planned to either pass each other in the DC airport or he would be waiting for me in my hotel lobby. Needless to say, that did not happen.

Most of the company was at the airport on Tuesday morning, I was still chugging along in my “private” super shuttle (the one other passenger put the wrong hotel down for her pickup location and was not picked up). When I was 3 exits away, I got the call to go home. As we all drudged home, I got to work on anything I could. Emailing people at the Arena, reorganizing my bags, picking up the sound computer, and cleaning my house.

Turns out that J’s flight home was canceled as well, so we spent most of the night texting as he sat in a limo that was moving at the speed of smell. It took 3 hours for him to move 22 miles. I was getting more and more worried by the second. Would our flights even make it there Thursday? I went to bed at 10:30pm after checking the flight status one last time.

I woke at 6am and went straight to the computer and phone. So far my flight was good, but the first round of actor flights was strange. Both the Virgin America website and the automated phone system said that their flight to LA would take off as scheduled, but would land at 12pm. Their connecting flight was scheduled to leave at 11:30am. Now I have no idea how a flight from SF to LA could take 4 hours, so I texted Management to inform them of my discovery and hopped in the shower.

I got a text back saying everything was fine at the airport, and that the website must be wrong. Once I arrived safe and sound at my gate, I checked in on the flight. It was due to land just minutes before 9am. An incredibly strange, yet frustrating “glitch” on the website, to be sure, but I was glad it was wrong all the same.

Now I’m on the plane, with Sheila by my side and Jon a few rows ahead of us, and we’re all settled in for the 5.5 hour flight. Though at this point, only 4.5 hours remain.

Until we land…

The Pastures of Heaven

January 18th, 2011

Wow. So, um, Nutcracker happened. Yup. It came, it went, it was refreshing to do just do my job. Seemed like life was back to normal.

After packing up my office, I went home to pack up my clothes, travel to Indy and get incredibly sick. So sick that I lost weight, and was just back up to eating solid foods before J got really sick, and we had to stay an extra day with my folks. After one final day of rest, we were back in California and back to work. Though for me, it wasn’t for long.

Back in late November, I got an offer to stage manage a staged reading for CalShakes. I was very touched to be asked, and with where the dates fell, I thought I could do it. I went around getting the appropriate permissions, securing my assistant to work in my place while I took my paid vacation time, and now the time has come. I updated my assistant’s Swan Lake paperwork within an inch of it’s life, wrapped up as many projects as I could, left her a list a mile and a half long of instructions and notes, and I emailed myself plenty of projects to do those lonely evenings after rehearsal and performances in DC. My last day in the office was the 14th and I had my first rehearsal today. Thrilling!

Strangely enough, this is my first time stage managing a non-dance show without an assistant. Even when I would do workshops at TheatreWorks, I would have an intern. Now I’m basically back to flying solo like I do at the ballet. I guess these weeks without my assistant should’ve prepared me for this. But not quite…

The cast for this staged reading is almost entirely the same as the original production. Out of the cast of 10, only 4 are new. This means several people are off book, or almost there – and many are working in the previous production’s blocking. This causes for some issues with the reading, as the original production had 3 levels and a trap – while we are in 12 chairs restricted to a 24′ x 25′ box on the floor.

I am feeling a bit scattered, as aside from taking the blocking down right now, I am reading the stage directions, which will soon be read by another member of the CalShakes staff when we go to DC. And, for those that are daring enough to be off book, I’m also giving line. And – starting tomorrow – I will be running sound cues off of a computer that will probably block my view of the actors. Joy! Though I don’t know how far we’ll get with that. Right now the computer is picking up a Mandarin Radio station which I can’t seem to make go away.

All in all, I am so glad to be working back in the realm of theater again. Granted, I love the ballet, but change is good, sharpens my skills and I get to spend time with actors I had worked with for years – and missed so much. Oh, and I’m working with a female director, which I haven’t done since 2008. And you know what? She’s great. A lot of female directors can be difficult to work with – mood swings – snappiness – kind of like PMS every day. But this one is all right. She has a pleasant personality, is easy to talk to, and is great to communicate with.

I’m really looking forward to this week. I’m guessing right now that we’ll have the whole show staged by mid-day Thursday. It’s totally doable. Especially if we stay on track and power through it. And I’m really excited to go to DC. I haven’t been since my senior year in high school for a “We the People” competition (we came in 11th in the nation). And we seem to have some free time in the evenings, so it’s sight seeing, catching up with my first PSM, meeting a brand new mentor and  – my parents. Yes, they are flying out to see this. Kinda sweet, if you ask me.

Hopefully I can write again tomorrow. I am impressed that I made it home by 8pm. I guess not having an assistant and finishing up the work at home isn’t really that bad. At least I get to be home with Lily.

Until next time…