Letters to Holly

Saturday, July 18

First Show

Mom called me a few hours before the show. Her gall bladder will need to be removed but not now. What she has now is an ulcerated stomach. I'm not surprised. Her diet went to hell once Dad died; she ate rarely and badly. I had stomach ulcers as a child, and we all lived through that bland diet. She has medicine now and a diet sheet, and once this is over, they'll tackle the gall bladder.

I'm relieved for many reasons. But right now it means I don't have to add a long drive and visit to my play schedule.

I arrive a half hour before the actors are scheduled to. I thought the light guy and I would clean up the hall, but it's already done. The tables are arranged to welcome the audience and a concession table is decked out in summer props. The extra time isn't empty though, as I'm suddenly running around with things I haven't had to tackle before. The box-office table can't figure out why their equipment isn't getting power from the wall outlet. The sound guy and I spend ten minutes playing with the circuit breaker before we discover the box-office ladies didn't plug in their gear.

The sound guy hooks up a second mic for the ailing actor. His co-star in the third play doesn't arrive until half an hour after the actors are scheduled to show up. She's the newest face for me, and I never get an explanation for her absence. I remind her to call us next time. She doesn't go on for 90 minutes into the show, but I can't spend that 90 minutes hoping she shows up.

The light guy, the sound lady, and I debate a backstage light to help us work walk around to open the curtains. The light lady says its distracting to the audience. I say I prefer that to us knocking over the set pieces with our knees. We compromise by taking the light down to half. Why did everyone want a stage manager if they're gonna argue my decisions?

My liaison gives the curtain speech (after we quickly delineate the sequence of light changes with the light guy), and we're off. The sound lady blows her first cue; apparently the darkness and curtain speech didn't inform her that the show was starting. I'm screaming into the headset to hit the first sound. Finally it comes. We're a minute into the show, and I'm ready to kill. The actor with the mic didn't connect it properly, and his arm movements cause hi mic to cut out during his play. I have no chance to fix this; he doesn't leave the stage after the walks on.

The actress with the mic has now gotten so lazy with her voice that the mic isn't picking her up properly. To my shock, instead of telling her to talk above a mumble, the liaison and sound guy adjust the stage mics and give me new settings for just her play. I don't like getting more technical stuff to juggle.

It's still dead-air hot during the show, but now the Legionnaires are throwing a party on the other side of the wall. The cast and crew can hear them from the stage. What, the theatre folks didn't bother to remind them we're doing a show this weekend? Why am I not surprised?

I have a book to read backstage (Sons and Lovers), but my nervous energy keeps me tiptoeing backstage and checking the show's progress. The audience is 40-strong and vocal. They enjoy my cast, but my mom actress is slow. It sounds like she's unsure about the lines, and she in fact blows a couple. The others recover well. I ask her during the second play if she realizes what's she's doing. She says no. She then tries to dissect the line trouble, and I tell her to relax, enjoy the audience reaction and pick up her cues quicker. She's taking this way too seriously, and I regret saying anything. I don't want to be one of those directors who give notes after each performance. I won't do it again unless it's solicited.

We wrap up right on time at 10:20, and a free food reception encourages conversation. Some actors have stuck around for the food. The mumbling actress and the sound lady are conspiring to ad more music between plays. I don't care as long as they run it past the directors first. And then tell me. If I hear new music while moving sets, I'll freak out a bit. We don't add new stuff once the show opens. That's a practical rule.

I lock up at 11:20, a full five hours after I showed up, and I am beat. My feet are burgers. My clothes are chalky from dust and sweat.

The next morning, I have to convince my brain that we only do this twice more this week. I'm so accustomed to seeing the play as an endless tunnel stretching months into the future. We've actually trudged forward, and this patchwork A-Team hang glider is airborne. My ailing actor called to say his voice is better, and I assured him we can adjust his mic as need be.

I should point out the compliments I'm getting from everyone. It's mixture of relief that someone is doing the work, and that I'm so far not biting off heads.

Your Sis is safely in the hinterlands and enjoying doing nothing.

Thursday, July 16

Last Rehearsal

The liaison called me earlier in the day to apologize about the tickets for the open rehearsal. Said he forgot them in the car. I told him we had all arrived at a consensus about limiting ourselves to inviting two people each. That's the pattern from previous shows. Not that it mattered. Only three people showed up to watch last night.

