October 31, 2006
We have a total of 40 hours of rehearsal time with the actors before our first preview on Friday, Nov. 3rd, today we're scheduled to use 10 of them. This is the first day the designers, director, cast and crew are onstage and rehearsing together. The crew spends the morning moving props and furniture onstage from the rehearsal hall. The sets are dressed (decorated), the backstage area is set up with the usual conveniences (chairs, props shelves, water stations, quick change booths), safety lighting. A good cleaning is done. We don't have costumes today, there is usually enough to do in the first 10 or 15 hours of rehearsal that we don't add them until later.
The actors arrive at Noon and are shown around the stage. They're instructed on how to get from here to there, how to find their dressing rooms and green room, how to get out in the house, and they are introduced to the crew. We start rolling around 12:30.
We step through the blocking, write the lighting cues, set sound levels, add these elements to the scene shifts and then refine. And then refine some more. The refining will continue until we open (DAY 0). Things are going well and rather quickly. The flan doesn't work, it has to be creme caramel which comes out of the cup easier. The sheets are wrong (what about something with Robots on it?). Do we use Whole Foods bags, or something generic? Why not... Whole Foods gives us cookies to sell at concessions. We have to change some spacing here and there, the wagons bump into each other once. Nothing major.
The set designer takes and gives notes on some adjustments to be made over the next few days. The lighting designer refocuses a few instruments. All of the sudden, it's 9:40PM, and we're in the final scene. The actors are released? Did I hear that right? We were supposed to rehearse until Midnight! Sure enough, we've done enough for the day and we're finishing early.
We wrap up a post rehearsal production meeting by 10PM, in which we lay out the next rehearsal day's schedule, and discuss the work notes ahead of us. Out early two nights in a row? No one is complaining. Especially me. It usually takes us about 20 hours to get through the whole show the first time.
Happy Halloween :-)
Today is lighting focus and dry tech. Lighting designer Dennis Parichy joins our crew first thing in the morning to set all of the lighting. Each of our shows will have 200-400 individual lighting instruments. They all need to be pointed to a specific spot on the stage, and then shaped, and then colored. Some of them project a pattern. This one's pretty easy, as there is not much square footage to light, and because of the configuration of the set, not a lot of places to put lights. We get it all done, except for a few items because we aren't able to move the wagons.
It's raining. Hard and fast. Our Huntington Avenue digs have a tendency to drip, flood, and spout water in the oddest of places when it rains a lot. Saturday was one of those days. I usually get to take this day off, but my computer at home was down and we were going to do a short dry tech that evening, so I came in before lunch to get some work done (mostly to catch up on this blog). I walked in, and soon everyone was telling me to go find the janitor who had been looking for me. Water in the basement. Our most flood prone area is our call center, in the basement of 252 Huntington, where the box office call center, offices, and telemarketing is run from (this is also where the phone rings if you call BostonTheatreScene.com).
The toilets are overflowing... a sewer backup. I head to the back of the building where there is a minor flood in the telephone equipment room. We learned a long time ago to get the equipment well off the floor, so no damage here. In another room there is the cutest little fountian of water spouting out of the floor like a drinking fountain. It's 18" from the sump pump, thankfully providing a needed laugh. The plumber is just arriving. Ronny is moving the hose of a wet vac from toilet to toilet. Another sump is now draining the phone equipment room. Everything here is relatively under control.
I check a few other of our basements and then go to my office to alert the staff not to use the plumbing in the 252 building. No other visible problems. It's calm again.
Then I head back to the stage, and the stage carp is rushing to cover our brand new automation system with plastic. A roof drain pipe has sprung a leak and is showering down on the computer, monitors and control equipment. Lovely. A small cascade coming down the wall four stories from the roof to the basement. Not nearly as cute as the little fountain in the basement. The crew rushes to move the equipment to a safer location, and the thousands of feet of control wiring is relocated. Hence the wagons not being able to move for focus.
The happy end to the day is that all is back up and running an hour before the evening's dry tech is to begin. Dry tech is where we essentially set the scene shifts and practice them without the actors. There is not a lot of furniture moving around in this show, just the wagons, the house curtain, and and some black out panels. Since the major moves are already pre-programmed we complete the Dry tech in a record 27 minutes. That's 6 shifts. We had allotted three hours. Not bad! See you at tech!
