There is something magical about sitting in an audience as the house lights dim.

The buzz in the room settles into quiet anticipation as we wait to be transported into someone else's world, someone else's story. But what we see on the stage is just the culmination of weeks, sometimes months of work behind the scenes by artists of all description: actors, directors, designers, wardrobe people, carpenters, painters, sound and light experts and others.

This blog will give you a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into that unknown world, following the rehearsal process.
This will be your guide to the hard work, fun and weirdness of putting together a play
for a professional theatre company.

You'll never watch a play in the same way again!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES - Refining and Polishing; The Leadup to Opening Night

Now blogging: Laura Lussier, Assistant to the Director

Tristan Carlucci
Over the last couple of days, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on everything. We’ve been doing precision work, polishing up scenes, and preparing for an audience.  

Last night, we got just what we needed: a real audience! Preview Night is a nerve-wracking, wonderful night, and tonight was especially nerve-wracking due to the Portage Place fire alarm going off right at the top of Act 2! Just as the audience members were almost all out of the theatre and heading down the escalators, the alarm stopped and we could get on with the show.  

That’s the beauty of live theatre, folks!  The actors, being the pros that they are, carried on as if nothing had happened and the rest of the night went smoothly. The audience just LOVED this play!  SO much laughter!

Mariam Bernstein & Robb Paterson
With a comedy, the laughs we receive with a first audience is a gift, not only because it feels good to have a confirmation that the play really is funny (sometimes we wonder after seeing it so many times), but also because those laughs are informative.They inform us where the actors have to allow time for a laugh, where they have to attack a line with more vocal energy to be heard over a laugh, etc. Comedy is demanding in that way. You have to factor in the audience a lot more than you do for a drama.  More often than not, the timing has to perfect in order to get a laugh. A few moments were a bit off tonight because it was our first real audience. That’s to be expected. But it’s crunch-time now, so Ann has to determine what needs to be tweaked in the short rehearsal time we have in the afternoon before Opening Night. After those last few hours of rehearsal in the afternoon, that’s it!

Paula Potosky
It’s the final countdown. By the time PTE’s doors open tonight, the team will be ready to take the plunge into the run. Directors and Assistants have to let go and say “It’s been a slice! Happy Opening! Have a great run!” And with this little gem of a show, it’ll be a fabulous run. 

Enjoy the show! 

Photos by Leif Norman

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES - Q to Q and Quick Changes: Who Knew Actors Had to REHEARSE Getting Dressed?

Now blogging: Laura Lussier, Assistant to the Director

What the heck is Q to Q? 

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. In the last post, I described how we built all kinds of lighting and sound cues at the beginning of tech week. Once the cues are built, Q to Q is the Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager’s time to rehearse their very important role. In our case, our wonderful SM Mike Duggan is “calling the show”, which means he gets to say exciting things like “Lights 41 and Sound 32 – GO!” Timing is everything. Mike gets a couple of tries for each cue as we test them out, but shortly after Q to Q, it’s performance time, so the pressure’s on! It’s a very short time (a day to a day and a half to get through the entire show), and he worked extraordinarily well under pressure.

During Q to Q, the designers keep refining their cues in collaboration with the other designers and the director. Backstage, the actors and our fabulous Assistant Stage Manager, Linsey Callaghan, are refining what has to happen backstage to make sure that all the actors go onstage in the right costumes at the right time. They rehearse what we call “Quick Changes”, because the timing of these rapid costume changes affects the cues. The ASM and the actors work together to determine how the clothes, accessories, shoes, and in the case of this play, underwear (!), need to be laid out in order for the change to go smoothly. Not every play has Quick Changes, but this play takes place over several months and seasons; consequently, many changes are necessary. During Q to Q, the actors rehearse and rehearse and rehearse getting dressed and undressed (it sounds hilarious, but it’s true!), and without our amazing and efficient ASM, those quick changes just wouldn’t be possible!

So, everything and I mean EVERYTHING is rehearsed as much as possible in this important time called Q to Q so that the intricate technical and artistic dance that is a play, works. And this play works SO well! We’re very lucky to have such a dedicated and talented design team and technical crew working on this play. I wish that everyone working behind the scenes (Designers, Stage Managers, Directors, Technicians, Production Peeps, Administration, etc.) could come out onstage and take a bow every night. But I know PTE audiences applaud so generously that everyone involved in the creation of the play will feel appreciated no matter where they are, so thank you in advance, dear audience members!


Friday, March 24, 2017

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES - The Next Step: Tech Week!

Now blogging: Laura Lussier, Assistant to the Director

Thursday, March 23
It’s Tech Week! We had our last run-through of the show in the rehearsal hall yesterday. It’s always an exciting time when the crew moves all of the props and furniture into the theatre, where Set Designer Carole Klemm is putting the finishing touches to the world of The Birds and the Bees.  

Today, after a safety walk with the Production Manager (Wayne Buss!) and an exploration of the set, we started the process of what we call “Spacing.” This is my first time working in a theatre with a true thrust stage in a directing capacity. PTE’s stage extends into the audience on three sides. It presents some challenges, but I love the intimacy that it provides the audience. Spacing consisted of the actors moving through the play with director Ann Hodges and I literally running around the theatre checking sightlines and making adjustments to the actors’ movements to make sure that the audience is seeing as much of the action onstage as possible, without actors blocking other actors or parts of the set getting in the way of the audience’s view. (Pretty sure we hit 10,000 steps without even leaving the theatre!)  Spacing is all about finding solutions to little technical problems in the space, and about the actors getting comfortable in their new home, the stage.

While the actors get some well-deserved rest, Ann and I stayed at the theatre for what we call “Levels”. Larry Isacoff, the Lighting Designer, and Ian Hodges, the Sound Designer, as well as lighting and sound operators and a “light-walker” settled in for what will be a long evening. We started building lighting cues last night: the lighting designer shows the director what he has envisioned for certain moments in the play and they collaborate to find the right timing and level of light. The light-walker helps by standing in for the actors onstage, so that we can tell what the light looks like on bodies and faces in the space. Then, the Director and the Stage Manager collaborate to determine when to call the cue. It’s a complex process, but it’s all worth it! The set looks gorgeous under Larry’s lighting design!  
Tonight, we added sound to the mix. Ann and Ian Hodges listen to the cues in the space to determine what level is appropriate, when the music or sound cue should fade in or out, and from which speakers the sound should be heard. Then, we see how lights and sound work together. It’s intricate work and we have to be as efficient as possible because we only have approximately eight hours to build all the cues in the show – lighting and sound. We’re talking over a hundred cues, and this isn’t even a tech-heavy show!  (I don’t know how they do it in eight hours for musicals…) The time-crunch of Levels is a bit crazy in my opinion, but it always gets done somehow. We’ll go through the cues with actors and run through the show several times, so the work we do in Levels serves as a base for the work in the coming days. The designers will keep tweaking until Opening Night, which is in exactly one week!!!

The days until opening are long and full of adjustments and challenges for everyone. We’re getting higher and higher on our mountain, which means that the time is shorter and exhaustion becomes a factor. Everyone has to take special care of themselves during Tech Week and we all have to take extra care of each other. We’ll be working 12 hour days with two one-hour meal breaks most days until opening. (We call these days “Ten out of Twelves.”) But everyone working on this production is so wonderful that these long days on the climb to Opening Night will be less exhausting that they will be delightful, I’m sure.

More to come on Tech Week in the coming days!  Q to Q, Quick Change Rehearsal and more!