I also got an email about the curtain speeches. Friday and Saturday will be handled by board people, and that's all that could be wrangled together. The support for their volunteers is, well, about what I expect. I'll handle the rest of them with my speech notes on a clipboard.

I packed up my black uniform and drove straight to the theatre from work. I got there just after 6 and geared up for a four-hour slog.

We ran at 2 hours and 15 minutes with a shortened intermission. We hit intermission at 9:20 and ended at 10:15. I took the stage at 8 on the dot. Using the walkie-talkie, I cued the tech crew for sounds and lights. We'll need to have some sort of onstage lighting for set change and curtain movement. It's pitch black otherwise.

An actor in my play and another has lost his voice. He came to rehearsal with a bare whisper. He and the second-play actress shared the mic, and we'll ask the soundmaster to hook up a second mic so they won't have to trade off. With a mic, he's clearly audible. I told him to pantomime kissing his onstage fiance and warned her to watch out for the mic when they hug.

My cast may have peaked too early. They're having line trouble. They can cover it well enough as proof of their experience. But they're losing punchlines, and I want them to enjoy as much laughter as they can. They've worked for it. I won't give any more notes to them starting tonight. It was us sculpting a play in a warehouse for three months. Now, it's just them and the audience. A bad last rehearsal is a good omen, and I hope that holds true.

The actress again heard some complaints that she wasn't audible. I walked to the back of the hall and could hear her from the center exit door. That's about fifty yards away. She did admit she may have not adjusted the mic to her mouth correctly when she got it from the sick actor. I don't care what she says; I can hear her clear as a bell and told her so. She explained that the sound warps around the building, and my ears shut down. She's on a mic, the volume is cranked. If you're afraid you can't be heard, talk louder. When in doubt, shout.

The theatre has yellow handheld fans we give out for promotion, and we certainly need them. The hall is a sauna. It is roasting in the hall, no matter how many doors we open or fans we crank up.

Our above-door exit signs don't light up. I think that's bad.

The cast has been told to arrive at 7, an hour before our curtain opens. They feel it's early, and I'm telling them to bring a book. It does feel early, but I'd rather them be bored than late.

Someone suggested that we have transition music between the third and fourth play, and I agreed. The actress went on to say I needed to choose a song, and I stopped her. I pointed out that was a director decision, and I called that director over. I told her the suggestion. She agreed. I then told her to talk to the sound lady about picking music. I reminded them that I tried this earlier in the week, and third director didn't like the song I chose. I'd rather not pick a song for the opening night that the second director won't like. She needs to pick it, and I'll make sure it plays at the right time. That's what a stage manager does.

I always expect something dramatic to happen backstage. It always does. For my first play here, the director lost her brains. For the second, an actress lost her dad. For the third, the leads lost their lines. I tried to gird myself for it, whoever it happened to. But it happened to me.

Ten minutes before the play started last night, my mom called to say she might be facing gall bladder surgery. She's been ill for a few days now. She's seeing a doctor today, and they've talked about such an operation for years now. This might be the time. She's going to call me this morning after talking to the doctor.

I do not want this to interrupt the show, and she and I made some provisions for the weekend. If she's facing surgery, I can drive down Saturday morning and be back that night for the show. But there's a possibility -- just a possibility -- that I might miss a show for this. I'm going to try to avoid it as much as I can. And the doctor might tell her good news that could make this consideration null and void. But I warned my liaison this morning. Two actors know about it; I took the call backstage, and they were in earshot.

If I do miss a show, it should be easy to replace me. I have detailed notes for preparation, and the cast is helping to move items through the show. A replacement should have no trouble. As long as they can carry the park bench, that is. That sucker is lead.

Your Sister bought me an extra pair of black pants and a pack of black t-shirts so I won't have to do laundry. She's a fantastic wife. I woke her up when I got home to tell her about Mom. She woke me up four hours later before she left for her vacation. I tried to talk to her, to say goodbye, but I was mostly asleep. Here's an interactive moment for the blog: Gently pound your keyboard with the back of your hands. That string of gibberish is exactly what I said to her.

