Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Day in the Life

I looked up 30-day blog challenges for inspiration to write more. While a lot of them feature very personal questions and things I would rather cover in a personal journal, there were a few interesting ones. One suggested post was "Your day, in detailed bullet points." Since every day is a crazy adventure in my life, I thought this might be fun. Let's see how much I remember.

-5:45am first alarm went off
-6am second alarm went off, I got up, dressed, gathered lunch that I packed last night, headed out
-6:36am caught the bus for Sullivan station, the orange T line from there to Back Bay
-7am walked to the BCA Calderwood Pavilion, where I am working for the Huntington Theater Company. There is another show loading in across the hall, covered in swarms of Boston University students, and other companies and such in the building, so it's a little chaotic at times. 
-Waited in our break room and ate breakfast
-7:30am we started working on laying the deck for Our Town, a bunch of 4'x8' sheets of crappy lauan painted to look like golden-brown wood flooring.
-Unloaded a truck of flame retardant-ed trees, boxes of paint stuff, doors/frames, windows
-Worked on assembling a curtain track/its attachment to the front of the set under the supervision of Jesse, a staff member at the Hunt. It's basically a curtain which will hide the kitchen we've been working on until the "reveal" moment, and it slides open and closed.
-10 (ish)am break. Went to the 7-11 for an energy drink and a chocolate bar (saved the candy for the afternoon break, which always means I'll finish the day strong). Worked on my crossword puzzle.
-10:15am Worked on actually attaching the curtain track to the set. It goes on the front of the ceiling of the kitchen with mega bolts, which took a lot of drilling and lining up and lifting the damn thing between several ladders, several times.
-(During all of this, other people worked on laying the flooring more, electricians were working on scaffolding across the stage, the Master Carpenter installed doors and windows, and a few other overhire carpenters worked on various molding projects)
-11am started attaching panels to the black, non-kitchen parts of the set. They have bolt heads to make them look like the theater's normal architecture, as per design with this show.
-12noon lunch! I don't mess around these days when it comes to lunch. Meat and cheese packed sandwiches, granola bars, cookies, yogurt, fruit, chips...hung out in the break room and worked on my crosswords more, enjoyed talking with my coworkers.
-12:45pm back to work: more of the "bolted" panels, to be leveled and screwed in from the back of the set.
-Also worked on crown molding for inside the kitchen (a very cramped space at this point; ceilings are an interesting choice onstage) and fake foam beams for the kitchen ceiling. We think these beams were painted with cow shit, they smelled so bad. Needless to say that job was done as fast as possible.
-Washed hands.
-Unpacked soft goods (curtains, usually) from RoseBrand...sold to us by my very good friend Peter Monahan, who is a sales rep there and a mentor of mine! It was awesome seeing his name on stuff I'm working on. We got a white muslin drape of some sort and a 9'x24' black velour curtain, which I worked on getting up into the track we hung earlier. We need to work on the attachments for this curtain: the higher-ups like the nasty noise of metal carriers for each point of the curtain, but they don't fit properly in the track we have, so the curtain doesn't open smoothly. We looked at plastic vs. metal carriers and have yet to try out the latest decided upon ones.
-I built a block of several 2x4s and some smaller pieces to fit behind the curtain track facing, which would cover one end of the track so the curtain can't be pulled right off the track. Someone else did the other side-- they are custom fit plugs for each side of the track, and mine is not yet installed so that we can still pull the curtain off and try those different carriers in the track.
-3:55pm unloaded custom flooring pieces from the van.
-4pm break. Chocolate bar and crossword puzzle. I feel like picking up the free Metro every day on the T will be a win for my crossword habits.
-4:15pm back to work, with fewer people now: some of our overhire are also crew for the evening shows and they need travel and dinner time. We finished the "bolted" panel pieces, worked on installing fake I beams on the very top of the set (continuing the theater's normal architecture). This took longer than expected, partially due to cutting bevels in the corners of these I-shaped pieces (interesting time getting them on the small chopsaw we share with the BU students loading in a door away) and partially because my partner is a slower worker. That is often my biggest challenge these days: not letting work partners hold me back from doing my best.
-5:40pm clean up. We organized our extra materials and things to still be installed-- very few at this point-- and got our tools and such out of the way for electrics. We also piled the trees out of the hallway of the building and shuffled some carts around.
-6pm Gathered up my things, filled out my time sheet, and left on foot for Back Bay station. I spent my public transit time today listening to music and texting my friend Meg from the summer, who is in Florida working at Orlando Rep. I am already comfortable with my route to the Hunt and the Pavilion, having worked for this company just a few days. I think people find me an interesting sight to see: bandana and work clothes and my tool bag and Joker bag (sorry Mom) but I'm also used to people being taken aback by what I do for a living so it's easy to ignore.
-6:40pm gave up my seat on the bus for an elderly woman. My stop was coming up anyway. (karma points?)
-7pm At my apartment and looking at emails, scheduling work into January at this point, which is awesome! Also planning for December: working with the Hunt and more, I want to see Our Town, see the Memphis tour when it comes through since I will probably get a backstage tour, visit home for my Grandma's birthday and Christmas, and to visit with my friend Meg when she comes up for the holidays.

