Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Calm before 2010

It's two days after Christmas and I find myself looking ahead to a week where I have absolutely nothing planned. The day job has given me the entire week off. The theatre is quiet this week. I'm really not sure what to do with myself. Well that's not entirely true, I have a few things I want to get done, get started, finish up, but no big plans. I'm imagining that by this time next Sunday I'll be a bit stir crazy.

Christmas was good. I stayed in LA (a tradition I began last year and hope to continue for several more years to come). We had 10-15 people drop by our place for Christmas dinner and a few games. It was a fantastic night and truly the way I wanted to spend the holiday. I love my real family, it's just they live in colder parts of the country and I realized a few years ago that I get crabby when I visit them in the winter months, so rather than inflict that upon myself and them I am quite content to stay here and celebrate with my Los Angeles family.

I'm looking forward to 2010 for a variety of reasons. Theatre Unleashed will be jumping into a busy third season. I've picked the shows I'll be stage managing and am looking forward to them. I think I've managed to avoid doing two back to back, something I did this season and am really trying to avoid in the future. Personally I have a project up my sleeve. Something that isn't ready to be rolled out quite yet, but I'm hoping will be ready by the end of January. It's something that I hope will allow me a little bit more financial freedom as well as be something that is entirely mine. I'm excited about so many things. It's a good feeling to look ahead and know good things are coming :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The End of a Journey

Holiday Hangover closed last night. For me it was the end of a journey, a new experience (well nearly new anyway). I don't regret it at all. It was fun to experience life from the other side of things. I am usually so caught up in my own world of lighting and sound cues and making sure a production runs smoothly that I don't get to lose myself in the story telling side of it.

I will now happily return to the light and sound booth for the last few events of 2009. It is truly where I'm happiest and where I can best make a contribution to Theatre Unleashed. I never had aspirations of being on stage, never studied, never really thought to much about it. It's not something I want to do often or that I'm very good at, but it was fun to play for a little while.

Thank you to Andrew, for pushing me to try it. Thanks to Phil and Lauren for being fantastic people to act with and for putting up with a non-actor in their scene and to the rest of the cast, Josh G., Josh M, Sylvia, Kim, Benito, Pamela and Matt for a great run.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two More Nights

Opening weekend has passed and we are down to our last two performances of Holiday Hangover. Friends keep asking me if I'm having fun. -- Yes, of course I'm having fun, but it's still not really where I'm the happiest. I've returned to the booth for a couple of our late night shows (Die Gruppe in GBLT and Tales of An Unsettled City: Exodus) and that is truly where I belong. I have no regrets, I'm glad I did it. Do I love it as much as my actor friends? No, absolutely not, but that's alright. For most of the them the thought of working a light and sound board is terrifying or boring so I think that makes us even! We all have things we love, for me it's not acting, it's the technical side.

So if you haven't yet, come see Holiday Hangover. Tonight and tomorrow night may be your last chance to see me on stage with the lights on for a very long time. If you don't come for me, come to see the rest of the amazing cast I'm thrilled to be performing with, they truly are some of the most talented people I know.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Maybe, just maybe I do like this whole acting thing. Don't get too excited I don't like it enough to leave my place in the booth, but I did have a lot of fun tonight and am really starting to look forward to our opening night tomorrow. Everything kind of fell into place today. I can see now from the actor's point of view how sometimes it really does seem like the miracle of live theatre will never happen. When I walked in to the theatre tonight we still had a lot to finish. It was significantly farther along than when I left the night before thanks to several hard working TU peeps who stayed into the wee hours of the night working. But there was still quite a bit to do tonight. We started over an hour later than we intended and only had one audience member, but it went well and we are absolutely ready for tomorrow night.

I'm having a bit of a hard time drawing the line between being an actor and being the production manager. At one point in the couple hours before we started the show, Andrew, the director, looked at me as I was helping him hang, cable and focus the last couple lights and said "You don't have to do this, you're an actor." Without even thinking I replied, "No, I'm a production manager." Where else would I be, I can't just sit there and watch other people work on technical things. I find myself worrying about things during the show and have to remind myself to let it go, to enjoy the experience of being on the stage and not in a room above it. I've learned a lot from it. I am a firm believer that every actor should at least once in their acting life stage manage a show, now I'm starting to believe that every stage manager should at least once in their tech career act on a stage. Will I ever return to it -- I can't say yet, for now I'll enjoy the opportunity, the people, and the magic of being part of the performance!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Moving On

It's hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone and that November is nearly over. Together with my roommates we had 15 people in our house for dinner and another 6-8 that dropped by for leftovers later, bringing our grand Thanksgiving day total to around 25. It's not the first time I've cooked a holiday meal for that many, but every year I get nervous. There's so much riding on the turkey. I'm told it came out well ( I don't eat Turkey, not because I'm a vegetarian, I just don't really like it all that much). It was a great day though. The majority of people in our house were in some way affiliated with Theatre Unleashed. What's amazing is that this group of people is not just a theatre company, we are a family, we do come together to celebrate holidays and have a good time together. Thursday we ate, we drank (some drank way more than others ;), we played games and had a great time. It was truly what Thanksgiving should always be like.

