Tag Archives: tech week

We All Look Like A Tim Burton

21 Mar

How you know someone is mid Tech Week # 10:
They show up in public looking like a damn disaster, and give zero shits.

…At night, this might not be so very glaring…in the day time, in line at the grocery story, or under office lighting…it’s straight-up horrifying. I just caught sight of myself in the office bathroom mirror, and I’d cast me right now in any zombie movie ever. As-is. Or as someone with horrible (multiple) substance abuse issues.

…Or, anything by Tim Burton.

Last night’s remenants of water proof mascara…which truly apparently IS…is still clinging and bleeding down my lower lid, onto the exhausted bags under my eyes. My 50’s hair of curls from last night, are a wild, crunchy, fro of untamed fury. And while I was too tired to shower this morning, or more than slap some face base on, I am kept from total cadaver status, only due to the (I’m sure) toxic lip stuffs I use to stain my mouth that insanely red-red that no one but whores and Drag Queens now use. And whereas I would mind zero-much being compared to a Drag Queen, I unfortunately rather suggest a lower-end former in appearance.

…I LOOK, like I’m in the middle of Hell Week. Every classic symptom. From shitty exhausted lack of hygiene, to the overwhelming desire to fall asleep into my fifth cup of black coffee.

…And, I dunno if its the ongoing weather trend or not, but people have been just enormously shitty for two days solid on call after call after call.

 …And, Mrs. Johnson showed up last night.

I just took my first (and only) break of the day at 1:45. We have our first early call tonight. I haven’t walked out doors or had a whiff of clean air in two days. They’ve added a command performance on Tuesday. The pills aren’t helping the general warzone of my lady regions.

…I want to go home.

And sleep.

But strangely enough, even more than that…I want a clean run of this show. And I want it: tonight.

~D

Another Tech Week

6 Jan

image
I dunno how many blogs have been dedicated to this subject versus all the rest, but I’m fairly certain that based on the stress blowout needs that they bring: it’s gotta be a lot.

…Someday, I’ll attack one of these without topping onna 40 hour office work week as well, and am sure it will be like adding a great big dollop of cream cheese to a dry bagel.

…How much easier must it be to get it down without such harsh requirements from all corners and directions. What if you actually did these things on a full night’s sleep? With time for proper meals? No need for five cups of black coffee before noon? Or after 4 p.m?

…Being awake at two a.m. fixating on lines you fucked up in the run, wouldn’t cost so much the next morning. You wouldn’t have to be fighting so hard not to get the office cold everyone has…because there would be no “office”…

…And your “mind”…

…Your mind would be totally focused on only one major thing: to open this show and not fuck it up.

…Your whole entire day would be spent just in the service of this. To sleep until you wake up. To take a walk or workout or detox in your own favorite manner. To eat meals like a human being: at a table. With silverware. With nothing coming from a greasy bag or box. Time to run your lines and do more book work, time to blow out the stiffness that can happen after a long rehearsal process when the words start to become too taken for granted or automated. You could spend three hours just rehearsing that one scene with mock props, to get it as clean and seamless as it was back when you were just miming.

…How awesome to not have to wear out your voice all day long on phones and over report explanations, but be able to vocal rest, and warm up slowly and specifically, to exactly the parameters which service that particular role the best?

…In every way, on every day, it would be infinitely easier to do the Actors job, if it was the only one we needed to do. If every discipline of it could earn a living wage so that non-Hollywood-elite could have personal trainers to keep us fit, get us prepared for physical makeovers, smack fast food out of our hands and replace them with green high energy things. How much easier to have the beauticians do all the coloring and styling and preshow makeup. To just show up and do our job, and that would be enough.

…Sadly, of course, this isn’t the way. We do all that shit (and more) on our own, plus hold down whatever job we can manage to pay our bills.

…Which is what we all expected when we started this gig. But it doesn’t make the job any easier, knowing that.

…And it doesn’t make this Tech Week any less of a general living hell, than the last one was. It’s just a long-ass labor, you know is coming from the beginning. It’s mostly always worth it. This one will be. You just gotta think of that beautiful baby being born on Friday, suck it up, and take the sleeplessness, exhaustion, anxiety, and (often) literal pain, like a Boss.

Own it. As best you can.

Almost there…

…Almost…

…Almost…

…And stop fucking up that line…

~D

It’s A Shitty Patch

8 Apr

image

It’s a full week.

…Sleeping is spotty at best, out of control anger management issues, face breaking out, paperwork hell at work, 2 a.m. uterus cramping contractions that last for hours, rehearsals, hair and nail appointments, shopping for the show, interview podcasts, costume fittings, and family driving up for the services and wake, which I will be spending in back-to-back tech runs this Saturday and Sunday.

