Grease Sitzprobe

There was a party tonight at the Bing Theatre. It’s called the Sitzprobe for Grease.

The Sitzprobe, AKA the Sitz, the first time the orchestra plays and the actors hear the full orchestration of the show that they’ve been learning for the past four weeks accompanied only by a piano. An amazing piano, but a sole piano nevertheless. Tonight, after the afternoon tech rehearsal, we bade goodbye to Ryan O’Connell, our wonderful accompanist, as that was his last rehearsal. The Musical Director Parmer Fuller, will play the dress rehearsals and performances.

The Sitz also represents the end of tech rehearsals, and is the bridge between tech and the dress rehearsal process. The actors have been caged and confined over about twenty plus hours of tech, a stop and go process where light cues are built, mic levels are set, transitions are rehearsed and perfection is achieved…. Oh, wait, we’re not quite done yet. But they are uncaged tonight – they are celebrating the crystalization of their show. It is a joy to see.

Director Jeff Maynard has run a tight ship. The rehearsals began on February 9th, and here we are on March 29th with a strong semblance of a show and three more nights til opening. The scene work is tight, the characters clearly defined and relationships are strong. The ballads show that the actors are secure in their stories. The ensemble is enthusiastic and well coordinated, with rich individual backstories and witty choreography.  Tonight, the cast of thirty are dancing, and singing and just killing me with their enthusiasm. Dana Solimando’s spirited choreography has come alive with the addition of the guitars, saxes, drummer, and electric bass. The actors are confident of their choreography and enjoying having accompaniment.

Alex and Jessica update their paperwork backstage before the start of tech.

Jeff and Dana have been supported by a fierce team of stage managers, led by BFA Stage Managers Kelly Merritt, and her assistants, Jessica Major and Alex Rehberger. The designers are in the home stretch; set designer Dreem Qin and her assistant, Lea Branyan jump up on stage whenever a break is taken to add some new detail to the walls. Lighting Designer Austin Allen and his assistants, Liam Sterbinsky and Nicole Eng are working the kinks out on the marquee, and on internal cues.

Everyone’s been working hard, but tonight is Musical Director Parmer Fuller’s night. Parmer has the God Mic tonight, and his clear instructions to the cast and musicians are what we should be hearing in the theatre. And for the most part, they are. This night is for the Orchestra’s integration into the show.

It’s a really busy night for Sound Team Phil Allen and Danielle Kisner, supported by Stephen Jensen and Emma Bramble. Danielle, who is mixing the show tonight for the first time with both orchestra and cast, has her hands full. Phil jumps in occasionally at the board to make adjustments, but Danielle is actively mixing the show. Danielle is a Junior in our BFA Sound Design program.

Professor Allen provides me with some of his perspective on the process:

“The Sitzprobe is the process of attempting everything once, getting none of it right, and moving on.”

Sound PA Stephen Jensen and A2 Emma Bramble prepare mics backstage prior to the tech.

In addition to hearing The Burger Palace Boys confidently singing  “Greased Lightning” while they stomped out their number, were the squeals and appreciative laughter and clapping of the entire female ensemble, led by the Pink Ladies who darted out through the house doors to sit in the orchestra and pay homage to the Burger Palace Boys as they jumped up and down on my car. I know it is probably really bad theatre CARma to talk about specific numbers that will bring down the house, but I can’t help it, as they couldn’t help themselves as well, so excited were they to let the boys know they were amazing.

Grease is a “crowd pleaser.”

“Nothin’ wrong with a crowd pleaser,” Professor Allen said during our dinner break tonight.

The Sitzprobe has always been my favorite rehearsal in a musical rehearsal process. As a stage manager, it’s when you actually hear the instrumentation which you will rely on to call the lighting and sound effects cues, as well as followspot cues. Generally,too, you aren’t running the full tech of the show, so it is your first and best time to appreciate the addition of the musicians to the process.

Director Jeff Maynard sits at the tech table, Kelly Merritt, the Stage Manager beside him.

