Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Am I Being Unreasonable?

A couple things happened this week that made me wonder if my expectations are a bit too high. After thinking about it for a bit, I've decided that I don't think I'm being unreasonable, but I thought I'd put my thoughts out here and let others help me out.

I was told this week by a theater owner that main stage, Fri/Sat/Sun shows at his theater may not hang lights. They are expected to use the same wash he has up. Now I understand wanting to make sure that a general wash is always in place, that's expected. But in my experience as long as a lighting designer does give the space a general wash in addition to the show plot re-hanging and moving lights around is common practice and perfectly acceptable. Apparently not in this theater because as I was told "any moron who has been producing theater longer than 2 months knows you can't re-hang lights." So my question is for all of us "morons" who have been producing theater for longer than two months has anyone else run into a situation where as the main stage show your lighting designer was not allowed to move lights around to create the desired look? It seemed odd to me. Granted I may be a bit bias now because I wasn't really thrilled with the label of moron or the screaming occurring on the other end of the phone line. So please enlighten me? Have I just been exceptionally lucky in my nearly six years of theater in Los Angeles?

I'm also in the process of scheduling auditions for an upcoming production. I put up a general casting announcement on LA Casting, started getting some actor submissions and began scheduling auditions. I feel like I'm pretty reasonable when it comes to auditions. The way this service is set up you must assign actors an audition time slot, when I do that I always send an email explaining they may simply email me and request a different time slot. I'm pretty accommodating when it comes to auditions.

There are two things that bother me about what I perceive to be many of actors on this service and other similar services. The first thing is that it seems to me that the bulk of them don't bother to look at the project itself. They get a notification that they "fit" the description, in this case male/female ages 21-55 and hit submit. They don't seem to bother to read what it is or really even think about if it is something they are interested in doing. I call these people the perpetual submitters. I have a list of them in my head. I used to schedule them and remind them about the audition and then they no-show constantly. You'd be surprised how many names are on the list. I don't call them anymore, it's a waste of my time. So question number one, and I ask because I'm not an actor so I honestly can't figure out the answer to this, why would you submit to things that either you have no interest in, aren't available for the audition or are already cast in a production that runs during the same time period. When these perpetual submitters do bother to email me back or decline the audition it's with reasons such as, "sorry, have class on Tuesday nights, can't make the audition," or "sorry, cast in Twelfth Night which overlaps this production by five weeks." My confusion lies in the fact that both the audition date and the run dates are clearly stated in the audition notice, so if you know you have class on Tuesdays and don't want to miss it for an audition then you probably shouldn't submit yourself or if you know that you are Juliet in a production that overlaps this one you probably shouldn't send me your information. So my question then is, if the information regarding dates is clearly in the announcement and the actor already knows they have conflict why would they submit? All it does is make me annoyed with that person and if they do it more than once they go on my do not invite list.

The second thing that bothers me are emails like the one I received this morning:

"Please remind me of this project and location details...I do not remember the initial audition request"

See here's my issue. I did my part, I took 30 minutes, filled in all the necessary information, character breakdowns, project description, venue location, audition date, show dates. It's all there, it's all on the site. Why does this person think that it is my responsibility to send her all of that information again? It's not my job. She submitted herself for this project. All an email like that does is tell me she probably didn't read the announcement in the first, and is now too lazy to do a bit of investigation work to figure it out on her own. (I should mention that in every email our company's website is stated as well as the name of the project.) I don't mind questions that are specific. Those show me the actor knows what the project is and wants some clarification. That's fine, but this "I do not remember..." doesn't instill much confidence. So my instinct is to not reply, I'm certainly not going to send her a personal email with all the details she can find online. I'm left to ask am I being unreasonable? Is it too much to expect actors to know what they submitted for and to be a bit pro-active by doing their homework?

So between the lights and the actors I'm left to wonder if my overall expectations are too high?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The View from My Booth!

