Saturday, March 12, 2011

Charlotte USITT conference

What an excellent conference! The sessions have been very full and there were way too many to choose from. I have learned some great things, and one of the most immediate is that USITT members get a 20% discount from Lowes. Now I will know who is reading the blog—when I get asked to shop for them.

I took notes at all the sessions I attended, and can share them with folks that are interested. The first one was on Sculpting and Foam Carving. Best tip from this was to learn about the riffler tool set. Digitally Printed Scenery Solutions was a session given by Rose Brand. The key thing on this was to hear that it cannot replace the scenic artist, and the file quality is key to the final product. Before even designing, you should call to see if this is the right application and to find out just how to go about getting the file.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to think about was the 5D forum called "Breaking the Box" which was a continuation and preparation for next year in Long Beach. One panelist was Holger Förterer, who is an artist and projection designer. His work includes the Cirque de Soleil show Ka. What he shared was fabulous!

Scenery restoration is an area that is in great need of people to work. Only the two women who gave the presentation are working in this field, and there is much work to be done. One works in New England and takes more of an archival approach; the other works with Masonic temples and takes more of an artist's approach. Both repair and restore the work, and both involve the community as volunteers in the process.

The Alternative Careers workshop showed the amount of tech work that is out there in areas that are entertainment but not theatre per se. The demand is high for technicians.

The last session I was able to make it to was on Service Learning and it was very informative; we learned how we can integrate projects into our curriculum that will both enhance the community we live in and reinforce the lessons we are learning and teaching.

Student work and professional work is on display, which is very inspiring.

I have plenty of notes I can share, so contact me ( if you want them. The expo was very informative, with great new products and lots of meeting up with old friends and making new friends. I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of a conference when they can. It opens one's eyes to the many possibilities about the work we are engaged in.

--Connie Hecker

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dedication Ceremony for the New Erdmann-Zucchero Theatre!

It's hard to believe, but little over a week ago Grease closed. It's always sad to see something you've put so much work into coming to an end, but the plus side is moving on to new projects! Speaking of which... the dedication of the black box theatre is April 8th! Student Theatre Fest is included in the festivities, but it also runs the 9th and 10th. The dedication will feature songs and scenes from shows that Bill Zucchero and Lou Erdmann (the men the theatre is being named for) were involved with during their time here. There will also be short pieces directed and written by students. I will directing one of my own short, original works.

It's shaping up to be a wonderful event, with a wide variety of pieces. Comedy, tragedy, dance, music, and everything in between. We're so lucky to have this new amazing space; it'll be great for us all to come together and celebrate it. The evening will provide an excellent chance for us to appreciate past artists at Kent State, while looking into the future work that can be accomplished.

--Sarah Coon

Monday, February 21, 2011

We made it!

Grease opened this weekend with THREE sold out performances! The audience response has been so positive; I couldn't be more pleased and proud of the cast and crew.

While you would think that once the show opens the stress goes away, watching the show in performance is actually really nerve-wracking. Once the show is running, there's nothing I can do! If something goes wrong, or something's not quite right, I have to sit back and watch the actors or crew figure it out. Thankfully, nothing went wrong this weekend. But the possibility is there! All you an do is sit back and trust that everyone knows what they're doing, and have faith that should anything go wrong, everyone can handle it. Honestly, most mistakes would pass by an audience member's eye unnoticed anyway.

It's a strange feeling getting to this point; it's really bittersweet in a way. On the one hand, you're finally getting to share all your hard work with an audience, and with a response like the one that Grease is getting, it can be an overwhelming high. But on the other hand, it's sad to see a project that you've worked so hard on come to an end. You grow accustomed to working with this group of people very closely for long periods of time, and it can be strange to suddenly not see them as much. I'm not complaining about all the extra time suddenly in my schedule, but it is a bit of a jarring change to suddenly have nothing to work on in the evenings.

The show runs through Sunday (which I believe is also sold out!), with performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as well. On Wednesday, there is a special matinee for high school students. It's a great opportunity to present a younger audience with a show very relevant to their lives...but because of their age, we have to change some lines and physicality to make them more "appropriate." The musical about teen rebellion has to be censored for teens. Ah, the irony.

I can't thank possibly thank everyone who helped us get to this point enough. It's been an amazing journey. Now, to try to relax and enjoy the run!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tech Week: The Inside Scoop

Tech week has officially begun! Everyone hang onto your notepad. For those who have never been through a tech week—lovingly referred to as "Hell Week" in some circles—let me break it down for you: a week (give or take a few days) prior to opening the show, you begin to add in technical elements, like lights, sound, and costumes. This where you can really start to get an idea of how the finished show will look. This is also the time when Murphy's Law kicks into high gear. Mics picking up feedback, costumes ripping, lamps blowing, sound cues shattering ear drums... things like that always go down during this time. Thankfully, this means that those things don't happen during the show...usually.