Kelly, at the tech table with her prompt script watches and listens, a huge grin on her face in between calling cues. I recognize that from my experience of Sitzprobes, and I’m feeling a little jealous of her process at this point. Trust me when I tell you that it is really fun to call a musical.

Freshman, Sidne Phillips, cast as Sandy, sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” The Burger Palace Boys all snuck into the house to listen and appreciate her rich and full voice.

The rest of the Sitz goes very smoothly, and while the actors eventually show the wear of the past 25 hours of tech, they still clearly demonstrate their love of performing in all the dance numbers. This creative team has been very busy to have accomplished so much work.

Hope you’ll come see the show when it opens on April 2nd.


I’ve slung donuts on Saturdays at USC for about ten years now. Since I became the Production Manager for USC’s School of Theatre in Spring of 2005, I brought my personal practice of providing bagels to actors at rehearsals on Saturdays to our tech process. Every Saturday tech, I brought enough donuts so that each student, actor, designer, crew member, director could have at least one donut.

I shudder to think about the scale of this donut habit. And hope that by coming clean I don’t do the habit in. Because now the habit is subsidized. How many donut dollars are we talking about here?

A view of the back seat of my car on just about any Saturday morning at around 9:30AM

Let’s figure 19 shows X 3 dozen donuts (lowball figure) x $6.00 per dozen x 4 years. Plus 19 shows X 4 dozen donuts x $9.00 per dozen x 6 years.  In fairness, the donuts were only about $5.00 a dozen when I started.  That’s $5,472.00 in donuts attributed to the Production Department. As I said, that’s a lowball figure because figure this weekend, there were 8 dozen donuts in my car for the Techs of Grease and Way of the World.

And my informal research has shown an increasing difficulty in procuring these vital donuts. Over time, I have developed the practice of calling the order in at about 9:00AM before leaving my condo, and upon arriving at the store, Tina would greet me warmly, and there, on the counter, the donuts would be stacked up  awaiting my arrival.

Sadly, two factors have interfered with my good donut karma. Tina no longer works at the local Spudnuts. She opened her own store which is too far away for me to use. In addition, The Row’s denizens are now breaking their fast at Spudnuts. Last tech Saturday, I arrived at 9:30 to pick up the four dozen and alas, found no boxes on the counter; instead, I found myself in a line of 8 hung over students waiting in line to order their eggs and bacon breakfasts, cooked on a portable griddle, order by excruciating order. The one other employee was pulling donuts and ringing people up at the cash register. It was a traffic jam of epic proportions.

This morning, I was more strategic. I got up at 7:00AM, picked up my cell phone, dialed Spudnuts, and ordered eight dozen mixed donuts for 9:30AM. All in all, I thought it was a brilliant work-around to a really annoying problem.

When I pulled up at 9:40, I could see people spilling out onto the sidewalk through the doors of the donut store. I parked, strode confidently into the store, and bypassing the line, walked up to the counter where there were five boxes finished on the counter. I caught the owner’s eye, saying “I’m here for my eight dozen donuts,” then backed discretely back into the line to await. In front of me were two groups of coeds with matching white t-shirts emblazoned with “Row Soccer.” They were laughing and having a great time. I was pretty relaxed until I heard one of them step up to the counter and say, “I ordered three dozen donuts yesterday,” and watched grimly as the employee  peeled the top three boxes off the stack and handed them to her. I couldn’t pitch a fit because after all, they had ordered them before I had. But when the second coed approached the counter and said “I need three dozen donuts,” I turned into a raptor with talons outstretched, my eyes glued on my prey, the owner of the shop, who was moving really fast, filling boxes with a speed until now never seen at Spudnuts. At least not since Tina left.

The stack of boxes on the counter was growing and now there were 6, now 7 boxes, and the other people in the line were starting to get annoyed. One of the girls in the front of the row said, “Who is this order for? I probably know the person!” The owner pointed to the back of the line, and all 8 girls slowly turned to look at me, as I sheepishly raised my hand and waved at the girls.
“OH!” She exclaimed, and I blushed, as all the sorority sisters turned and looked at me as if to say, “Who’s the matron saint of the donuts in the back of the line?”