Yesterday my roommates and I put up the Christmas Tree and decorated our house for Christmas. It's funny, when it's close to 70 degrees outside it's really difficult to convince yourself that it's Christmas time. Decorating helps, so does listening to the 24 hour a day Christmas station, but it is odd, no cold weather, no snow, just sun and palm trees. Nevertheless we are decorated and it is nearly December.

The calendars fast approach towards December also means the approach of my onstage debut with Theatre Unleashed. We had our final rehearsal today before our dress rehearsal on Tuesday night. The lines are there and I guess I'm having fun, but I still don't think I really get it. I feel bad, so many of my friends, this is their passion, this is what they love and I'm just not feeling it. I wish I was, I wish I could understand and feel that buzz that they feel, but it's not there yet. Three more days to opening, maybe that's when it will kick in!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I have really come to dislike closing nights. I get attached to shows and casts. For me closing night truly becomes a night of lasts. The last time we'll put the set on stage, the last time I'll give a 10 minute warning for this show, the last time we'll hear the opening playlist, the last time we'll hear this dialogue and most importantly the last time this particular group of people will be in this spot to do this exact thing.

It's hard to say goodbye to something that is inanimate but yet does possess a life of its' own. Every show is a journey. Each one is different and just as amazing as the ones that came before and the ones that will happen after. As artists we each take one or two things from each show some take literally take things, props, clothing, others take bits of things they've learned, moments they have shared. We take these things and move on to the next production. At the end of the journey you are able to say goodbye to the people, but never really to the show. Within an hour the set is gone, the props are packed, the stage is bare. It's as if we were never there as if it didn't happen. You have to remind yourself that it did happen, that these moments were special, that what we created was unique.

I was truly honored to work this talented cast not only as their stage manager but as the assistant director. Watching Jake, the director, work was a fantastic learning experience for me. He helped me discover that directing is something I want to explore more in the future. He was a fantastic teacher and I'm thrilled to have been able to work with him.

As I transition from SM to actor for our next show I find that I still can't quite get excited about it. Maybe that's because I'm forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Everyone keeps telling me I'll love it, that I'll want to do it again. I'm still not convinced, maybe after tech and opening next week I'll change my mind. I'm happy to do it and at least say I tried it, but I'm not sure that's where I really want to be!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Break -- Kind of!

So it's been over a week. Halloween has come and gone. Our Halloween party was a true success. I would share some photos, but I believe the phrase "what happens in the theatre, stays in the theatre" probably applies in this case!

I am enjoying a bit of a break. Last week was my first week with no rehearsals since July. Yes, I think I'm a bit crazy. July -- that was four months ago. Anyway I really don't quite know what to do with myself. Being home at night is a little odd. My roommates realized I still live in my house and my two cats seem to refuse to leave my side. Perhaps a sign I have been neglecting other aspects of life for a bit too long.

Our current show Landscaping The Den of Saints is still running. We have two weeks left. Sadly audience turn out has been relatively low for this one. It's a fantastic show and I hope more people come out and enjoy it during the last two weekends of the run. We are going to a complete Pay What You Can philosophy in hopes that more people will be able to afford to come.

In my last post I mentioned that I had accepted a role in our holiday production, Holiday Hangover. I still can't believe I agreed to this. My first rehearsal was this past Sunday. I am nearly off book (It's only 3 pages of dialogue which I share with 2 other people). Rehearsal was fun, primarily blocking. It was hard not to switch into SM mode and begin taking down blocking notes for everyone as well as making a preliminary prop list. I will do my best to stay in my new role as actor for this one and let my SM be the SM. It will not be easy, but I do believe this will prove to be an interesting learning experience for me :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Failures and Successes

I learned this week that even things that may initially seem like failures or flops may indeed turn out to be a success. This week was the second in our Cheap & Easy Comedy nights. You know when you have something planned and you just have this feeling that it isn't going to go right, that something will happen, I had that about this night. And I was right, the turn out was very low, mostly the comedians and their friends. I was so disappointed, I wanted to give them a good audience and make them want to come back. To my surprise they asked me if they could come back and do it again in December. I thought for sure they would leave the building and never want to think about coming back. I love when people surprise you. They had every right to be really angry that their house wasn't that large and yet they weren't. So we'll try again in December, after one of our shows, maybe that will bring them a bigger audience.