Busy times!!

And's time to shower and eat dinner :) It might be a Netflix night of Dr. Who and/or Battlestar Galactica. My oldest brother will be proud.

Thank you for reading! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Tool Kit in the Theater

I started work at the Huntington theater yesterday, where I'll be working for a lot of this upcoming month. It is already a very different experience than my time at the American Rep: with a small scene shop located downtown, at the theater shared with Boston University students, the Hunt's shop is small and chaotic, but fairly efficient. They build for their own mainstage shows as well as various contracted works, and share the shop with students. We have started off the week by loading in Our Town at the black box space at Calderwood Pavilion.
A fully decked and roofed be seen briefly during the final scene of the show. Such is life in the theater.
One big change for me coming to work at the Hunt was a lack of available hand tools in the shop. Staff and overhire are told to bring their own tools in many places, especially IATSE (union) work calls, but other than the very basics (leatherman/multi tool, C wrench for electrics, gloves, tape measure) I haven't had the need to pack more of my tools. And I usually try not to, if a shop has the tools, because then mine will last longer and have less risk of disappearing. On calls for small shows, or say, when I helped my music teacher brother build sets for his elementary school's musical, I will haul my tools out of my car and use them more.

I know staff members at shops prefer their own tools often; and Tech Directors for smaller shops have their tools on hand often because they own more than the theater does, often, but I haven't been working in positions like that yet. (So this is possibly me moving up in the world? Or at least getting ready to!) I am more used to having my stage management kit (filled with anything one and one's actors could possibly need during rehearsal: pencils, sharpener, cough drops, tissues, first aid stuff, sticky notes, tape, etc...) wherever I go, so this is like a different version of that, I guess.

I have a pretty decent setup as far as tools go. For my sweet 16, my dad bought me a Ryobi battery-operated kit with a tiny circ saw, a drill, some bits. I've accumulated more, like hand screwdrivers and racheting screwdrivers, pliers, tape measure, random theater stuff like gobos and gel color booklets, and a little level, since then. Dad and I connect well over tools and mechanic stuff, so he usually gets me something fun for my birthday or Christmas, which is amazing :) Most recently, it was a head lamp, which is awesome for in the theater because no matter whether you are a carpenter or an electrician, the lights will go out at some point, or you will have to navigate and work behind scenery that blocks work lights, or crawl through some dark space to fix a connection or stabilize a platform leg. Painters often use them for the same reason; it's a steady, consistent light.

So tonight I pulled together my essentials to bring in tomorrow. I have a few tools that are red handled, so I gathered those and will keep the rest separate. I have phillips head and flat headed hand screwdrivers, a small level, a tape measure, a small hammer, a decent drill bit set, gloves, my leatherman and small maglite, a matte knife, and a few electrician's tools just in case: a multimeter, C wrench, and speed wrench. And my head lamp! I wish I could take my larger bit set in; it has drill bits, various screw head bits, a racheting wrench, and more...but the case is too large for my smaller tool bag and I don't want to deal with my larger bag with public transportation. My Ryobi drill is sadly outdated; it works well for home projects but wouldn't stand up to the Makita impact drivers a lot of shops have today, so I don't need to worry about bringing it in.

