Well blog, it’s been a minute.
I’d like to say that the lack of posts is directly due to being so completely overwhelmed with work, but that wouldn’t be a complete truth. I haven’t been in a position of creation lately…but I’m working on it.
Currently- I’m freshly landed in NYC, my second time here so far this year, as the company manager for Rosie Herrera Dance Theater.
I have a pretty solid background in management- but last January, I took a job that involved me touring 3 shows simultaneously with a company that was new to me in New York. It happened of course, with no major train wrecks, but was much less organized than anything I’d like to sign my name too.
Already this trip, I am feeling much more prepared. I’ve made lists, I’ve foreseen issues, and I made a thorough as hell Info Packet for the company. I’m sure I’ll wake up tomorrow to a mounting catastrophe… but for now I’m basking in the feeling of having learned important lessons.
Each time, I’m more ready to go on tour.
Mid January, I was boarding a flight from NYC back to Miami. The series of performances I was working on there had ended and I realized that, for the first time in, possibly ever, I looked into the next couple of months and had nothing lined up.
When I landed in Miami, I had 3 missed calls, 2 voicemails, a series of texts and needless to say- an abundance of work.
A boutique was about to have their grand reopening and it was to be the home for Miami Made’s kick-off and the location for the Project to put on our next show. So I put on my [still new] producer pants and drove over to South Beach to see where we would create next.
I did know that the hotel was under construction. What I wasn’t expecting was to do a site survey in a hard hat zone. Honestly though, meetings that occur sort of shifting from space to space stepping over/around hazards and yelled above the noise from nearby gentlemen yielding circ. saws and power drills are probably closer to my personal comfort zone then anything in a meeting room ever will be.
From the first day on, I believe development was a prevalent theme in just about every aspect of this production. I learned a lot.
So, if I were giving my advice to anyone looking to produce devised site-specific immersive theater at an in-progress location with a large cast with one week of rehearsals while living in a tiny one-bedroom with your co-producers….here is what I would say:
1) Don’t get married to anything. (This is one of many pieces of wisdom that Mr. Davis, the freckled, red-headed, goateed theater yoda and my High School Technical Director would drop on the daily.) When you’re developing a show at a hotel that’s being built, you might find yourself in a situation where the location you’ve chosen and have been developing for won’t be built in time. Flexibility is key. It was a great idea for a production and now it’s time to come up with something else.
2) Be quick on your toes. In this day and age, blah blah technology blah blah everyone’s fingertips blah blah NOW. Now, or ten minutes from now, or ten minutes ago seems to be when everything needs to happen in our world. This now syndrome runs tenfold in our industry. It’s important to be able to gather every member of your very spread out company on a conference call (many on the sneak while at their day-jobs) and be able to come up with a new concept and press blurb within say, 45 minutes. Seriously, this can happen. Run drills.
3) Be Caring. You live with these people. You share a company, artistic values, career goals, food, toothpaste, and toilet paper.
4) Surround yourself with talent. Put your trust in a group of talented actors that will in turn trust you, and you’ve got an amazing combination. We couldn’t have possibly asked for a better group of people to develop this show with.
5) Have confidence in your knowledge. I had a pretty definite scare where I thought I didn’t possibly know enough to figure out what we needed and wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Luckily I did. That is to say, I am fortunate enough to have lot’s of professionals to call for advice and assurance.
6) Have help! Don’t underestimate your need for extra hands. I was so fortunate to have two eager Barry students at my side during this process. Sure I called light cues, but Kaitlyn had it down with or without me and Jovon was running around the entire show passing off props, walking actors to safe spaces etc. etc.
7) Be nice to your hosts. A lesson left over from my stint at sea- but working, especially in the hospitality industry can be draining. This is their home, respect that; and an extra smile can go a long way. Plus, you never know when you may need assistance from the staff.
8) Build an ark. No seriously. If you’re going to do a show outside, in tropical south florida… expect rain. We didn’t have a Plan B for rain. What I had was trashbags and a nearby ladder so I could quickly cover gear if rain were to somehow happen. Tropical South Florida. Of course rain happened.
9) Take care of your audience. They have come to this performance and now it’s your role to engage, activate, entertain…. and to tell them to please go inside if it’s raining on them. There’s only so much a group of people will and should have to “put-up” with.
10) Embrace a challenge. Sometimes in live work, a mistake or uncontrollable event will happen. Recognize this gift and use it. Move the show inside, make it work. If there’s a crowd of people here to see your performance- you better give it to them.