In other news, a while ago I mentioned stepping out of my stage manager box to direct, well, now I have somehow jumped miles over that box and found myself catapulted into uncharted territory. The president of our company and the director of our holiday show, Holiday Hangover, emailed me and in a moment of weakness I somehow agreed to act in the next show. Me -- acting in a play, on a stage, with lights and sound and things...a real play. Like I said it was a moment of weakness. I can't believe I agreed to this, I'm not an actor and to be performing with an incredibly talented pool of actors is very intimidating. So we'll see what happens...I suppose this blog will now become not only the thoughts of my stage managing life, but at least momentarily the thoughts of my acting life as well.

Today being Halloween, I'm off to have some fun before our show tonight and the TU Halloween party. This afternoon includes lunch with some of my favorite women followed by Where The Wild Things Are. Then it's off to the theatre with my Halloween costume. I'm going as a teabag this year. It's a revival of a costume I used in college. Maybe I'll post a picture tomorrow!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The After

A while ago I wrote about "the before" part of every show. Those moments are definitely some of my favorite moments, my other favorite moments are "the after" portions of the evening. I don't intend that to mean that I don't like the actual show itself -- I do, very much, it's just that "the before" and "the after" are moments people don't think about as much.

The beauty of "the after" is that it doesn't always happen, so when it does, those moments are extra special, extra fun. Last night was one of those times. After our show last night several members of the cast went to The Cat & The Fiddle in Hollywood. A great British pub on Sunset Blvd. It's still warm in Los Angeles, so at 10:45 at night, we found ourselves sitting outside on a patio decorated with Halloween twinkle lights, listening to live jazz music, having a couple drinks and relaxing after our opening weekend. The conversation goes in and out of funny moments, planned and unplanned in the show, to random jokes and stories and back to the show again. This is "the after." It's the culmination of eight weeks of work, it's the laughter, the friendship, the bonds that come from working together to create something incredible.

Never in a million years would I have imagined this would be my life. And yet it is, as I was sitting there in the middle of Hollywood at midnight on a Sunday night laughing with my friends, the following thought raced through my head, I truly have a charmed life. It's not the life I ever thought I would have, but it is the one I have fully embraced and love. It's always a little sad to say goodbye on these nights, I know there will be more "afters," especially with this cast, there will definitely be more "afters." But as I leave there is always this fleeting thought of wanting to freeze time, wanting to stay there forever, to live in the after glow of an opening weekend, to stay in the company of good friends and good drinks for just a bit longer. Sadly the real world calls and work on the quickly approaching Monday morning beckons.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Love When Everything Works Out

Last night was a fantastic night! The official opening of Landscaping The Den of Saints went well. Again a few minor glitches, but nothing horrible. My one moment, well okay 15 minutes of absolute horror came in the middle of Act II, it's a 40 page scene between the two leads. It has two sound cues at the beginning and then nothing for 35 pages (roughly 25 minutes). The first cue went fine and then 30 seconds later when I hit the play button for the second cue there was no sound. How could there not be sound? It was just working, first thought -- bad track on the cd (it had worked yesterday, but you never know), so I advanced a track, which fortunately was a very similar sound cue, it didn't work either. The moment on stage passed, they moved on without the cue but now I was left to panic in the booth. I wasn't sure if the cd player was having problems or the cd itself and of course there is no way to test it during a live performance and we'd already passed intermission. So I'm sitting in the booth trying to figure out what to do...the only thought I kept coming back to was if only I had a way to test the cd. Then it occurred to me that I did have a way to test the CD. So I did something I've never done before during a show, I not only left the booth, I left the theater! I ran next door to our other space, climbed up to the booth, tossed the cd in the player and hit play. Sound immediately came out of the speakers. So the good news was the CD was working, the bad news -- that meant something was wrong with the player next door. So I ran back down the stairs, out of the theater, back to our theater, through the green room where my cast is staring at me in utter confusion, climb back up into my booth, sit back down and stare at the cd player. Time to troubleshoot, hard to do when there is a performance going on below you. Since it had been working, I decided maybe it just needed to reboot, so I shut it off, turned it back on, cued the CD and kept my fingers crossed for the next 15 minutes. Thankfully when the time came to play cue 14 all went well, I don't think I've ever been so thrilled to listen to a sound cue of babying crying for four minutes :)

After Landscaping everyone headed next door to the other theater for The Artists' Nightmare. This was the culmination of our 24 hour theatre event. I could not have pulled this off without the help of several very talented people. Our host for the evening, a talented actor and writer as well the president of our company was spectacular. The three plays were entertaining, the actors were great -- everyone had everything memorized, it was amazing. Truly a success! I can't wait to do it again in a few months.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Openings and More

Tech week has come and gone. It was a relatively calm and uneventful one. That makes me a bit nervous! I shouldn't be, last night was preview and with exception of a few minor glitches it was great. Tech week is by law not supposed to come together that easily. I'm not complaining, it's just rather odd that I've slept this week.

