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.