Saturday we had an all-day rehearsal. We added in the orchestra, microphones for the actors, a click track, and lights. If you don't spend a lot of time studying theatre, it's easy to take these elements for granted—you only really think about the process if something goes wrong. But each element requires a team of people working almost around the clock to get them up and running. Picture a back row of a theatre, filled with tables, and each table is covered in notebooks, spreadsheets, pencils, coffee cups, empty twelve packs of Diet Coke (I swear, Coca-Cola is missing an epic sponsorship opportunity with theatre), and electronic paraphernalia that I couldn't even begin to explain to you. Behind those tables sit a slew of people: designers, assistant designers, a stage manager, the director, board operators. Now add to that more electronics and people behind them: The sound crew. The choreographer. The props and scenic designers. The technical director. Scene shop supervisor. Assistant director. Costume designer. Costume crew. Everyone waiting with a notepad in hand to record anything that isn't the way it should be, making sure every element is as perfect as possible. That's what you're looking at when tech starts. If there is ever doubt that theatre is a collaborative art, look at those rehearsals.

It's stressful, sure. But it's also so exciting! You know that it's almost time to open, and you really get to start polishing the show, and seeing what it will look like when it's finished. And seeing it all together in one cohesive vision makes it all worthwhile. Besides, there's something kind of thrilling about the stress of it, at least for me. Sure, it gets tedious. And frustrating. And there are moments when I think that if I hear "Hold, please" one more time my brain will explode. But at the same time, the frustration reminds me that I'm here because I love what I do. I freak out and lose sleep and moan and groan because I'm putting everything I have into this; this is where my passion is, and that means there's going to be some highs and lows. All I can do is hang on and enjoy the ride.

Get your tickets if you haven't; they're going fast!

--Sarah Coon

The Home Stretch

(Moderator's Note: Sarah sent this blog post to me about a week ago, and due to any number of things, I wasn't able to post it until now. My apologies to readers, and to Sarah—my punctuality could not match hers. --WLS)

Just under two weeks to opening! Amazing how time flies. We got a little off-track this week with the snow days (two days of rehearsal lost!) but we seem to be headed in the right direction now. We're at a point where the actors may no longer call for line, and most of the lines are there—a few scenes were shaky today, but nothing that won't be fixed in a day or two. The dance numbers are getting cleaner and cleaner. Everyone seems to be really pleased with the progress the show is making. It's always nice when you don't have to be panicking about being ready!

We start tech this weekend, which is always one of my favorite parts of the rehearsal process. Seeing all the elements coming together is so exciting! The actors are starting to rehearse in the shoes that go with their costumes already- it's an interesting sight to see modern clothing with older shoes, or girls in shorts and t-shirts with spiky heels. I can't wait to see the costumes that go with it! The countdown begins now...

--Sarah Coon

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Putting It Together

Between Thursday and Friday, we did out first work-through of the show! Hooray! We've got it blocked out, and all the choreography has been taught—now it's just a matter of cleaning and polishing. This evening we'll move into Stump Theatre (we've been rehearsing in the EZ black box) and make sure everything gets spaced out correctly, and before we know it we'll be doing full run-throughs. I can't believe how quickly the show is coming together. Looking back to our first rehearsal, when the cast was learning the complex Hand Jive choreography, it's nice to see how far we've come.

There's still a lot of work to be done, of course. The music moves extremely quickly, so the dance numbers still need tightening. There are still occasional traffic problems that need resolving. Timing of the lines isn't quite right. But the outline of the show is there- now we just need to fill in the blanks. Hopefully moving into the space will help with blocking and dancing—the actors can really get a feel for the size of the stage, which is hard when you're working in a slightly more cramped space. Even when you've got the boundaries of the space taped out on the floor, it's still a bit of an adjustment to move.

Time is ticking away, but we're in great shape. I can't wait to start adding more technical elements!

--Sarah Coon

Friday, January 28, 2011

Department of Self-Promotion: Summer Update

I recently recorded a podcast with Andy Bliss, artistic director or the Nief-Norf Project, one of the experimental music groups I play with regularly. We talk about the upcoming summer festival at Furman University, including a collaborative project with KSU senior BFA dance student Sharon Kriz. Enjoy!

nief-norf Chronicles Episode #8 from Andy Bliss on Vimeo.

--Bill Sallak (Moderator/Assistant Professor/Dance Music Director)