Theatre, ER Staff, Holy Orders, and the Military are the only professions I know of, where the expectation to show up and work through any contingency is a requirement. Even death.

…Everyone I know has performed while running a fever and puking, despite horrible stresses, sisters weddings, family reuions, ended relationships, and every major Holiday, at some point. Some then push it further through family losses, broken bones, and mental breakdowns. If theater were the Girl Scouts, I’d have earned another badge this week, by the completing achievement of “all of the above.”

…It’s a shitty badge, but for the people who wear it, at least we know we aren’t alone. There were those who came before and those who will after. It’s really the only comfort you get, because otherwise you sound like a giant mal-adjusted asshole to say, “yes, of course I went to rehearsal the day he died. What else would I do?”

…It was my job, this was my team, we had a run-through for tech, which isn’t an “option” on a fully booked schedule, it’s a demand. And so are my fittings Saturday morning, the quick change rehearsal to follow, then the Q2Q, then notes, then the same the following day. Tickets are pre-sold, Preview is in one week, and we can’t open a four-person farce without all four people.

…Which doesn’t help the stress any either, I can tell you. Because nothing at all seems funny right now, and that is also one of those, “tough shit” things I’ve gotta deal with. And I am. Frankly, better than I thought I would. Of course, it isn’t Saturday yet, when it all becomes real because I can’t push whole live people onto a back burner when they’re waiting in the car to go to a funeral while I’m trucking it to the theatre to try on my wigs and teddy with knife rig adjustments.

…I’m sure that at that point, even I will be painfully aware of how fucked up my priorities are. And I will feel like a total asshole. As I should. Because in all the professions who fight on despite circumstances like this one: ours is primarily esthetic make-believe. We aren’t saving a life, putting ours in danger, or making a humanitarian effort. At the end of the day, I’ll have done it for a farce-comedy with dick jokes, that opens in a week and one day.

…From a moral ground, I can’t back that choice either. But it’s the way of the theatre. It always has been, and always will be. And so has been my way, for over 25 years.

…This is one of those instances where, If you have to explain it to a person, no explanation will be acceptable. And I wouldn’t expect it to be. All I know is: it’s what I have to do.

I don’t like it.

Nothing is funny right now.

…And not a single patron will care, or even know, what it took to open this show next Friday.

I’ve got a job to do and I need to just hold my shit together and do it.

…So I will.

WE will.

Because: That’s the Theatre.

~D

Breakfast Farts & Tech

15 Feb

image

Today we had our first full run with tech from which we were reminded about and learned, many things.

…Like you do, during tech.

…Things like: computers have made tech zero-percent more efficient to the old reel to reel and manual light slider days. Because human error is so much easier to fix, and people almost always are able to speak to one another without conjunction cables, software crashes and Bluetooth errors.

…Also, water is messy. And it follows almost no rules. Once it’s out of it’s holding confines, it owns the whole damn world of wherever you’ve introduced it. And we’ve introduced it damn near everywhere… in every room…rendering surfaces slick as spit, even after mopping.

…New costumes get ripped by heels and snagged on set pieces, quick changes are fought like battles with small armies, smaller bustles must be found so I stop taking out props with my ass, sounds source from wrong speakers for unknown reasons, light cues are still being built and refined mid-scene, volumes need to be pumped cuz of the air conditioner, the keys need hooks, the doors need jams…our pump is still without water…

…And then: there are the eggs.

Apparently those innocent little clump-bastards which we thought we’d solved in squish and shovel and spit, days ago, were holding out on us. Add a shit-ton of hot stage lights to the mix and after flinging them all over and rolling in them like dogs for the better part of ten minutes, the whole damn theatre (and at least two of its actors) smelled like a sulphur plant had exploded.

…I mean: horrendous. Like a hundred farts got together for a meal of baked beans, cabbage, turnips, and beer, in a 110 degree locked room, with no ventilation.

Computers: we are stuck with, rips can be sewn, pumps will be plumbed…butts can be made smaller…but it’s looking like our friendly little puffs of lukewarm slimy sunshine might be in for a radical recasting session, only days before we open.

Poor bastards….

…But then I think I’d rather eat food-colored tofu by the truckload than roll around in that joy of butt-gas air again, never mind twice on student matinees and command performances.

…See? You never stop learning.

And that’s the truth.

Also: tech is hard, and exhausting, and tomorrow is Monday.

…That is another truth.

~D

Joan Crawford, You Bitch

2 Sep

image

It’s like she knows…she knows the timing most ill to arrive and fuck with you…am I right, ladies?