This show is absolutely incredible. We started with a great story and that story evolved into a fantastic play. This cast is so talented and so humble. That is the best kind of cast, it's a family, a community of actors, all coming together for the same purpose. You won't find any diva attitudes in this group. I had a moment last night sitting in the booth watching the preview where I wanted to share this experience with everyone I know. Impossible to do, but I wish it could happen. There are so many people, friends, acquaintances and others who will never get to see this and that makes me sad. I suppose that's part of the beauty of theater though, the intimacy of a live performance that can only be shared with a limited number of people, maybe that's part of what makes it special.

Tonight is not only the opening of Landscaping The Den of Saints, it is also the opening and closing of our second 24 hour theatre event. This one is called, The Artists' Nightmare. Last night three company playwrights were given topics and the number of males and females in their casts. This morning three directors received those scripts and took company actors to go rehearse. Those plays that were not even thought of at this time yesterday will be performed tonight at 11pm.

For me this is doubly exciting. The whole 24 hour theatre event, while not an original concept, is my little project inside Theatre Unleashed. I produced the first one, Acting Our Age, back in April for our first birthday and when we needed a fun Halloween fundraiser I volunteered to do another one. What makes it doubly exciting is that I am directing one of the plays that goes up tonight. My actors are off memorizing their lines right now, we'll meet again in an hour, rehearse for two hours more and then I'm off to Landscaping. They'll be ready. It's a good script and I have three talented ladies playing the roles. I guess in a way this is my directing debut! I can't wait to see the finished product on stage tonight.

After this weekend I'm looking forward to a bit of rest. Now that Landscaping is open I'll have a bit more free time. Something I haven't had for a while. I'm not sure what I'll do with all that extra time!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

It was with sadness that I played the ending monologue sound cue tonight. Our amazing show, Friends Like These closed after playing to sold out houses for six weeks. Fortunately for all of us it's not goodbye forever, just for a little while. All of us will be back again for three more weeks in January. It's still sad to see it end. There is an incredible bond between this show, the cast and the production team. I will miss that. I will miss each of the cast members and I will miss the electrifying energy this show gave off every night.

With each ending comes a beginning though and for me that beginning starts tomorrow. Landscaping The Den of Saints enters into tech week tomorrow night with our first rehearsal in the theater. For this show we are using the theatre next door to the one our company calls home. It's a space we've used before and is somewhat of a second home for us. Tomorrow some of the furniture will arrive, the rest will come in on Monday. The props and costumes should start arriving tomorrow too. By Friday I'm hoping the technical "click" or miracle will occur and we'll have a fantastic show to support an extremely talented cast.

Now though it's time to sleep, this may be the most sleep I'll receive this week. Tech weeks are synonymous with little sleep and lots of work. In the end though it's always worth it. When I get to the point this week where I start to question that, where I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel and when I truly start to doubt the miracle will happen, I will think back to Friends Like These, and know that yes, all the work, the lack of sleep, the nervousness are all worth it.

So Friends Like These I will miss you. It was truly an experience I will always cherish. I will see you again in a few months. Landscaping I'm looking forward to the adventure you are about to become!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The "Click"

As a Stage Manager I've found there is always a moment, usually (hopefully) during tech, when everything seems to click into place. It all comes together, the panic subsides and you realize this is going to be a great show. Tonight I discovered (or confirmed) that directors and assistant directors have those moments too.

After stage managing a sold out house for Friends Like These, I went straight into a late night rehearsal for Landscaping The Den of Saints. Tonight I had the pleasure of watching the "click" happen from the director prospective. We had called the two lead actors in to run the middle chunk of the play. It's primarily 60 pages of just the two of them. Up until tonight it has always been good. These two guys are probably some of the most talented actors I've had the pleasure of working with, so anytime we rehearsed this scene it was also good, lately it had moved up to great. Tonight it jumped over good, sped past great and landed in absolutely amazing.

I think Jake and I both had a feeling it might be tonight, I'm not sure why, we hadn't talked about it, it just felt like tonight would be the night. There was a different energy in the room, a different vibe off of the actors, it all came together, it all clicked. Neither one of us took notes, I halfheartedly followed along with the script in case of line calls, but for the most part both of us were so engaged in the story that I think we forgot everything else. All I wanted to do was watch these two incredibly talented guys tell this facinating story. I think that's when you know you've made it to the "click."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Outside The Box and Loving It :)

As I mentioned in my last blog I sometimes step out from behind my stage manager/production manager role to do other things. Usually it's producing, but I was given an opportunity to assistant direct our next production, Landscaping The Den of Saints. When the director first asked me I was flattered and terrified. I've always been very careful to define my role in this company as technical not creative. That's not to say I'm not a creative person, it's just that I didn't go to school for acting or directing or playwriting and so I guess I just assumed I wasn't qualified to really do those things. Of course if I'm being completely honest I didn't go to school for stage management either and I guess that's turned out pretty well! And if I think back to being asked to SM for the first time I was clueless and terrified then as well. So I hesitantly agreed to assistant director and SM Landscaping The Den of Saints. Up until this week I had a hard time finding my role as assistant director. I've discovered it's a hard jump to make going between the two jobs. SM is very technical, watch the lines, track the blocking, make prop notes, remember things for everyone. Assistant directing is much more creative, watch the actors, listen to the words, what can be better.