I'm still having troubles uploading photos to the blog... found a few beautiful ones of a rainy day in Boston here
October 30, 2006
A very short post today. I got back to the office from NY around 1:30. Checked Email, answered phone messages and checked in onstage. All of the sudden there was scenery, and lots of it! The stage was a flurry of activity with all sorts of work being done on the Kitchen, Living Room and Bedroom wagons. Looking good. Mom came into town to see Mauritius so I took off to meet her for dinner at 5:30.
Day 12: Friday, October 27th, 2006
It all begins to look like we'll be ready for Sunday's first technical rehearsal. There will be a few things missing, like some moldings, a couple of last minute adds, and some set dressing. Kris and crew were busy doing some re-upholstery and the carps were in the way on the wagons anyway. Props will be very busy Sunday morning getting everything moved down from the rehearsal hall, dressing the three rooms (including a fully stocked kitchen, and yes IKEA came through on the appliances for us).
At the end of the day we gave the automation a test run. The photo is of one of our new winch motors. It's called a "Pushstick". Not the kind of pushstick I used in summer stock! We're using three winches to move the Kitchen, Living Room and Bedroom. The Kitchen is the heaviest wagon, weighing over a ton, and is run by 1.5 HP motor. Each wagon rolls on about 125 skateboard wheels, chosen for their small size, and we use so many for weight distribution. The Kitchen and Living Room are meant to travel together for most of the show, even though they are driven by separate motors. When it's all said and done the scene changes will happen at a push of a button from the computerized automation desk.
Click here to see Shop Foreman Brian Sears having a little fun as we do a prelim attempt at running them together. Also shown are Associate Technical Director Adam Godbout, Stage Manager Eileen Kelly, and Light Board Operator Jenni Russell. (I had this embedded before, but it was messing with the blogs layout).
Tomorrow is the Lighting Focus and Dry Tech.And a final plug for MAURITIUS. The rave reviews have continued to pour in. Two weeks left in the run. That's it... Don't miss. See a nice slideshow with actors Marin Ireland and Michael Aranov here.
October 29, 2006
The events started off with a pre-show reception at the Time Hotel, our host hotel. We had quite a group, with over 20 Huntington Trustees and Overseers and spouses, and 10 or so staff. The crab cakes were my favorite! Had a nice chat with overseer Janice Hunt who knows another Tod Williams, a NY Architect who recently designed the new American Folk Art Museum. We all walked around the corner to the Booth to find a throng of photographers surrounding the red carpet! Funnily enough, when we got on the carpet the flashes all ceased and the cameras went down. Donna Glick, Director of Education, loudly commented "Hey, we're important too!" to which one sassy paparazzi replied "Who cares!". The play was great, Nathan Lane's performance amazing, and I fell in love with Dana Ivey. It was nice to see Pam Gray again in the role of Butley's wife, and Jessica Stone as Miss Heasman. It was really all about people watching, and since I'm not writing the gossip pages here I'll send you over to Playbill for the who's who. The party was at the elegant Cipriani 23, with enough security to lock down Fort Knox, and the food and desserts were great. My favorite was a delectable seafood salad with lobster, clams, squid, shrimp and scallops. See a pattern developing here? Then there was the chocolate mousse. Yummy. It was nice to see a few old Huntington friends there as well.
All right, I'll gossip a little. The celebrity sightings did not end Wednesday Evening. I traveled back to Boston with Special Events Manager Veronika Vaclavek. We had scored nice seats with a table in the quiet car on the Acela, and thought we were going to get all four seats to ourselves. No such luck. Someone sat next to me, and then along came three; a very familiar looking woman, her young daughter, and a companion. After Veronika was kind enough to give up her window seat and some other switching around it was the three of them and me. It soon became clear that even though this was the quiet car, my new travel companions had no intention of keeping it down. And my feet seemed to be at the perfect height to serve as a foot rest for the (otherwise adorable) daughter. Ugh. Thankfully, for all parties, their companion soon went scouting alternate seating and found it in a forward car. I'm glad they found a place to catch up, and we got our nice seats back. Veronika discover this in her mailbox upon our return to work, along with a photo of our travel companion, none other than Julia Sweeney, androgenous"Pat" from SNL. How weird was that? She's in town for a performance of her show at the Saunders Theatre at Harvard.
