Monday, March 28, 2005


Sets and the City

So, now that I’ve regained consciousness…

This past weekend was the opening of Guys and Dolls at the Metro Theater. The Metro is one of the few true community theaters in Vancouver, the type of place that has done umpteen productions of Arsenic and Old Lace for its core audience of old bluehairs who can remember when You Can’t Take It With You was a hip satire on contemporary society. It’s the kind of place where aspiring actors can cut their teeth, or at least get their fix.

Shelly’s sister Vanessa has been dancing all her life, and auditioned for Guys and Dolls to try to expand into acting. Surprise, they cast her as one of the dancers at “The Hot Box,” the nightclub where one of the characters sings. She’s been working on it for about three months. My involvement, though, began last Sunday, when I arrived for the load-in of the sets. Since then, it’s been pretty much nonstop until Saturday night.

The sets consist of a series of backdrops that can be brought in and out on a pulley, or “fly” system. That was kinda cool, since I’ve never been involved with a theater that had one. The downside, though, was getting them set up in the first place; one backdrop, used in exactly one scene, consisted of six wooden panels, each one fourteen feet high, that had to be stood up, attached to each other (making sure that they sat flush with each other), and then securely attached to the fly. There are also four “trucks,” that roll across the stage, and can be rotated for different scenes.

After the load-in, the next few nights were spent working out all the scene changes. We were given blueprints for each scene, with a list of each necessary change. As soon as we were given this packet, the guy who made it told us that it was outdated, and would need to be changed, and to ignore it. Then he quit. So we were pretty much left on our own, figuring out what needed to be where, and when, and how to make it happen. I was lucky to be on the stage left crew, working with Greg and Sara. Greg and Sara work for Princess Cruises (the same line I cruised on, back in 1990), running the stage crews for the onboard shows. They’re both on a months vacation from that, and they get roped into this. But hey, they know their shit, and I’m glad to be working with them.

So we spent about three hours working out each scene change, updating our notes and getting it all down. Then the actors came in and ruined it all.

A place like the Metro can’t afford a lot of downtime, so they schedule shows pretty close together. The previous show, Sylvia, ended last weekend, with the strike party on closing night. What this means is that the actors didn’t actually step onto the stage until less than a week before opening night. So you have actors who haven’t worked yet on their own stage, or with any sets, and a crew who still don’t have their set changes down, and a run-through that didn’t get started until after ten at night. That first night we got through act one, and managed act two, scene 1, before midnight came and Gail, the stage manager, sent us home. The next night we got to the final scene of act one. We didn’t get to actually run the second act until Friday night.

That was our preview night. With an audience.

Fortunately, Sara had been having the crew arrive well before the cast, so that by then we had worked act two on our own. And that one’s the bitch, too: at one point, we have to go from the city set to the interior of the Save-A-Soul mission, which means: flying out the city backdrop, striking the city trucks, crossing and rotating the mission trucks, locking them down since the actors have to exit through them, setting up three chairs, a table, a desk, and four benches. All this behind the scrim, with another scene going on downstage. And afterwards, we have to strike it all and reset for the city. And somehow, we pulled it off.

The best part of working at the Metro? Above the lobby is a lounge. With a liquor license. And they serve Guinness. Kinda takes the edge off of the endless notes.

This is the first time I’ve been involved in theater since 1996, IIRC, and the second episode of Twin Peaks Live, at the Seattle Fringe Festival. Naturally, now I’m getting the itch to start hitting auditions again and get back into acting. Fortunately, I have plenty of tapes of my old theater work to remind me of why that’s a bad idea.

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

Ah those thrilling days of yesteryear when we spent hours upon hours at Tacoma Little Theater. Fiddler On The Roof, You Can't Take It With You, Swallowing Bullets.

As for getting back into it on the acting side...I say go for it Mr Bowen. :)
>>As for getting back into it on the >>acting side...I say go for it Mr >>Bowen. :)

Ickno. I got out of it for a reason. And the reason is that I suck. I Charisma-Carpenter-suck. I'm like Dom Deluise without the sex appeal.

Oh sure, I'll act in our stuff, like Klaun, but busting my hump for Chris Mathews-types so I can get some weak fifth-business role with an onstage wife who's relieved she doesn't have to kiss me? Shuck that fit.
By way, Mowrer, Rush Limbaugh wants your body. tempremental artist types. Always your own worst critics. But I can understand not wanting the drama. Oh with the poodles.

Yeah...I deserve that. I'm still suprised you didn't kill me.
I tried, remember? As soon as the lights went down, you went tearing ass for the dressing room with me right on your tail. I had you, until Lloyd had one of his spasms about the noise we were making.
Of course I remember. You don't soon forget when you're running for your life. But I'd blanked out what happened once we got to the dressing room. I just know that I survived rather unscathed, when I know I deserved a royal ass-kicking. ;)
Yes, come to think of it, you're right, that does warrant a major ass-kicking.

See you thursday.
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