I stepped up to the counter today, handing my card to the owner, who told me she had boxed 30 dozen donuts that morning before my 8. I paid as quickly as I could and said to the owner, “I’ll come right back for the other four boxes.” Surprisingly, one of the soccer girls in line sweetly said, “Do you need help?” And soon, she was assisting me with the other four boxes. She grilled me on the way to the car.

“What do you need all these donuts for?”

“We have tech today in two theatres.”

“It’s so nice of you to buy them donuts! What are you teching?”
“We’re in tech for Grease and Way of the World. You should come see them. They start this Thursday.”

IMG_3823 2
The cart laden with “Grease’s” donuts bound for The Bing Theatre.

What I didn’t share with my  helper was the philosophy of the donut deliveries. These donuts are critical to the theatrical process. If you’ve ever been backstage at any professional theatre during a load in at 10:30AM, you know the precision of the donut drop for a union crew. The Work Can Not Go On without the donuts, my friends.

Because I was a little late this morning with the donuts, I just hope I didn’t cripple the techs for the two shows.

You be the judge. We open the two shows next Thursday. Come on down!

The Way of the World, USC School of Dramatic

Grease, USC School of Dramatic Arts

Spring Break Auto Transport

ThIMG_4430ank goodness Spring Break came. I don’t know how our students could have managed making it through the spring at the University of Southern California without a break in the 80 and 90 degree weather. Some of them jetted off to New York, where it continues to snow with the relentless fury of the spring semester’s SDA productions. They just keep going up and coming down, one after the other. So it’s great that we had a week to breathe and catch up.

Right after the break, we will be heading into tech for two shows, “The Way of the World,” by William Congreve, and “Grease” by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.  Ever since the title appeared on the list of spring shows, we have been fixated on the car. Every boffo production of “Grease” needs an equally impressive car on stage. Our props manager, Hannah, reached out to the SPAM group, the Society of Properties Artisan Managers, and located several options for the car. The best option was the car from the Cedar Street Theatre, in Lancaster, CA. Their rental cost was very reasonable. They offered to sell us the car, but limited storage at SDA didn’t make it an appealing prospect. So we agreed on a rental fee, and then needed to get the car from Lancaster to LA.

For a Production Manager, and probably almost anyone in the theatre, our work consists of solving problems as they arise. What I love about the work is that each new problem creates a steep learning curve which I try to approach as rationally and economically as I can, and always results in a solution and a new notch in my experience either of how to do something, or how not to do something. This may have been the latter.

Ship a car. Hmmm…. After locating the Auto Transport 411 website, I typed in the details of the car. 1954 Chevy Bel Air, non-operating. Transporting from the tow yard in Lancaster to the Bing pad on the USC campus. Enter. What began next was a constant stream of emails and phone calls from brokers all over the country trying to win this job.  Have you seen the show “Shipping Wars,”? If you haven’t, you should check it out. It is a scream. I imagined that all over the state, truckers were sitting in their cabs with their laptops open, seeing my “1954 Chevy Bel Air from Lancaster to LA” and jeering and pointing as the bids came in, their colleagues low-balling each other in a cutthroat battle for my business.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The above narrative assumes a knowledge I didn’t yet have. All I knew was the phone calls would never stop. The first time I picked up the phone, there was a young woman who began her spiel and didn’t really care if I heard it or followed along. She displayed increasing irritation with my slow grasp of the concept. I was struggling to understand this Auto Transport 411 wormhole that I had slipped into. I hung up with Miss Snarky. I was looking for a price somewhere in the neighborhood of $100. which was not going to happen, but when I got one for $125.00, close enough. I booked the truck.

