Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lessons Learned This Week

Just last week, the Barre Opera House hosted the Moving Lights Dance Company's annual Green Mountain Nutcracker performance. The Nutcracker is the standard Christmastime show for anyone in the business; a lighting designer I know saves light plots, paperwork, and color for a variety of houses that hire him back for their stock Nutcracker every single year. Last year I worked the show as stage manager during my college exam week-- not a fun experience, especially given the reception I was given by the company as a new member-- but a learning experience for sure.

This year was a little different. Earlier in the year at the Opera House, the technical supervisor I had worked under for several years stepped down. I came in for the Nutcracker load-in and strike as technical supervisor, a new position for me, but one I had exemplary models and teachers for.

I started by looking at hours and timesheets from last year. Without a lot of guidance from the company itself, I wanted to be sure we stayed close to their budget from the year before, so I hired about the same amount of people and tried to work about the same amount of hours. Our main goal was electrics: hang, circuit, focus, and troubleshoot. I asked Peter Monahan, the previous tech guy at the Opera House, to come in for the calls and he agreed. I also had the help of Jeff Salzberg, the lighting designer, who had some specific mechanics, cabling, and effects he wanted to use.

It was kind of hard to plan going in without having done this before. I acted mostly on suggestions, pairing people up on tasks whenever possible, trying to use peoples' strengths. My first mistake was to bite off too much at once: we had enough people to start rehanging all the electrics, but the hemp system at the BOH means things shift pretty quickly when weight changes. I didn't warn people about it and we had to stop and reassess with the people on the weight rail and then handle one or two electrics at a time.

Another thing I wished I had thought of beforehand was the rules about hours worked/breaks needed, especially meal breaks. Sunday was a hard day because we were focusing lights, which only takes a few people, and once the special projects like hanging stars and getting booms together were done, I had people standing around and was struggling to fill the 4-hour minimum call. Once I released the majority of the crew, three of us stayed until 1am focusing-- which is just how focus works, a few people at a time.

The strike of the show went well. We restored the stage to a rep plot, which was simple enough. I learned a little about conserving cable and twofers though, and also about coming in with a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished. I think we did well for the most part. I think the final lesson learned was that fake snow can actually pop the base off of an instrument-- namely parnels-- when it melts onto it. Watch out for that one!

The highlights of the whole job included bringing back my mentee/best friend from last year, Alan, to work the call, as well as another underclassman from St. Mikes, Dee-jai, to work. Connecting my worlds and helping my rising techies get work is a pleasure I discovered last year when I roped Alan in for spotlight operating the very same gig. I also enjoyed not having to be present for the whole week (something my exams this year wouldn't have allowed for), not having a lot of contact with the actors and company (something I've been appreciating more and more as I get away from stage management) despite the uncertainties and unspecified details it presented, and the pay raise.

While I'm not sure how much time I will have in 2012 to be the house TD at the Opera House (not to mention the body strength when it comes to that fly system!) it was a great experience this winter. Many thanks to the crew and my mentors who have been so patient with me through this learning experience!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

First Snowfall!

Yesterday, Saint Mike's got it's first permanent snowfall! It was a beautiful night. When I got home from an Irish Christmas music concert (Cherish the Ladies at the Flynn theater) I took a walk with my camera.

The campus was hushed and misty, and took me to a natural, wild place. I love winter, despite the cold, and winter nights are the best. Whether the snow is blanketing down or the sky is clear to the stars, it's a beautiful time of year. I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and my walk last night reminded me that if I do get to work on a cruise ship, I should apply for the Alaskan lines.

There's something so still about the world in December that goes beyond cheery Christmas music and decorations, something deep blue instead of bright red, something that you can't help but feel if you stop and take deep breath and really open your eyes to what's around you. Thank God for my Vermont upbringing; I have the ability to do this and to appreciate the beauty all around me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Crunch Time!

The weeks following Thanksgiving break are always packed with end-of-semester assignments and activities around Saint Mike's campus. Although every day is exhausting, it's rewarding to be productive, especially when I'm more aware than ever of the money going into my education and the benefits I'll gain when I'm done with school and job hunting.

This year I am noticing finals more than ever with a lot of my close friends finishing thesis papers and research projects: Becky and Heather, my friends who are senior English majors, are both part of the senior seminar about monsters in culture and society and have been doing a lot of work relating figures like Frankenstein, Hannibal, and Jekyll & Hyde to the real world. I love going to a liberal arts school because so many classes and themes are related and I'm able to draw concrete parallels between many theories.

My four classes for this semester are Spanish Literature, Shakespeare, Early Christianity, and Run Crew Lab. Since Crimes of the Heart is over, my time in the scene shop and backstage has diminished, though with various end-of-the-semester performances and theatre finals going on my friends and I have been putting in a few hours a week preparing for events. I have one exam for Christianity and one on Spanish theatre; an essay on Spanish theatre to do; and then a group presentation on Titus Andronicus in Shakespeare and also an advanced research paper on Hamlet to do. Although things are winding down for the most part, Shakespeare is still a very intense class!

Some of those end-of-semester events include the Saint Michael's Playhouse Holiday Benefit Concert, a sold-out show performing tonight only, featuring some of Playhouse's familiar faces, and the directing class scenes, which will be Monday of exam week.

Other than that, I'm also looking ahead to next weekend, when I'll be working as technical supervisor at the Barre Opera House loading in for their annual performance of The Green Mountain Nutcracker. I've also been doing some research for summer stock jobs, since the time to apply is drawing near. I'll keep you posted!!