Tuesday, November 3, 2009

West Side Story - Weekend 1

Opening weekend was wonderful.  The cast and orchestra were tight.  There were a few changes I made Friday night before the house opened that I didn't get to see until the show started.  One of which I was nervous about.  There are 5 groups of people on stage.  The first group will sing a couple lines, then the next group picks up, progressing thru all 5 groups.  Only one group at a time is lit in it's own pool, so the lights follow the lines.  Well, the way it was originally done - two of the pools missed their groups completely.  I had a quick conversation with the choreographer and chose different lights from different areas for all 5 groups.  I got them programmed into the board, and ran thru them.  I had one movement out of place.  I double checked with the choreo what the order was, fixed the cue, ran thru them once, then opened the house.  I was nervous since I had yet to see the cast in the lights that I chose.  Noam was a big help.  I'm still not proficient with the moving lights, and they are very temperamental.  After spending 20 minutes fighting with one of them, he stepped in and got what I wanted done in less than 5.  Thank you!!

I haven't talked much about our SM as she has not been very involved in my part of the process until now.  I worked with her on Full Monty, where we had similar lighting issues.  I admit I am very particular about making sure things are well lit, and follow what the production staff's vision is.  My SM wants nothing changed after the last dress rehearsal.  NOTHING.  It could be the smallest thing - The wash is uneven, I just need to boost one instrument up 20% and it'll be perfect.  Don't get caught doing this - she'll have a fit.  Well, anyone who has worked on the board with me before knows I change things constantly, and hope to have it perfect by closing night.  They're always little things - not like moving the actor's special from SL to SR.  The cast does not notice the changes I make once we open, and most of the time neither does the audience.

The cues should be executed by the way it feels artistically. Say it's written in the script that it needs to be executed on the last word of the song.  When looking at the stage, the actor sings the last word, then in two more beats they strike a pose on the final orchestra note.  If you follow the script to the letter, you won't see the pose or feel the exclamation point at the end of the song.  You've just put it in the dark.  Hold the cue a beat after the exclamation, and then execute the blackout.  The impact of the final note has now tripled because everyone had their big O at the same time. 

Our SM does not 'feel' musical theater.  It says execute the cue on that word, that's when she's going to do it.  As a board op, if you hold rather than going when she says, you may lose an appendage.  So with the miracle of modern science, you program the cue when she isn't looking  to hold 2 seconds, or make it a slow fade out rather than a quick black out.  This way she'll hear you hit the button when she calls the cue, but the lights will go when they should.  It's a sneaky way of having to do it, but if you don't, you don't get the big O at the end of the number.  Eh...

By the time we opened on Friday, the lighting in my opinion was tolerable.  It was definitely enormously better than earlier in the week, but there were bunches of little things that I never got around to fixing.  The final big fixes were completed just before we opened the house, and I was prepared to take notes again during the run.  I knew the director and choreographer were happy, but there are a lot of little things that can make it that much better.

Places is called.  I'm sitting at the board, a city tech is on one spot, Noam on the other.  I have my pad of paper and a pencil, along with my clicky eraser. (Tom and Shaffer hate my eraser.  I would play with it and it drove them crazy to the point where they'd try to steal it from me.)  I am happy with the progress we made getting the lights to where they are, and looking forward to making the show even better.

Literally a breath before Duane is sent on stage for preshow announcements, the SM barely turns her head in my direction and says "I thought Noam was running the board."  I said no, he hasn't been here all week.  He doesn't have the feel of the music yet for the quick... "I *thought NOAM* was running the board."  I'm stunned.  Okay...  I take my headset off (without turning off the microphone) put it microphone down on the table, and switch with Noam.  He gives me a look like a deer in the headlights - he has no idea why this is happening either.  I grab all my stuff then head to the spot.

Typically when someone gives me a warning that my cue is coming up I acknowledge them with 'thank you'.  I put the headset on, turn on the spot, and leave the microphone off.  I'll do the cues, and do them well.  I won't let the show down.  The only acknowledgment this beeyotch is going to get is that the spot will come on and go off on her cue.  Before the house lights are out for the first act, I'm in tears.  I have worked too damn hard on this production to be treated like navel lint.  I update my FB status and send the Prod the same thing in a text message "I just got kicked off the light board."