  Thanks for reading! Hopefully this wasn't too boring of a post...for many people I know this is standard stuff, but many of my readers also find day to day practices in this lifestyle quite different and interesting, so I figured I'd share something that is somewhat new for me.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pippin Load In

From the ART Website: This is the poster image for Pippin.
For the past two weeks, work at the ART has been loading in Pippin, the big show we've been working on for over a month. Pippin is a musical that the American Rep is setting in a giant, extravagant circus setting. Load-in has included boxing hardware to send to the theater, loading trucks, shipping people over, unwrapping things from shops in New York and some beautiful stuff from Vietnam, unloading stuff, laying platforms, laying decking (the specially painted stage floor), adding the pit extension that literally extends the stage over the orchestra's head, preparing the orchestra pit with platforms and safety nets, installing a false proscenium, hanging our 2 sets of curved truss (you can see some of it below) which now stretch the "tent" fabric between them, and more and more. There is another portal behind the proscenium, a pipe with hoops and decorative chains and pennants, and then of course my "Magic To Do" light bulb effect, hung directly upstage of the proscenium.

Part of the "chute" or circus tent was up at this point. My little phone camera can't capture the sheer size of this show!
 There were a lot of challenges and details to be attended to during this load in. It seemed like we were super prepared with hardware bags for each piece and bolts carefully counted out, but in reality things got disorganized and lost quickly. We had to stay organized and out of other departments' way at times. Safety was huge; with very heavy pieces being suspended overhead, we often wore hard hats. Getting the curved truss at the right angle and height took a while; installing the false pro and the portal were team challenges; my light bulb setup was a disaster with so many cables and wires flying in a small space. It was originally designed so that each of 22 bulbs could fly separately in and out, but with a clew plate added near the end to have the pieces all flown together, most of the pieces could have been replaced with just a pipe that the bulbs would have hung off of, set at their different heights. I'm not sure why this happened, or if all the problems can even be resolved, but the last time I worked on them we resolved much of the tangling of the wire ropes and were just left with the twisting of the electrical cables.

Yesterday was my last day of this long run at ART, and I worked on notes at the theater: adding light bulbs to the curved truss, dressing the midstage masking portal, working on a trapdoor platform under the stage, and cleaning up an oval platform piece that the acrobats climb all over. That was another challenge we faced-- acrobats were often practicing onstage this past week while we had to work on notes. 

I wish I could have taken more pictures of so many interesting moments, especially when electrics started working on lights while we were doing notes!  The pace is snappy though, and given design copyrights and other rules, we aren't really supposed to take a lot of pictures to share. I will get some from the ART website to share with you come opening, however, and I hope that you go see this incredible production when it opens! The show previews through December and opens on January 3rd. For more information on tickets and such, visit the ART website here.

November Wedding

My best friend from high school got married last weekend. It was an awesome wedding! As a member of the bridal party, I've been helping plan it for months...but everyone has been so busy a lot of it fell to Anna and Steve themselves to plan. They chose a blue and orange color scheme, birds and fall leaves decorations, complete with Woodchuck cider keg and a candy bar. Dinner was a Thanksgiving theme, making it the first of all of the guests' Thanksgiving dinners this year. It was in Greenwich, NY, at Christ the King spiritual center (ceremony at a nearby church).

They wrote their own vows : )
As the maid of honor, I turned to my mom and various stage manager friends to figure out what I needed for the weekend. A wedding is, after all, pretty similar to a show! Lots of planning and preparation needed. My survival kit included sewing stuff, breath mints, chapstick, Tide Pen, lotion, tissues, makeup, hand wipes, room keys, snack packs, and more. We arrived Friday, spent the afternoon at a really nice spa/nails place in Saratoga, went to the rehearsal and set up decorations (guess how many tech theater bridesmaids set up lights while the groomsmen stood around chatting-- LOL). Steve's family had prepared a lasagna dinner at the library of the spiritual center, which was amazing. We split the couple up and spent the night playing games and such, very low-key times, which was perfect.

