Wet But Alive

Rain... and we're talking Noah quality rain here... for 6 straight days now. Everything is wet, including things we don't want to be. When the air is cool and the humidity is 100% paint won't dry. Did you know that? I do now. Here's another interesting fact for you: rain makes for an incredibly difficult load in weekend.

That's right, this weekend was our first full change-over (taking down the set for the previous show and loading in the new set for this week). And it SUCKED. Nothing was dry, not the paint, not the scenery, not the stage, not the crew, not my shoes, not... well... you get the point I imagine. I had rain literally wash the wet paint off of things I had just painted.

Somehow we managed to get everything done without drowning, but now we have no audience. You see 6 days of rain in a region that is mountainous and has more streams than I've ever seen in one place means flooding and mudslides. 4 of the 5 major highways that would get people to the theatre were closed today because one lane or another was washed out somewhere along the way. Over half of our audience cancelled for tonight's performance... and it's still raining.

I went to Wal-Mart tonight to purchase some boots and a poncho. Every pair of shoes I brought with me is either waterlogged or inappropriate for work (sandals). I'd prefer the hot sweaty summer of last year to this.

In good news, aside form the rain the load-in went extremely well. I don't know if it is the different crew, or the fact that I am better organized this year but we managed to get through with very little fuss. I had full nights of sleep on both nights. I had very little in the way of panicked running around trying to get things done at the last minute. There were of course a handful of stressful moments, but nothing major. I got through it all barely bruised. (And as an aside to Alison: Grumpy-Cully BARELY showed his face tuesday morning, but was predominantly absent.)

The next show is a little bigger, probably the biggest of the year really, so I hope that things will go as smoothly. We'll know in two weeks.

Treasure Hunters

Equity Monday left all of the tech staff in a little bit of a lurch as to what to do with ourselves. A few plans had been discussed on and off, a hike in a local park, a little bit of boating at a local pond, some fishing, sleeping a lot... but nothing was really seeming to stick. During the poker game I brought up the idea of Geocaching which seemed to be an instant hit.

The basic concept of geocaching is sort of a high tech treasure hunt. People all over the world have placed secret caches of toys, or camping accessories, or other goodies in hidden locations in state parks, along camping trails, or just about anywhere. (Go to the website and look up your zip-code and I'm sure you'll find dozens close by you.) The GPS coordinates of the "treasure" are placed online along with clues and ratings of how hard it is to locate and hike to etc. Anyone with a GPS unit is welcome to track them down. Etiquette is that you take an item from the cache, usually some small trinket, and leave one of your own to replace it.

We set out for Wal-Mart Monday and found a cheap GPS unit which I purchased, (partially with my poker winnings). Then we checked the web and chose a half dozen local caches to visit. The first was at a location that we were familiar with, having already visited it earlier in the summer, a dam at the end of a reservoir. Unfortunately the cache itself proved elusive, and the clues were infuriatingly vague. After an hour of tromping through bushes we gave up and decided that it wasn't to be found. It was a frustrating start since none of us had ever done this before and a few people were expecting a bit more "bang."

The second location also proved a little frustrating. The heavy tree cover flummoxed the GPS unit a bit and the creator of the cache had not left a clue at all. After about a half an hour I was sensing that the crowd was on the verge of giving up on the whole idea, just as someone found the cache! It was a really renewing moment, suddenly the game was fun again and everyone wanted to see what was hidden inside.

The third location was inside a wildlife preserve and provided some great scenery as well as a fun cache. We were on the way to a fourth location within the same preserve when it suddenly began pouring rain so we called it off. We spent the evening back at the theatre where we grilled some fat steaks and asparagus and fried up potatoes. All in all it was a good day. I really need to do some research on how to properly navigate by GPS rather than just stumbling around in the woods staring at numbers and scratching my head though. We've also decided that as a group we will probably place our own cache at some point this summer.

Ante Up

Tomorrow is the dark Monday for this show (we don't perform on Monday's because it is the day off for the actor's union, but every other Monday is load-in for the next show, so the tech crew works anyway, tomorrow however no one works) so tonight was also a night off. To celebrate a group of about 15 of us got together and played poker.

Now... I have played poker once in my life, and it was here last year. I lost miserably, and was the first one off the table. Tonight however I cleaned the house. We started with two tables of 6 and played until both tables were at 3 then combined the tables in order to play to a winner. I was up and down all night, a few times it looked like I was going to be the next one out, but I have watched a LOT of Celebrity Poker Showdown, so I knew when to be aggressive and when to hang back a bit, even if I was sometimes unsure about the order of the winning hands. It was a $5 buy in, and a few people bought in twice, so in the end the pot ended up at $70. We had decided in tournament style to split the pot 50-35-15. After nearly 5 hours of play I came in not only in the top three, but as the big winner! I went out in my final hand with a low straight A-2-3-4-5. I never really understood gambling, but it was fun, and I'm sure if there is another game I'll buy in.

