Monday, November 28, 2011

What will we do this term? What WON'T we do is more like it ...

Kalamazoo Kevin
Ah, here we are: the second term. It's that time in our year where we don't have a big set to build, and speech and show choir tend to dominate the performing arts landscape. Seems like this is a time for the techies to put up our feet, wrap a blanket around us, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or tea, and relax until Spring.

Seems like you'd be wrong.

As you may not know (and many don't), this is "Wombat Day," the day where Kalamazoo Kevin, the most famous wombat in the northern hemisphere, comes out of his little blue box and looks at his calendar to determine how this term will progress in terms of providing technical support for WHS events. The legend goes something like this: if he grunts and goes right back to his box, there's six weeks of nothing to do. If he shrieks, tears at his hair, and then runs in circles at a hundred miles an hour, it means that events requiring techies are right around the corner .

Today, Kevin fell back straight, eyes wide open, twitched a little bit, and softly moaned "but it's not even December yet" over and over. This means that there is no corner - we have events staring us in the face, and lots of them. It's not often that he has this reaction, but it wouldn't be the first time that this has happened, either. (Don't worry about Kevin. A few crackers, some 7-Up, and a shot of oxygen got him back on his feet soon after his spell. He'll be fine.)

I don't know if you recall last December - and if you're like me, you've unsuccessfully blotted it from your memory - but we didn't have much time to rest. This December looks much the same. Read carefully and prepare thyself for hand-to-hand tech activity:

Saturday, December 10th: Cocoa and Carols. There are officially two shows - one at 11:00 and one at 2:00. We will do some set-up on Friday, and then we'll come in at about 9:30 on Saturday to get everything else up and running. We'll need a good sized crew for this: a couple of people on the light board, the Slice sound peeps, a couple of follow spot ops and a small but dedicated running crew (and this might be a good opportunity for those who will be crewing for show choirs this winter.) Wear your PArTs black shirt - and if you haven't been given one yet, you'll get one soon. We also have a snarky little tradition of wearing holiday headgear, scarves, hoods, etc. so see if you can find one for the show. When we are done, we'll get the sound stuff stowed, and then we'll need to strike the lights from the auditorium loft for the next big thing, which is ...

Thursday, December 15th: Academic Letter and Numeral Assembly. We'll begin the set-up for this on Wednesday the 14th. I'll take a small group of people in the morning of that day to get the lighting set up and working. We cannot set up the stage until after the last basketball practice, so we'll need a bunch of people to help with that at 7:00 that evening. It won't take long if we have enough people there to help. After the assembly on Thursday, we'll strike the stage, lights and sound, and we'll get the lighting back up in the loft and focused on the stage for the next big event, which will be ...

Thursday, December 15th: Instrumental Music Holiday Concert. Yup - same day. Nutty, isn't it? We'll need to be efficient in getting the lights set for that evening. For those who aren't going to be participating on stage, I could always use a little help in the booth running lights and a mic. Talk to me if you're interested. From this concert, we go to ...

Monday, December 19th: Vocal Music Holiday Concert. If we do everything right on the previous Thursday, there will be little need to change things up too much for this concert. Again, if you wish to help, let me know - this will be a small crew event.

And then, we have the lovely break. We'll need it because when we come back on Tuesday, January 3rd, we'll need to get ready for ...

Thursday, January 5th: AP Award Assembly. See Academic Letter And Numeral Assembly info, because it will be deja-vu all over again. The bright spot here will be that we don't have to get every light back in the loft and focused for a concert that night - but we'll take the time to at least get them up in the loft, because the next week will feature ...

Tuesday, January 10th: Eastside Band Concert, &
Thursday, January 12th: Eastside Orchestra Concert. I thank my band and orchestra colleagues for scheduling these events during the same week - it makes the set-up a whole lot easier for us. Small crews for these events, so again, let me know if you want to push some buttons.