This week, Jake, the director, has given me the first ninety minutes of rehearsal each day. It reminds me of my student teaching experience, the teacher finally gives the student teacher control. It's terrifying, I remember thinking then that I really couldn't believe they were letting me do this. Just like student teaching I discovered I could do it and I really liked it.

I still get nervous, today is day 4 of me getting to direct and I still get butterflies in my stomach and make comments hoping I'm saying the right things, hoping I'm making sense. I think I'm addicted though, I want to do it again...

I'm a big believer in everything happens for a reason. The reasons I was asked to try stage managing keep popping up. First it was to grow more confident in myself and try something new. Then it was to meet and become part of an amazing community of friends and artists. Now it's to explore more of my creative side and continue to grow as a stage and production manager. I'm sure there will be more reasons in the future, but for now, I'm content to know these are the reasons and let them take me where I'm supposed to go!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Occasionally I step outside of my box as stage and production manager to produce a show. The ones I do are usually one night only events, nothing fancy. Last night was one of those events. After stage managing a sold out production of Friends Like These we hosted Cheap & Easy, a night of Stand Up comedy. I have a love/hate relationship with producing one night shows. I love it because it's a one night commitment. It usually means less rehearsal time, not quite as many things to worry about. I hate them because you really only have one shot to get it right.

Cheap & Easy had no rehearsals because they were stand-up comics, so no rehearsal needed. My fear with one nighters is that there will be no audience. And in Los Angeles, those fears are drawn out to the last possible minute. Our show was supposed to start at 11pm, and at 11:10 I think only half of our seats were filled. Not too bad for a first time event, but I really wanted to give our comedians a full house. I wanted this to become a regular monthly event that they would want to come perform at. The best way to do that would be to sell out the house. True to form for Los Angeles, by 11:20 seventy-five percent of our seats were filled and after the show started a few late comers filled in the rest.

One of the reasons we filled each seat last night was because of our company members. It's rare in Los Angeles to find a group of people so supportive of company productions. They are an amazing group of people.

The next few weeks will be busy ones for me and for Theatre Unleashed. Our coffee shop series, Through A Caffeine Haze debuts on Monday and runs through the end of the month. Friends Like These has three performances left, Landscaping The Den of Saints and Tales of An Unsettled City: Exodus open, we have another one night event, The Artists' Nightmare, part of our 24 hour theatre festival and another Cheap & Easy night. So many good things going on in such a short time span!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Before

I have one absolute favorite time of day when I'm stage managing. It is what I call "the before." As the SM I'm usually at the theatre an hour before the actors arrive. I like to get everything on my pre-show to do list out of the way before they arrive so I can focus on their needs and any emergencies that may creep up. My pre-show list, sound and lighting checks, sweeping, cleaning the seating area, setting up the concessions and box office, buying the consumable props takes about 45 minutes. Assuming everything goes well that gives me roughly 10-15 minutes until the cast begins to arrive. These are some of my favorite minutes. I know that could be taken as a slam on the cast, it truly isn't, what I like about those moments of solitude is feeling the potential, the energy waiting to be harnessed and used that night. I usually go into the house, sit down in the aisle and look at the stage. Most nights I get chills, knowing what's going to take place in that space in just a couple hours.

As I sit there the cast begins to arrive. One thing that amazes me about actors is how they can put the rest of their life on hold. I love being able to chat with each of them as they come in, find out how their day has been, get a hug or two and send them on their way to the dressing room. Being an SM you sometimes double as a mom, a best friend, a coach and a therapist. I've had actors tell me everything from "I broke up with my boyfriend an hour ago" to "I rear ended a drag queen on the way over here, not sure how I'm going to pay to his car fixed and I got a huge ticket." I listen, I sympathize, I wish I could do more, but usually they just need to get it out there. Once they do, they head towards the dressing room and become immersed in the pretend world we have created. For the next 3 hours the rest of their lives don't matter. The audience will never know about the broken hearts, or the zero balances in the check book. That skill to put everything else aside is incredible to me.

The last part of what I define as "the before" is that moment when the cast is in position, the audience is seated and I bring down the house lights. I love the hush that rolls over the audience. Then the stage lights go down and you can see people settle into their seats, jostle to see around the people in front of them and lean forward in anticipation. It's a powerful feeling to know I did that, every performance I have the honor of starting the show. It's an amazing feeling.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Can I Blame the Full Moon?