In other news the bears continue to be a nuisance. The DEC has been out several times and tonight informed us that if they are called again, or if they are forced to "dispatch" the bear then the playhouse will be fined $1200 because our dumpsters don't have the proper latches and the refrigerators shouldn't be outdoors. Now no one is sure what to do about the whole thing. On the the one hand we don't want to be fined, but on the other there are at least two bears now visiting us regularly for snacks. What do you do?

34 Things: List 16?

Well... seems like someone wanted to remind me that this project was still uncompleted.

Harder than it looks isn't it Mama?

Bear Feet

There's a lot of wildlife where I am. I see deer every day, usually a half a dozen or more. I see wild turkey with frequency. There are fox, chipmunks, skunks, porcupines, and raccoons prowling around all the time. But for three months last year, and nearly a month this year everyone was seeing bears. Everyone but me that is.

Luke saw a bear crossing the road. There were bears in the parking lot of the actor's housing. They were sitting in fields on the side of the road. They were strolling through the parking lots of local restaurants, but I kept missing them.

Yesterday I returned from a morning of prowling the local flea market for props and was greeted by the company manager telling us that there had been a bear on the back porch of the Tavern, and that we should be careful. Of course that really meant that we all went running towards the Tavern to get a look. Seems that he had come up onto the porch, where there are several refrigerators and had started helping himself to the lettuce and the grapes stored within. he had stumbled off into the woods afterwards, and everyone said he looked a little wobbly. They had already called the Department of Environmental Conservation, the local agency that takes care of bears and other injured wildlife, who were on their way to check it out. We caught a few glimpses of him in the woods, he was a small fellow, about 200 lbs. probably. But he was a bear, and I had finally gotten to see a wild bear in his natural setting. It was great!

After we had lost sight of him for 10 minutes or so we decided to return to work. As we were walking across the lot to the shop we realized there was a bear in the dumpster, about 200 yards from where we had seen him last. How had he gotten there? We quickly realized that this wasn't the same bear though. The new visitor was much bigger, about 400 lbs. we guessed.
This bear sat in the dumpster for nearly an hour while we calmly snapped pictures, and even ate lunch on the deck of the tavern close by, while we waited for the DEC officer. He seemed utterly unconcerned that we were there.
The DEC officer came and peppered the bear with rubber buckshot to scare him off. But that only lasted a few hours. As soon as the sun started setting he came back and returned to his seat in the dumpster. The problem being that about that time is also when the patrons start arriving for the evening show. DEC returned and hustled him out again, and recommended that we splash bleach around the dumpsters as a deterrent. That didn't seem to help either as he returned twice during the show. He also returned to the refrigerators early this morning and had himself a healthy snack.

The producer is very concerned, not only for the safety of his food numbers but for the safety of the patrons and the staff. We frequently have to go by the Tavern refrigerators, and to the dumpsters after dark in the course of our daily routines. Since neither the buckshot, nor the bleach seemed to work though, I'm not sure what else he is going to try.

The good news though is that have now seen at least two different bears, and the outlook seems promising for seeing a few more before the summer, (and possibly the week) is out. Now if I can get a glimpse of one of the local bald eagles I think my wildlife adventures will be complete.

June 12 of 12

Well, I'm a few days late, but I had a pretty interesting day on the 12th, (at least for the people NOT actually in theatre) so I thought I'd share my 12 of 12 for this month. (Based on a project started by Chad Darnell.)
Tuesday happened to be the first day of tech for the first show this season. I was greeted right out of the gate by this. As you can probably tell the lights on this thing are supposed to go all the way across. And they DID when I went to bed. But at 9am... they didn't.
A brief meeting between the technicians and the stage manager to go over the shift plot. (Details of how the scenery moves during the show.)
11am finds me running over to the furniture storage shed to claim two wooden chairs that I had overlooked pulling earlier in the week.
Shima enjoys tech rehearsals too. Can't you tell?
The actors finally take stage at 4pm.
At 6pm this thing still isn't working. Where the hell do you get Christmas lights on short notice in the middle of June?
More acting. This isn't exactly my favorite show to be honest... but I tried to make it look pretty.
The sun sets about 9pm. The actors are still on stage. After 5 hours, (including an hour for dinner) we still haven't completed Act One.
More acting. This is one of my favorite pieces of scenery in the show.
On my hands and knees at midnight doing a few quick notes. (Technically the 12th is over at this point, but my day continues.)
The tech crew toasts the end of tech day one!
2am raid on the kitchen for grilled cheese sammiches.