I could go on, but that's enough heartburn for one evening. Kalamazoo Kevin did us no favors by keeling over this morning. We'll be busy, but you need to remember two things. The first one is that we provide a pretty nice service for the Washington community through our "fun." It's a lot of work to make these events look and sound as good as we can, and you have always come through in the clutch. I think there was a previous post about hard work and talent, and it takes both. So, enjoy this week and next - you'll need the rest. The second thing you need to remember? Simple:


Monday, November 14, 2011

Week of November 14: What Did We Learn?

With a few hours of peace and solitude separating us from leaving the scene shop early Sunday morning, it's time for us to reflect upon what we accomplished, what we might have missed, what we would have liked to do, and so on.

What we usually discover - and it's usually verbalized as the curtain is going up on opening night - is that "if we just had a little more time ..." we could have done something better. Something more visual. Made a different choice.

So, what did we learn from our most recent production of The Wizard of Oz?

From the standpoint of the technical director, here are some of my observations:

1) I believed we accomplished one of the most challenging scene changes known to theater: "The Tornado." If you look in the script, it's only two pages. But it's two pages of stage direction, punctuated by a few lines. Stage directions like "the characters go into the storm cellar" and "the spotlight picks out a small house spinning above the stage." Seriously? But this is The Wizard of Oz, and most of our audience has seen the film, and there's a storm cellar, and a spinning house, and people flying through the air in the tornado. Certainly there are other scene changes that are challenging in theater, but to go through four differing scenes in such a short amount of time is hardly an easy task. Well done, crew!

2) Scenery can be funny. Hard to believe, but it's true. Of course, it can't be funny on it's own, but when we got the portal in the Gates of Emerald City to slide back and forth, it made me giggle. It's a good bit, even if it's only for a moment. A door that can snap open and shut for comedic affect? Priceless. (OK, maybe this one is just me.)

3) Signature moments and one-trick ponies. What moment is most memorable in the Wizard of Oz? The tornado? Glinda's appearance? The Witch's appearance? "I'm melting, I'm melting, oh, what a world?" Tough to pick, isn't it? And the problem with a show like this is that ask ten people that question, and your likely to get ten different answers. This means you need to give credence to each one. For some, we hit a home run: the melting scene if five seconds long, and everyone bought it. The flying house is five seconds, too. It actually got some applause. For some, we had to settle. I would have loved to do a great red smoke and fire effect for the witch's appearance. A CO2 fire extinguisher did the trick, and it worked. Our bubble had to be moved twice before we got it to work. We weren't fooling anyone as to how we got Glinda on stage. But, they were small parts of the show, and they served their purpose.

4. Talent may beat hard work, but we needed both for this show to be successful. And we had it. We needed smart people to learn how to run a digital sound board, and the physical labor that it took to get mics, speakers and cables set up. We needed bright people to learn and understand the new rigging system, and then run the ropes during the show. We needed stage and props managers who could organize the backstage area, and then pitch in and run stuff when needed. We needed observant light board and follow spot operators to be aware that just about every rehearsal and show needed something new and just a bit different, and then stayed attentive to make sure nothing got missed. We needed eager shift crew personnel who could count on scenery being added up until the first show, and making move quickly and quietly. We needed make-up and costume people to keep over sixty cast members organized, and then bring on some really quick changes that must have been a nightmare backstage. Everyone was talented, and everyone worked hard. Bingo.

So, what did you learn? Go ahead and post a comment. It doesn't have to be long or overly thoughtful - even small things count in something like this.

I am always humbled and amazed by the amount of work that we receive from our techies when we start throwing kitchen sinks at them. The Wizard of Oz is surely an audience favorite, but when it comes to the technical side of things, it is a seven-headed monster with sharp teeth and nasty claws. Thanks again to our fabulous crew who kept their heads about them and made a lot of stage magic happen!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week of November 7th: How about a little fire, Scarecrow?

How about a little fire, indeed. This week might feel a little warmish, thanks to all of the stuff we have in front of us. But don't worry - keep cool and we'll all be very happy with the end result. (But I'd keep a bucket of water handy just the same.)

This is the week we've been waiting for and working toward: Production Week. It will be a long and involved week, and we need to make sure we don't miss anything.