As the production manager and co-house manager I am used to dealing with patrons who come to our shows. It's a job I actually enjoy. Most people are happy to coming to see a play. Every once in a while though you run into someone that makes you shake your head and hopefully laugh. Last night at 8:10 (as I'm waiting for the cast to make their way around the block so we can start our own show) a women comes through the door. She doesn't say hello, she just looks at our box office volunteer and says "Lisa left me a comp ticket." We don't have anyone by the name of Lisa in the show or the company. So I asked her if she was here to see Friends Like These. She said, "no, I think I'm here to see xxxxx show." First of all if you don't know the name of the show you are coming to see, maybe you shouldn't be going. I tell her that show isn't playing in our theatre this weekend. Without even pausing she looks back at me and says, "yes it is." I try to explain again that no, she definitely has the wrong theater, explaining that I'm the stage manager of the show that will be starting in a couple minutes. She then looks at me and says, "Are you sure you're in the right theater?" It took me three more minutes to convince her this was not the space she was looking for. I do blame the full moon, or maybe just general stupidity...
On the lighting god front, I think we've come to understanding. Last week I found myself up on a ladder actually having a conversation with some of the electrical outlets. It seemed to work. We've had no lighting issues for 3 whole performances. I probably just jinxed myself, but I'll take three nights in a row for now.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Overwhelmed In a Good Way

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the creativity, talent and drive that surrounds this company. The play I'm in rehearsal for now, Landscaping The Den of Saints, we're still a month out from opening and already it feels like a play. We have no lights, no sound, no costumes, this week we spent two nights rehearsing on the back patio of one of the actors and yet in spite of all of that both the director and I found ourselves not focused on the technical things, but just watching an incredible story unfold in front of us.

That is what live theatre should be about, telling the story. That phrase is somewhere in our mission statement. We believe in telling the story. Especially in Los Angeles too often theater becomes about finding an agent or a manager, or is used as stepping stone to "break in" to film or television, actors try too hard, they over act and somewhere in all that trying and waiting for the "big break" they lose the story. Once the story is gone, so are the agents, the managers and more importantly the audience. It's a hard lesson to convey sometimes, many don't get it. But those that do, those that focus on the story become the truly remarkable actors.

So sitting outside on a warm September night underneath a covered patio lit by white Christmas lights watching a story being told by three actors who do believe in telling the story was a bit overwhelming. Everything else falls away and you get swept away by it. That is what makes theater great! The sound, the lights, the costumes, even the set will all enhance it, make it even better, but it all begins with the story and the actors.

As far as the sacrifice to the lighting god goes for our current show, I have decided to try pleading first. Maybe that will work, I just need 2 good hours, that's not too much to ask for is it? We'll see if he agrees :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lighting Boards, Breakers, Blackouts Oh My!

I think one of the greatest fears of any stage manager is losing electrical power during a show, or not necessarily losing all power, but only losing some of your electrical power. When I think about it losing all electrical power would I think be preferable. At least then the audience understands what's going on...if it's the stage lights that go, you turn on the work lights (those ugly florescents that make stage not pretty) and keep going. Losing only half of the stage lighting that becomes a problem. Now the audience doesn't know if this some bizarre lighting choice, a stage manager screw up or something completely out of anyone's control.

Tonight I lost lights not once, not twice but six times. Yes, six...and not the full blackout we blew breakers. What that means is that some of the lights worked while others didn't. And the best part of that is that you never really knew until you bring up the light cue which lights aren't going to appear. I know you're thinking just flip the breaker switch and carry on with the show. If only it was that simple. Because we are in a charming converted storefront in North Hollywood and not a well thought out and practically designed theater space, the booth where I spend my time during the show and the breaker box are not even remotely close to each other. In fact to get to the breaker box I would either have to A) walk across the stage mid-show or B) go outside walk around the block, (yes the entire block) and enter through the back door, flip the the breaker switch and walk back around. Not exactly practical when you have to run lights and sound from the booth. So I have to rely on my lovely and talented cast, who do a great job at switching the breakers on, but they shouldn't have to do that on a continuous basis.

It does make you stay alert though. No daydreaming allowed. I'm constantly reworking lighting cues to make the stage bright and also praying that not everything goes at once. It did once tonight, we had about 2 seconds of complete loss of light and sound. You know it's bad when you lose both :) Fortunately the theater gods smiled upon us tonight, the lights and sound came back and began behaving properly for the last 4 scenes of the show and we finished well.

The old cliche - the show must go in is most certainly true in live theater. And we will, the breakers and the lights won't get the better of us. I will however, start researching sacrifices I can make to the breaker box, maybe I can bargain with it, offer it something in return...

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The magic of live theater, the thrill of seeing it all come together and the absolute awesomeness of getting a "GO!" from LA Weekly. Last week was a roller coaster of emotions and excitement. From a tech week that seemed to be filled with impossible tasks, lights that seemed to have a vendetta against us and paint that was still drying as we got ready for preview on Friday night, to a perfect opening doesn't get better than this.