Here’s what I learned first – shipping brokers are not great communicators.  I signed up for the delivery of the car, put in my card number, and then waited.  Two or three weeks I waited and heard nothing. The shipping date was 3/18/15, and on 3/17/15, when I hadn’t heard back from the shipper, I tried to search through my 26,800 emails in my inbox for the shipper. I see you. Stop that. Don’t judge me. There’s a lot of value in saving emails. And flagging them. I had apparently flagged all 20,000 emails from various transport experts. Finally I contacted the one I thought I had dealt with. Their message said “We will return your call within fifteen minutes.” Three or so hours passed, and I moved to hire another company. Their rate was almost twice what I wanted/intended to pay, but spring break was slipping away and I didn’t yet have my boffo car at the theatre. I went back to one of the earlier transporters that I had talked with at the beginning of the process. Seemed like a nice guy, and his daughter was waiting to hear back from USC about admissions. Scott saved me. Or so I thought.

Meanwhile the company I thought I had engaged called me back to say that they hadn’t talked with me before. He could apparently see everything on his computer and gave me the name of company I had booked for the gig. Furthermore, he explained to me how this whole system worked. He told me that the bidders were all brokers – they weren’t battling to cart my car; they were battling to profit from someone else’s carting my car. That it was going to be hard to find someone to accept the gig for $125.00, even though the broker had agreed to ship the car.

So I called the correct company. I explained that I hadn’t heard from them and I had gone ahead and hired another company. Through his thick Jersey accent he let me know with irritation, “I just dispatched your job.”  I let him know that because I hadn’t heard from him I had gone ahead with another shipper. He thanked me for letting him know.

So today was the day. I talked to Hugo from the towing company, and he picked up the car yesterday and was planning on delivering it to USC today by 10:00AM. When my phone rang this morning, he was circling the campus looking for the gate I had told him to enter through. He said, “I’m talking to Mike. He says he works with you.” I looked down Watt Way and saw a motorcycle idling next to a truck.


 I can see you. Just keep coming straight ahead!

Greased Lighting arrives on campus. Tow Driver, Hugo stands next to the cab of his truck.

Soon Hugo, with his motorcycle envoy came up Watt Way. He parked the truck on Downey while we waited for the bollards to be removed so he could drive forward. I got my first glimpse of the cherry red body of “Greased Lightning.”

Just a few more minutes, and we were behind the Bing Theatre. Hugo lowered the car onto the pad and we admired it. He showed me the battery in the trunk, and then I asked him if I could take a piIMG_4450cture of him in the car. Hugo is a very nice man and he obliged.

Scenic Designer Dreem Qin appreciating her hero prop, Greased Lightning.
Front end of the car.
This journey was a learning experience. As are all journeys, no?

Everyone greeted “GL” with affection. We had a photo shoot with two of the four designers, Austin, the Lighting Designer, and Dreem, the Scenic Designer. And if you want to see the car in action, come see “Grease” at the USC School of Dramatic Arts! USC School of Dramatic Arts – Spring Musical

The Price and Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea

The Price DontrellWe haven’t been going to the theatre as voraciously as we had been, say four months ago. Two brief stints at Good Samaritan Hospital have made us more selective about the number of outings we take. But this week, we had the pleasure of seeing two shows we’re both glad to have not missed.

On Wednesday, we made our way to The Mark Taper Forum to see “The Price,” by Arthur Miller, a play which I’d not met, either on page or stage. I knew about it from conversations with my husband, who had seen it in NY when he was a young member of Lincoln Center Repertory. There were many reasons I wanted to see it:

We’re subscribers and had the tickets.

Both Kate Burton and Alan Mandell were in it. I’m big fans of them.

I had heard about obscenely large props budget for the show. (I know, theatre geek.)

I have some familiarity with Miller, from touring with “Death of A Salesman.”  In the spirit of full disclosure here’s some theatrical blasphemy.  I find him a bit on the long-winded side, with a side of fifties schmaltz that tends to date his work.

