Friday, December 13, 2013

The Importance of Being Earnest

Moonbox Productions' fall show The Importance of Being Earnest closes this weekend after a very successful run! We opened on November 22nd at the BCA's Plaza Theater in partnership with High Spirit Community Farm, providing community life and meaningful work for people with disabilities. Every ticket sale and donation for Earnest includes a portion that goes to this organization.

Lady Bracknell-- in the purple-- is actually played by a man!

ALL of the muffins.
In the past, I've worked with lighting on Moonbox's shows: first as an electrician, then as the Master Electrician and Assistant Lighting Designer to Jeff Salzberg on A New Brain. This fall, I was the Production Manager for Moonbox, which is a challenging but rewarding position-- especially since the company has ever had a PM before-- that involves a lot of scheduling, emailing, communication, and hiring people, and being in touch with the shop we contracted to build the set, coordinating between them and the designer, and picking up rental orders.

Scenic design by John Devlin
I enjoy working with Moonbox because of the incredibly talented and decent people we work with; and because I support the overall mission of the company: supporting local arts and artists as well as connecting communities to local non-profit organizations that serve them. There are a surprising amount of connections within the company to my home state of Vermont as well: Sharman, our producer; Jeff, my lighting designer; myself; and for Earnest, our scenic designer was John Devlin, my adviser from college; our stage manager was Heather Lessard, one of my classmates from St. Mike's; and I was able to hire one of the students I mentored for while at St. Mike's to come work with us on our load in. For us, "local artists" includes these people, and it was a pleasure to work with them and introduce many of them to Boston artists and venues.

To read the astonishing amount of reviews on this production, and also to "like" us on Facebook, please visit the Moonbox Productions Facebook page here.  To order tickets for closing weekend, check out Moonbox's website!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cabaret with Brandeis University

This fall, I worked on Brandeis University's show Cabaret extensively for 8 weeks in the scene shop. With only 2 overhire carpenters and a few student workers, it took a while to build this complex set. It included a broken arch wall intersected with spiral stairs (some walkable); a Murphy bed; a hanging piano; a raised deck; and a LOT of molding and paint treatment.

Scenic design by Cameron Anderson

Scenic design by Cameron Anderson

I got a lot of welding practice on the arch pieces

And foam work...and molding

One project I worked on for a long time were these meat hooks

...for which I worked with oxy-acetylene and various other metal working devices
I also built this Murphy bed into one of the arch walls, very interesting project!
 Working at Brandeis was a steady way to settle back in after my summer away. I got a lot of practice with building techniques I already know and learned plenty of new things as well. There were definitely some challenges-- making all of the flying pieces fit between lights and architectural elements of the theater (the meat hooks were used to fly chairs, a sofa, and more; and the piano raised and lowered as well)-- as well as working for such a long stretch on the same show with many of the same people-- but it was a great experience overall and I hope to rejoin the Brandeis Theater department in the future for other shows.

Check out this teaser video a student made for the show!

Update: 12/10 Brandeis posted a Behind the Scenes video here

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Driving with Massholes

This fall, I did a lot of driving to get to work at Brandeis University, where I built a set for their fall production. (More to come on that show!) My commute was 11 miles and took about an hour, since I had pretty standard hours.

The first week, I used my GPS and tried several different routes. From Somerville to Waltham, there's a few options. Route 90-- the Mass Pike-- is the first and fastest, but it can be cutthroat at 8am and 5pm. Not to mention the tolls. Then there's route 93 north to 95 south into Waltham, also a quick drive-- but going north to go south irks me, and it's dangerously packed on those roads during rush hours, both morning and evening. For a while I took rt. 16 to rt. 3 to 95 south, through Cambridge, and that went okay. Finally I decided on rt. 16 to rt. 20 into Waltham-- a straight line sort of route, but through several towns. I found the traffic patterns more interesting for a drive I had to do twice a day, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. I'm also glad I chose that route because I feel a lot more familiar with Watertown and Allston and Cambridge than I would have been had I avoided the stoplights and gone on a major highway instead.

I learned a lot about driving and I'd say my driving skills improved exponentially. I have some theories about driving in Boston and why it is so scary and confusing: it's all about the intersections. Because the city has never had a renovation of the road system, the roads are based on windy paths from the days of old. Any major intersection has some quirks, like extra turn lanes, or having 5 roads meet up in haphazard ways, or double roundabouts. Then you get the combination of people used to driving on this crazy setup and people who have no idea where they're going, and impatience builds quickly. I don't think Massachusetts drivers are any worse than drivers elsewhere (in fact, the only location I'd judge drivers for being from is Quebec: what the hell do they teach up there?) but given the roads and especially the intersections and one-ways that MA drivers deal with, they seem like lunatics everywhere else.