…She even tag-teams the really important times with the most bitch- version of her personality. Because opening a giant show isn’t enough, nor is month-end…following a major Holiday weekend sale. No, no, hell no! We need you all drugged and water-logged as well, with aching everything’s…and that super special sensation of wanting to barf every time you open your mouth to talk.

….This really coincides well with two pages of customer bookings and a dress rehearsal where you talk at high speed for about two hours, virtually non-stop.

…Which is all to say: the dame’s been dead for decades now, but Joan Crawford is still the biggest bitch around. Let it be known.

Meanwhile, nerves decided to hit me this weekend like a ton of bricks. Which has only ever happened in one other show ever, that I can recall.

…Nerves belong on Opening Night…and maybe a few seconds after “places” call. Nerves don’t have any form or function this early in tech week. Because there’s just too much shit to do still, frankly, and the adrenaline rush helps you zero-much right now.

There’s sort of a lot riding on this role and this show…personally, professionally…it’s opening a theatre season, there’s a giantly talented team who helped to get us here, and this is a bucket list role. I really don’t like screwing up anytime, but I would REALLY hate it in this instance. And I’m afraid that the roughly eight hours of sleep I’ve gotten this weekend from obsessing about it, isn’t helping.

…Ye olde friend Anxiety has been whispering tales to me, and as we know, that bastard is a hard one to shut up. Which means a lot of added concentrated energy I already don’t have at the moment has been aimed in that direction this weekend. Until today. Because I’m too damn busy (outside of this sandwich break) to pay it any attention.

….Which I suppose is the only good thing about how freaking busy it’s been in here this morning.

So, winning?

…I’ll call it a “win.” I could use one to get a leg up on what comes after this.

I know, I know this show. I know I’ve done the work to support it. I know I know my path and what it takes and feels like to follow it from beginning to end.

I trust my team.

…I just need to freaking breathe…

…And trust “me.”

~D

14 Costume Changes & Some Acting

29 Aug

image

Bit of a clothes horse, me.

…An option of fitting a first dress in before tech was jumped on, so we could focus on one horrifying onslaught before a tidal wave of others come in to cream us this Saturday. And so, a first dress was had. Last night. And it wasn’t particularly brutal on anything except my feet (dear three and four inch heals…you’re assholes. It’s a good thing you’re cute.)

….Anyway…we charged ahead, I broke some things, we managed line-call-free, fit in all my 14 costume changes, and called it a late night for the first time since we began rehearsals…but we DID it, which I think is the important thing to focus on at this point.

…At this point.

The last time I did a two-hander show was “Oleanna”…again: a professor and a student, having at one another for two hours of stage time. Just me: just him. That’s it, folks.

…The amount of focus, LISTENING, line retention, blocking and prop movement is insane. It REQUIRES nothing less than 100% lock-and-load on the other actor…so that no matter what choices/accidents/line-flubs/enlightenments/emotions are flying around through the air between you…you are a one-entity receptor.

…It’s like ballroom dancing, in a two-hour-long competition, where we both take turns taking the lead, changing styles from fox trot to samba to waltzing seamlessly, at any given moment, and attempting to do it all without one single misstep. Your anchor is in the eyes of the other guy…you make the audience phase out into the wallpaper and bookcases of your world, and together you begin on step one…and it never ends or eases up until the curtain goes down.

…And we know this from experience. As even before costumes and props were added, every break has been filled with line running and blocking, since day one. We don’t pop out of focus, we still can laugh, take a slog of water, and a quick slash…but damn if we’re not still running a monologue while in the loo, walking blocking while feeding from a water bottle on set, or futzing with props ad nauseum. Because we have to. And that’s okay. Because we happen to really fucking love it, you know?

…Like really. A lot.

Difficult is good. Frustration can be tempered and recycled into something better next time, thanks to the lessons you’ve learned. And when you click with a character who you know in your guts…who you can access without interruption in mind or manner…it’s a fantastic ride to be on. Even more so when you trust…really TRUST the team behind you, and that guy right there opposite you, on stage, every night.

…Even on the days of frustration and energy-sap…even when I know there’s more we can find in a moment (and we will, next time)…there is nothing lacking in the team work…in the connections we’ve made, in the amount of fight it takes for two people to command the stage alone… lifting words from a page, into something exciting and wistful, amusing and dangerous, hysterical and poignant, witty and humble. It’s an honor, a challenge, a fucking hell of a ride.

…And every night, when it’s over, the realization comes crashing in, on the ride home…as the adrenaline drains from every pore: and complete mental and physical exhaustion smacks us stupid with inevitable result. We are totally…right now…this second…living an actors dream.