This long-winded and oddly specific list of tips is a small part of the mountain of lessons I have learned so far this year. When I look at the calendar and realize it’s only March… I am both excited and terrified, knowing what this year has in store.
No time for pleasantries… but this is my life right now.
I really can’t complain about any of this, but I am looking forward to getting back to Miami soon and experiencing stillness for a couple of weeks.
Its 1:52pm in Miami and I’m sitting on a Greyhound bus, Orlando-bound. I am honest to goodness trying to comprehend the fact that I woke up on a ship this morning and I’m still digesting the idea that I won’t be on a ship tonight- the notion that when I wake in the morning, I will be in the same nautical coordinates as when I went to sleep. It’s a wild world.
Sitting at El Cid, a resort in Cozumel with a few extra moments and finally find myself able to write an update.
I’m just past 1 month on the Pearl. After the Country Charter was 6 days of normal cruising and then the Lynyrd Skynyrd Simple Man Cruise.
The Doobie Brothers were also one of the acts onboard. After a month of singing harmonies to the bridge of Black Water at LA bus stops with my gal pal Jack Riv, it was fun to see the song performed live.
Immediately after Skynyrd, came the Kiss Kruise II. Here’s some stats on that:
82 hrs- My work week during the Kiss Cruise
250lbs- That’s how much dry ice was used for 2 Kiss performances.
16- The number of large Co2 tanks carried from all the way Aft to all the way forward, up many stairs and into the theatre balcony to power 4 confetti blowers.
1 Gazillion- The scientific weight of the large containers holding scaffolding we assembled which supported the LED wall.
Tyler, on the Kiss crew was nice enough to walk me through LED walls, their set up, control sequence, and gave a quick explanation on image pro’s.
Oh, and Gene Simmons punched me in the stomach.
Since then, it’s been learning the shows for the regular run (it’s 7 nights with two performances each night), finding late night snacks…
AND, enjoying the Caribbean.
Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. You just sort of hop in the water and start climbing, trying to avoid the large groups of people.
Callwood Distillery, Tortola, BVI
And that’s it for now. Sea day tomorrow and back in Miami by Sunday.
Transferred ships Oct. 12th. Said goodbye to some amazing people and was immediately thrust into a busy and foreign enviornment. It was not easy. But it’s the life.
My new ship is big and beautiful. Better food. My cabin is way smaller. Took some photos for anyone interested in what the living space looks like. They’re all terrible because it’s tight space.
I’m also happy to report that I no longer have a pager. I have joined the rest of the world and now have a work phone onboard. Although, I’m pretty sure the tracfone I had in 6th grade is more technologically current then my “new” phone.
Arrived on the to begin working the “Blake Shelton and Friends” Country Music Cruise. I can honestly say I never would have imagined myself here. But it’s damn cool to work with a big crew and see the ship littered with gear boxes everywhere. The carps build us this handy (alternate adjective: terrifying) ramp for loading gear boxes in and out nightly. It’s exciting pushing heavy ass road boxes on a moving ship. Exciting.
The bill for this cruise includes Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, Lee Brice, Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, Jerrod Neiman, and Neal McCoy (if any of those names mean something to anyone).
Off to soundcheck!
During High School, I spent a pretty memorable summer in Oregon. Maybe it was hearing stories of my free-spirited uncle’s trips abroad, or maybe it was just the West Coast air, but I remember realizing that I felt very at home on the road. I could never predict where it would take me, but I knew that my life would be chaptered by movement.
My standard response to friends’ questions on how I’m liking ships has been that my favorite part has been to get to know people from all over the world. This is the easy response, and the most honest. The work is the work, I enjoy what I do but I’ve been in enough theaters now that you begin to realize that they’re all quite the same. I am speaking structurally, of course. There are some theaters you walk into and are overcome with warm fuzzies by the building’s past. But in terms of the job: there is a backstage left and right and a cross over that connects them. Scenery and equipment are taken on and off, and securely stored. Spike marks and clear change-over notes make switches fluid and consistent.
What keeps the job exciting is new acts coming and going weekly; learning how to best support different personalities of performers and getting an unique view of how they each work at their craft.
What keeps the life of a seafarer enjoyable is friendship. Most of the crew have basically the same day and lifestyle and for this reason camaraderie is easily attained. I have been fortunate on this ship to be graced with the presence of good people.
All I can say is that if I die young, the funeral reception is going to be one hell of a party.