I haven't run since the rehearsals started at the hall, and I'm feeling it. I'm stiff and sore. I gotta run again.


Mom just called. The doctor's office can't see her, and she was directed to the ER instead. She's waiting for a diagnosis as I type. The earliest I can get down there without causing total backstage havoc is Saturday morning.

One of the two actors who overheard the call last night called just a second ago to get an update. I told her I plan to be there tonight. Scrooge had to do his show with a bout of food poisoning and a father in intensive care.

In the News
Lightsaber chopsticks. You want these.

A Day Off

And, man, did I need it.

I realized something yesterday as I was cataloging my manager checklist. My notes are written on the back of business cards, and I've gone through ten of them as I take notes, scratch out bad info, and make notes on new cards. It took a while to remember the last time I did this, but it hit me last night. It was Dad's death last year.

I followed Mom with pockets full of lists of things to do. I had few certain activities and otherwise kept my ear out for things to take care of at the proper time. I kept my head down and jotted everything I needed to keep in mind. That's what I'm doing now. And I feel the same now. Yesterday I was so anxious that I was afraid to eat. I settled on a simple sandwich for dinner and an ice-cream dessert to keep my stomach quiet.

I'm embarrassed to have this association flying around in my gut. I didn't expect those echoes to linger. But at least I know it's not the show filling me with dread. It shouldn't. I've done a dozen shows. I don't have to memorize anything for this one. I'm backstage virtually the entire time. My heavy work is done. I prepared the cast and provided them with props and movement. They have to perform. I only need to show up and stay alert.

I also realized that my curtain speeches will be much easier if I approach them as a stage manager instead of a formal member of the theatre. Stage managers wear all black casual clothes. They have checklists. My speech notes are a checklist. If I put them on a clipboard, I can make them into an in-character presentation. "Hi, I'm your stage manager tonight. Stage managers have checklists for everything, and I have a list to ensure I welcome you properly." I won't have to memorize it. I'll have one of the three easiest jobs each performance -- the tech guys just have to hit the lights and sounds with the scripts in front of them.

Also, we watched the director's cut of Aliens last night. A good action-horror movie is great for perspective. Yes, I may feel a twinge of nerves right now, but I'm not on a desolate moon pursued by a hive of walking acid sharks while the clock ticks down on a nuclear reactor. It always good be worse.

So, good. I'm all settled. Bring on the show.

Your Sis and I enjoyed our last evening together before she hoofs it to somewhere in New England, or as we call it, New VerMaiMassicutt Island. She almost put down the younger cat last night, and after getting the bill, she wishes she did. That's a horrible position to be in. I assured her the cat, who lost five teeth to a common cat disease, will be fine. She can still eat regular food. I'll give her the prescribed medicine while Your Sis is gone. The cats will be here when she gets back. It's just the kind of drama one doesn't need before a big trip. I always play at hating the cats, but they're good pets, and they pre-date me in the household.

Your Dad finished the drywall repair yesterday, and he met me at the office this morning. He said he was glad to do it, to see if he still could. He is a drywall champion. That wall is textbook. He also brought a box of blueberries I'll bag and freeze this weekend.

In the News
Lost made the cut of Emmy nominations again. It's up for best drama, editing, supporting actor (Ben), sound mixing, and writing. In the last category, Lost is the only other show against four episodes of Mad Men.

Picture of the Day
The audience can't see you but they see what you do.

Wednesday, July 15

Getting Better

I really will try this without so much of the whiny pout-pout.

I was the first to get the hall and open it up. When the lights and fan are off, the hall is pleasantly cool. But once we crank up the stage lights and computers, the broiling begins. I suspect the ceiling fans are set to push down warm air.

I tried out my new sound file, and it worked slightly. What sounded like an even volume at home was again at three settings at the hall. I showed the sound tech how to work it, and it's at least easier than juggling three files in under a minute.

I also loaded up my WWII-song to finish the play. As I told the sound tech this, she showed me her CD of sax music. The last play mentions sax music, and I had heard the liaison mention using sax music to end the play and show, but it was never played during rehearsals. I asked the director (who's also acting in the play) about closing with some sort of music, and she seemed fine with me bringing in some music. I went with We'll Meet Again. It's a great tune. But last night, when given the choice, the director picked the sax music chosen by the sound tech. It's a light jazz version of I Will Always Love You.