Camp Sketches Part II

My rendition of the Kaaterskill falls.

Camp Sketches Part I

A small stream that was about 100 yards behind our campsite.

Camp Fire Tales

Camping was fabulous! We headed out Sunday afternoon about 2 up through the Catskills to a place called North-South Lake Campgrounds. It's a small state parks in a valley where there are two beautiful lakes. The lakes though are the smallest part of what is available in the campground scenically.

Sunday was cold and rainy, a trend here this summer, and ass we drove up we started to notice that the trees had not even come into full green yet at some of the altitudes we passed. That scared us a bit. By the time we reached the campground though things were looking pretty good. Most of the afternoon was spent setting up the tarps and things that we would sleep under for the next two nights, and then a short hiking trip to see a small waterfall called Mary's Glenn. The park is beautiful but three straight days of rain had left everything pretty swampy and the hiking paths had literally been turned into streams that we had to wade through in order to get anywhere. It was a good day, but it made for a cold night sleeping in the damp, and trying to dry out our shoes by the fire.
The next day was full of adventure. The sun had come out and dried up a good deal of the area so we set out to see what the park truly offered. First up was Kaaterskill Falls, the tallest falls in New York State at 150 feet. We approached the falls from the top first, then scaled down the mountain so that we could see it's full glory. The falls has three different levels where it plateaus, and at the second level you have to pass behind the falls in order to complete the hike down. It was a staggering view. The falls from the bottom were truly amazing though and we spent a good while photographing and sketching and just basking in it.

After that was Artist's Rock a cliff face where the whole of the Hudson Valley is visible. That was followed by Sunset Rock where we shared a watermelon on the peak and enjoyed the view of the lakes that give the park it's name. Then came a short hike to the former site of the Catskill Mountain House, a former resort hotel that overlooked the valley. It left us all pretty wiped out and the we were in our sleeping bags as soon as the sun set.

The next morning we were up at 6, and on the way back to the theatre for a day of work. we were all stiff and tired and it was a long day of building scenery and trying to recover from our adventures.

The next dark day we are planning a trip to a campground in Montauk, and while on this trip we saw a rafting place in a town called Pheonicia that we plan to take advantage of later in the summer. It's nice to be in the outdoors and actually taking advantage of it for once, unlike last year.

The Great Outdoors

All last year I agonized over the fact that I was here in the mountains and unable to take advantage of it. I begged and pleaded with several of the local employees to take me fishing, or just loan me fishing equipment and point me in the right direction. I did a bare minimum of hiking, but it wasn't much of a grand adventure and I came away a bit disappointed.

This year the TD is a huge fan of the outdoors, and also has the advantage of having worked here in previous years and being familiar with the local hiking trails and streams and things. Already we have had a (semi-drunken) adventure hiking in the pitch black night across the top of a hydro-electric dam and scaling the catwalk in the face to touch the geyser of water pouring out of it. Tomorrow is the first "dark-Monday" of the season, (meaning no rehearsals or work in progress) so the tech crew has planned a camping trip. In a few minutes we are setting out for a national park a few miles up the road for a day and a half of hiking and camping out under the stars (no tents here). I am thrilled by the whole prospect and can't wait! Luke (the TD) says that the park is gorgeous and the camping areas are quite nice. Look for a full report on Tuesday! Until then, I'll be in the woods. Well... even deeper into the woods.

Exotic Animals

Tonight one of the patrons of the Playhouse opened up his home for a party to welcome the staff and resident company of actors for the season. This is a new event which didn't occur last year. All week there were rumors flying about the property and it's owners who are perhaps best described as eccentric. The main house is an old stone hatchery that has been converted to a literal mansion. It has some palatial rooms, including some bathrooms larger than my NYC apartment. The original estate was 8,500 acres of mountains and land. All around the grounds are collections of exotic animals. Llamas, alpacas, various parrots, macaws, and other tropical birds and a large colony of Galapagos tortoises. (Such as the one confronting our TD Luke above.) Rumor has it that there were also some macaques in the basement of the house, but we weren't allowed to see them because they apparently become aggressive when confronted with large groups of people. The owner was quite nice about it though and offered to show us the monkeys on an individual basis whenever we liked. In fact he offered to invite us all over again when the weather was sunnier so that we could enjoy one of the three (!) lakes on the property. I always knew that there were tons of animals in this area, I see deer and turkey on an almost daily basis, and I hear rumors of bears close by, but I had never known that there was an exotic animal preserve so close as well.