Being a Masshole isn't a good thing, as much as some people take pride in being a jerk on the road. People forget that safety is important when you're in control of a large, fast-moving, heavy metal machine: both their own safety and that of others. People sit in their car where they feel immortal and feel like it's okay to be an asshole, when really they would never do or say stuff like that outside of the car. And often, I've found, people aren't even trying to be jerks. They make a bad judgement call; they aren't paying attention; they don't know all the rules of the road (which is inexcusable, it's true); they're just trying to get somewhere and feel on the defensive. I've come to a very zen place inside my car, even when I'm running late. Being  patient and kind-- though not kind to the point of endangering people by stopping too short or holding up the flow of traffic-- goes a long way for my own sense of well-being, and sure doesn't hurt the rest of the world on the road.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

San Francisco!

After quite the cross-country journey, Krissy and River and I arrived in San Francisco with nowhere to stay. Her sublet deal turned out to be a scam. We made the best of it though; I stayed with a friend of a friend out in Oakland for a night before finding a cheap hotel in town, and we got plenty of sightseeing in!

 We walked up some of those famous hills in the city...they are indeed extremely steep.

 I admired lots of cool architecture like the geek I am.

 Me and River and our local friend spent some time at this park, Mission Dolores, between the Mission and Castro.

 Walking to the Jason Mraz concert that we attended courtesy of Krissy's friends in the local 16.

 The America's Cup stadium the local 16 made and manned for many events and concerts during the competition.

 We spent a lot of time walking at the piers.

 The Castro was probably my favorite neighborhood.

 Brian and I went to a reserve by mistake, instead of the park we were supposed to meet everyone was a nice hike, that's for sure! Mt. Sutro

The actual rendezvous:  Tank Hill Park.

I really enjoyed San Francisco. The atmosphere and the people were very chill; everyone I met was very nice. We spent some time with the local 16 stagehands, which was awesome-- I hope to see them again. What a trip it was!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Road Trip Adventures

In August, my friend Krissy wrote to me to tell me that she had decided to move to San Francisco to join the local IATSE 16, and asked me to drive out with her. Although I was really worried about money, I decided to go! I had never driven across the country before or seen very much of it beyond the east coast, and I also wanted to make contacts with the many people she knows in the technical theater business.

The first day, we left from Burlington, VT in Krissy's Subaru with her stuff, my bag, and her dog River.

We had a beautiful day of driving through the Adirondacks and the rest of New York until we stopped for the night in Erie, PA and found this gem of a burger joint for dinner:

Day 2 we drove for a while: we went through Pennsylvania and Ohio, and on down through St. Louis until we stopped at Krissy's friend's house in St.Charles. I don't think I took any pictures this day, other than a blurry, bug-smeared windshield shot of the arch in St. Louis as we rushed through. Krissy wanted to arrive in 5 days to start working, so we didn't stop very much to sightsee, though I started a pretty extensive list of things I want to see in this big country of ours.

Our third day on the road was pretty exciting. We saw a lot of corn fields in Kansas...and the car broke down (the first time). We called AAA and had an awesome tow truck driver and shop take care of us: an air conditioner fan had scraped through a radiator hose in her Subaru, a relatively easy fix.

Look at this beauty...
 We saw some pretty amazing sights the rest of that third day. For two girls from Vermont, this was a lot of open space and sky to take in.

 That night we had some more car problems. We limped it to a small city in Colorado and spent the night at a hotel, waiting to get the car checked out in the morning. Day 4 we made it to first view of the mountains out west:

We spent a day and a half in Denver with a friends' parents, while Oleg at the Subaru Clinic tore the car apart to help us get on our way. 

He eventually discovered that the fuel pump needed replacing and made it happen by the evening of our 5th day. We hit the road that night and drove into Utah.

 Our 6th day was the longest. Krissy wanted to be in California that day, so we drove for 14 hours out of Utah, through Nevada, and into CA. We avoided the wildfires around route 80 by taking route 50, The Loneliest Road in America.