We're coming up on the scene that I had redone moments before opening the house.  I wipe away enough of the tears to be able to watch the scene progress.  OMG it was PERFECT.  The cues were called late - shocker - she doesn't anticipate well at all - but the pools were exactly where they were supposed to be.  WAHOO!!    I was thrilled.  She says, "wow, that looked really good.  I don't remember it looking that good before."  I turn on my headset mic.  In a very short 'fuck you' tone I said, "it helps when the correct lights are being used."  I get a thumbs up from Noam and the city tech (where she can't see of course) and the show goes on.

There are no spot cues in the second act. As soon as we get done with the first act, the spot is turned off, I grab my stuff, and I'm gone.  I'm still tearing up, and you can tell by looking at my face that I've been crying.  The SM had given cards to the crew and had set mine on one of the stools next to the spot.  I didn't open it; didn't even touch it.  I get to the bottom of the stairs from the booth at the same time the Dir is coming down the hall.  He grabs me, 'What's wrong?'  I said some crap about being tired, not feeling well, being too picky... Let's talk tomorrow...  He says again 'What's wrong?'  Before the tears started flowing again I said 'Joan...  We'll talk tomorrow."  I bolt as fast as I can out the back door and head home.

I walk in the door at home and don't even say hello to my poor husband whom I haven't seen in almost two weeks - our anniversary was the day before - and I go straight to the computer, still crying.  I open my email and start typing a message to Joan and Peter.  You better find someone else, I'm not coming back.  Noam won't be there the last weekend, so you'll need an additional person that weekend. Before I can get anything actually typed, he puts his hands on my shoulders, turns my chair around and asks me what happened.  I fall apart telling him what was going on and how angry I was.  He tells me that I should wait to write the email - I'm tired.  Get some rest, think about it some more, then write it.  It's true, I'm exhausted.  Down to the bone/it's difficult to take a breath tired.  He shuts off my computer and puts me to bed. 

Around 1130p my Crackberry starts going nuts.  On opening night there is a reception in the lobby after the show.  The President of the group acknowledges the people responsible for pulling this whole thing together.  Of course they get to my name and I'm no where to be found.  The first message I received was from one of the cast members who's been following the saga.  He said he was sorry to see I wasn't there, but that I got a well-deserved and boisterous applause.  Two or three more messages come in, I smile and turn off all the alarms except the actual phone and my alarm for the next morning.

The next day I decide not to send any emails.  (I have the best husband...)  I'd slept most of the day so I'd gotten some good rest.  I'm irritated with myself that I got so emotional about it - I don't care how tired I was, I shouldn't have let it get to me like that. Anyway...  I get to the theater and mingle in the house a little.  There are a handful of people in the house that I know, so I greet them then head up to my corner with the spot. 

Again, I stay mostly silent on the headset, only asking a question or two about the spot cues.  At intermission I again take all my stuff with me and leave the booth.  I catch up with the people I know, and had planned on going home.  The Prod talks me into watching the second act from the house.  I almost never get to see a show from the house, so this was a bit of a treat.  Just before act II starts, the choreo asks me what happened with a few cues.  The SM didn't call them.  There's a sound cue at the end of act I, she didn't call it, and he didn't go with it anyway.  It's her ship to sink.  I go back and forth now with how I feel about that.  If I know she's missed calling the cue I usually try to go at the right time anyway so it doesn't affect the run of the show.  Of course if we keep covering for her, no one will ever know that she's screwed up and take necessary steps to correct the problem.

It's def a different perspective from the house.  Things look very different.  Some problems that make me nuts when I see them from the booth don't read much in the house.  Others seem magnified.  I found myself willing her to call a couple cues that she missed.  The Prod is giggling - I'm in the back of the house whispering GO! making the hand movement like I'm pushing the button, and physically cringing the longer the cue is delayed.  Ugh...  I'm starting to think I'm better off not watching.

I had a brief chat with the Choreo after the show.  Is it me?  I'd been pushing for a week for them to let us help make the lights right.  Am I too high maintenance?  Am I crazy?  No question I'm passionate about it being done right.  I did drop the whole "well it didn't have to be like this if ya let us get to it sooner..." thing.  He just repeated a handful of times, 'never again.' Never again will tech-in be this unorganized.  He mentioned a few other events where the SM has given the Prod Staff trouble, that will also happen 'never again.'

I got a lot of rest on Saturday during the day, and most of Sunday.  I got up in time to watch my Packers play.  Ugh...  You'd think there was a high school team in the green and gold.  I'm glad that Favre is playing well.  I hate that he's wearing purple (that used to be one of my favorite colors...).  Oh well...

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