That's all. Break is over. Back to work.
October 28, 2006
Things are looking good onstage, all of the wagons are in place and the painted wood flooring is being installed. We had our weekly production meeting in the morning, discussing the details of the load in, and the requirements of the show. Nothing too exciting.
Costume Designer Laurie Churba is in town until Tuesday morning, so there is a frenzy of costume fittings and hair styling going on.
“What kind of schedule do you work?” I was recently asked. I tend to work 10-6ish, Monday through Friday. Except when we’re in onstage technical/dress rehearsals and previews. Then it’s something like 10 AM – Midnight. And whenever else they need me.
The Huntington is open for business pretty much 16 hours a day when we’re in performance is open from 7 AM – 11 PM.
7AM – 4PM Scene Shop and Paint Shop Open
8AM – 5PM Properties and Lighting Open
9AM – 6PM Costumes and Sound Open
9AM – 6PM Administrative Offices Open
11AM – 5PM Rehearsals in progress
11AM – 8:30 PM Box Office Open
Our stage crew works about 5 hrs per performance, so for an 8 PM curtain that is roughly 6PM – 11PM
The FOH (front of house) staff close up the building at night’s end at the Calderwood Pavilion. On Huntington Ave it’s the night custodian.
Day 14: Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Today I’m off to NY to attend the opening night of Butley. A handful of senior staff and about 30 Board members and their guests are going down for the performance and parties to cheer Nicky on and see Nathan Lane in a repeat of 2003’s runaway Huntington success. More on that in the next post.
After checking in with my staff and getting a little desk work done I hop in a cab with designer Laurie Churba. She is also the costume designer for Saturday Night Live and is heading back to NY to prepare the weekend’s show. All went well at our fittings this week and Laurie estimates that we have 94% of the costumes ready for Rabbit Hole. She will return Monday to do some shopping locally for that final 6%. Our first dressed rehearsal is Tuesday evening.
A modern show is mostly “shopped”. The costume designer and assistant have been shopping all over Boston and NY to get the right clothes for our cast. Very often we will purchase three or more choices for each look, and then work with the cast member and the director to choose the right one. And then we go back and do returns. A LOT of them, we have returned over $5000 worth of clothing for some shows. I think we bought 17 pairs of jeans for Carol Mulroney until we finally found the right ones.
October 25, 2006
The BU Theatre production of Stoppard’s EDBGF closed with a 2PM matinee. The lighting department came in after the performance and changed the lighting rig over to the plot for Rabbit Hole. The first thing to happen in any load in is the overhead stuff, lighting pipes, scenery pieces and speakers (load in = installation of the scenery, lighting and sound equipment. We usually allow 5-6 days). It’s also the last day of rehearsal for the week up in the rehearsal hall. Today’s notes are light including a request for shift meeting, the costume fitting schedule for Tuesday, and a request to record some voice-overs. All routine. We finally got the boiler turned on so they could have a little heat. Then it started spouting hot water... I turned if off, told the custodian, and headed out to my garden. It was a beautiful day.
Over at Mauritius we had a mess with the automation at the matinee. The shifts happened, though a little late, the cast wasn’t thrilled, and the issues were solved by the evening performance. I don’t think it will happen again. Hopefully the stage manager will call me this time if it does, though I enjoyed the nice weather out of doors.
(BTW – the Mauritius reviews are incredible! My fav quote "A super boffo hit". Get your tickets soon. It’s a limited run.)
And the important stuff – Quizno’s finally opened across the street. We’re all excited.
Day 16: Monday, October 23, 2006
Day off for the actors today (they work six days a week).
The Scenery staff takes to the stage installing the portals and putting in the deck. Our Technical Director is out for a while, so ATD Adam Godbout and Shop Foreman Brian Sears have stepped up and are doing a great job trying to keep things running smoothly. The entire scene shop pulled together last week to get caught up and ready for today, putting in minimal overtime. Thanks Gents. Glad you got the rest yesterday. It’s going to be a LONG week.
