Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Truly Empty Space in Seattle

posted by brad at 10:10 AM

Very unfortunate news that Seattle's legendary Empty Space Theatre Company will be closing after 36 years. Read more about this here and here.

We certainly don't know the details of their finances, but there seems to be an indication that the board wasn't helping uphold their fiscal responsibility. Disappointing to see another smallish, but revolutionary and important theatre company on the West Coast close its doors. Especially after such a long successful run. Take a stroll through their audacious production history here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Free Night of Theatre (a bust?)

posted by Damaso Rodriguez at 10:22 AM
Last night we participated in the first-ever Los Angeles "Free Night of Theatre." According to the LA Stage Alliance website:

"Free Night of Theater 2006 is produced nationally by Theatre Communications Group, and is regionally produced by LA Stage Alliance, serving the performing arts in Greater LA. Free Night of Theatre is a national campaign aimed at attracting new and returning audiences to live theatre."

We, along with 40 plus other companies in town, participated by offering up an allotment of tickets to be made available for free via the LA Stage Alliance website. We chose to make 25 tickets available for our Thursday, Oct. 19 performance. Patrons were able to reserve their free tickets online, and were sent a reminder of their reservation 48 hours before the performance. Apparently the program was an enormous advance success as tickets quickly "sold" out for most if not all participating theatres. All 25 Furious tickets to Grace were gone in a few days at most. Pretty exciting right? Again, from the LA Stage website:

"Wow! We feel like rock stars! We’re thrilled that Free Night of Theatre 2006 has had such a tremendous response. All tickets are sold out."

Of course, we were excited too. Why not have our house padded by 25 new patrons obviously eager to be introduced to our work? In fact, we were in danger of having a true sell-out with 64 of our 72 seats reserved as Thursday evening approached. Thankfully, we can accommodate approximately 80 patrons in our space with the creative addition of folding chairs in the back row. We therefore decided not to block or inhibit sales in any way. We could handle the overflow seating in the event we had a large number of walk-ups and last minute purchases.

Enough background. Here are the results we experienced:

25 Free Tickets Reserved
17 No-Shows
That's a 68% No-Show Rate. Wow. We feel silly.

Fortunately, we still had 47 in the house last night. In a 72 seat house, 47 feels plenty 'full' actually. It was a great show, and there was a wonderful energy in our theatre. And the 8 Free Night of Theatre patrons who did honor their reservations contributed to that. We were glad to have them. This post is in no way meant to be any kind of attack on LA Stage or the great sponsors who made this program possible. I'm sure many if not all other participating theatres did better than our 32% turnout. We just wanted to share our results.

Anybody care to comment on their company's experience with this noble experiment? What's it say when people no-show in numbers to a well-reviewed play they volunteered to attend? What's it mean when people don't use (value?) their free tickets that they know could have gone to someone else who might have used them?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Waiting for Gunman

posted by brad at 11:53 PM
Friday the 13th. Ugh.

Spoiler Alert: The following story may spoil some surprises for anyone planning to come see the show.

Consider yourself warned.
Tonight, the gun fell apart. Onstage. While I was in the middle of the "Russian roulette" scene. I then spent a good 2 and a half minutes backstage trying frantically to put it back together while I left my fellow actors onstage to ad lib their way through a very serious and tension filled scene that shouldn't exist in this play. But, I still needed to shoot two other people so we could end the play correctly, so I kept thinking I had to get the gun back together...

Here's what happened.

The performance was moving along well (not stellar, but well) and the audience seemed to be totally in it. The top of the final scene starts and I begin the Russian roulette process. I typically work my way through five bullets (dead blanks), never actually shooting myself and questioning God as to what he's trying to tell me. I then pick up the 6th bullet and put it in my pocket, exit my apartment and go to my neighbors apartment where my cheating wife and the guy with no face are having an affair. In the 20 seconds or so I have between exiting my apartment and entering the neighbors apartment, I have to empty the dead blanks in the gun that I just used to play roulette with, and reload the gun with live blanks to be fired. Eventually I shoot the guy with no face, but only after I have also shot the exterminator, who conveys the message to me that "there is no God." A few more details and... end of play.

Craig's play - truly brilliant, despite my hack cliff notes I just gave.

Anyway, after the fourth attempt in the roulette scene, the gun falls apart. Literally. Springs, sprockets, the locking pin that holds the chamber in place, etc. All the guts of the gun fall out. Some on the coffee table and some on the floor. What do I do? Be decisive and calm. So I thought. First, I go ahead and end the roulette session and begin my brief bit of dialogue before I am supposed to head next door to the neighbors. I also, quite calmly begin picking up the pieces of the gun (that I can find in a very dim, moody lighting cue) along with the other blanks that have fallen out and put them in my coat pocket as I begin making my way off the couch and out of the apartment. Turns out most people had no idea something was wrong at this point. Not even the actors onstage with me. I also, truly believed that I could put the gun back together. I had faith. I have done it before, while cleaning it, so I thought, no problem. It may take a few extra moments, but I found all of the pieces and I can make this work. As I exit I find the nearest bit of light, just behind the set and go to work, knowing that I only have 20-30 seconds tops to get the guts back in the gun, check that it works, reload it with the live blanks and come in (somewhat) on cue.

Two minutes later...
Eric and Sara are suffering through an improv scene about "waiting around" and "what do we do now" thinking I have either passed out and we'll have to stop the show... or I am eventually going to find the blanks that I have no doubt misplaced (the only logical reason I could be taking so long) and finally come on. Little do they know that the gun has completely fallen apart and I am still fighting with the guts to get the gun put back together so that the show can still manage to play out the way it is intended. I look up from my somewhat vulnerable and uncomfortable squatting position just behind the stage wall to see Damaso (the show's director) who had enough time to evaluate that something was wrong, exit the lobby, come backstage and see what was happening. As he spots me, huddled helplessly in the floor he starts gesturing for me to just get out there. This was what I was feeling too, I knew there was only so much time we could continue the charade, but I was so close (so I thought) to having the gun back together... and I couldn't bear the thought of trying to seriously threaten anyone onstage with a gun that was missing the center chamber and sure as hell couldn't fire.

I finally did give up and go out for the scene, knowing that was probably hurting my fellow actors way more than the faulty gun would hurt the ending. I normally have the gun out and pointed at someone for nearly the entire last 15 minutes of the play. I played it the same way tonight, except I had to try and hold the gun so that my thumb could also hold the chamber in place and not make it too obvious what I was doing.

Turns out... I would have never gotten the gun back together because I was missing one of the tiny springs needed to get it back intact and make it fire. So, ultimately I spent two and a half to three minutes offstage trying to make a prop work that would have never worked under the circumstances and I left two actors and the audience waiting for the gunman. Waiting and waiting. It seemed like an eternity for us, but one witness said "it didn't feel like an unbearable amount of time." It definitely created a unique experience for all at the show tonight. Onstage and off.

I can only wonder what the experience must have been like in the audience. I'm guessing a lot of people still have no idea what happened... except for those sitting near the back who could hear the Stage Manager in the booth trying to call our Production Manager on his cell phone to get him to come find me with the back up gun, which arrived late yesterday (after having to have it replaced when the first one busted because the blanks were too powerful) and it had not been put into play yet. So, I am told that Nick, our Production Manager, who was onsite but not in the theatre, ran to his car and was then seen sprinting down street with a large gun in his hand while yelling into his cell phone "I'm on my way." At some point I hear there was an actual attempt at text messaging too, because the cell phones didn't have good reception. Yes, text messaging. It was a very long 3 minutes. Waiting for Gunman.


Also, half of the dressing room was flooded by the water cooler right around the time we got our "5 minutes to places" call before the show. So, that was fun too.

Friday the 13th. I'm glad it's over.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Calm Before the Storm

posted by brad at 1:38 PM
photo by Anthony Masters

Last night was a night off for the actors in Grace. Our last chance to catch our breath, recharge and relax our brains a little before this week of final dress rehearsals, previews and the opening weekend festivities.

It was not however, a night off for the crew, the designers and the director. They of course were at the theatre continuing to fine tune all of the elements to help deliver the full potential of this amazing play Craig has created.

Tonight we have final dress and we will start previews tomorrow, at 8pm.

Check back for more photos and reviews very soon. We'll see what we can do this go around to capture some pictures from the opening night hullabaloo and post those too.

In the meantime... an interesting entry here (always something good at the Playgoer blog) regarding the non profit model and the importance in today's climate to find more investor types. Regardless of your tax classification. Something we've definitely been discussing regarding our future and the kind of work we want to be free to do as well.

Be Furious.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sam's Scar 2

posted by Eric Pargac at 2:49 PM

So here’s the latest on how the scar is looking. Christa McCarthy, the makeup designer for the show who developed this whole scar and application method, had me bring the overall red color down by going back over the whole treatment with more of the original base color. I think it helps it blend and look more organic. The director, Dámaso Rodrogiuez, wanted to go smaller with it so we don't go as far down the cheek. I like that change. The scar is still bad enough that Sam would not want other people seeing it, but it's a little less jarring than the previous version. I have also been working on making it look more like a scar from a bad accident and less like a burn. To do that, I try to smooth the wax out more once I have it all applied then I try to create seams where stitches might have been. This was taken after a dress rehearsal and the bottom edge of the scar is coming up near the cheek. It is much more difficult to get it to stick in that area because it is more fleshy and has to move more when I talk. Christa is working on new ways to help keep that down.

See more scar photos!