It was amazing to watch the landscape change. The day started in high elevations surrounded by that red rocky terrain; we slowly descended between mountain ranges. They just kept coming between plains, and they seemed to be bigger and bigger each time. It got drier out and the land turned more brown than red, with scrubby little plants covering everything. Route 50 was really quiet-- a beautiful drive. I was really glad we got the car 100% fixed before attempting that road though. It started getting very hazy, and you could just see the outlines of approaching mountains until you were right on top of them.

The cross into California was beautiful and dramatic. We hopped on route 80 (I think?) at that point, and it wound across mountains that had deep ravines and very tall, pointy evergreens all around.

We made it to San Francisco just after sunset, with the fog rolling in.

More to come on my time in San Francisco!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

End of the Summer

After the flood at the Hangar, we opened our last show, Clybourne Park. The end of the summer was a strange time because of the clean up and also the excessive amount of time I spent wallpapering for Clybourne. The show had a pristine house for Act I but for Act II, the house was sold and stripped, resulting in a very different sort of setting. This was a big challenge for us.

Act I. Scenic Design by Steve Teneyck. Photo: Meg Hurley.

Act II. Scenic Design by Steve Teneyck. Photo: Meg Hurley.
 We made panels of foam covered in wallpaper that velcro-ed to the walls and were removed by stage management at Intermission during part of their big change. These took a lot of maintenance; I would have preferred to use something more durable, like lauan or masonite, but alas.

We had some fun projects on this show as well: a staircase, a series of window boxes that lit up all around the set and into the audience. 

I realize that I've totally skipped over our third show of the summer, 4000 Miles. That show also had an interior set, meaning lots of walls and doors and molding for us in the shop. This show was unusual in that it had a ceiling piece. Ceilings onstage are hard because the lighting designer has added shadows and obstacles to deal with; they make the space seem smaller.

In progress. Scenic design by Tom Burch. Photo: Meg Hurley
This set also has some fun projects for us, including the windowseat stage left I built; the kitchen stage right that was complete with a pantry and wallpaper; a door center stage that our intern had fun making creak.

The summer ended with a sort of frantic note for a lot of us. Some people stayed longer to work on the final kids show, but most of the staff was gone by the second week of August. I had the pleasure of staying a few extra days to see the shop off and rest up before my drive back to Boston. Although we go through a lot every summer and never know where or when the money is coming to fund these shows, it's hard to not want to go back! Ithaca is a pretty awesome place, and it doesn't hurt that I've made some close friends at the Hangar. We will see what next summer has in store for me.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Flooding in Ithaca: 2013

Last weekend, the Hangar Theater experienced a natural disaster of fairly large proportions in the shape of a flash flood that occurred during a preview performance of Clybourne Park. I left the theater to get dinner around 8pm, noted the rising puddles in the parking lot that are often a nuisance when we get heavy rain, and returned around 9:30pm, expecting to finish up some work notes on the wallpaper for the show. 

Instead of parking and making my way inside for work, however, I stopped and stared at the sheer amount of water built up around the building. Many cars were buried halfway up the door in water; patrons were struggling to their vehicles through thigh-deep water in places. The lobby and backstage areas were flooded with several inches. Luckily, the stage itself and the scene shop and costume shop are raised higher up than the rest of the facility, which is in a swampy depression near the lake.

We spent the evening pushing cars out of the water (when put in neutral and NOT turned on, they usually drain out ok). When the last few staff members left, we turned off all the power with the fire department. I carried Brody, one of my boss's dogs, to the car as we headed out....the rain was increasing again at that point.

In the morning, the entire tech staff and all of the interns and apprentices still here came in to clean and restore the lobby. There were still several inches of water inside when we arrived.

We started by sweeping out the lobby and moving everything outside. Then we had to go through the Box Office, Concessions storage, costumes, our green room lounge/backstage area, and throw a lot of things away or send them to get cleaned. I spent most of the day in a series of small closets cleaning out boxes of programs that got wet and more fun stuff. Our electrics and sound equipment had to be cleaned and restocked; hundreds of props relocated. Spending the day wading through muddy water and sewage was pretty tough on everyone, especially for some of us who had been working 20 hour days on Clybourne Park.

Friday was going to be opening night for Clybourne Park. The theater decided that it would be best to postpone the opening until the next day so we could get everything in tip-top shape again. Once the water level went down, it was amazing how fast we restored the place to normal. If non-structural damage has to happen anywhere, a theater is not a bad place for it because they are usually full of efficient people who are used to cleaning and moving things and doing all sorts of shitty jobs. And so we are pleased to have opened Clybourne Park this weekend!

For more information on the Hangar Theater, please visit the website here.