Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back in the world

Wow. It's been so long since I've done a full-scale theatrical production, I had almost forgotten what production week is like. We just opened our first drama in the Artsgarden, and from last Saturday until last night I worked something like 90 hours. It's still 15 hours from my record week at the Artsgarden, but it was still busy enough that I never had a free consecutive five minutes at a computer until today. On the plus side, Laura's the lighting designer, so we got to do a show together again. Even before I was romantically interested in her, I was impressed with Laura's design work and with how good she was to work with; doing a show with her has always been fun, and we don't get a chance to do it often.

The show is Midwestern Hemisphere, produced by the a new theater company in town, the Heartland Actors Repertory Theater. It's about a subdivision that gets trapped under an invisible dome, told through the eyes of six residents. (comments on the show redacted, until the run is finished)

And it's been interesting watching the show evolve. Laura and I watched two staged readings of the show, and a lot of the fun has been seeing how the show changes over time, as the script goes through revisions and the cast changes. I'm amazed at how much a character changes when he's read by a different actor. And also amazed at how much difference a few words of script change can make to a character's personality.

At opening night, I ran into two movers and shakers in the theater community who both said they enjoyed the lighting (one of them didn't know that Laura and I are a couple, which adds weight to the compliment). I don't think the Heartland guys realize exactly how much having Laura as the lighting designer added to the show. There's the obvious fact that she's extremely good at what she does. And there's also the less-obvious fact that I did a lot more work for Laura than I would've done for any other designer. I would've given another designer a copy of our light plot, refocused as needed, and bought gel for them. For Laura, I re-hung every single theatrical lighting unit in the building, added new LED units to color the backdrop, bought Source Four ellipsoidals for front light, and relocated a huge portion of our dimmers and wiring to give her what she needed to make the show happen the way she wanted it to. This would be way above and beyond for anyone else, but I'll gladly go the extra couple of miles for Laura.

Also, I don't think the Heartland guys know that I'm essentially volunteering for their show. I'm contractually obligated to work no more than 40 hours per week at the Artsgarden; as a non-manager, they have to pay me overtime if I work more than 40 hours in a week, and they don't have overtime pay in the budget. The Arts Council is frequently audited, and they can get in trouble if I work extra hours and don't get paid for them. And while we've been in production for MidHem, I've still had to do the rest of my job too: performances, events, phone calls, et cetera. So all the time I've spent at rehearsals and doing lighting work and generally making the show happen doesn't appear on my time sheet. I'm not paid, ergo I'm a volunteer....


Lou said...

Bad form to criticize a show you are working on while it is still running.

By all means, be critical of everything--but to knock it in a public forum mid-run is very unprofessional.

Jeff Mountjoy said...

Ahh, Lou's right -- post partially redacted. Tune in in two weeks to see my actual opinions. For now, all editorial comments on the show, positive or negative, mine or not, are gone.

I keep forgetting that I'm not just writing for my usual audience of regulars; I'm also writing for anyone who uses Google....

Lou said...

Thanks Jeff.

And, for the record, I fully appreciate Laura's lighting work. (I'm not one of the HART guys--I'm just the writer, but I wanted that to be clear). I stayed away during most of tech and was very pleased with what I saw of her work on opening night.

Jeff Mountjoy said...

I was impressed with Laura's lighting, too; every time I see her work, it's like getting to know her a little better.

Tech week was actually pretty low-key -- not a lot of stress or trauma. Everything was very professional, and nobody lost their cool. Which is pretty rare for a tech week anywhere, with any production. :-)