No matter how adept the actors are who perform in “Death of A Salesman,” and I’ve seen Phillip Baker Hall (LATC), Hal Holbrook (the previously mentioned tour) and most recently, Brian Dennehy in Robert Fall’s production at the Ahmanson Theatre, that play is a tad turgid and depressing. I guess that’s the point; we all suffer from the same career and emotional free fall as Willy does. Our landing is hard, uncushioned by Linda’s attempts to buck him up, and accelerated by Willy’s pathetic encounters with his clients and a hooker in a seedy hotel.

A picture of the old Wertz Brothers Furniture Warehouse. Matt Saunders’ Scenic Design for “The Price” removed the visual chatter of smaller pieces of furniture, leaving the more staid pieces.

“The Price” is a 360 degree tour after the death of a father and division of his belongings between the child who stayed to care for him and the child who left to escape the pain of his sibling’s life. The show’s set was extraordinary – money well spent, I’d say. Matt Saunders’ set evoked a more spartan version of the Wertz Brothers’ old antique store with corridors created by beautiful wooden armoires, vanities, dressers, dining tables, with chairs upside down atop the larger pieces in pairs of twos. These object sculptures, in warm rich wood tones, were lit evocatively by James F. Ingalls, and filled the upstage area. The departed father’s lair, now empty,  sat downstage, the back of his huge armchair facing the audience, surrounded by the smaller human detritus of a lonely man’s existence.

Alan Mandell, as the antique dealer, Gregory Solomon, has come to buy the furniture, and one senses that he’d have made the same  $1,100.00 offering for whatever the younger son had to sell. Mandell was extravagant, amazing, really. At 89, Solomon’s interest and intention to appraise and acquire such a large collection is sheer folly, the glee of which is captured by Mandell’s impish expression.  Sam Robard’s character, Victor Franz, is at a crossroads. This hard-earned inheritance may make it possible for him to retire, if he can make the move, something his long-suffering wife has long desired. Kate Burton seethes with a tightly controlled rage at her husband’s lassitude which eventually explodes in Act II. Director Garry Hynes uses the scenic corridors to usher Solomon in and out of the room as  Miller examines the brothers’ relationships to each other, to the money problems of their father, and to what they did or didn’t know throughout the course of their lives. It was an extremely entertaining evening.

Today, we ventured to the Skylight Theatre, to watch  the Rolling World Premier of “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” by Nathan Alan Davis. Co-Produced by the Skylight Theatre Company, Producer Gary Grossman & Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble Producer, Gregg T. Daniel, this striking play about a young man’s discovery of his ancestry is deftly directed by Gregory Wallace.

I knew we were in for a treat, when we entered the intimate theatre and saw the three off white, draped fabric panels evoking fishing nets or boat sails. The actor playing the title character, Omete Anassi, is a USC student where he studies Pre-Medical Neuroscience, and minors in Dramatic Arts. His character, is a youthful nerdy reporter to the future, speaking his narration into a late 90s personal tape recorder. The versatile cast of seven actors morphs from African chorus to the members of Dontrell’s dysfunctional family. Ayana Cahrr’s fluid choreography underlines Dontrell’s spiritual journey with boldly wielded sticks which the troupe pounds thunderously on the floor in rhythm to the drumming by Charles McCoy and Haley McHugh. Stephanie Kerley Schwart’z minimal set pieces, wooden like the theatre’s overhead beams, are moved around, to form intricate assemblages of tables, beds, the dining table turning into the vessel for the deus ex machina late in the play. Jeff McLaughlin’s lighting inventory is spare, used with skill along with three projectors, to create the watery depths of the sea. David Marling’s sound design and Naila Aladdin Sanders’ costume design create strong aural and visual impressions for the multiple locations of the script. I found the story very moving, and told with a stark, but lyric simplicity which made it even more powerful.

So, all in all, it was a gratifying week in the theatre. See you soon at the theatre!


Facciama Una Passeggiata Downtown!