Hells. Freakin.’ Yes.

Bring it, tech week.

~D

Back To The Book

7 Apr

image

Neat thing about theatre, #586:

…It’s a living, breathing being of process.

Unlike film, there is never a day where the Director yells, “Cut! Print it!”, and that scene is set in stone for all of time.  Sure, you get the occasional “Post” work, but the concept and action and tone of the piece has already been set.  It’s in the can. 

…The only time that happens in the theatre is at bows on closing night.

…It’s one of the frustrating and delightful wonders that you can go 25 performances before you finally get that damn joke dead on and nail it, or find another link with something someone says about your character in Act One. 

Unless you totally close yourself off from being open and playing and connecting with the other actors and audience, you will find a million subtle differences from Opening night to Closing…in simple deliveries with a breath intake here instead of there, of covert covers for skipped lines, and new stresses on words which changes so many meanings, to silent expressions, differently infused energy, someone’s bad day which hasn’t fully been left off stage…to the average cold.  We take all these influences and run with them, which depending on what is thrown in, is what makes the “stone soup” of that specific performance, which will always be different from tomorrows and yesterdays…because live theatre is like that.

…But aside from this technically obvious difference from our film friends, we also get a full rehearsal process not always granted to the camera kids. 

Different Directors rally the cast and run the process as they desire…there is no “set” way, ‘long as the through-line point is to discover the characters as the playwright intended them to come to life, to be true to the text, and mine it for hints and foresight into themes, plot, intents, reasoning, and supporting the piece as a whole.  The Director’s job, is essentially to point towards the destination of intent, and guide you in your work to get to it by rehearsal’s end.  Not because that means, “it’s over,” but rather, “here’s where we congregate in the piece’s space.”  A Director has to be able to not only enlighten and inspire, but goal-keep and referee…encouraging you to take initiative, explore the possibilities and work at unpeeling the onion-like layers of character to be discovered,  while also kicking the ball back in bounds when things go all to hell, and making sure we play fair.  

…Which is where an “out of town” Opening comes in.

The big boys…like Broadway and some of the seminal Regionals do this.  In film terms, it’s the same as a “sneak preview.”  It’s means a soft, limited opening in a less prestigious town, or venue, across several weeks or months. A limited number of seats are sold, used as a tester audience to see where the laughs are, what scenes are too slow, which need a reworking or edit, and when all else fails, when it’s time to start looking at re-writes and more work-shopping.

…For the smaller houses around the country, we usually get one day to do this, which is the day directly before Opening (good, bad or otherwise.)  As you can imagine, this allows very limited alterations to the piece before it’s out there for the general public (and critics)…unless you want to risk freaking out your actors forcing them back into their heads less than 24 hours before there are paying butts in the seats…or a radical intervention is deemed necessary.

…Sometimes, however, this natural stream of events can change in drastic ways as early as Tech, the week leading into Opening. This is when all designers and Artistic Directors and general Top Brass, will be seeing the piece for the first time as a cohesive unit, and this frequently leads to what we call, “clusterfucks”…or “Hell Week.” It is so termed because everything seems to be thrown at you: last minute changes are swapped here and there without ceremony, props come and go and come again, costumes flip and flop are added to and taken away, last minute light adjustments mean blocking changes, re-spiking because of new set pieces, all while you’re breaking in the wobble in your new heels (last worn by a bow-legged cowboy?), rework hair and makeup, adjust to new props arriving nightly…remember lines, and the newest version of blocking…while being fucking hilarious, or tragically horrifying, as the case may require…while pages of changes to all of it, are passed onto you nightly.

…And sometimes those adjustments, three days before Opening, require such a significant hoist of alteration, that you have to go back to the script, take out a pencil, and relaunch into a slam-study session, like a last second finals exam.

It’s good. It’s tight, but the time is there. This isn’t Preview. The answers you are looking for will be there…and the new direction you’ve been pointed is usually not a panicked random adjustment…but often introducing a linchpin that will lock and load that final element that has been missing. If you’re “game,” this can be a final layer-building key, gaining access to that illusive something you’ve not been able to grasp up to this point.

…It can also, because of it’s drastic change in nature, scare the flipping hell outta you.

…But if you think of it like the roller coaster climbing the last clicks to the top before it just lets go out from under you, it helps. The more clicks, the higher you go, the further the free-fall, but the more awesome the overall ride…

…Provided you don’t piss your pants or barf all over the place…

Fortunately, I’m a whiskey-gut from way back. So, “bring on the work, bitches…am totally good for it.”

~D

%d bloggers like this: