Ghosts of Productions Past

Earlier this week the tech staff from previous years visited us. The Technical Director, his assistant, and the former Scenic Designer dropped by to see friends, and say hello, and to generally annoy the rest of us. If you've been reading for a while you probably know how... less than impressed... we were with the efforts of the previous years. None of us were looking forward to seeing these people, and the possibility of interacting with them.

At first things seemed fine. They were nice guys in the end, maybe just lazy or jaded about their former posts, they had been here 5 years after all. They saw the show, and came to the party* that we were throwing afterwards, and that's where the trouble began.

They were perturbed that we had destroyed set pieces from past shows that they considered somehow sacred. It seems that they had been looking greatly forwards to using an oversized see-saw that they had built, and that we had burned long ago, in the first fire.

They were critical of the theatre itself, something that got all our hackles up in a reaction akin to someone making fun of a sibling. (You know... I can say whatever i like about them, but if you say it you get socked...)

They were critical of the amount of work that we put in... "We never had to stay up so let to get the show loaded in..."

In short, they were annoying, and very quickly wore out their welcome with those of us who hadn't known them previously. Why do we as a society have a tendency to do this? I enjoyed most of my time in college, yet now that I am gone I pity anyone who is stuck at my old alma mater... I never had problems with my hometown growing up, but don't really relish the idea of visiting there too frequently, much less ever living there again... The ex that we loved for months or years becomes the slut/whore/bastard/bitch that we thankfully escaped from in the end... While I admit that this is not the ideal place to work, there have been many bumps in the road, and moments that I don't want to relive, I have enjoyed my time here, made good friends, and good scenery. I also have to recall that they returned, so regardless of their bitchy attitudes, there must be something here for them as well.

*I use party in the loosest sense, meaning basically we had a bonfire and all sat out on the rehearsal deck drinking.

Geek Moment 2.0 (Harry Potter)

I finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince several days ago, the Monday after the release actually, but I have been holding off on this question until more people had read it, and would be able to discuss it with me. Now that I know Kyle is finished with it... come into the comments section, to see a question I have about the resolution of one of the major mysteries in this book... see you there!

Change Over

Shows here run for two weeks, which means that the next show must get designed, built, rehearsed, prepped and be ready to go onstage in that amount of time as well. Shows close on Sundays, immediately following the matinee and then we have an event called "Change-over." The previous show is torn down, pulled out of the theatre and replaced with the waiting pieces of the next show. There are approximately 24 hours until the first technical rehearsal, which is the first time that everything, lights, sound, sets, costumes, actors are all brought together to see if the mix works. After that rehearsal there is a shorter 12 hour window to do repairs, fixes, and finishes to anything that wasn't ready to go. It's a ROUGH couple of days.

I just finished my 5th change-over. This one was particularly hard, owing in part to the fact that I decreed early on that this show had to be a zero budget show, or as close to that as possible. You see, we had gone over budget on both of the previous shows, and I knew that the next two would need their full budgets if not more, so this was the show that got drafted to fix things. This show had to be an Iron Chef, or Junk Yard Wars of theatre, I could only use what was available in the shop.

It worked out pretty well. All of the scenic pieces onstage were recycled from previous shows that had happened to be in storage, with the exception of one piece that I designed to be built from scrap lumber, and another that was built for the previous show and modified. I was able to find such disparate elements as a large fishing net, 12 yards of camouflage fabric, two steel wash tubs, two eight foot tall square columns and several palm trees and bring them together into something that I hope no one would guess was approached in this manner.

In the end it wasn't a zero budget show, some money had to be spent of course on very unique items that could not just be pulled out... a working onstage shower, and an 8x8' bas relief air plane among them, but it was very close. The next two shows can come together with slightly larger budgets, and more breathing room in what they need.

2 more to go!

Taking the Plunge

One of the first things that I was told when I decided to go into theatre was that summerstock was a veritable orgy, hook-ups left and right and rumors flying all summer. It's true, and then it's not at the same time, like most stereotypes.

I have been working at various summerstocks for 7 years now, and have always gone into the summer thinking that this year was the year, that there would be some boy that would be a fun fling for a month or two, and then we go our different ways. It never really turned out that way. Somehow I have the habit of ending up at the straightest gay environments that you can imagine. I was the only gay student in my art school, the only gay student in my theatre undergrad, the only gay male in my theatre grad school, I have worked at 5 different summerstocks where I was the only, or one of the few gay guys... it defies statistics I know.

This summer I arrived to a flock of gay boys, but they were all... boys. 19 to 22, a little outside the range that I consider datable... and by a little I mean a decade. there have been flirtations here and there, but nothing that I have followed through on.

That's where Harp comes in. Harp and I have been flirting for nigh on 6 weeks, (he was featured in the second of my little dramas), but I have been reluctant, mostly because he's young, and didn't seem sure of what he wanted. But after some recent developments I decided that I wanted to know what was going on in his head, and so I asked him point blank. After some prevarication he admitted that he was attracted and interested, but had some concerns. Putting myself in his shoes I thought back to what MY concerns would have been at his age: that the guy I was interested in was only interested in a fling, or a onenight stand, something that at that age didn't appeal to me.

Turns out that it was exactly the opposite. Harp was concerned that I wanted a lasting relationsip of some sort, something that he says he isn't capable of giving me at the moment. I laughed at the irony of it, and simply told him that he didn't need to worry.

And so, I am finally there... two make-out sessions into my first summerstock romance, and let me tell you it's fun. Serepticious kisses under the edge of the stage just before he goes on, flirty glances when I walk through rehearsal... I'm not sure if it is the quasi-secretive nature of what we are doing, or his age rubbing off on me, or what, but I haven't had this much fun since I was his age. He is leaving the season early, about two weeks from now, two weeks before me, so it may not progress much beyond this, but it's a nice diversion.

The Ex-Files: Casefile 004

Catagory: Boyfriend, November 1991 to February 1992, The One Who Got Away, several years following.
Met: The Castle, Greenville, SC
"L" Word: Yes
Age Differential: He-26, Me-19
Signifigance: First love, First Christmas.
Reason for Break-up: Distance

History: Ex004 and I met backstage at a drag pageant, specifically a drag pageant for larger drag queens, "Ms. Greenville at Large." At the time my best friend was a drag queen, and he was up from Atlanta to support a friend of his by being a back-up dancer in the talent portion of the competition. The exact song that she was performing is lost to the vagaries of my memory but Ex004 was dressed as a zombie and they had a full sized coffin that they were using in the number. He melted my heart by offering me one of the silk flowers that were on top of the coffin. Yes, I was won over by faded silk flower that had been stolen off a grave soemwhere in Atlanta. I still have it.

Ex004 and I spent the next few months commuting back and forth between Atlanta and my hometown in South Carolina, about a 4 hour drive. I spent the first (of only 3) Christmas holidays that I had ever spent with a boyfriend with Ex004. Most of the night was passed in a hotel room with a bottle of Amaretto and presents. He gave me a set of crystal wine glasses, (that I also still have) and a glass sun-catcher thingie that spent the next year hanging from my rear view mirror.

After we broke up, he and I spent the next few years of our lives orbitting one another, but never completely reconnecting. He was, for years, the yardstick by which I measured other guys. Many of the infamous coincidences in my life revolved around him. It was quite a long time before I became able to convince myself that he was not actually "the one" and that there were better choices out there.

The end finally came when he asked me to do some work for him, through an event planning company that he worked for, and after spending the weekend with him I realized that we had taken very different paths in life. We had also taken different paths than we each thought the other had. I no longer liked him as a person, and was ill thinking about what I might be like if I had stayed with him, and followed the same track that he had.

Current Status: Living in Atlanta, working as a party planner, amateur photographer. We have not spoken since 1999 or so.

Subway Sketches: A Brief Return (Part XXVIII)

You didn't think I would go to the city and not take my sketchbook did you? I only got one decent sketch done, since I was playing tour guide most of the day, but it was still great to break the spine of that ol'Moleskin again.

The Return

Today, I went home.

Not for long, it was just a visit, I was only in the city for about 8 hours, but what a glorious day! There are a number of technicians here from the south who had never been to New York City, and today was an "Equity Monday," so we decided to take a small day trip into the city. (Actors equity, the union, requires Monday nights off for the actors. Every other monday we load in a new show, but on the odd weeks we take that day off as well.) We parked in my neighborhood, so that we could park on the street and avoid paying for it, and took the subway into midtown. I took them by Times Square, and to the Drama Bookstore, and then we went into Chinatown for lunch at a Vietnamese place. I had errands to run, so I split off and left them in the capable hands of our Wardrobe Supervisor who is from Staten Island. They took the ferry over and back so that they could see the Statue of Liberty, and then met me at Columbus Circle. We walked through Central Park for a while, saw the Imagine Memorial, and the Dakota, then we had Gray's Papaya and Tastee-D-Lite, and then stopped off at my apartment so that I could pick up some things I needed, and now we are back in the mountains, all resting comfortably in the barn again.

It really was a nice day, coming just after the halfway mark of my time here, and was a great way for me to re-energize myself for the rest of my stay here. Time has picked up speed, and the days are flying by now, probably owing as much to the fact that I am doing outside work, as well as work for the theatre as anything else, but still, the first 6 weeks seemed like 6 months, but the remainder of the time is starting to seem all too short already.

Shikata Ga Nai

Shikata Ga Nai is a Japanese phrase that has no direct translation, but basically means, "You have no choice, make do." It's been our motto for the summer so far.

You have no way to weld and make steel scenery? Shikata ga nai.

The sightlines in the theatre are so bad that you can see into the wings from every single seat in the house? Shikata ga nai.

The stock scenery is crap that you have to tear apart and rebuild, which takes as much if not more effort than building it in the first place? Shikata ga nai.

The costume shop only has one sewing machine, and even it only works half the time? Shikata ga nai.

Today the technical director, stage manager and I decided that that phrase could no longer be extended to people. You see there are a handful of people on the staff who are not doing there jobs well. In some cases they are not really qualified for the job they are in, and are swimming over their heads. In some cases they are lazy, and unwilling to work. In some cases they are just tools that no one wants to work with. Shikata ga nai.

One of these has become a particular thorn in our collective sides and today the producer gave the three of us the power to decide what to do about it... fire them and try to fill the position, or just do without someone in that position for the remainder of the summer, or to try and supervise them more closely and make sure that they do the work required. The latter is where we landed. As unhappy as all of us have been with their performance none of us could justify firing them in our own minds. None of us were capable of pulling the trigger. So starting tomorrow I have to meet with them every morning just after crew call and give them their schedule for the day, and check their progress, and teach them how to do the things that they need to know to better handle this job.

Is it a good solution? I dunno yet. They will almost certainly resent me for this, but if they want to keep their job they'll have to do it. Will it fix the problem? I hope so. They very rapidly went from a mere annoyance at the beginning of the season when we were doing dramas to a full on albatross around our necks now that we are onto the musicals. Do I have the time and patience to supervise them and make sure that this is getting done? No, not really, but the quality of my shows has suffered and I can't have that any longer.

Shikata ga nai.

Beaver Hat Days

One of the more unique things about the area that I am working in is that it is the summer home of the Hasidim. Brooklyn must empty out every year around this time because everywhere you look here you see Jewish men in their dark clothes with their ringlets, and Jewish women in their wigs and head scarves. For those of you who haven't ever been to New York and seen this particular subset of Jewish culture, they are a sort of Fundamentalist Judaism, with strict adherence to biblical law, and wear particular clothing to set themselves apart from the rest of the world. They do not typically come to the theatre, mainly because there is a prohibition against men hearing women sing, and this is musical theatre after all, but I see them every time I go to Wal-Mart.

The Hasidim LOVE Wal-Mart.

Seriously. I see them by the dozens, by the HUNDREDS every time I'm there. It has made me very curious about their culture, what the forelocks mean, what the various items of clothing mean, what their general rules of life are... They just seem like a foreign culture plopped down into the midst of what I am doing.

As with all religions though, I also question their adherence to the rules. The most interesting one being that women have to cover their hair, because it is considered a sexual image for a woman to have her hair down. A certain section of the women, mostly the older ones it seems, wear head scarves in deference to this law. The younger women though all wear wigs. This to me seems like following the letter of the law and not the spirit. Why is it unacceptable for these women to show their own hair, but fine for them to wear a wig that is fuller and more luxurious than real hair could ever be? Isn't that even more sexual? (Not that any of these women are all that attractive, but still...) In the (mild to me, but sweltering to most) heat of the summer these men also wear beaver fur hats, and full length suit coats, with vests and a prayer vest underneath.I guess it is silly to question the practicality of a religion's rules, but isn't a light cotton just as modest? Just wondering...

On the Floor

My career in theatre often comes down to the floor. As a matter of fact, it started because of a floor, one with a semi-complex tile pattern that my best friend couldn't figure out how to lay out, so she called me in desperation at 1 am and made me come to the theatre to help. Things snow balled from there, and now this is what I do for a living. I have spent the last three hours crawling accros a floor on my hands and knees painting a stone pattern, sponging paint into a template, and cursing myself for having chosen such a complex pattern, when I COULD be asleep by now.

I just walked into the house, on the way to the kitchen to get a snack so that I can continue sponging, and guess what? I hate it. The pattern doesn't read from the house, the audience will never see that I have spent a life time painting this pattern, which looks like some sort of odd herring bone from their viewpoint, rather than stone. And so... in a few minutes I will be painting over it, and going with a plain old brown floor, that hopefully will look like dirt from the house.

I hate floors.

Fish in a Barrell, A Short Play

Dramatis Personae:

Company Actor: A skittish young man, unsure of himself, but sexy and flirty when he drinks.

Music Director: A tall thin, nerdish-ly cute guy, who is playing piano for the current cabaret.

Equity Actor: Rugged mountain man type, cast to play an older brother in an upcoming production.

Scenic Designer: A cute but modest guy struggling with the happy choice of which of two boys he wants to flirt with more.

: A party at the resident company housing, on the occassion of the end of a show.

Act 1, Scene 1:
Scenic Designer and Music Director are talking while the other characters mingle the party in the background.

Music Director: So will you seeing the cabaret more than once this week?

Scenic Designer: Oh, I'm sure. I love watching you play piano. A man and an instrument is always a turn on for me, of course if I see it too many times I may demand that you start making out with me after watching the show.

MD: Oh, really? Well...

Act 1, Scene 2:

Company Actor has just finished performing a tour-de-force dance rendition of a Madonna song in the middle of the party and wants to continue dancing.

Company Actor:
You never dance.

SD: I've told you before I only dance if there's a cute boy to dance with.

CA: Well, let's go.

SD glances around to make sure MD isn't watching then begins to dance.

Act 1, Scene 3:

A quiet moment in the party, SD is talking with a group of actors that includes Equity Actor.

SD: Yeah, load-in for this show shouldn't be a big deal, it is pretty light scenically.

Random Actor: Good, that last load-in was a bear.

Equity Actor:
I'm glad I don't have to deal with all this, you guys put in a lot of work on these shows. (While speaking he puts his arm around SD and his hand slips down to SD's butt, giving it a quick squeeze.)

SD: (Shocked by what is happening) Uhm.... yeah... but it's worth it.


Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

I'm headed into a rough week, lots to do, both at the theatre, and on two different graphic design jobs that I had agreed to do before leaving the city. Both of the art directors for those projects are freaking out a little bit because I a have been out of touch. Most of the problem is due to the fact that I am in a technological backwater, but there is also the fact that I am just busy at the at the theatre, keep that to yourself though. I have a feeling that the next week or so is going to be rocky getting all of the work done. Thankfully I have some enforced downtime during the run of the shows. My character is only in act one, except for a VERY brief moment at the very end of the second act, so I have all of that time to sit and work on these projects. I have to get the work done though, because I made an agreement with myself that the fees from these projects will be going into savings, and hopefully a second trip to Japan sometime next year.

I'll get there... but I may not get any sleep along the way.

An Independent Day

I just returned from the Delaware River where we spent the day floating down river in our rented raft. It was quite the trip. 82° airtemperaturee, 75° water temp, with the river flowing at about 1.5mph. We spent 6 hours afloat, singing, arguing, wrestling, swimming, sunning, napping, floating, and just generally enjoying a great day. This was the first real day off that most of us have had since the summer began in earnest, and we were all determined to make the most of it. There was some reluctance to leave the water, but we were all pretty wiped out after a very full day. I'm sunburned for the first time in literally a decade, and I spent more time in the water than I have in much longer than that, owning mostly to the fact that I am pretty afraid of water. Tonight we are grilling pork loin and I'm making a macaroni pie and a cake of cornbread. I'm looking forward to laying down tonight and that feeling of floating that you get from a day in the sun and on the water.

Good day.