Everything did come together...I was writing my lighting cues for Act II in my script as we made our way through Act I during the preview performance, but again that's the excitement of live theater. Our preview audience filled over half the house -- spectacular for preview and then opening night -- SOLD OUT!!!!! Who would have thought that an original play set in a high school, centered around violence would sell out in a little theater in North Hollywood. I knew it was a good show, but never expected a sold out audience on the first night. So sold out that one of the directors had to sit in the booth with me.

We had one reviewer that night, from one of the more critical magazines in LA. The show was great, a minor technical glitch -- not my fault (thankfully) only one gunshot not four, but it still worked beautifully. Fast forward 48 hours to Monday. I'm paging through Facebook and see one of the members of my cast has a status update that says "my current show received a "go" from LA Weekly." My first thought was wow I didn't know he was in two shows...slowly it hit me, that no, he's talking about our show, we got the "GO."

A "GO" it's funny how one word can change everything. This is our first "GO." A second year company, doing things on very limited budgets and we got a "go." So exciting. I couldn't be happier for the playwright, the cast and our company. It's bit like businesses framing their first dollar, you know they will make more than one dollar, but the first one, that's the special one, I know that TU will receive more "go's" from LA Weekly in the seasons to come, but this first one, it will always be a special one...

With Friends Like These up, it's time to move forward. I started rehearsals for our next show, another TU original Landscaping The Den of Saints. I always feel like I'm cheating a bit when I have one show I'm still in the booth with and another one I'm rehearsing with...they are like children, you have to keep explaining that you love them both the equally. Perhaps in different ways, but you have enough affection for both of them. Such completely different casts, directors and productions. Den of Saints is cast entirely from our company membership and includes some of my favorite actors. It was never my plan to do two shows in a row, but I fall in love with casts and directors and well, honestly I have a hard time saying no.

Off to the theater for rehearsal in an hour or so...going to change the marquee to advertise our "GO."

Life truly doesn't get much better than this :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where did the time go?

Well I suppose the easy answer to that question is VEGAS. My escape from LA last weekend took me to Las Vegas, I spent the weekend with four fantastic friends. It was exactly what I needed, only a bit too short. One more day would have been nice.

And then I came home and found myself in the middle of a complicated and truncated tech week. Truncated because we just moved into this new space, The Sherry. Because of the move and when we received access, things had to get a bit compressed, meaning, our build began over Labor Day weekend. -- The same weekend I went to Vegas. Our set designer did a fantastic job and it was over 50% complete by Monday. I'd say now we're at 75% complete...tomorrow is preview.

We've never done a preview night before. It's a luxury I think I'll enjoy. Tonight, will be our first run with lights and sound. We added costumes, by our lovely and talented costumer designer last night.

I have to admit, even when it's 2am and I'm in a theater with just five other people all working incredibly hard to finish what seems like an impossible task, this is when I'm the happiest. I get chills thinking about not only how far our company has come in such a short time period, but also me. 4 years ago I was terrified of actors. 3 years ago I was a brand new SM with absolutely no clue what I was doing. 18 months ago I became a production manager and last night I found myself discussing things like the possibilities of shimming a swinging door, the benefits of hanging lekos vs. fresnals for lights and working with someone else to figure out the best way to safely brace a flat to a wall if you can't screw into the floor. It's those moments that make me love what I do even more.

Do I get tired? Do I wish for a break? Who wouldn't...I've had a total of 6 hours of sleep in two days and will probably get maybe another six before we open on Saturday night. But do I love it, absolutely. I can't imagine being anywhere else!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

8 Days and Counting

Sometimes the magic of theater amazes me, other times it makes me really nervous. Our next production, Friends Like These, opens in exactly 8 days. The wonderful cast is ready to go, they could perform tonight, if we had a set, costumes, props, lights and sound. All minor details really, right? If I say that to myself enough I may start to believe it. Unfortunately I know the truth, but I also know that the miracle of the theater will occur, it will all come together and all will be well when we preview next Friday night -- I hope :)

Being in our space last night, our theater was great. It will still take a while for that to sink in. We actually have a home. It needs some work, but talking with our artistic directors, president and tech director last night it all seems doable. We can truly make this a home for ourselves. Not too bad for a second year company, no more nomadic wandering, no more rehearsing in office spaces or church basements, we have our own theater! I can't say that enough. I don't think any of the nine of us who founded this company thought we'd be here so soon. It really is incredible.

