23 June 2008

NAVY stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself

"Calling a show" is, in many ways, the easiest part of stage managing a show. (It's definitely much easier than taking blocking notes or being the the responsible adult no matter what that is also part of the job.) It largely consists of sitting in the tech booth (if there is one) and saying things like "Light Cue 2 - Ready"; "Light Cue 2 - Warning"; "Light Cue 2 - Go." "Ready" means that the cue is coming soon; "Warning" that it's about to happen, so have your finger hovering near the button; and "Go" means push the button. (Interestingly enough, the Rev War manual of arms has a similar process: "Poise --- firelock!" "Cock --- firelock!" "Take Aim!" "Fire!" I also remember hearing "Make ready" yelled a lot. Where art and real life collide indeed.)

In a really complicated tech show show - most musicals - some of those cues overlap so that the call sounds more like "Lights Cues 17 through 24 - Ready"; "17 through 24 - Warning"; "17 - go, 18 - go, 19 - go...."

I probably got some of that explanation wrong, by the way, but that's because I'm an oblivious, self-involved actor, not a stage manager.

The first show that I called was about 4 years ago at the Stage. Tammi, our Stage Manager (SM) for "Art" came in one night looking like death on a dessert plate, so in my role as Production Minion I sat her down so sh could rest and she talked me through the pre-show set up. We walked through her cued script so that there wouldn't be any horrible surprises and then I sent her home and I ran lights and called the show. It turned out fine. If memory serves the guys in the cast - Dave, Jeff, and Ted - were really lovely about the last minute staff change, thanked me a lot, and bought me a drink afterwards.

The second time was at the Eastern States festival a couple of years ago. Ted (previously mentioned "Art" castmember) was so hard up for someone to call his show that he was willing to talk me into it. I agreed and at least got to attend a couple of rehearsals before we (literally) took the show on the road. ESTA was in Pennsylvania that year. It turned out fine.

Here's the story of the third time. (Don't worry - it also turns out fine.)

My home team, Silver Spring Stage, submitted Mark Scharf's "Lizard Brains" for the NVTA one-act festival this year, partly because - due to illness - the team had to scratch from the Maryland festival in January.

Director Kendra and her husband, stage manager Jeff were to support actors McCall & Brian at the performance this past Saturday evening. However, Jeff got sick (bronchitis, I think), so Kendra was going to call the show in his place. Kendra is 7 or 8 months pregnant and last week the baby shifted into some kind of position that was pinching her sciatic nerve, rendering her hors de combat for the festival.

So "Lizard Brains" scratched at around what would have been their Tuesday tech time. I started teasing McCall that she and Brian are cursed to not quite performing the show every six months for the rest of their lives.

However, there were enough people at the festival - including the judges - asking that the show go on that Mac and Brian decided that they would step up and perform in their assigned slot. This decision got made around 10:30 on Friday night when I happened to be on the phone with one of the festival staff.

"Uhhhmmmmm." (pause) "Do they need any crew?" I asked. McCall was put on the phone and said, yes, please, please, please.

Not sure if I could be more of a help than a hindrance, I volunteered and the Doyles and I spent Saturday rounding up some substitute props (some of which were cheerfully lent by Mary Ann at the Elden Street Players, so thanks ESP!) such as, oh, a straight razor.

The festival staff (Zina, Deb, and timekeeper/Backstage Master Mary) were great and allowed us to do a timed tech during the 6:00 load in so that we would stay in compliance with the festival rules which are very specific about how much time each element can take. While McCall and Brian set up the stage, Dave (theater staffer, sound op for the festival, and previously mentioned cast member from "Art") and I wrote some easy lights up/lights down cues. He and McCall and I set music levels and the they did a semi-run through.

We were the 3rd show of the evening and the last of the 11 shows (including one original musical) of the festival. Our performance went smoothly with nice audience support. Mac and Brian performed with no sign of the last minute scramble in evidence. From start to finish they were smart, prepared, considerate, and helpful, especially to their last minute SM. I'd work with them again anytime, especially as they followed my most important festival rule: Give the audience a good show and don't be a pain in the ass. (Would that every company had remembered the second half of that advice.)

This year's adjudicators .... Well, the usual format for adjudication is to mix praise and constructive criticism and to remember that context is community, not professional, theater. This year's adjudicators did not quite follow that model. Most teams came out of the adjudication room (NVTA's adjudications are done in private, not public as others are) looking pretty glum and eventually the real competition at the festival became "who did the judges hate the most" with comparisons of comments received.

However, that being said, I am happy to announce that "Lizard Brains" took home the award for Best Original Production. The rest of the nominations and awards are listed below, but I would especially like to congratulate McCall and Brian, as they were involved in three shows, all of which receive recognition and McCall won the award for Best Lead Actress for "The Typists."

As Mac & Brian were rehearsing last night in our theater, I accepted the award on behalf of the team. I believe that the speech went something like this:

"Thank you very much. 'Lizard Brains' would like to thank the folks in this room - Zina, Deb, Mary, Dave, and Nancy - without whose help at the last minute, we could never have done this." Or something similar.

NVTA 27th Annual One-Play Play Festival
Nominations and Awards

Best Supporting Actor
Kevin Walker - The Open Meeting - Castaways (winner)
Creg Crowe - The Open Meeting - Castaways

Best Supporting Actress
Kelly Glyptis - Believing Ruth - Dominion Stage
Jennifer Lambert - Believing Ruth - Dominion Stage
Joanna Edie - The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader (winner)
Jennifer Speerstra - The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader

Best Actor
Teddy Gron - Solitaire - LTA
Greg Powell - See You on the Outside - Prince William Little Theater (winner)

Best Actress
McCall Doyle - The Typists - Fauquier (winner)
Ellen McKinstry - The Open Meeting - Castaways

Best Director
Liz Couchman - The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader
Sallie Willows - The Typists - Fauquier
Liz Owens - Solitaire - LTA (winner)

Best Production of an Original Play
See You on the Outside - Prince William
Lizard Brains - Silver Spring Stage (winner)
Solitaire - LTA

Best Overall Production
The Typists - Fauquier
The Open Meeting - Castaways (winner)
The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader

There were also three "Judge's Discretionary Awards":

Zoon Vader - The Art of Self Defense - received two awards for the Best Voice Over and and Best Ensemble
OutOftheBlackBox - Double Play - received a best Play Within a Play (or "Playlet") for the first play within Double Play entitled Then, Now, Me


Megan said...

Hmm as an SM I think I will change my calling of shows to this...

Light Cue 7 - Warning
Light Cue 7 - Cock
Light Cue 7 - Fire

Yes I think that sounds good:)

Anonymous said...

In a really complicated tech show show - most musicals - some of those cues overlap so that the call sounds more like "Lights Cues 17 through 24 - Ready"; "17 through 24 - Warning"; "17 - go, 18 - go, 19 - go...."

- We at einstein are horrible at this bit. Our board people got warnings two minutes in advance because our boar op ran out on us at the last minute, and the new guy was learning on the spot.

Ironically, that night was the best performance of the week.

- Ben

Maureen said...

Thanks for posting the nominations and awards. I see Zoon Vader, a friend's company, did quite well in their maiden one-act venture, and O2B2 was also recognized.