I reminded myself that it's the director's choice, and that I'm not the director. The song isn't a bad idea, itself -- the title does fit with the reunion plot -- although it's about letting someone go to love someone else.

The actors asked a number of questions I couldn't answer or could only answer via whim.

When do we set up for make-up? Let's not wear any. Y'all look fine in the stage lights.

What about tickets for the open dress rehearsal? I've heard nothing about them.

Aren't we supposed to tell actors to park somewhere else? Are we? I guess so.

Why aren't the board members giving the opening speech? Why are you doing it? You've got too much to do. The assumption was that I'd do it. I'm trying to weasel out of it. But I've got my notes ready.

Why do the backdrop pieces look so ramshackle? They weren't designed to be backdrops, and we'll be lucky if they last the entire production.

Why aren't you doing (theatre tradition)? I didn't know about it.

This is why I insisted that I needed to apprentice before doing stuff like directing or managing. This is my fourth show with this company, and two of them were in a courtroom and a country-clubhouse. Everyone else knows more about what I'm expected to know. It's like a total-immersion language courses. Or shepherding older shepherds. Someone with more experience should do this. I answer so many questions with "I guess so" or "oh, right." Dammit, Jim. I'm a set mover, not a producer.

The show did run smoother last night as we tightened the set changes. I recruited two people to help me open curtains as the show opens and closes. And when the show actually begins, I'll have much less to keep track of. I'll be behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz. Handing out trinkets and calling people "good deed-doers." When I did other shows with extended time backstage, I read books. This time, I need to keep an ear and eye out for tech trouble.

I make stage managing sound like shitwork. It's not. Not really. But it's a hundred times smoother and easier when the routines are established sooner in the rehearsal process. When I stage managed before, I had a blast doing it. I got my actors ready. I was their cheerleader. They knew I had their back, and the director knew I would make the play go like clockwork.

This is so slapdash and last-second that a veteran hand is called for. People appreciate my effort, but they are unsettled as things work differently because I don't know the precedents. I don't mind being overruled. I want this to go right. I'm obviously as out of the loop as they are.

Cripes, I AM Jack from Lost.

Picture of the Day
This is from the Saturday rehearsal. This is my play. The guy is proposing with a toy ring that's about to accidentally squirt his fiance with water. Behind them are the triangular towers. The gaps between them are unavoidable.

Tuesday, July 14

Only Nine More Times

Earlier in the day, I made checklists for each play on the back of business cards. I have two cards with two plays each, and an arrival/departure list for the power and equipment. For instance, I should unlock the bathroom door for the cast. Very important.

I got emails from my liaison not long after. He wants as much warning as possible before I cut the troublesome one-act. I assured him I would do that only if necessary. I said that, if there was another tantrum, I would bump that play to the end of the rehearsal, and they can leave last. That will keep them about an hour longer than if they behave and go second. He also sent me bullet points for the speech I'll make each night. I'm nervous about that until I remember that we'll only have about 20 people in the audience if we're lucky.

He discovered a few hours later that his backdrop scheme has a hiccup. We have four triangular towers on the stage. Each side is part of a larger backdrop scene. Before each play we turn them to to next play backdrop. But we have four plays, you say. There aren't enough sides. Right. That's why we plan to attach the fourth play's backdrops as panels to the triangular towers. He discovered that his plan would work if the towers were built stronger, and they aren't. Now he has to rethink their attachment. I will be the person hooking these things on before that play each night. He's not joyful. But, hey, he isn't working with the cast and crew.

I got to the hall half an early and met my liaison. My dinner rendezvous with the missus fell through, and I grabbed a Starbucks drink for dinner. Theatre diets are crash diets. We talked set design and tech stuff. He said he'd talk to the actress and suggested I keep her one-act no matter what. We agreed that it would be cruel to her teenage costar to cut the play at this late date. But still.

The actors petered in, and I showed my cast the change I made to the backstage area. They would now have an easier time getting the set offstage while I set up the next set. People are volunteering to help out with things like curtains and props, and it's a big help. Also, very heartening.

The actress presented no problems last night, and I wonder if my liaison mentioned my idea to her. Or maybe Saturday's tech was just a bad day. I think it was. We got along fine while we checked the props and set up her play. Her Elvis-themed play has three separate sound clips to start her show. The sound person has big trouble with this, and I saw why. She doesn't understand basic computing. Not that this program is all that convenient. For each track, she has to prep it to play, click it at the proper cue, and adjust the volume immediately. It takes fast reflexes. We got the timing right on the third try, but I told the actress I could make them into one track with one volume level. She was eager for that, and I told both of them I'd bring it in tomorrow. The two Elvis play actresses will close our curtains to end the first half of the show.

The light guy offered to help me set up the stage during intermission. Our triangle towers are not holding up well. They weren't made for this kind of activity, and our rapid turns are bruising them. We got through the last two plays, and I asked the final play cast if they wanted music to end the show. Currently, they end the play and our show in silence. They said yes. It's a play about two older strangers squabbling on a parkbench. As the show ends, they realize they were wartime sweethearts separated by happenstance and still madly in love with each other. I wanted a WWII song to end with, and I picked We'll Meet Again, the song from the end of Dr. Strangelove. That movie ends with that song playing over video of various nuclear explosions and the world ends. I don't think anyone will catch my audio comparison. But it's intentional.

This is the first summer show in the hall, and it's blazing hot. There are ceiling fans in lieu of air conditioning, and the stage lights are roasting the actors. I spend the entire rehearsal walking around and moving set pieces and talking to offstage crew and cast, and my feet are dead when we finally close up at 10. I think we'll lose audience members at intermission. They won't take the stifling air for a second hour.

I was exhausted when I got home, and it didn't help my mood. I am now convinced I was suckered into a shit job. Clearly no one wanted to do this. I've also been given the duty of the opening speech each night. This means I'll be the face of this show for the audience. I'll be the one they think of. It'll be seen as my product. I'm a scapegoat. That enrages me. I'm disappointed in my liaison for begging me to take this on. It feels intentional now, and I'm, well, I'm hurt. It's only my sense of professionalism that restrains me from walking away.

I made that sound file this morning and downloaded We'll Meet Again from Amazon. That feels like an accomplishment and another bit of Spackle applied to a barely cohesive production.

I need to make new card checklists for all things I realized I missed last night. We spent a good five minutes trying to turn on the stage lights. I control the master lights with a circuit panel backstage. This last-minute job requires much learning on the fly.

+ + +

I started my suit shopping before the Chicago trip. Men's Wearhouse offers a two-for-one deal on some suits, and that will do me nicely. My problem is this: Suits are built for chimps. I have a two-dimensional torso and my arms are too short. When I put on a slim jacket, the sleeves are at my thumbs. When I go up a size and could sneak a bison in my inside pocket, the sleeves fit fine.

Your Sister lost her bike license plate, and she spent much of yesterday looking for it. That why we couldn't have dinner. She's leaving Friday, and I'm missing all this time with her because of the damn play. I can't take her to or pick her up from the airport. This play confounds me at every turn.

In the News
I'm watching the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, and she's holding up with good spirits in the face of Senatorial grandstanding.

Picture of the Day
Why didn't I listen to Ackbar?

Sunday, July 12

Someone Had to Do It

Tech rehearsal is always a blur, and I'll try to recall what I can (and what is worth the memory), but the top story is this: I'm the stage manager.

I don't want to. Nobody wanted to. That was the problem. I saw a rehearsal where no one was in charge, and I've never seen that before. I've seen directors lose their authority through incompetence or bitterness. I hadn't before entered a rehearsal with no ringleader. My liaison was a default mutual contact. He constructed the set and served as a hub for communication because he led the artistic committee, and this one-act anthology was arguably his creation. But he had also no interest in shepherding the show.

We were halfway through the first rehearsal of the entire show when he approached me sand said, in essence, if I didn't do this, the entire show would be a shambles. I could understand why. For three hours, I saw tech people, actors, and directors ask each other how the anthology would be stitched together, and the constant answer of "someone needs to ______" drifted through the legion hall. We had to organize the transitions between the one-acts, we had to catalog the props for the shows, we had to manage the progression of the rehearsal.

The incident that sparked my decision was this: a theatre stalwart threw a tantrum. Oh, I hear you. "What a rarity." And I can excuse her behavior as stemming from exhaustion. She took on too much. Two elements worked against her: her decision to act in a one-act she directed; and the desire of other actors to provide feedback. I don't like directors appearing in their shows. They need to stay removed to manage the production. Her show is very weak. It's 45 minutes of two people sitting and talking. It's lifeless. It's written badly, and I suspect it has no stage direction. Because of that probable flaw, the director has an immobile interaction. But that's not the worst part.

She doesn't project. She never has. She has a thin voice with a prominent accent and only total immersion allows you to grok her speaking style. When the first rehearsal was over, the major feedback (from too many eager helpers) was that she was inaudible. It was the truth, and she took it personally. Again, I think her schedule has left her weak and defenseless. I also think she too quickly pulls the martyr trigger. It's true the sound quality in not great in this old building. We all struggle with it. We have stage mics to help, but we all must project more than in other venues. It's a chore for us all. She reacted badly and threatened to quit. That was when my liaison had enough and asked me to step up. Not because I could win her over, but because this could incite a fatal spiral for the whole show.

So I said yes. The news spread quickly without a formal announcement. I could feel the relief. They just wanted someone at the wheel. We still had two one-acts to rehearse for the first of two times. We had been there for three hours already, and my first thought was to get this shit moving.

Let me go back to the beginning of the day. I went to the local charity furniture shop and officially picked out the table for my one-act. We'll use it free in exchange for a sponsor listing in the playbill. Turns out I had a painting class with the woman behind the counter. It's very small town.

I went to the legion hall to drop off my sound effects CD for the show. There I learned of the sound person, and it's the director from the courtroom play. The director who had a dramatic long-running argument with an actor and the same woman who had such trouble with the sound board for Scrooge. The theatre must be in dire, horrible straits if they must rely on this person to push the buttons. You might also remember that she called me to take the mom part in my one-act. I took her number, promised to keep her abreast, and blew her off. So here she is. Great. She never mentioned the part, to my relief.

The theatre soundmaster copied my files and adjusted files for the other shows. I watched the set construction and listened to concerns about the lack of coordinator. I again deferred. I needed first to see what how complicated the other shows were. The effort to get backstage help failed; there would be no extra people to move sets. It would be the actors and whoever was dumb enough to agree to be stage manager. I went back home.

At two o'clock, I met with my cast for a linethrough at the warehouse. It went OK. They're getting more lines straight as I bestow memory tricks. ("Your line is 'sit in your place of honor and put on your crown.' You have Place and Put. Two Ps. Use that.") We gathered up the props for this show and the other featuring two of my actors. This is the departure from the rehearsal space that underscores that we're creeping closer to opening night.

There was confusion about the time the rehearsal started. Some said 3, some said four. I had told my guys three for a long time, and I stuck by that. We had a regular volunteer who wanted to photograph the rehearsals for the newspaper, and she spent the first runthrough of shows snapping pics from a respectful distance. We couldn't start right away because the table set hadn't arrived yet. I had warned the actors that we'd adjust to the stage size and the new table and the presence of the rotating backdrops. It's a pinched space, and our first runthrough was awkward. There was a lot to adjust to, and they had no energy. As the second play started their rehearsal, I pulled my guys aside for notes.

The second play is what led to the tantrum and my decision. The third one-act is about fifteen minutes long, and the director of that play had to read for an actress who couldn't make it. That's inexcusable. We already had to bump our open rehearsal on Wednesday because someone won't be there. And it was here that I mentally made the distinction for my responsibility. I can't make the sound guys improve their competence, and I won't brush aside the directors for my own notes. I will help the one-acts take and leave the stage. I will cue the tech guys when the actors are ready for to go onstage. I won't micromanage.

I started taking notes of the other plays' props and sets and began mapping the backstage area. They won't require as much floorspace as I feared. My play clearly has to most props and furniture. The fourth play only needs a park bench, and it's the only piece not from my play that will sit on that side of the backstage area.

Now my understanding of a double-tech is different than what the tech guys expected. In my notion, you move only through the sound and lights cues for the first go-round, and then you rehearse the full plays. We didn't. We did the entire show twice. That didn't help the day end quicker, and if I had stepped up sooner, that would have been my first decree. Instead, I took the stage after the fourth play ended, asked for attention, and announced we were going to start again immediately, and that if actors weren't in that one-act, they could take half an hour to eat. We'd be through in 45 minutes, and the next show (featuring the crying actress) would start.

I showed my guys how I had arranged the play's furniture backstage and told them this is where it would return when we were through. They learned it, and we began. My demeanor had changed. I wasn't counting the seconds until I could go home. I was taking notes, walking throughout the hall, and talking louder. I was declaring and asking if people were ready. I was managing. I did it years ago for a musical with a ton of props and small set pieces. But I sat in on that show from the auditions. I didn't even have scripts for the other three shows. I relied on the actors/directors to tell me when they tech people missed a cue.

We started the second round of rehearsals at 7-something and ended at 10. Most of that delay was when the crying actress issued an ultimatum. If she was going to do the rehearsal without a body mic (which no one else was using) AND someone said she wasn't loud enough, she was quitting. Before I could tell her to go home, the sound guy worked up a body mic and spent that play's rehearsal adjusting the speakers. He was pissed, and he should have been. She did the show, and she refused to talk above her normal Southern mumble. So she'll have a mic and remain barely audible, and her interminable, inaudible one-act will be the dog of the shows. It's a shame. She and the younger actress have learned a shitload of lines.

I also decided that another such ultimatum will remove her one-act, and we'll do the entire show without an intermission. I don't intend to address this Monday unless she pulls this stunt again.

When I addressed everyone about eating, I asked them to ask the tech crew what they wanted to eat and grab it for them. The theatre would reimburse them. I had no idea if this was how it worked, but the crew gotta eat. They can't leave like the offstage actors can. Well, that request didn't happen. They didn't eat. I didn't eat. If you're keeping score, that's seven hours without a meal. So if someone tries to relive the diva fit Monday for some sort of cathartic confrontation, I'll remind him or her that they abandoned the crew. So we'll let Saturday stay in the past.

I continued to make tech notes as the one-acts continued, and I gave the fourth play some feedback only because they asked for it. They took it very well. They also have the best projection, and we'll need them to use their clear voice to wake up the audience.

The soundmaster showed me how to close up the hall, and I got home to find Your Sister waiting with a pizza and a 40 of Smirnoff Ice. I love Your Sister. I ranted and apologized for the late supper and crashed heavy for the night.

Your Sister said accepting the manager position makes me Jack from Lost. I shall now cry every other sentence.

On Sunday, I met with my liaison, the guy who gave me the hard sell about managing, and we exchanged notes. I told him of my notion to cut the second-one-act if the actress makes the ultimatum again. He wasn't happy.

"What about the posters? We promised four plays."
"What about the other actors," I said. "What about the people who showed up on time, ready to rehearse? I can't let them sit while she decides IF she wants to rehearse. I can't reward that behavior."

If they don't like the way I stage-manage, they can find someone else. They wanted me. They got me. This play is on my schedule now. And that's when I realized my new role is a thrill. I GET to be stage manager. I get to make the decisions. I get to spank divas and reward hard workers.

My priority is to ensure these actors don't feel they wasted their time. I can't make the show perfect in less than a week. I won't try. But I can help the actors get through it.

My liaison said he'd call the actress, play dumb, and hear her side of the story. He'd also remind her to be a professional. I hope it works. Again, tech rehearsals are never fun, and I'd love to keep Saturday behind us.

On Sunday, Your Parents came over to fix the dry wall when it was damaged from last year's water-heater explosion. We fed them for their trouble, but I was distracted by mental organizing for the show. I even dreamed about it. I don't want to reinvent the wheel. I just want to make it run smoothly.

But, secretly, honestly, I hope the diva says something. I've got my speech ready.

Starting tonight, we assemble ten times, including the performances. Ten times, and we're through. I've been in shows that had more performances than that. This is do-able.

Oh, speaking of ultimatums (ultimatae?), I told Your Sister she is not seeing this show. She'll be gone most of it for a vacation, but still. I never issue decrees like this, but it's for the best. We need to minimize exposure to it within the house.

Remember, they asked her to stage manage this show too. What if the diva had pulled that shit with Your Sister? I would have to hide the body in the forest.

Picture of the Day
Did someone say House?