The day of, the bridesmaids and Anna hid away in the bridal suite at the inn attached to the spiritual center, getting ready. It was a beautiful day! The ceremony was at a nearby church. When pictures time came around it was very cold for us girls but we managed. The reception was back at the spiritual center with an awesome DJ; lots of friends and family of the couple were there to celebrate with them. I couldn't be happier for Anna and Steve!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shipping out to Boston!

Ok, so the Dropkick Murphys song actually goes Shipping UP to Boston. But who cares? I just moved into my new apartment in Somerville with the help of my Mom, Auntie Mary, Uncle Jim, and little cousin Carlie. I've been couch surfing with friends in Boston for about a month now while working at A.R.T. and let me tell you, it has been stressful. There isn't a lot in the world that gets me down, but not having a personal retreat really raises my blood pressure from day to day. (not to mention Boston traffic!)

So I found this place from an ad on Craigslist-- among many other ads I responded to-- and my new roommate Joe wrote back saying I could come look at the place and see if we would get along. It is a second story apartment in a pretty old building with a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, separate bedrooms, trash service, heat, water, Internet, and cable; it has hardwood floors, a storage room, spacious hallway, and a cute pantry. I'm pretty excited.

My room: 10'x12' which is larger than my college dorms for sure.

Pretty sick closet with a bunch of hooks and 2 racks AND shelves. Yes, that's a zebra snuggie.

1/2 of the kitchen, still unpacking obviously

Other 1/2 of the kitchen. It's big!

Dining room...currently with a ping pong table...I'm thinking game room.

This is actually just a small part of the living room, it's HUGE. 
Joe seems like a nice guy, the place is clean so that says something at least! I looked at apartments with 2-3 girls living in them that were 10x more disgusting, easily. He hasn't put a lot of furniture in, so I'm hoping that means I can decorate in the future. If this first month goes well I will stay here indefinitely. It's so nice to have a place to unpack!

I left my car at my Aunt's house for a while. Parting with Tiny Tim was hard. I lived practically out of him for a month there, and put on more miles than the spring and summer this year combined. I also stored useful stuff in my car, like tools and blankets and equipment for the apocalypse. Not having that stockpile--not to mention a method of transport other than public transportation-- will take some getting used to.

More on Pippin and other adventures soon! Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pippin: In Progress

My first few weeks of joining Boston's "young professionals" has been intense! I visited for a week in September, interviewing and networking, and the recommendations from my mentors in Vermont and beyond really paid off. I was hired immediately as a temp worker for the American Repertory Theater, and put on several overhire lists for the Huntington, the Shubert, and Central Square.

I started immediately with A.R.T. in their scene shop in Northern Cambridge 3 weeks ago. We are working on Pippin, which will be set in a huge circus tent, complete with several levels of truss and wheeling staircases and giant banners. The shop is the largest one I've worked in thus far, though it seems small sometimes with the amount of people working: the Tech Director, his assistants, the paint charge and 3+ scenic painters, 4-5 staff carpenters and 4-5 overhire people from day to day. The metal working side of the shop is the largest part, and it's where I've been stationed almost exclusively for the past few weeks.

My project involves a set of 30 light bulbs that raise and lower along one of the big staircases. I have been working on making specialized sheave plates for pulleys, a redirect sheave plate that changes the direction of the rigging lines, and most recently welding tiny 1" bits of flat bar steel to tiny tube-like pipe to guide these wires. Building 30 of each piece (or 60, depending on what each setup requires) has familiarized me with the shop's tools fairly quickly and given me the chance to really practice with the cold saws, the iron worker, and the welding tools there.
my new friend the iron worker. it shears steel plates, punches holes, makes life a lot easier
Two types of sheave plates, offset by 1 degree angles...kind of annoying.
Once I got these plates done, there were 30 redirect sheave pieces to make, cables to measure out and prepare for rigging, and a countless number of tiny pieces and adjustments to make. We want every piece of scenery to be thoroughly checked for the install so that when the load-in day comes, everything is as ready as it can be to put in the theater space. I got to do a little welding on some tiny pieces of piping and steel chunks, which was fun and frustrating all at once. I had some guidance from the staff members and continuous overseeing from one of the Assistant Tech Directors. All in all, I hope this project will result in a cool effect for the show!

Information on Pippin can be found at the A.R.T. website.