As I write this, I can feel the engines starting up. We’re pulling anchor and will soon be Miami bound.
Week One was a blur of learning quick, albeit easy set-ups in about 5 lounges with mixed quality equipment. It’s what I imagine participating in an international fringe to be like. The poolside stage has been the most challenging to wrap my head around because training was mostly performed by points and quick “okay 1 is 5, 2 is drum, 3 is singer there, 4 is 7- singer there, and this plugs through that, this coil that way depending on band. okay.” And now I should be able to set-it up plus there’s the lovely diagram I was able to draft out on the back of my schedule. Did I mention that this set-up occurred at 8am after a 6:30am Gangway set-up…pre-caffeine? We all had a good laugh at my total confusion.
I got off finally at Nassau for an afternoon with my room mate and some fellow crew members. It was a good (and needed) day of sun. I even got to jump off of a pier into the water (ignoring a clearly marked NO JUMPING sign, because the local kids who were doing it seemed to be having a blast.
I was lucky enough to be in the room when the sound tech mentioned beginning training on the Yamaha M7CL, the main theater’s desk. I’ve only ever touched one other digital console before, and I was taught to operate it similarly to an analog board. I asked if I could join in on the training and with permission granted, I now have a graph paper notepad filling with information on central logic, soft patching, omni outputs, EQ and every other console function Martin has been willing to explain. I feel confident in my understanding of the training and I’ve found time to get behind the desk and play. To my surprise, I’m a big fan of the touch screen, so many menus to access.
To begin with, I don’t like doing laundry. More so, I do not like returning to the laundry room to find inches of water on the ground. We all had a good laugh at the horribly unfortunate laundering process.
Also, I am being transferred to a different ship in October. Peep my new itinerary.
The news was a bit shocking at the onset but hey… it’s the life.
I’m a couple of days late on my intended weekly post but in all fairness it’s the first minute I’ve had to myself in some time. Everything is quite well. My supervisor is happy with me, I’ve even gotten good comments from the CD. My room mate is absolutely wonderful and I’ve found delightful people to spend my non-working hours with. (I’ll be posting some photos soon of Andrea’s and my shore excursions and laundry mishaps one day).
Of course, what I had planned to report on this week has been completely replaced by new information. Planning is overrated in this lifestyle.
I’m reminded now of the old saying: “Be careful what you wish for” though maybe for me a more fitting phrase would be “be ready for what you wish for to happen”. Life reconfirmed the consistency of change again this week. It began after a boat drill on Tuesday when it was announced that the contract was ending for our main show and a new production would be coming in.
Now the main show is a wonderful performer, Elvy, who must have been doing this forever. Apart from being talented, she’s a joy to work with. The band is a group of 6 lovely musicians all from Columbia. I was sad to hear of them leaving. There is also an abundance of personnel changes in the department over the next couple of months. After some examination I took a breath and thought: that’s the life. It’s a constant change of people and circumstances.
That is the life.
A few hours later I was handed a printed email that stated, simply:
“Please note, Elaine will be transferred to the Pearl on 10/12.”
And so, in less than a month, I get to try this all again.
6 months. That’s what I’ve signed up for: 6 months as the Backstage Technician aboard a cruise ship. A smaller ship. A simpler ship, I’m told. Today is the end of my first week. Last night in the crew bar, the electrifying Elvy Rose told me that it seems I’ve taken to this life “like a fish to water”.
Like a fish to water.
The transition hasn’t been so hard, I suppose. I’ve gone through the moving away and missing everyone a month ago when I left my life for California. And it has been a bit of a transition. Ships can be confusing and I’ve spent a good deal of time lost in what seems to be an ever-changing labyrinth (with water doors closing and opening, areas closed during gangway operation, and mysterious hours at the crew mess hall) But honestly, I guess the hardest part came at committing. The last days at land. Every moment leading up to checking out of the hotel and getting on a shuttle bus to the port. Once I was on a bus with international strangers, portbound, it became about assimilating. Luckily, I’ve made a habit of being easily assimilated.
I am only at week one. Maybe it gets harder. My fellow seafarers suggest it will get easier. I expect, like all things I’ve experienced, it will be in a fairly consistent state of flux. For now I am able to take comfort in the pure beauty of open water, splendidly blue water, gorgeous Caribbean mornings and evenings, and all things new. And learning how to use pagers. Yes, pagers still exist, and I have one clipped to my belt at all times. And training sessions about responding to pirate attacks.
Well, it’s back to laundry for me.