Monday, Nov. 7th: Dress rehearsal. Crew call is at 3:00, and we'd like to get started by 4:30. If all goes well - and we have no reason to suspect otherwise - this will not be a very late night. We have a few new things to add to some scenes, and no doubt we'll have to adjust a few things. We'll also be adding sound to the party for the first time. Patience will be tonight's virtue of choice.

Tuesday, Nov. 8th: Dress rehearsal. Crew call is at 4:00. Same as Monday, without the new additions. This is the last dress rehearsal without an audience. Stay on your toes.

Wednesday, Nov. 9th: Preview Day. This is a big day, so read carefully:

  • 7:00 AM: Call. It's early, but we need everything ready by 7:55 for the first preview.
  • 8:00 AM: House is open for the first preview audience.
  • 8:10 AM: 1st preview. We will do a 20 minute cutting from the show for half of the students at Wash (and this will likely be determined after Monday's rehearsal)
  • 8:50 AM: 2nd preview. We will repeat the the preview for the second half of the school.
  • 9:20 AM: We will spot rehearse scenes as needed. We will also be touching up some needed items on the set. NOTE: if you need to attend a class, please do so. Don't miss a test, a lab, a much needed graded activity, etc. if you can avoid it. 
  • 11:30-ish. Lunch will be provided. By this time, we'll need to clear out of the auditorium so that our afternoon guests can be seated.
  • 12:30 PM: Check presets for the entire show.
  • 1:00 PM: While technically this is a final dress rehearsal, we treat it as a full production. We won't stop for anything short of a catastrophe - and even then, we'll try to gut through it. 
  • 4:00 PM: After the show, we'll have a short meeting to tend to any issues. 

Thursday, Nov. 10th: OPENING NIGHT. 6:00 PM Call, 7:00 PM house opens, 7:30 PM Curtain. At last, the moment has arrived.

Friday, Nov. 11th: Performance. 6:00 PM call, 7:00 PM house opens, 7:30 PM curtain. Let's do it again.

Saturday, Nov. 12th: Performance. 6:00 PM call, 7:00 PM house opens, 7:30 PM curtain. One last time! After the show is over, we'll strike the set. Strike assignments will be posted during the show. Everyone is expected to work; we have a lot to do, but if everyone pitches in, we'll be done before it gets insanely late.

And then, we turn the lights out in the auditorium, lock the doors, and go home. Oz will return to wherever it came from. And we'll all get a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Week of October 31st: ... And Your Little Dog, Too!

Tech week begins this week! The schedule is important, so please mind it carefully. Also pay attention to any schedule changes as there are a few already. They are listed below, and we will outline them carefully at rehearsals.


Monday, 10/30: Crew View. 3:00 call for crew, you will get your scripts and instructions at this rehearsal.

Tuesday, 11/1: Tech Act I. Crew call is 3:00 PM; we will go over assignments briefly, and then we'll begin the rehearsal as soon as we have the cast. Light board operators will begin sooner as we'll be programming in the opening cues before we begin. We will end rehearsal around 6:30, depending on where we are in the script

Wednesday, 11/2: Tech Act II. Crew call is 3:00; we will begin as soon as we have our presets ready. We will go no later than 6:30 with this rehearsal.

Thursday, 11/3: TBA, as we will need help setting up for the auction. It is doubtful that we will need the entire crew, so pay attention to notes on Wednesday.

Friday, 11/4: NOTE THE TIME CHANGE: All cast and crew ill be excused from 7th hour so we can begin rehearsal by 2:30. Because of the Warriors HUGE win over Lin-Mar on Monday, we will begin earlier so the band folks can get to the stadium in time for their performance. All names have been submitted to the office, and Dr. Plagman has give his approval to this change. Get down to the auditorium as soon as your 6th hour class is finished. DO NOT BE LATE. This is a one-time deal, and Dr. P has been kind enough to make this happen.

Saturday, 11/5: Set Saturday #9. In the immortal words of The Beatles, "number nine, number nine, number nine ..." This is the last change to get some big work done. Get in early, and get busy!

Stay positive - this is the witching hour for the show. Stuff looks ugly, it doesn't fit yet, and there will be confusion. Hang in there - we will get this show in shape!