So it occurred to me that I have never actually shared a photo of the view from the booth. This is what my booth currently looks like:For any of you who were holding on to the myth that Stage Managers live a glamorous life, this should help quell those suspicions! In fact this picture was taken a few days ago, before the rain and the leaky roof set in. Now add three trashcans doubling as water containers and plastic bags over the equipment to the photo and you'll have the view I currently have. You know what the funny part is? I wouldn't trade it for the world, trash bags, water buckets and leaky roof included. I truly do have the best job in the world!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Erin Versus The Theatre Gods

This past weekend I produced one of Theatre Unleashed's famous 24 hour festivals, this one titled Can't Buy Me Love. All of the scripts were based off of famous Beatles's tunes. The way these 24 hour festival works is that on Friday night at 7pm the writers get their topics along with the number of men and women in their casts. They have to send the scripts to me by 9am on Saturday morning. At 10ish we meet in a park where the directors randomly select scripts and then casts. We have the day to rehearse and the show goes up at 8pm the same night. Insane? Perhaps. But what we've learned is that it truly is a way to get our creative juices flowing and show Los Angeles just what we can do in 24 hours. This time as an added bonus I added stand-up comedians into the mix, interspersing plays and stand-up through out the show.

Now I have to admit the events that led to the anger and panic may very well be my fault. You see on Wednesday of last week, I found myself thinking, "wow, the planning has gone remarkably well, I have more actors than I normally have, the stand-up comics are confirmed, the publicity is out, the venue confirmed..." and then I actually said "This has really been way too easy." See I did it to myself, I taunted the theater gods and they weren't too happy with my flaunting how simple this was to put together.

Of course the theater gods like to keep you on your toes, they certainly won't give you too much warning. So like any respectable higher power they waited until two hours after the writers received their topics. Two hours after they were planning characters and writing outlines and that's when the gods delivered their first punch. An actor sent me an email excusing herself from the show on Saturday due to work conflicts. A few moments of panic, well more than a few, a good thirty minutes of panic and a few threats to cancel the entire show followed. Fortunately my best friend of over a decade (who is also the Director of Education for TU) let me rant for a while and then offered me the solution. Her husband, another of my best friends, was writing that night and had just started his outline. She suggested I call him and ask if I could knock an actor out of his script. He said that was fine. Erin: 1 Theatre Gods: 0.

I went to bed on Friday night thinking everything was fine. I had successfully won that round. Now I'm only left to assume considering the events of Saturday that the Theatre Gods really don't like to lose. Saturday morning, the actors and directors assembled, they chose scripts and chose actors and everyone went off to rehearse. And then I get a phone call, one of them has become severely ill and must be taken to the hospital by his roommate, who happens to be in one of the other plays of the day. So at 1pm I find myself down two actors. Erin: 1 Theatre Gods:2

The panic sets in. I heard from one of the playwrights who tells me it's fine to cut his script if we don't have enough actors. His message instilled a sense of resolve in me, not to be cliche but "The Show Must Go On" all scripts must be performed, I would not be defeated by the gods of the theater. That was simply not an option.

Enter my two show-saving actors. My best friend, the same one who saved the show the night before, stepped up and memorized two shows. Our artistic director also volunteered to perform in two shows that night. By then it was nearly 3pm. They had less than 5 hours to memorize two different shows with two different casts and two different directors. I never doubted they could do it. I never asked if they doubted they could do it. They just jumped in and did it. I should add the word flawlessly, they did it flawlessly.

A testament to the strength and talent inside our company, these two along with 9 other actors, four comedians, five directors, and five writers pulled off one of the best 24 hour festivals in our company's history. Watching the show from the booth, I could not have been happier. If we hadn't told the audience, no one would have known about the last minute switches. The entire evening was a complete success. So in the end while I hate to post the final score, I do believe that with much help from a talented pool of people I can declare victory over the theater gods on this one. I'll enjoy it while it lasts. I go into tech for our next show in two weeks and I'm sure they'll be waiting to duel again!