The fixtures that go in the window light boxes did not arrive yet. At least DHL is paying for the shipping since they didn’t deliver.
Roberto and Lori in Paints are racing to finish up the pieces the shop got to them today so that they at least get a base coat before they are installed later this week. The space crunch and Mauritius note hit paints hard, but as scenery moves to the stage they’ll be able to spread out and breathe a bit. We’ll get to see some their fine wood-grain technique again on this one. Lunch is on me you two.
That’s all for today. The first day or two of load in is kind of dull (visually)... It's laying in the infrastructure mostly, so you get very little sense of what it’s going to be.
October 24, 2006
Here’s the plan – give our readers an idea of how a production moves from shop and rehearsal to the stage. Here’s how. I’m going to count down to opening night with updates on each day’s activities as we head towards opening night of Rabbit Hole on November 8. When did it all start? April 2006. This production was one of the last to appear in our line-up, I let my staff know we were doing the show around May 5th, 2006. A Huntington production takes at least seven months to put together from the time we’ve chosen the play. The first order is to select an Artist Team; Director, Scenic Designer, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, and Stage Managers. It takes about three months to get to a final scenic design, from the first conversations between the designer and director, to the final technical drawings that work within the approved budget. Scenery build started 9/5, props and paints shortly thereafter, rehearsals and costumes build/shopping started 10/10, and lighting and sound started prepping for load in last week.
Our Team: Director – John (Joey) Tillinger, Scenic Designer – Jim Noone, Costume Designer – Laurie Churba, Lighting Designer – Dennis Parichy, Sound Designer/Composer – John Gromada. And of course Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. The bios are not yet up on our web site, but I’ll add the new links as soon as they become available. Look them up here if you want to in the meanwhile.
The hardest part of this assignment? Keeping it blog short.
Question of the day: Why is it called Rabbit Hole? I guess I should read the script again.
Anyway, here goes… we’re down to 17 days before opening night.
October 18, 2006
For our Tom Stoppard fans, a neat article in the New York Times about the new Stoppard trilogy coming up at the Lincoln Center. It talks about the difficulties of getting such a large production together, and finding name actors, directors, and designers to commit for such a long period. Good luck to them. While I'd love to tackle a project with a $7m budget someday, I'm glad we don't do rep!
Also, via email, an invitation from Jim Petosa, Director of the School of Theatre: Jim says "I am writing to get word to you about an exciting performance opportunity coming up this weekend at the Boston University Theatre. The School of Theatre will be presenting Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn's collaborative piece for six actors and 47 piece orchestra, EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR. This a fine piece of theatre that is seldom seen because of its unique requirements. If you would like to attend please contact the box office at 617 933 8600." or visit www.bostontheatrescene.com
I enjoyed this article in the Globe by Catherine Foster about new play development in Boston (and well, yes, the Huntington).
Congrats to cast, crew, staff......... EVERYONE on a great opening night for Mauritius last night. A full house of family, friends, and press filled the Wimberly for an energetic and exciting performance, followed by a cast party in Deane Hall. We're keeping our fingers crossed for good reviews in the Friday papers. Mauritius Factoids: Did you know that one million in hundred dollar bills weighs 20lbs? The suitcase full of cash (theoretically) contains $3 million (yet since it's a prop only weighs 10-15lbs) and yes, we'll fix the latch.
In this morning's email:
"Hi - I want to express how nice everyone was working on the play.
What a good staff. I also liked the theater.
By very best to you all"
(Scenic Designer) Eugene Lee
Last but not least, some of my favs: my two favorite local Arts blogs are Joel Brown's HubArts.com and the Boston Globe's Exhibitionist ("Buzz Off, Huntington!" says Geoff Edgers). Playbill.com and TCG have the word on Theatre across the nation. And for local folks in the biz... StageSource.
