Between final dress rehearsal and the opening of the show most of what I had to do was paperwork. We had some miscommunication and timing issues with props during this week and from a suggestion of my supervisor, I created a few pieces of detailed paperwork showing where things should be at what time and what time I wanted this started and completed by before the show each night. I created three different pieces of paperwork, each having basically the same information but formatted differently to help at different times before, during, and after the show.
The props tracking list (see sample below) details what page the prop starts its track, what the name of the prop is, where it starts, who picks it up, where it ends, and whether or not that prop has any more tracking after.
The props location list breaks down where each prop should be at the top of the show. For bags the list includes the contents of each bag and for items with multiples it includes how many of each item there are. This is also the list that I use at the top of the show to check the props to make sure everything is where it needs to be.
The props pre-show and post-show list has a detailed time breakdown of each task that needed to be completed and what time I expected that task to begin by. This was probably the most helpful piece of props paperwork because it allowed me to know what was supposed to be happening at specific times so that I would know right away if we were ahead or behind schedule. This also ensured that everything was in place and had been checked by the time I had actors onstage for fight call.
With the addition of these three pieces of paperwork, my pre-show process was a lot smoother and I could more confidently check in with other departments and continue with my pre-show duties and not have to constantly check in with props to make sure everything was getting done in a timely manner.
The first half of this week is tech week! Tech week for Whipping Man goes from sunday to wednesday, starting with load-in on sunday. Load-in is when the set and electrics are moved into the space, in our case the space is The Aviary! On this day I was in the shop back on campus helping get the props caught up so that we would have them for our spacing rehearsal on tuesday. I worked on a few different props on sunday, mostly making props look like they were old and worn, such as taking glass bottles and painting them to make them look dusty and dirty. Monday morning I was over at the Aviary with cast, director, and artistic director to do video interviews for marketing videos. Once the interviews were over the cast was dismissed until the evening when they came back and we did a spacing rehearsal with the cast actually on the platforms for the first time. Our spacing rehearsal ended up turning into a run through so we ended up going through the entire show. On tuesday we had a short rehearsal in the early afternoon working the “fight call scenes” and a few other heavier blocking areas. There were two fight call scenes in the show, the first being the amputation, and the second being the scene where Simon is physically threatening and hitting John. Tuesday night we did a cue to cue where we skipped through the show jumping from cue to cue, working out the timing for lighting and sound cues. Wednesday afternoon we did a tech run followed by the final dress rehearsal in the evening. After final dress we ran through all of the scene transitions to make sure everything that happened during the transitions was running as quickly and smoothly as possible.
WM TECH SCHEDULE
This was the second and last week of Whipping Man rehearsals before we were to move into The Aviary. We started monday’s rehearsal by breaking down and working in depth on the amputation scene (the end of act 1 scene 1) and when that felt comfortable with it we ran the entirety of act 1 scene 1. After running this scene and taking notes on trouble spots we went back and worked those trouble spots until they ran smoothly. After dinner break we moved onto act 1 scenes 2 and 3 and worked through those. On tuesday we finished our work with act 1 scene 3 and then did a full run of act 1. Wednesday morning we had an interview with the local newspaper, which turned into our production being the front page article of the paper (article link at bottom of page). After the interview we went straight into rehearsing act 2 scene 1 which is Caleb’s letter. The tricky part of the letter was that there is an underscore for the letter so it had to be timed correctly so that the pauses and movements of the underscore matched up with the reading (sound cloud file at bottom of page). We then moved on to act 2 scene 2 and focused a lot on the very end of the scene, seeing as this was the final moment of the show. When we finished with this we did a full run of act 2. Thursday and friday we jumped around quite a bit running each act and working the trouble spots, both days ending with a run of the act that we worked on that day. Saturday we did a full run through of the show and invited the designers and crew members of the show to watch and make any notes of questions or concerns they had regarding things they noticed that would possibly need to be changed before or during tech week. This was also the only time that the crew members working backstage would be able to sit down and watch the show since they would not be able to watch it from their backstage positions.