So much more to do today. Must finish getting the cast lists out for our coffee shop series, Through a Caffeine Haze, have a few things to print off before the exec and company meetings tonight. Have to load up the car with more garage sale items and take them to the theater and on a personal note, must pick up cat litter before 11pm tonight because the 24 hour Ralph's near my house insists on closing during their renovation, thus ceasing to become a 24 hour store, I should also really through a few things in a bag, as I am escaping the smoke of LA for the weekend!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A True Family

I use this mostly as a space to talk about life as a production manager for one of LA's up and coming theatre companies. While none of that has changed I was reminded today of how much of a family we really are...One of the company members sent this to me today:

Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The
Plain Dealer, Cleveland , Ohio

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 44 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:"

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion.

Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ''In five years, will this matter?".
26. Always choose life.
27. Forgive everyone everything.
28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
29. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
31. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
32. Believe in miracles.
33. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
34. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
35. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
36. Your children get only one childhood.
37. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
38. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
40. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
41. The best is yet to come.
42. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
43. Yield.
44. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

I don't normally post things like this, but every once in a while I get caught up in the LA world. Sometimes that world can feel superficial and lonely. Getting this today somehow reminded me that while we all run around crazily and sometimes things happen that we don't like, we are still very connected to each other. Why she sent this to me today I may never know, I'd like to think that on some level maybe she knew I needed to read it today. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, so much of life and theatre for that matter is based on happy coincidences.

The happy coincidence in my life other than receiving this email today is that it did make me pause and remember how much I love the people I work with and why I put so much effort into my job. It's for them, it's for us. Not only are we a company of artists and artistic individuals, we are a family. It's a rare find here in LA, a company of actors that are actually friends and dare I say it family, but in this group that anomaly exists.

So take the words above and do with them what you want. Take a moment to remember and be thankful for your family, be it your real one or your chosen one.

Off to rehearsal at the theatre. It feels so good to write that :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It just keeps going

We closed three shows this past weekend. Three, I know -- we must be crazy! Two mainstage productions running in rep with each other (note to self -- should we ever do that again, please try to convince both directors that one set is preferable to two and that one lighting plot is better than two...). Thankfully I had two of the most amazing and incredible SM's, assisted by two incredibly talented ASM's running the show and changeovers were relatively painless. The other closed show was the third installment of our late night series, Tales of An Unsettled City: Revelations.

So I know that many people would say, okay surely you are taking a break now, but no -- our next two shows, one mainstage, Friends Like These and a new late series, Pulp Graveyard, open in two weeks. Yep, two weeks. I'll be in the booth for these and I'm excited about it. I couldn't have asked for a better cast for Friends Like These.

The other bit of good news, not only for the company, but for me as well is that we now have a home space! As of today, our new home base is in North Hollywood at The Sherry Theatre. Tomorrow night will be the first time in our short history that a show will get to rehearse on the stage more than 3 days before we open. Incredible when you think about it, that we normally only get three days on the stage prior to opening. So this will be exciting -- a whole week!

Tonight is a rare night off for me, a night off meaning I'm not in rehearsal or at the theatre. I'm still working on TU things, but at least I'm home tonight!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trying Again

So it's been a little over a year since I last posted. I never intended start a blog and then forget about it for a I'm admitting defeat, and just going to start over. No promises that this time around I'll be any better, but we'll see what happens.

Too much has happened in the past year for me to recount every little detail. But here are the big details, theatre company is still going strong, finishing its second season with every intention of beginning a third. We are in the middle of an overly ambitious season that gave us 6 mainstage shows and 4-5 fringe or alternative shows. I spent January to March in rehearsals and back in the booth. This summer I had the pleasure of just supervising SM's through our second and third mainstage productions. After labor day I'll find myself back in the booth until Thanksgiving.

I ran company member auditions recently and thought it might be fun to share some do's and don'ts of auditioning actors -- well alright mainly don'ts -- they are way more funny.

1. Don't ignore the person greeting you, she (or he) probably has more influence in casting decisions than you would think. For example, one of the first questions I'm asked by our artistic directors is "how was this person in the waiting room?" If I say they were rude, ignored me or did anything odd, that usually means you won't be hearing from us.

2. Don't try to kiss my hand -- I don't know you and I really don't want you to do that -- see number 1 -- it will not get you cast.

3. Don't change in front of me -- our building has a bathroom, please use it.

4. Don't give me your life story -- I don't care that you once rode a bus from Atlanta to Columbus -- now if something exciting happened on the bus and it's relevant to share at the time I'm more than willing to listen, but in general it's not something I need to know right now.

5. Don't show up and then vanish 3 minutes later -- I remember your name and you will not be called in again -- that's just odd -- at least tell me you don't want to stay.

6. In fact if you confirm your audition with me I expect you to show up, if you can't make it please email or call. I typically give three chances, if you no show all three times you will never be called back for anything we do again.

7. Please don't wear pants with holes in them I have no desire to see anything from your nether regions.

It would seem to me that the above things would be self-explanatory and that you really shouldn't have to tell people not to do them, and yet each one of them has happened, most of the more than once!