IMG_3761Tonight after work, we decided to go for a spontaneous evening out. We deserved it, right? It’d been a long couple of weeks – my head so full of details/questions/lists/ it makes me a little tired. March 9th was National Napping Day, too; could that explain why I wanted just lay my head down on my desk for a quick power nap?

The Farmer’s and Merchants’ National Bank sits across Main St. from Ledlow’s.

We are creatures of habit, my husband and I, but I decided tonight we’d go find another restaurant beside CPK, so we jumped in the car and drove up into the heart of the banking district of downtown LA. We were gravitating towards Pete’s but arrived at the corner of 4th and Main to discover it was gone. In it’s place, was a new, relatively empty (at 7pm) restaurant called Ledlow’s.

We sat at an outside patio table, in the still stultifying heat, and ordered our dinner. We watched as dozens of downtown denizens walked past the restaurant. They were walking their dogs, or just taking a walk.

Did you ever think we’d be hipsters again? I asked my husband.

Our after dinner coffee at Ledlow’s

I remembered the lovely Italian custom of La Passeggiata, where families go out together to take a stroll between work and dinner, usually in the town’s square. When I went to Sicily, in the quaint town of Gibbelina, it was a nightly occurrence. At 7:00PM or so, the streets and main square filled with hundreds of people walking and talking and laughing with their neighbors. There is really nothing quite like it here in the ol’ US of A. Maybe I’ll wander out in the street on Sunday and see what the tail end of the LA Marathon looks like. Even so, Americans are so busy – so destination conscious. We rarely stroll anywhere.

Earlier today, on campus, I was power walking toward my committee meeting, at about 9:45; as I walked past Bovard Auditorium, the Norris Theatre off to my left, I watched a mid-sized black dog tearing around the grass chasing a squirrel. At first I thought the dog was a stray, but then I saw his owner, a student, or young faculty member, carrying the leash in his hand and watching as his dog chased the squirrel. The dog was a consistent 18″ away from the squirrel, as it darted desperately around the base of the campus trees, looping around the little grove of trees. For some reason, the squirrel never ran up the tree, but continued to just barely elude the dog about a foot above the ground. Suddenly, the dog overtook the squirrel, chomping it’s mouth around its body. I was more than 75 yards away but still heard the squirrel scream. It was horrible. As I turned the corner out of view, my last image was the dog’s nose tucked between the roots of a tree, the dog’s owner looking chagrined. I bet he’ll use the leash next time.

Anyway, the tragedies of squirrel deaths behind me, I embraced the spirit of the Passeggiata all through dinner, as we watched people go by — now an affectionate couple, his arm wrapped protectively in a chokehold around her neck; now a couple with their Irish Wolfhound loping across the street without a leash; here’s a woman with a tiny top hat attached to the side of her head at a rakish angle. It was really good people watching. We had a blast.

By the time we went outside to get the car, Ledlow’s was really hopping, the bar about 3 people deep. The food was great – the Branzino prepared perfectly, crispy skin over perfectly cooked fish, resting on a bed of spinach and roasted baby tomatoes. Jimmie’s hamburger and fries looked delish, too, if you like that sort of thing. We ordered the Devilish Chocolate Cake, but unfortunately, it was from a menu of a previous night, so we skipped dessert. The manager, feeling badly that we had ordered something not available, brought us a cup of vanilla ice cream to make us feel better. It worked.

My darling husband as we waited for our car, the lit intersection of 4th and Main behind him.

Over this weekend as it heats up, maybe the early evening hours will bring folks out to the streets and we can all take a Passeggiata in downtown LA. Won’t you join us?

Just bring your leash.

Lots of Agglomerating This Week

My meta picture of my new Macbook Pro 13″ computer which teaches me new words when I leave it alone long enough to REM Sleep.

I recently purchased a new computer. My old computer, young by dog or cat standards, had begun to moan and wheeze with every keystroke, and with the number of keystrokes I aspire to even here, this was no longer acceptable. So off I went to the USC bookstore, and plopped down my token tithe to the Apple Apostles of Job. When I was considering my new computer, I consulted with the IT God of the School of Dramatic Arts, Prakash, who indulges my personal questions (about computing) with a grace heretofore never experienced. He juggles the IT needs of our faculty as well as our staff with aplomb. This is no small feat in a large University with ever-changing computer protocols.