Newspaper article: http://www.newsadvance.com/the_burg/features/uncomfortable-truths-endstation-theatre-company-ends-season-with-the-whipping/article_7135b08b-7816-5431-84ff-1bd73bc1b917.html
Sound cloud files (letter underscore):
This was my first week of WM rehearsals. We started on Monday with an orientation of the company for the actors and then moved onto a read through of the script. We have an advisor from the local synagogue who came to the read through and has since been to a few rehearsals to help us to make sure we accurately and sensitively depict the jewish material in the script. The second half of the day we started blocking the show very roughly with the actors moving where and when they felt they should move with director staying mostly hands off the first time and then adjusting things as we moved further along. Within the next three days we had blocked the whole show and moved on to working on the nuances of movement and line delivery. There are only three actors in the show and in the first scene of the show one of them gets his leg amputated and then spends the rest of the show stationary on the chaise, this means that most of the blocking is only for 2 of the actors in the show. The most challenging piece of blocking is the amputation scene (pictured below) because we have to carefully choreograph the struggle to ensure the actor’s safety and because when Simon and Caleb are covered by the blanket, Simon has to continue the sawing motion while taking off the clean apron, putting on a bloody apron, take the tourniquet off of Caleb’s leg, put caleb’s leg into the hole in the chaise, cover up the “amputated” leg, and put the saw, biting stick, and clean apron into the tool box. This show will be preformed in a building in Miller Park called the Aviary and will be staged in the round. The drawing below is the ground plan for the show which shows the three platforms in the aviary surrounded by the seating that we will be bringing in.
This week was a sort of odd week for me because it was in between Embark and the start of my rehearsals for the show I am stage managing. Most of the week I was on paints during the day painting smaller things that needed to be completed for the second show of the season, The History of America (abridged). My favorite thing that I painted this week was a giant bullet. I actually cut it out and painted it, I cut it out with a jig saw, sanded it, and then did a 4 color blend for the paint. In the evenings I was working front of house for Million Dollar Quartet, for this I was working in the box office doing will call tickets. After the show had started, I helped organize all the tickets so that we could cross check our records and make sure everyone was checked in on the computer. Once this was done, I filed the next night’s will call tickets by last name into the file folders. Towards the end of the week HOA had moved out of the rehearsal space and it was my turn prepare the space for The Whipping Man rehearsals. First I had to clean the space and rearrange the furniture in the room to make room to tape out the floor. Taping out the floor is when you are using tape to mark on the floor where everything on the ground plan will be. For WM we have two platforms, 3 steps, and 5 pillars on the ground plan, so as ground plans go it was fairly simple. It is crucial to tape out the floor before rehearsals start because without the tape, the director cannot start giving the actors blocking because they do not know the dimensions of the space so if they were to start blocking, they would have to re-block everything once the set was taped.
This was the second week of Embark, the structure of this week was the same except we had a showcase on saturday. This showcase was not like an ordinary showcase that you would see at a theatre camp where they would probably performing a show or they would have at least been rehearsing specific things the whole time to perform at the end. Instead, this showcase showed one activity that we did in each class for each group. Each group performed a different activity for their classes even if they had done the same activity as another group in their class. For improv the C1’s did ata-freeze and for acting the C1’s performed the Pledge of Allegiance with different “intentions” each time, the intentions they did at the showcase were using the pledge to intimidate someone, to sooth a scared bunny, and to be threatened. The C3’s played a game called Ant Farm for improv, Ant Farm is a game where you start with having a group of improvisers onstage in a line, two of them step forward and they are given a location or theme. They are then told flail and they begin to flail their bodies and when the prompter says stop they must freeze and begin a scene starting from that position. Whatever character they choose to be is the character that they will be for the duration of the game, it is key that they make a bold physical and vocal choice for their character. Now, as the scene is going along one of the improvisers in the back will clap their hands and tag one of the two people onstage out and they will create a character and begin a scene (going along with the location or theme). This continues on for the duration of the game and each improviser may only ever play the character that they started off with. For acting, the C3’s did two person scenes, these scenes were all done using the same scripts. At the beginning of the two weeks they were handed a page long script and asked to memorize it. Then during the two weeks we worked on how you could make the scenes be about anything even if you were using the same words because it is not about what you say, its about how you say it.
