Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lighting Design for Appetite

This semester, I've been focused on the SMC Theatre Department's spring mainstage, a devised theater piece called Appetite. The lighting design that I create for this production will be my senior showcase project, which is monitored through the senior seminar class.

Appetite has been an interesting challenge because it is a devised theater piece, not a scripted play. Devised theater can consist of any actions that tell a story in order to state a message, including (but not limited to) movement, dance, dialogue, music, sounds, pictures, and videos. We saw a show called Icarus Project at ACTF this year that was a great example of devised theater, using little dialogue but much movement and interesting makeup, with the strong base of the Icarus myth as a storyline.

Unlike with a normal production process, I had no script to work from, but instead was able to contribute to the theme and the story in meetings and rehearsals as the cast and director worked out the storyline. Attending rehearsals was the most important thing I did for most of this semester so far, because so many elements have changed and I wanted to get a feel for what kind of play this was. With the theme of technology and our reliance on devices and apps, there are many different directions the team could have chosen, and if the designers are not all on the same page the show will not be cohesive.

We are hoping with lights and projections/videos to create an integral, well-blended performance. The set is minimal, but with audience seating onstage the set building class had a big project of making risers and a ramp. We have a long tech process coming up because of how the school calendar worked out this year, and also because with such a innovative project and several student designers we want to have plenty of time to nail things down.

Tech rehearsals start in a week, and I am at the happy place of having just finished ("finished") my lighting plot, the map that shows where all the lighting instruments go and how they are plugged in and where they are pointed. With this show, I'm sure I will have to make changes right up until opening, but it's good to have a basic setup ready to go in advance so I can program the light board and make changes and choose colors.

Appetite performs April 11-14 and 18-21 at 7:30pm in the McCarthy Arts Center. Seating is limited, so please email for your reservation. 20 Saint Michael's College students are featured in this unique project; it is Liz Levenson's and Amanda Mulligan's senior showcase project for acting as well as my own for lighting design.

Another post to come soon about the story and the end result of this piece!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Latest Adventures

It's been a while since I've written, so there are lots of theater updates for today!

This weekend at the Flynnspace, the Vermont Stage Company closes Shirley Valentine, a one-woman show written by Willy Russell. My adviser John Devlin designed scenery and another mentor, Jeff Salzberg, designed lights, so myself and my St. Mike's tech buddies were all called for the load-in and strike. It's incredible how true the saying "it's all about who you know" is...networking is the most important way to get jobs in this business. I really enjoy working with this local company and making the friends and contacts I have with them as well!

Check out what Jeff has to say about designing for VSC here.

St. Mike's is currently on spring break, a respite I took full advantage of by taking some time off of school beforehand and going to Florida with my parents. We are lucky enough to have relatives who live and rent in the South, so it was a nice visit to quiet Port St. Joe, with sandy white beaches and long bike rides.

On the drive home, we stopped in Staunton VA, the home of the American Shakespeare Center. Their touring company visits St. Mike's every fall, and since seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream last fall, I've thought about going to see the Blackfriars Playhouse in Virginia, home of ASC and reproduction of the original Shakespearean theaters. I was able to tour the theater, which was nice-- the inside is smaller than I expected, but all Virginia oak, making a beautiful house. The technical elements of all the performances the ASC produces are minimal because they do their best to keep with the practices of Shakespeare's day. I also saw some friends from the touring company, visiting home base between locations. It was a great day!
Photo by Lauren D. Rogers

 Yesterday was a big day for me as well. I worked at the Flynn on the electrics crew for the national tour South Pacific all day and got a show call in wardrobe, which is a big deal for a beginning in the union like me. All day we loaded in equipment and scenery-- the Flynn is a small roadhouse in comparison with many across the country, so this crew couldn't use all of their equipment and scenery they would normally. The show was sold out. I was a dresser for the 3 kids in the show, which was fun because I got to meet them and their families, and they were very on top of their costumes and entrances (so a wardrobe rookie like me didn't have to worry!). After the show, we loaded everything back out into the big trucks. The power went out in Burlington for a little while during load-out, but there is no lit space like a space full of theater technicians with their flashlights. We ended at 2am. South Pacific moved on to Maine today, where they'll be for a few days. It is such a great experience to work on these calls, and I love meeting the tour people and getting to know the local crew.

In other news, St. Mike's is preparing for some plays in April, including the mainstage Appetite that I am designing lights for and 2 senior showcase plays. Seating for Appetite will be onstage, which means limited numbers. If you are interested in attending, please email to reserve seats, including the number of seats and the date. Performances are 4/11-4/14 and 4/18-4/21 at the McCarthy Arts Center.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Job Search

Since December, I've been tuning up my resume and researching places to work at, both for the summer and for full-time jobs after graduation in May. With the portfolio skills I learned about at KCACTF this year, I was able to create my own website to further market  myself as a technician.

I have an ongoing list from last year and the year before of summer stock theaters that I might want to apply at, so I started with that. For anyone job hunting, researching places to work and deciding how you would benefit from working there is essential. I was careful not to put my hopes too high on one place over another; sometimes the places that seem the best turn out to have downsides or negative recommendations from other people who have worked there. Talking to people in the business has to be one of the most important factors to a job hunt!

I have also been adding full-year sort of theaters to a different list, sorted by location, so if I chose a place I wanted to see or live in, I could apply that way. The choices involved have been hard for me, though. I want to do a lot of things and there are a billion options. A theater technician can work in theme parks, cruise ships, on tour, in sales, inventory, repairs, or consulting for the industry/supply companies, at corporate meetings and showcases, in dance or concert lighting, film, part-time overhire to supplement another job, at colleges, at high schools, with children's theater companies, in regional theaters or in a big city, and more.

A few weeks ago, I went to Boston for StageSource's REPA Job Fair (Regional Entertainment Production & Administration) to scope it out and get some ideas. I handed out 20 resumes and sat down at every table I could, having looked over the list of employers beforehand. Many of them were in the Boston area and operate during the year, which usually means they are looking for people living in that area. Making it clear that I am completely flexible with plans after graduation, I gave it my best shot. I want to see a lot of the country, so there are high chances I would move to somewhere like Boston or NYC; in the fall if not right away after graduation. The job fair was definitely a learning experience as well as a great chance to do some networking and visit peers from other colleges and places.

Over the past few weeks, I've engaged in several phone interviews for summer stock. Summer stock is one of my favorite kinds of theater: working in it is an intensive, 24/7 commitment to constantly building and rehearsing shows that never seem to end. I thrive on the schedule, on remaining busy and focused, even on the stress of changeovers between shows (those 3-5 days of tearing down one set, putting another up, having dress and tech rehearsals, and making the show spectacular with any remaining time). It makes me feel alive.

Today I accepted a job as a carpenter at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca, NY, a summer stock house. Although I have had a decent amount of experience in the scene shop, I have focused on electrics and stage management for most of my college career, and this will be a great chance to solidify my carpentry skills and to learn more. It will be challenging for me, but that is the only way I can justify accepting a job, anywhere, at this point in my early career. I know I will give it my all, and I know I have the skills to accomplish projects. It feels good to have some stability after graduation--the best regional/professional summer stock theaters provide housing and some pay-- even if it is only until September.

Thanks for reading!