Thursday, April 22, 2010

Breaking Glass

Okay, so I'm working on this show, Beyond Therapy, at the Stage Co. in Carbondale and one of the sound effects that we have to do is the sound of a vase breaking. Easy, right? Just break a vase, sweep up the pieces with a broom and have done with it. Nope. Can't just break a vase backstage. It's just not safe. So, how do we do this? One of my actors, Jared, who plays Bob the spurned gay lover, mentioned that when they have had to do this foley (sound effect) before at John A. Logan College, they've gotten a box with gravel in it. Okay, good. I take my kids and spend about a half an hour picking up a bucketful of gravel. I get it to the theater and set it up for Jared to throw down the vase. Problem: The box I had wasn't deep enough and glass sprayed everywhere. Remember that safety thing I was talking about? Yup, that was it. So this wasn't going to work. Plus the fact that the sound didn't carry into the house (audience area of the theater). It just sounded like a thump. So, what next? We could have just laid the vase in the gravel and hammer it, but we would have the same issue with the sound and the safety. So I tried putting the vase in a plastic bag and hitting it against the wall. Another Bad Idea. It broke, but it also tore the bag to shreds in the process, so while glass didn't get me in the face, it did get all over the floor. Plus, the sound didn't carry. Again, it just sounded like a thump. Okay guys, we're going for the tinkling sound that glass makes when it breaks, not a thump. Next idea. Still use a bag and hammer the glass in the bag. That way there is nothing to absorb the sound and the safety is there with the bag, just as long as the bag doesn't tear again, which, theoretically, it won't because it won't get caught between the pieces of glass and some other hard, flat surface, like a wall. Just the hammer. Try it. Success!!! The tinkling sound was beautiful and the bag didn't tear and we were able to just dump the glass pieces in the trash. I try it one more time with the same bag and it was successful yet again. Yay! We had our solution. I dump out the glass pieces and get it set up for the show, vase in the same bag that I had been using. No point in wasting bags. Well, Jared breaks the vase during the rehearsal and about five minutes later, Susie, my ASM (Assistant Stage Manager) comes up to me and says that the bag trick won't work because she got a piece of glass in her toe. Not big or bad, just sorta settled there when the bag ripped. New solution: Waste the bags. Use a new bag for each performance and just throw the whole thing away. We will see tonight if that fixes the problem. Never thought breaking glass could be so hard, did you?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Suzanne Vega

Last night Jim, Karen and I went to see Suzanne Vega in concert at the Carson Center in Paducah. It was amazing! Jim has been a huge fan of Suzanne Vega since he was nineteen and I was a fan shortly after I met him. So, for the past almost twenty years, she has played a large musical role in our lives and when I found out that she was coming to Paducah, I saved some money from the tax return and bought tickets. It was so worth it. It  was a very intimate setting. We were in a room that would hold maybe 150-200 people max. It was only her and her bassist and guitarist on stage with her. It was about an hour long show and she took requests toward the end of it, of which she only played one because the others she hadn't rehearsed, although she hadn't heard Jim's, which was "Room Off the Street", and that she probably could have played because that one they had rehearsed and do play sometimes. We found this out when she was signing the CD cover of the album that we bought. So, not only did we get to see her in concert, but we got to meet her, have her autograph the CD cover and got our picture taken with her. The thing that struck me about her the most was how graceful and gracious she was. She was so much fun to watch onstage. One of the highlights for me was when she sung "The Queen and the Soldier", which is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, song of hers. I was brought to tears. It was truly beautiful.
 It was kind of sad though because there were a couple of light cues that felt completely off to me and I checked the light booth to see if I could see anything. I think also that Suzanne looked up there once when one of the cues felt wrong. So, my stage managing apparently will kick in now when I go to concerts or plays or other event in which there is a stage manager type person running the show and I will critique show based on those criteria. So much for just enjoying a performance! :) I will put up the picture as soon as I get it. Karen had to take it on her camera because my camera picked that moment to have a slight fit, so she will have to email it to me and then I can get it up on facebook or here.
The thing I'm the most thankful for though, is that this concert reminded me of my passion, which has been sorely lacking as of late, what with all the emotional ups and downs I've been going through lately. It made me feel good to know that there still is beauty and passion and grace and quality. That no matter what happens, that is always a piece of what it means to be human and that is the ultimate end for us. To live in this truth, beauty and passion. It was truly a beautiful night.


I've been asked a couple of times what the title of my blog means, "Under the Blues". This is taken from the blue running lights that theaters use backstage during performances to see with. We use blue lights because they are not easily visible to the audience, but yet gives us backstage people enough light to do the things that we need to do.  Any other questions?

Last Day in Chicago

Yes, I realize that this is written, like, three weeks after the fact, but I hate leaving things unfinished. My last day in Chicago was very nice. I woke up and was taken for an hour long massage at a massage parlor, after which I gleefully undid all of the therapists' work by shooting off some guns. A couple of pistols and a couple of rifles. It was actually a very relaxing day. Getting a massage and shooting guns are both very different types of tension release for me and I was lucky enough to have both. And I didn't do absolutely horrible on the gun range. It had been about 15 years since I had last shot a gun. Although at one point, forgetting to take my finger off the trigger, I created a nice little crater in the ground and sent a bullet shooting off into space. Always listen to your trainer and always, always pay attention around guns. I learned my lesson. Then we got home and Jody and I took all the kids, Ben, Elisabeth, Ananda and Tristan, to the Museum of Science and Industry, which was a whole lot of fun. We got to see a German U-boat, although we weren't allowed to go into it because all of the tour tickets had been sold for the day. We also played in the play area and did some fun little experiments, like sending colored, plastic balls through a tube to another part of the play area, and discovered how gears and conveyor belts work. While Tristan, Jody and Ben were looking at the trains, Ananda, Elisabeth and I were looking at all the weather stuff. They had a floor to ceiling "tornado" , a wave tank, a pendulum and some kind of light show that we didn't get to see because it was time for the museum to close. It was a good day. Except when the museum closed, at which time the kids were very disappointed. But we got home and had dinner, watched an episode of Slings and Arrows and went to bed.
 The next morning we got up and threw the bags in the car and went to the train station. Ah, my last Dunkin Donuts for a while. I had Dunkin Donuts coffee every day we were there I believe.  It was great! How I miss Dunkin Donuts coffee. I've tried to buy it in the store and make it at home, but it just doesn't taste the same. The train ride back was uneventful and we arrived in Carbondale on time. I think the train rides were too short. I really like traveling by train. I would love to take a train trip out to the west coast and just sit and watch the scenery pass me by. It would be wonderful. And its so much easier to travel with the kids that way, just give them enough to do and the train will help fascinate them until the ride ends. Although, for a long trip it might be harder to keep them entertained. But we played Go, Fish! and Bingo in the dining car where we had a bigger table and that kept us occupied for at least an hour, and probably more if I hadn't gotten tired of it. It was actually a lot of fun. The whole of the trip was a complete success and I hope to do it again at some point.