But I digress. My new computer, a shiny 13″ MacBook Pro does everything that my old 13″ MacBook Pro does at about 77% of its weight. If I could do the same thing with my own ageless, goddess-like body,  think how marvelous that would be! But again, I digress. And you can stop snorting about the ageless, goddess-like thing. Be nice.

My new computer has two modes of resting. It initially sleeps to a five-minute rotation of photos that I’m not sure I could intentionally access on my computer – photos flit by of my son and my nieces in their pudgy tween years, eerily posed in front of the World Trade Towers on a visit to New York City as 8 and 9 year-olds. My computer’s REM sleep takes it to a screen across which flit new words that I may not know. When I happen by its sleeping frame, words like occlude, fatidic, or agglomerate drift across the screen, complete with their definitions and pronunciations. It’s kind reassuring that all those hard-earned dollars that my parents spent on my edification have largely paid off. And nice to remember some pretty cool words, too.

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary- Agglomerate

In these weeks, we’ve done lots of agglomeration. Today, we will strike three shows (arguably four) from our Spring SDA roster of 13 plays before commencement. There will be the biggest agglomeration of props and lanterns and rental props and hand props this side of the Mississippi (forgive my hyperbole), and it will fall to our Properties Master, Hannah and I and our intrepid THTR 130 crew members  to sort and re-file these props to our Shrine basement storage area. It is a lot of work to make these ephemeral plays take place. Some day, when I become more ambitious, I may borrow my son’s Go-pro camera and wear it on a strike so you can all see. But probably not this season.

And yesterday, I met with the Artistic Corps of the Ebony Repertory Theatre, Artistic Director, Wren Brown, Associate Artistic Director, Andi Chapman (who will also be the Director of the upcoming production of “The Gospel At Colonus”), Managing Director, Gayle Hooks, and Production Manager, Sheldon P. Lane. We sat at a table in the upper lobby of the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on Washington Blvd., and they welcomed me to the process that will be their 30th Anniversary production of Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s “The Gospel at Colonus.” For me, this production represents a return to the boards as an AEA stage manager for the first time in ten years. I joked when Wren called me to invite me to stage manage this production, that I was pretty rusty at this, in spite of having been on the academic side of training stage managers for the past ten years. But getting back on the horse proved natural, and as I sat at that table in the gloaming of the March Saturday afternoon, I was imbued with the energy of the play and its committed artists intent on the play’s  power to express community and redemption and love. It will be quite an agglomeration of elements, musicians, actors and good will. I am very excited to begin.

A photo from tech of “As You Like It.” Bing Theatre. Scenic Design by Lea Branyan and Takeshi Kata. Lighting Design by Sabrina Cadena.

Passage of Time – I am home from the strike, which was labor intensive – I neglected to share this tech photo with you when I wrote about the tech for “As You Like It.” It seemed unseemly to share a process shot before you were able to see the show. But now that you have seen the play, and we are talking about what it takes to strike a play that would seem to be minimal in scenery, let’s talk about the 78 lanterns that were cabled and hung, many of them wrapped in foliage like the trees. I thought it would be a pretty simple props strike, with just the platform and the few hand props used in the play, but the lanterns were among the last things to come down, and there were just so many of them. I swear they multiplied during the week. But many hands make light work in the devil’s workshop, or whatever the saying is, and we were able to wrap it up by 7:30 or so tonight. Tomorrow, the spring musical, “Grease,” moves into the Bing Theatre to begin rehearsals on stage, and “The Way of the World” into the Scene Dock.

Tomorrow the cast and crew of “As You Like It” and the MFA Rep plays will be able to sleep in and resume their civilian lives. And we will move on briskly into our next phase of the spring productions.