(as for the photo... Well everyone was stumbling around, over, under and through the Radio Golf set on Monday as it sat in our Huntington Ave shops waiting to be loaded into three semi trucks bound for Chicago on Tuesday)
Pictured are Elvis Ramirez; Technical Director, Elvis Godbout; Associate Technical Director, Elvis Gassan; Carpenter, Elvis Sears; Shop Foreman, and Elvis Brown; Carpenter. Also visible are Carpenters Jesse Caldwell-Washburn, Jim Farrell, Randy Higgins, Pat Austin and Tim O'Neil.
October 10, 2006
So here's the first sneak peek... a preliminary model photo of ACT II of The Cherry Orchard with scenery designed by Ralph Funicello.
Mauritius is beginning to settle into a nice run, with preview performances and rehearsals this week, with ongoing work on the show by director Rebecca Taichman and playwright Theresa Rebeck. This work paid off on Sunday Night with our first standing ovation. We struggled to find the right feel and look for the living room making many changes in the set dressing. Thanks to everyone who kept on going until we found the right look.
Oh yeah, Radio Golf closes on Sunday, and rehearsals for Rabbit Hole begin today.
Again, welcome to the Huntington's blog. I'm new at this... And trying to figure out what you're interested in hearing about what goes on behind the scenes at the Huntington. A little bit about me.... As production manager I oversee all of the individual production departments including Scenery, Paints, Properties, Costumes, Lighting, Sound and Stage Management. We have over 30 full time and seasonal production staff, and we can add another 30 -40 part time technicians and artisans on any particular production. I also work with our other departments (artistic, general management, finance, development, marketing, education, and the BU Theatre program) to plan and coordinate budgets, seasons, design teams, and operational issues. I'm celebrating my 15th season with the Huntington this year.
Have a question for me? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment on the blog. I'll see what kind of response I get and post something again by week's end.
(Photo above: The Cherry Orchard set design by Ralph Funicello.)
October 9, 2006
Notes, Notes, Notes. Our world premiere of Mauritius by Theresa Rebeck has been all about the props thus far… . The show is now in previews at the Calderwood Pavilion and the notes continue. Here’s a sampling of the notes regarding stage props, written by our stage manager at the end of every day, from our first two weeks of rehearsals:
1) Thanks for ALL the stuff in the rehearsal hall. We will do inventory over the next day or so and then updating our paperwork to reflect what we have.
2) Kris, is there a time (possibly Thursday) that you would be able to walk Maureen and me through where the various office filing furniture is intended to live? Thanks.
3) Please ADD some stamp magazines and stamp catalogues.
4) Please ADD a Starbucks coffee cup and lid.
5) FYI: Stamp book is very old. When it was new, it was beautiful but it has aged with time.
6) What size are the easels and oversized stamps that are on the stage pre-show?
1) Thank you for the desk that you brought over this morning. It seems that Rebecca and Robert like the desk more than the table so we will be using the desk. Thank you so much.
2) Please ADD several large stacks of old mail and old fed-ex style envelops to the stamp office.
3) Please ADD contemporary stamp catalogues and trade magazines to the stamp office. We have a few in rehearsal that Mr. Dorfman got at the library this morning.
4) Please ADD a second garbage can. It will need to be OVERstuffed and will live next to (attached to) the typing table.
5) Please ADD several small plastic and wood containers that will hold stamp tongs, stamp mounts, etc. that are for sale.
6) Please ADD three small magnifying glasses.
7) Please ADD a Disc-Man and wraparound headphones for Ms. Ireland (JACKIE) The Disc-Man should look old and beat-up; possibly with duct tape holding some of it together..
8) The phone will be living in the drawer of the desk.
9) The typing station on SR will need to be very messy.
10) Mr. Dorfman (PHILIP) will be writing invoices in the invoice book.
11) The credenza on the SR wall, much like the shelves on the SL wall, should be full of stamp books/boxes organized by countries.
12) Mr. Dorfman (PHILIP) feels that the shop has collections of American stamps as well as several Indian Ocean Countries.
13) The shop should be full of as many reference books and catalogues as possible.
14) Rebecca likes the idea of the added glass display USC being slightly messy under the glass.
15) Please ADD a plate of fries that Mr. Gale (STERLING) will be eating in the diner scene.
16) Please ADD a plate of fries and a hamburger that Mr. Aronov (DENNIS) will be eating in the diner scene.