This week was the first of two weeks of Endstation’s Embark! Theatre Conservatory of which I was a teaching assistant for. I was the teaching assistant for the improvisation and acting classes which were taught as six classes throughout the day. Half of the day was spent with improv and the other half with acting. There were three levels of classes, the youngest class was C1 which was rising 3rd through 5th graders, C2 was rising 6th-8th graders, and C3 was rising 9th-12th graders. The first day we played a lot of different name games and a few short acting exercises. The first half of the week there was a large focus on volume and diction in the acting and improv classes and we spent a lot of time going around in a circle speaking phrases such as “eleven benevolent elephants” and really working on enunciating every sound in every word. During the week we played other games such as freeze which involves two people on the stage and then everyone sits on the ground and the two people begin a scene and at some point during the scene someone in the audience yells freeze and the people on stage freeze, the audience members comes on stage and quickly chooses one of the actors to tag out and then they proceed to take that persons position and begin a new two person scene and so on. The C3’s had a pretty easy time understanding that the goal of the game is not to see how many times you could be onstage but rather to work and develop scene based on the body position of the person that was in before them and to create an entirely new scene that has a relationship between the characters and a driving force behind the scene and all that good stuff. The C2’s sort of understood this but there were a number of them that just wanted to be in the scene as much as possible so it was hard for other people to get a turn and also hard for the scenes to develop without just getting cutoff. We played this version of freeze with the C1’s but it was just all kinds of a mess and that led to us playing a different version called ata-freeze where there was no talking and instead you start with one person onstage and they strike a pose and then the next person comes on and strikes a pose based off of the other person’s pose and as soon as they have done that the first person exits and so on and so forth. This ended up working really well for the C1’s and they were able to play the game and enjoy it instead of getting upset when they were tagged out or instead of not really creating a scene but instead just chasing each other around the room. We played a few other versions of freeze with the C2’s and C3’s including screaming british freeze and screaming southern freeze where the scenes could be about anything but they had to scream all dialogue in an accent. These types of freeze were almost more successful than regular freeze because it forces the actors to make bold decisions and therefore they have more energy and better scene content. There was one other version of freeze called blind freeze which I only learned myself a few months ago and it is basically regular freeze except you stand in a line while waiting to go onstage and the first person in line has their back turned to the scene and it is the second person in line that yells freeze, then the first person turns around and runs in and tags out one of the people in the scene and starts a new scene based on the body position they have acquired.
The rest of last week we worked on painting “speakers”, painting a tile floor, and doing touch ups on the set.
The speakers were made of a wooden frame with muslin attached to the back. Previously we went through the same process on the wooden frames to make them look like the same wood as the floor boards and we also sized the muslin. Last week we were working on painting the actual speaker faces. There were three different base colors for the background of the speakers and we randomly chose which speakers would be which colors but they all went through the same gradient process. After we had put this layer on all the speakers and let them dry we gathered different materials from the shop to use as stencils for the different shapes of the speaker faces. We used objects such as 5 gallon buckets, different sized cups, paint can lids, wooden circles, pipe couplings, door knobs, wooden blocks, and storage drawers. Finding the objects and figuring out the order they would go in was actually super fun because we had to really think outside the box to find things to use that would be the correct size. We then stenciled out the shapes of the speaker faces and got to work painting them.
While the colors we used were all in the same scheme they varied from person to person. We mixed all the colors from the same base colors but from there it was up to the individual painters. It was very important to use highlights and shadows and colors that were bold so that they could be seen from the audience.
When assembled the speakers formed an entire speaker wall as you can see in the image of the set, the speaker wall is on stage right (the left side of the picture).
This week our main focus was completing the brick walls for the set of Million Dollar Quartet. We painted flats that were faced with vacuform brick sheets. The vacuform brick sheets were pre-primed and we went over that with a white base coat. Next we did a 3 process Payne’s grey mottled wash to tone the mortar.
We went over top of this while it was still damp and used the Payne’s grey in a mister to do a toning/textured spray. After that layer was completely dry we layed in individual brick colors (4 colors) creating a highlight in the center of each wall.
After that we did a Burnt Sienna semi-gloss glaze (very transparent) over the base brick color.
We followed this with a Burnt Sienna semi-gloss glaze in a mottled wash over entire wall, toning corners and enhancing distressed areas on the wall.
The final step was another layer of the Payne’s grey toning/textured spray.
Two of the brick walls will have signs painted onto them, we have started on the wall that will have the Sun Studio sign on it. While I am not painting that sign, I assisted with the laying out of the rings that make up the sign.
Other than the brick, we have been working on painting the “interior” walls and trim. The process for the walls started with a base coat of white and were followed by two coats of a green color that I mixed last week. The process for the trim was a base white coat followed by two coats of an off-white color.
We have just started painting the tiles that will make up the tile floor. Originally the plan was to paint them onto the existing stage floor but when we painted out the base color the gaff tape that is covering the slight elevation differences of the floor, the paint caused the tape to curl. Now we are laying down individual tiles instead.