17) Please ADD a plate with a slice of key lime pie that Mr. Aronov (DENNIS) will be eating in the diner scene.
18) Please ADD a paper cup with a lid and a straw for Mr. Aronov (DENNIS) in the diner scene. We would like to seem as if he is drinking a milkshake without having an actual milkshake.
19) There will be two cups of coffee drank in the diner scene. The actors would like to drink cold tea as coffee.
20) Please ADD a small sugar carrier for the diner scene. It will be full of sugar packets that will be used.
21) Please ADD a tissue box to the living room.
22) Please ADD a phone (not practical) to the living room. It will live on the standing lamp table.
23) Please ADD three dirty glasses to the living room.
24) Please ADD an ashtray full of cigarette butts to the living room. It will NOT be used.
25) Please ADD several random old medical supplies to the living room.
26) Please ADD several old magazines and pieces of old mail to the living room.
27) The box of bills in the living room should be extremely messy and disorganized.
28) We love you.
1) Please CUT the hamburger from the diner scene.
2) Please CUT both plates of French fries from the diner scene.
3) Please CUT the milkshake from the diner scene.
4) The only consumables in the diner scene will be two (2) cups of coffee and one (1) piece of key lime pie.
5) Please CUT the ashtray full of cigarette butts.
6) The large attic box (#2 on breakdown) will need to be sitable. Please reinforce. It will NOT be opened onstage.
7) Please CUT the discman.
8) When will we be able to have the actual stamp book in rehearsals?
Dizzy Yet? Bring the list to the show, and during intermission, see how many of the items you can spot.
(Photo: Marin Ireland, Michael Aronov, and Robert Dorfman in Mauritius. Photo by Eric Antoniou.)
October 3, 2006
From Todd Williams, Production Manager:
September was a busy month with the opening of Radio Golf and rehearsals for Mauritius. Our opening night festivities for Radio Golf were held in the scene shop and paint shop, which were completely transformed from busy work spaces to a dramatic party space, complete with beautiful lighting, and costumes and props from past shows on display. The shops looked absolutely fantastic and were enjoyed by all. Thanks to all of the staff that worked so hard to make it happen.
Production Departments Heads (Dan, Kris, Roberto, Nancy, Brian, Ben and Kat) also gave tours on our annual subscriber reception on Sept 19th, and enjoyed the enthusiasm and interest from both our new and long time loyal subscribers.
I’ve wrapped up some of the lingering details on Radio Golf as we now work to get it ready to travel again in mid October. Next stop is Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in January and then to the McCarter in New Jersey come March. Both companies are sending staff here to see the show, and to take a look at the set… and here’s another shout out to the folks at Seattle Rep who have done such great work from getting all of the props, costumes and set dressing from the Yale Rep and Center Theatre Group and then built David Gallo’s beautiful set. I’d better not forget Centerstage who also had a great run of this production. While we often prefer doing our own thing from start to finish it has been very satisfying to be part of this final August Wilson production and to work with so many of our colleagues across the country.
We have loaded in Eugene Lee’s gritty Mauritius set at the Wimberly Theatre and getting the motors rigged and programmed for the scene changes. The cluttered stamp shop continues to fill with philately paraphernalia, keeping our props staff, Kris Holmes and Brandon Ribordy, VERY busy. Our Technical Director, Dan Ramirez, is heading to Broadway to help install our set for the Broadway Run of Butley.
The scenery for Rabbit Hole is coming along well…. Jim Noone’s homey scenic design features a living room, bedroom, and kitchen surrounded by the skeletal form of the house’s exterior. We’re trying out a new computer system to run the automation, the techies among you can check it out here. And we’re hoping super retailer IKEA is going to sign on as a production sponsor and come through for us with a kitchen full of cabinets and stainless steel appliances. The design team for The Cherry Orchard is beginning to find the shape of the show and we’re hoping for prelim scenic designs from legendary Ralph Funicello any day now. This season holds great promise for some outstanding design from some of the nations top theatre artists.
Enough for today… I’m giving myself a headache thinking about it all. I promise to post some sneak peek photos in future entries. (Photo above: Radio Golf set design by David Gallo.)